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Introduction

In order to attract the consumers to purchase a purchase a particular product or services, it is important for the marketers to understand consumers’ buying behaviour. In other words, by identifying the factors that stimulate the customers to take the final decision related to the purchase of any product or services, the companies can prepare effective marketing strategies (Blodgett, Hill & Tax, 2007). Studies of consumer behaviour models have indicated that social factors such as culture, family, reference groups etc. significantly impact purchase decision of the customers. This report intends to discuss the role of the social factors in influencing the buying decision of the customers.

Impact of social influences on consumer purchase decision

Role of culture

Culture can be defined as the combination of beliefs, values and customs that affect individual behaviour (Stone & Grønhaug, 2008). In most of the researches related to the consumer behaviour, it has been shown that culture has a significance role in impacting the buying decision of the customers. In this regards, Buttle (2008) added that culture directs the process by which a particular product can be launched in the market. Culture can gain be sub-divided into sub-cultures based on the race, religion and class. For instance, a customer can be part of the Chinese culture, however, socio-economic background of the customer can also influence the customers’ purchase decision.

Culture is considered as an important factor that affects buying behaviour of the customer. In this context, Creyer (2012) mentioned that as the customers of different cultures possess different values, their buying habits also changes accordingly. For instance, the Muslims and the Christians have no problem in beef but the Hindus do not take beef. Hence, the managers of the restaurants are required to consider this food habits while catering to the customers of these religions.  On the other hand, income status of the consumers can also be treated as a vital sub-culture that affects the buying decision of the customers (Kahan, 2009). It has been found that people from the upper class prefer to stay in the hotels with high facilities. Cost of staying does not stimulate their buying decisions. On the other hand, people from the middle class prefer economic hotels. Therefore, it can be stated that the pricing strategy of these hotels are immensely been impacted based on the income status of the customers. Beckett (2009) identified that purchase decision of the customers can immensely vary based on the gender. Most of the studies have revealed differences in the purchase pattern of the males and females.

According to O'cass & McEwen (2011), culture can be considered as an important component for assessing the needs and behaviour of the individual consumer. Explaining the impact of culture, Laroche, Kim & Zhou (2007) also added that culture is the part of each society and forms the needs or demand of the consumers. As discussed earlier that influence of culture can widely vary based on religion or country.  In addition, throughout the life cycle, the consumer buying behaviour of an individual consumer is being influenced by the particular cultural environment. Thus, for stimulating the perception, habits, expectation or behaviour, the role of cultural environment cannot be ignored. For example, in Western counties, people invite their friends, colleagues or relatives for dinner to celebrate any specific events. In contrast, in the Eastern countries like Japan, it is not a common practice to invite others in such events. Rather, the Japanese prefer to go for outings with the close ones and enjoy the foods in the restaurants. In this context, Fraj & Martinez (2007) mentioned about bandwagon effect while discussing about cultural trends. Bandwagon effect can be defined as the trend that is being followed by most of the people and its popularity are being maximised with the effect of social compulsion. For example, in the recent years, Facebook has become has emerged as one of the most popular social platforms among the young customers. In addition, the sales of i-pad or Galaxy Tab have enhanced significantly due to the effect of cultural trends.

Reference group

Reference group can be defined as a group that has a crucial relation to each other’s behaviour or assessment process (Sharp, B. & Sharp, A., 2013). Reference group can be real or imaginary. In this context, Bagozzi (2009) referred reference group as the determiner of the consumer behaviour. Reference group provides relevant information to its members about any products or brands. Moreover, the behaviour and attitudes of the people are also been impacted by the reference group. Mentioning about the importance of the reference group, Baumgartner & Steenkamp (2009) mentioned that reference group selects the desired and undesired products. In addition, reference groups also significantly affects the choice of products, flow of information, form of manner and buying behaviour of the customers. Thus, it can be inferred that if a particular product or service is being referred by the reference group, high chances are there that most of the members in this group will also purchase the product. Similarly, it can also be inferred that if a particular product is being rejected by a reference group, group members will not also purchase the product or services.

The scholars have identified several roles within the reference group while discussing about its role in the consumer behaviour. The initiator is known as the person who suggests about buying a product or service. On the other hand, influencers are termed as the persons whose opinions have immense impact on consumer buying process (Strong, 2010). Influencer can be a person who does not represent a particular group.

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