The scope of consumer behavior is the wide variety of activities consumers engage in as they research, buy, use, and dispose of products. This is a topic of interest for marketers and other researchers who examine how consumers behave in the market. This information can be important for the development of products and ad campaigns that meet the needs of consumers effectively. Psychologists and anthropologists study consumer behavior for more theoretical reasons, with an interest in how it interacts with other aspects of human behaviors.
Consumers move through a variety of steps as they buy products. The scope of consumer behavior examines the decisions consumers make and how they make them, looking at the what, when, where, why, and how of product consumption. For example, companies want to know why consumers buy products, and what kinds of needs are satisfied through consumption. These can include basic needs like hunger and shelter along with the desire for psychological fulfillment through products that provide pleasure or meaning.
Companies also want to know when consumers make purchases, looking at the frequency of purchases and the conditions under which they occur. Study on the scope of consumer behavior, for example, informs the use of endcap displays near cash registers to tempt people into last-minute purchases. Research on consumers shows that small items like candy bars that may not have been on a consumer's list of planned items might be added to a shopping basket if presented at the end of the shopping process.
Likewise, the scope of consumer behavior looks at how consumers make purchasing decisions, including the process of research as well as planned and unplanned purchases in store environments. The “what” of consumer behavior can also be critical for marketers, who want to know what kinds of things consumers buy. This can be determined by socioeconomic class as well as psychological factors, like pressure to purchase a particular item to fit in with a given group.
Studies on the scope of consumer behavior also look at disposal methods, which can include gifting hand-me-downs, recycling, or throwing products away. The psychology behind these decisions can be complex. Understanding when and how consumers dispose of items can help companies position themselves to appeal to consumers. For example, stores can provide recycling buy-back services for cans and bottles to allow customers to turn in products from previous visits and get money back, encouraging them to spend that money in the store.