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To What Extent and How Have Digital Technologies Changed Consumer Behviour

Autor:   •  March 21, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  2,262 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,587 Views

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Over the last decade, particularly the last five years, digital technologies have revolutionised the way that humans live their lives. Consumer behaviour is the process of satisfying needs and wants with purchases according to lifestyle choices. Online communication has transformed consumerism, it shaped modern society with the ability to change lives at just the touch of a button or screen without having to even leave the house. This poses several questions that this essay will explore, focussing on how ever evolving digital technology has changed consumer behaviour.

A brief history of consumer behaviour before the digital era

For years, studies have shown that consumers have been thought to purchase for different reasons depending on their individual personalities and were not necessarily aware themselves why they purchased. ‘The consumer is not always conscious of his or her wants until some stimulus, like advertising facilitates recall or activates the want’ (O’Shaughnessy: 1987) Consumers made choices for purchase before the digital breakthrough because of advertising, influences around them, socially through peers. This can be linked to modern day digital tribes, consumers want a sense of belonging, to be part of something. Consumers were not aware of why they wanted to purchase things but how it made them feel when they purchased it. For example in the fashion fragrance market, the Chanel brand name is a ‘surrogate indicator of likely performance’ (O’Shaughnessy: 1987) Chanel is a cutting edge, iconic and expensive fashion organisation. Consumers believe that the price of the products indicate high quality. A widely known and popular way of looking at the history of consumer behaviour to link to online consumer behaviour is Maslow’s Hierarchy model of basic human needs and wants:

Figure 1.0 Abraham Maslow’ s hierarchy of human needs (Steinberg: 2007:22)

This triangle shows the basic needs of humans which can be linked to consumer behaviour. The ‘Physiological’ level is the survival level, where basic needs and behaviour begin. The ‘Esteem’ level is where the consumer behaviour level can be applied. Consumers want to look and feel confident, be respected by their peers and be seen to be purchasing attractive products. They feel that what they purchase says something about them as a person and is a reflection of how they appear to others. To link this to modern consumer behaviour in the digital age, Marshall McLuhan states “The medium is the message” (McLuhan: 1964:21) which translates to the importance of the medium used to convey the message, if consumers are using a certain medium, in this instance online and digital platforms to purchase or share or connect with others in the digital world, it portrays an image of the person


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