Blog>What Social Factors Affect Consumer Buying Behaviour?

What Social Factors Affect Consumer Buying Behaviour?



What social factors are affecting consumer behaviour? Buying decisions and personal preferences are affected by many social, economic, psychological, and environmental factors. Consumer behaviour attempts to study and understand these factors and how they affect consumer buying patterns.

Studying consumer behaviour is an essential part of having a strong marketing strategy. Here we’ll take a look at how sociological factors influence buying decisions.

People influencing people

Humans are social beings. We need people around us with whom we can talk and discuss different topics to come up with better solutions, ideas and ultimately make informed decisions. Additionally, we all live in a larger society, where individuals must respect the laws and regulations of their society.

Social factors are the effects of people on one another, so how do we define them?

1. Culture

It’s through culture that we learn how to conduct ourselves in society, what is good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate and how to communicate. There tends to be three main elements that define a culture, these are beliefs, values, and customs.

  1. Beliefs – these come from learned experience, so a shared education and religion can create a set of cultural beliefs.
  2. Values – Although values are often universal, there are also values attached to culture. For example British values might be democracy, institution building, waiting in line, free speech, comedy or eccentricity.
  3. Customs – traditional and culturally approved ways of behaving. A large portion of the UK attends a bonfire on 5 November, at which they might eat a toffee apple and burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes.

One of the most defining social factors affecting consumer behaviour is culture. The magnitude of impact that culture has on consumer behaviour is impossible to quantify, even within similar cultures there can be subtle differences that can have big differences on buying behaviour.

2. Subcultures

Subcultures are cohesive subsets of a larger culture. They often develop around communities that have shared beliefs and experiences and are based on unifying factors such as occupation, religion, ethnicity and geography.

When an individual identifies strongly with a subculture, they can have great loyalty to companies and brands that reflect the values of that subculture, and similarly avoid brands that don’t speak their subcultural language.

3. Reference groups

The group with which a person wishes to be associated, who they compare themselves to and are influenced by. These are often friendship groups, colleagues, classmates, and peers, but can also be people that individuals have less contact with. In the age of social media, reference groups can be online communities or influencers.

Reference groups can influence individual behaviours through-

  • Role expectations – within friendship groups each individual will generally have a prescribed role.
  • Conformity or ‘the norms’ – behaviour that is considered appropriate within the context of the group setting.
  • Opinion leaders – individuals within the group who often set the trend to which others follow. They might be more experienced or knowledgeable, or simply have bigger personalities.
  • Recommendations or word of mouth – within reference groups recommendations are highly trusted, even overhearing a positive review from a peep can be decision influencing.

4. Family

Family members have a crucial role in shaping a person’s preferences and behaviour, offering an environment in which the individual develops their personality, and acquires values.

A young person builds their buying attitude and preferences by observing his parents, and tends to continue buying the same products or services as he ages.

A 2020 study found that across all 11 of the product categories of studies (ranging from laundry detergent to PCs) 51% of Gen Z adults said their favourite brand is the same one their parents use. This is compared with an average of 36% of adults of all generations.

Another important societal factor is social class, which we have covered in our blog on the economic factors influencing buying behaviour.