According to some definitions, consumer behaviour consists of “the psychological and social processes people undergo in the acquisition, use, and disposal of products” (Bagozzi, Gürhan-Zanli, and Priester, 2002, p. 1). This seems a plausible definition at first. But it is deficient, in so far as it is difficult to find instances of behaviour that do not involve some goods. Sleeping comes to mind, but unless one sleeps naked and in the forest, it involves a bed and pyjamas, both probably branded goods. And even if we were to write this chapter with pens rather than computers, writing would still involve use of products: pens do not grow on trees, nor does paper. We therefore narrow the focus of this chapter on what is arguably the most characteristic aspect of consumer behaviour, namely the process of acquiring goods. Getting insight into the process of acquiring goods is not only interesting for the manufacturer trying to sell a new type of phone, but also for the organization trying to fight consumer overspending, or increase the relative sales of pro-environmental products (see Chapter 9), or healthy food (see Chapter 10). So what determines the likelihood that we acquire a specific good? To answer this question we first discuss the potential functions of goods for consumers. In the second part we look at two different types of buying behaviour: deliberate and impulse buying. We discuss which factors influence deliberate purchases and when impulse buying is more likely. In the third and final part we reflect on the impact of advertising on acquiring goods, as we will discuss the different routes through which advertising can influence consumers.
The function of goods
Consumers buy goods as a means to achieve some goal. Goals are desired outcomes that are also perceived as attainable. In a narrow utilitarian sense, consumers buy goods or services simply for the function they are supposed to serve (e.g., wine is for drinking and clothes are for wearing). However, consumers buy most goods not just for this utilitarian function, but also to communicate something about themselves to others and themselves; they serve an identity function (Govers and Schoormans, 2005; McCracken, 1986).