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Why do we buy what we buy?

As an avid shopper herself with previous experience of working in retail, Professor of Services Marketing, Kim Cassidy, is fascinated by consumer behaviour and engagement. Kim explains the importance of understanding consumers and how students can explore this on a marketing degree at Edge Hill University.

Kim Cassidy

“It (marketing) encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of the final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view.”

Peter Drucker

The importance of consumer behaviour

Marketing is how your business is seen and viewed by your audience, so it is so important to get this right. Marketing is about much more than just advertising, and, to me, consumer behaviour is the most important part of marketing and business success. You cannot market products successfully without first understanding your customers and how they behave – who is your target audience and what makes them buy your products?

My research focuses on consumer behaviour in retail. As consumers, what do we think and how do we feel when we’re out shopping? How do we behave and what influences what we’re doing? Consumer spending in the high street and online is hugely significant to the economy. So, a very important aspect of exploring consumer behaviour, is to consider social and economic issues too, such as:

  1. Why are the high streets declining?
  2. Why are we all reverting to shopping online?
  3. What does this mean for our society as a whole?

There is now a much higher sense of urgency about what we want and when we want it due to the ease of purchasing products and services online. This means that marketing strategies need to be adapted to reflect these changes. Considering and exploring what affects buying behaviour enables marketers to predict customers responses to marketing strategies and decisions. This knowledge can then be fed into the design and innovation process for new products and marketing campaigns.Learning from other disciplines

Marketing allows us to connect with and consider the approaches of other disciplines. This can be invaluable in informing marketing campaigns and their ultimate success. Retailers often tell me how their marketing strategy is all about creating ‘theatrical experiences’ for consumers.

This got me thinking: How much do these organisations actually know about theatre and theatrical techniques?

To explore this, I teamed up with some academics in Performing Arts, looking at different theatrical genres and how they put together an experience for their audiences. Our research found that in theatre, much more attention to detail is applied when thinking about what exactly they want the audience to think and feel. Everything in theatre works together to create a holistic effect. This particular piece of research can now be used to inform marketing campaigns that are looking to create theatrical experiences for their audiences. It also highlights the importance of looking into the approaches of other disciplines, as this can help to achieve the desired effect from the audience of your campaign.

An image of two hands coming out of two seperate computer screens. One is holding a golden credit card, the other is holding a paper shopping bag.

How marketing students explore consumer behaviour

We are all consumers in some way. That means that every single one of us can identify with the topic of consumer behaviour, looking into, and discussing, our own behaviours and emotions when it comes to buying products. The second year optional module Consumer Behaviour really gets students to consider the factors that influence what, where and when consumers buy, as well as examining the issues of increasing consumerism and addictive shopping behaviours.

Companies now have the data and analytics to see our online shopping behaviours in terms of what we buy and how often we buy it. This offers lots of opportunities for students to explore and consider how this data can be used to inform marketing strategies and ensure the right people will be targeted at the right time.

Another key part of the marketing degree is applying theory to practice. Marketing students engage in a range of live projects to practically consider and experience the processes and insights faced by real businesses and organisations.

In one of the first projects on their degree, students are asked to re-imagine the traditional Ormskirk town centre. In collaboration with West Lancashire Borough Council, we ask students to consider what retail, services and other businesses they would add to the town to enhance the modern consumer experience and how they would market this. Students then present and discuss their plans with senior council staff. The final year dissertation also provides students with a fantastic opportunity to develop a marketing focussed project tailored to their own interests. Students often choose to conduct insightful research into consumer behaviour that they can then use to formulate a portfolio to show potential employers.

Students walking through the town centre of Ormskirk
Edge Hill University Business students in Ormskirk, Lancashire. L-r Lauren Cairns, Jack Glennon, Sam Colson, Naomi Grant and George Harris. Picture by Paul Heyes, Wednesday September 26, 2018.

May 26, 2022