Consumerism in America

“Consumer behavior is the study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy their needs and wants (Consumer behavior 2017, June 8).”

The course Consumerism in America (course # IN 251) at Millikin University is the study of these consumer behaviors.  In the course we learned that there are external influences that affect consumer decisions such as culture, subculture, demographics, social status, reference groups, family, and marketing activities.  There are also internal influences like perception, learning, memory, motives, personality, emotions, and attitudes that play a role in consumer decisions.  Together, these influences determine our self-concept and lifestyle, which then drives our consumer decision making process.

During the course we were assigned a research project to study how these influences (internal and external) affected consumer purchasing decisions.  We were given 3 types of involvement purchases to research: low involvement (beer), moderate involvement (small appliances) and high involvement (lawn/garden tractors).  A major requirement of our research was to actually enter a business and make these observations of consumers making these purchases, albeit with store management approval.

During the low involvement purchase research (beer) it was observed that these purchases were typically made quickly, and usually required very little interaction with store personnel.  A local Casey’s store was selected and the store manager was very accommodating to our request to conduct the research.

External influences (demographics) were observed, because the older consumers were more likely to purchase Pabst or Old Milwaukee while younger consumers were more apt to purchase Budweiser or Miller products.  Internal influences were also observed as several consumers seemed to know exactly (memory) which beer they were going to purchase before they ever entered the store.  The research confirmed low involvement purchases require low consumer involvement..

For the moderate involvement purchasing research (small appliances), a local WalMart was selected.  It is worth noting that it was not nearly as easy to secure permission to observe consumers at WalMart as it was at the Casey’s store during the low involvement purchase research.

Consumers displayed a much more cautious and deliberate approach when making these purchases as compared to low involvement purchases.  One consumer in particular displayed an internal influence (emotion) as they mentioned to store personnel (in a very agitated state) that they were there specifically to purchase a new toaster to replace their own that had quit working earlier that week.  The research confirmed that moderate involvement purchases require more consumer involvement than low involvement purchases.

For observation of high involvement purchases (lawn/garden tractors), the local Lowe’s was chosen.  It was quickly noticed that lawn and garden tractor purchases require a much longer sales process, and much higher consumer involvement than either beer (low involvement) or small appliances (moderate involvement).  In fact, most of the consumers during the observation did not actually make a purchase.

External influences (family) were observed in that one potential consumer mentioned that his brother-in-law had recently purchased a John Deere lawn mower and was very satisfied with it.  This consumer spent a significant amount of time reviewing the John Deere tractor.  However, he did not make a purchase during the observation.  This consumer also displayed internal influence (learning) as he appeared to be educating himself on the specifications and features of the John Deere tractor.

The course Consumerism in America at Millikin University allows students to get a real world view how internal and external influences determine consumer purchasing habits.



Consumer behavior (2017, June 8). In Wikipedia.

Retrieved June 12, 2017 from

Hawkins, D. & Mothersbaugh, D. (2013).

Consumer behavior building marketing strategy

New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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