The implications of consumer behavior for marketing

A case study of social class at Sainsbury

Thesis (M.A.), 2012

60 Pages, Grade: A




Chapter One
1.1 Background
1.1.1 Defining Consumer Behavior
1.1.2 Consumer Behavior in Context of Social Class
1.2 Aims and Objectives of Research
1.3 Research Questions
1.4 Significance and Scope of Research
1.5 Research Structure

Chapter Two
Literature Review
2.1 Defining Consumer Behavior and Social Class
2.2 Social Class Measurement
2.3 Social Image
2.4 Existing Literature about Social Class and Consumer Behavior
2.5 Social Class and Leisure Activities
2.6 Living style
2.7 Motivation
2.8 Shopping Behaviors
2.9 Social Classes in United Kingdom
2.10 Summary of Chapter

Chapter Three
3.0 Introduction
3.1 Research Philosophy
3.2 Research Approach
3.3 Research Methods
3.4 Research Design
3.5 Data Collection Techniques
3.5.1 Types of Data
3.5.2 Primary data collection techniques
Focus Groups
3.5.3 Comparison of primary data collection tools
3.5.4 Primary and Secondary data collection tools employed in research
3.6 Population and Sample
3.7 Validity and Reliability of Research
3.8 Research Ethics
3.9 Method of Data Analysis
3.10 Summary of Chapter

Chapter Four
Data Findings and Presentation
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Data Findings
4.2.1 General Information
4.3 Chapter Summary

Chapter Five
Data Interpretation and Analysis
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Analysis of findings
5.2.1 Social Class Breakdown
5.2.2 Consumption preference for Food and Entertainment
5.2.3 Frequency of Shopping
5.2.4 Preference for Buying Durables and Nondurables
5.2.5 Preference for Buying Branded, Non-branded and Fashionable Products
5.2.6 Attitude of Visiting Restaurants
5.2.7 Leisure Activities
5.2.8 Preference for Communication Media Type
5.2.9 Preference for Online Shopping
5.2.10 Preference for Financial Products
5.3 Summary of Chapter

Chapter Six
Conclusion and Recommendations
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Conclusion
6.3 Implications of Research
6.4 Limitations
6.5 Future Research




This particular research is aimed at finding the marketing implication of influence of social class on consumer behavior for Sainsbury. Social classes differ in respect of behaviors, attitudes, and preferences. To investigate the consumer behavior and social class relationship, triangulation methodology has been adopted. A sample of 75 consumers of Sainsbury has been selected through convenience sampling. A questionnaire has been designed to collect data from sample. The findings showed that most of the respondents belonged to middle and lower social classes. The research found that middle and lower classes spend major part of their income on food and necessities of life whereas upper class spends its income on luxuries. It has been found that upper class uses internet for getting information about products and services of Sainsbury. Middle class uses televisions and newspaper for getting information about products and services of company. Upper class has more intentions of online shopping as compared to other classes. Upper classes have more attitude of investing in profitable projects. It has been found that lower and middle classes use credit cards for shopping and take bank loans for fulfilling their needs. Marketers can identify needs and preferences of different social classes from results of this particular research. Research has been limited to the findings only which have been collected from a small sample.

Chapter One

1.1 Background

In today’s competitive world where organizations are looking for high profitability and market share, consumers have taken very important place. Organizations look for capturing consumers in order to get larger market share. For this purpose a number of techniques and tools have been developed by the organizations. One of such tools is Consumer behavior which has been derived from economic theory. Consumer behavior is basically the study of factors and situations that can influence buying decisions of consumers. Consumer behavior has become very important discipline of management sciences which assists in understanding of consumers’ decision making.

1.1.1 Defining Consumer Behavior

The study of consumer behavior suggests that how are consumers going to spend their resources in terms of money and effort on buying products and services (Arnold, 2002). Consumer behavior discipline not only covers decision making process of consumers but a large number of other factors are also discussed in this discipline. According to Solomon (1996) defines consumer behavior as a process which studies that how individuals or groups are going to purchase, consume, and dispose of products, services, experiences, ideas over a period of time. Blech (1998) has defined consumer behavior as a process which studies the activities that are involved in searching, selecting, purchasing and disposing of goods and services in order to satisfy needs and wants of consumers. It suggests that consumer behavior studies the whole cycle which starts from purchase of products and services and ends on disposing of products and services. Consumer behavior occurs in context of individuals, groups or organizations. There are number of factors that influence consumers to take final decision regarding purchase of a particular product or service. Consumer behavior studies the influence of these factors on buying decision of consumers. Demographics, personal characteristics, economic factors, social factors, and psychological factors affect the buying decision of consumers. From all these factors social class is an important one which influences consumer behavior. Social class in a society is basically the stratification of individuals of society on the basis of social status i.e. material wealth (Sciffman and Kanuk, 2007).

1.1.2 Consumer Behavior in Context of Social Class

Social class is hierarchical in nature where some individuals are given higher status than the others. Individuals at different hierarchical stage possess different characteristics, needs and preferences. In other words consumer behavior of different social classes differs from each other. There are number of ways of dividing a society into different classes. Society can be divided into different social classes on the basis of income, occupation or material wealth. There are three basic strata in each society that divide it into upper, middle and lower classes. These classes differ from each other in their beliefs and attitudes. In each society social stratification exists based on different aspects. Some social classes have more resources as compared to others. Due to changes in income structures these social classes exhibit different patterns of spending. A particular social class cannot live alone in a society. In fact society is composite of number of social classes that influence each other to some extents. Consumption patterns of these social classes influence each other. In this way importance of studying consumer behavior with respect to social class has a great importance. In consumer behavior discipline social classes have a great importance. Companies and marketers need to study influence of social classes on consumer behavior in order to satisfy different social classes in a society. Identical offers of companies to all social classes cannot satisfy them Marketers need to adopt different attitude towards different social classes.

This particular research is going to study the marketing implications of influence of social class on consumer behavior in United Kingdom. The research is being conducted to find the influence of social class on consumer behavior in Sainsbury in United Kingdom.

1.2 Aims and Objectives of Research

This particular research is going to discuss the consumer behavior in context of social class. The aim of this particular research is as follows:

“To study the influence of social class on consumer behavior and to find its marketing implications for in Sainsbury”

Objectives of this particular study are as follows:

- To study breakdown of social classes in the United Kingdom
- To study the relationship between social class and consumer behavior from existing literature
- To investigate different factors influencing consumer behavior in different social classes
- To study the extent to which customers of different social classes behave differently in Sainsbury
- To find the implication of the findings of research for marketing of Sainsbury

1.3 Research Questions

Research questions are very important for research project because the whole research is focused on research questions. If research questions are not developed properly, accurate results cannot be achieved. It is very important to design accurate and precise research questions in order to get accurate results of research. Questions developed for this particular research are as follows:

- What is the relationship of social class and consumer behavior?
- What are the factors which influence consumer behavior of different social classes?
- How does consumer behavior differ in different social classes in Sainsbury?
- What are the marketing implications of the study for Sainsbury?

1.4 Significance and Scope of Research

This particular research is going to research to evaluate the influence of social class on consumer behavior. Consumer behavior is very important to be studied because it assists companies to understand the wants, preferences and needs of consumers. Different social classes exist in the societies which have specific behavior towards offers of companies. Companies need to understand how to satisfy these social classes. In today’s competitive world, the organizations which understand the needs and wants of customers of different social classes can lead the market while the companies which do not respond to the needs and wants of different social classes are compelled to leave the market. Thus, studying consumer behavior of different social classes is very important for companies. This particular research analyses the factors influencing consumer behavior of different social classes in Sainsbury in United Kingdom. The factors analyzed in this research are significant for the Sainsbury to satisfy the needs and wants different social classes. The research is presents the marketing implications for Sainsbury for satisfying its customers.

1.5 Research Structure

This particular research is composed of six chapters. All the chapters serve a specific purpose towards the achievement of aims and objectives of research. All these chapters have been interlinked and a coherent research has been produced. Following is the brief summary of all chapters.

Chapter 1:

It presents background of the research with aims and objectives. The current scenario in which research has been created is described here. Aims and objectives of research have been presented in this particular chapter. Research questions and significance of research has also been outlined here. The summary of all chapters is also presented here.

Chapter 2:

In literature review consumer behavior has been described in the light of previous researches. Influence of social class on consumer behavior has been described in this chapter. Literature regarding consumer behavior and social class has been explored. Different social classes have been explained in this chapter. Social structure of United Kingdom has also been explained in this chapter.

Chapter 3:

This is methodology section of research. Research philosophy, methods, and research approach has been justified according to aims and objectives of research. Data collection tools, validity and reliability and research ethics have been described in this chapter.

Chapter 4:

This chapter relates to presentation of data findings. All the findings of research have presented in the form of percentages. Graphical representation of data findings is also done.

Chapter 5:

The aim of this chapter is to analyze the data findings. All the findings of data are analyzed descriptively. Detailed discussion on data findings has been conducted. Findings are related to the secondary data in order to validate them. Each question of questionnaire has been discussed in detail. Findings are analyzed descriptively.

Chapter 6:

The last chapter presents conclusion of data findings. The whole research has been concluded here. Implications of research findings for marketing and prospects of future research are also presented in this chapter.

Chapter Two
Literature Review

2.1 Defining Consumer Behavior and Social Class

Consumer behavior is the activity that involves consumers in purchasing, consuming, and disposing of products and services (Loudon, 2001). Consumer behavior can also be defined as decisions taken by consumers for buying, consuming, and disposing of products and services, experiences, ideas, and people over a specific period of time (Wayne, 2009). This suggests that consumer behavior is the sum of all activities that are involved from buying to disposing of products and services. Consumer behavior is a broad concept that involves a number of activities involving from the very first point of buying to the disposing of products.

Myers (1971) has introduced the concept of social class in the marketing literature. Social class is basically the division of individuals of society into different groups in a hierarchy having distinct characteristics. Sciffman and Kanuk (2007) have defined social class as the stratification of whole society into different groups on the basis of material wealth. This social stratification subsists in all societies that divide individuals into different groups. Social class is basically the status that is associated with the individuals of a particular class in relation to the individuals of other classes. Social stratification can be based on power, income, lifestyle, education and wealth. The differences that exist in different social classes are very important for marketers and companies. Loudon (2007) has said that social class has close relation with the consumer behavior and even a very close relation with the buying decisions of consumers of different social classes. This suggests that needs, wants, preferences, and attitudes of individuals of different social classes differ.

2.2 Social Class Measurement

Social class measurement is basically a tool to classify the society into different classes. These classes are used by the marketers to identify consumer segments for their products and services. Social classes can be determined by following measures (Loudon, 2001):

- Subjective Measurement
- Reputational Measurement
- Objective Measurement

Subjective measure classifies social classes on the basis of self perception of individuals. Reputational measure classifies social systems on the basis of perception of others. The third measure i.e. objective measure classifies social systems on the basis socioeconomic measures.

There are three basic segments of social classes. These are upper class, middle class and lower class (Arnold, 2002).

Upper Class

Upper class has access to financial and non financial resources. This class is the wealthiest of all classes. Distinctive media and distinguished products are used by the marketers to target this particular class. This class accepts customized products and services. Arnold (2002) individuals who are new in this particular class have desire to be visible in changed social class.

Middle Class

This class is composed of working people. Middle class has been emerging throughout the world (Arnold, 2002). This class focuses on education and marriage issues more as compared to others. Emotions are considerably high in this social class so marketers target this class with emotional values. Individuals of this social class have desire to progress at upper class.

Lower Class

Majority of the population of world is composed of lower class. Lower class is characterized by low income, low education, and minorities. Individuals of this class have high technical education. Lower class usually spends money on basic necessities of life e.g. food, shelter, and clothes (Arnold, 2002). Mass media is used to target lower class by the marketers.

2.3 Social Image

There are numb are of factors that affect relationship between consumer behavior and social class. One of such factors is self image associated with an individual in a particular social class (Rookes and Wilson, 2000).

The perception of self image is basically the process of recognition and interpretation of external stimuli to which individuals are exposed. According to self image perception view, individuals in one social class perceive others on the basis of their job, salary, house, and clothing. The interpretation of these social factors gives shape to the consumer behavior of individuals.

Cognitive self image is formed on the basis of their belonging to a particular ethnic group other group in a society (Pintrich, 2005). It is basically the personalization of particular state of mind that is owned by the individuals in particular society. It allows individuals to evaluate themselves.

Normative image refers to the idea by which individuals consider their view in the eyes of others and decide about the social class in which they want to be placed. This can be done either consciously or unconsciously by the individuals. Normative image of individual has relationship with the consumer behavior (Adams, 1993). Middle social class seeks for opportunities than can associate it with the upper class in order to satisfy its normative image and gain imaginary acceptance from the members of society. A single group can have different levels and forms of normative self image (Hoyer and Maccinis, 2009). Cognitive and normative image can affect the preferences and attitudes of individuals in different social classes and ultimately affect consumer behavior.

2.4 Existing Literature about Social Class and Consumer Behavior

Social class has been extensively studied with respect to consumer behavior. A number of researchers have established relationship between social class and consumer behavior. In marketing theory consumer behavior and social class have a considerable place. Mirela (2006) says that consumer behavior has close relation with the social class.

Every society has social stratification that is permanent in nature and all members of one social class have distinct characteristics. A single factor does not determine the social class but a number of factors determine social class structure. Kotler and Armstrong (2007) say that marketers need to concentrate on the factors that stratify a society because each social class has distinct characters that can affect its consumer behavior. They further said that consumers in each social class exhibit similar attitude, behavior and preferences.

Social classes are created by the groups of people having same social status (O’Doughtery, 2007). The individuals of these groups meet with each other frequently and share similar values with each other. The sense of belonging possessed by the individuals of these social classes is passed on to the consumer behavior of these classes.

Noel (2008) has found that social class motivates individuals composing it to buy particular goods and services. He found three ways by which a social class affects consumer behavior. These three ways are conspicuous consumption, status float behavior and trickledown effect.

Conspicuous consumption is basically the purchasing and consuming of costly products and services. This concept depicts the social status of an individual (Noel, 2008). The next concept is trickledown effect which refers to the idea that lower classes observe the buying behavior of upper classes and try to copy them. This behavior occurs when lower social classes are inspired by the attitudes and behavior of upper classes (Noel, 2008). The final affect is status float that refers to the idea when upper classes copy the attitude and buying behavior of lower classes. This affect is opposite to that of trickledown effect. Lower classes have very high conspicuous oriented consuming behavior which is against their social status (Loudon, 2001). This is because lower classes spend high income on expensive products like clothes and jewelry only to show off others in order to overcome their inferiority complex. Individuals of middle class spend more income in order achieve something. People in this class have been found to prefer social acceptability of products rather than their functionality. They try to buy those things which depict their high image in the society.

Social classes are characterized by varying access to financial and non financial resources. Social classes also have different choices and use of products and services. Upper class has a pool of resources and spends its sources on lavish life styles like purchase of bonds and branded wines. On the other hand lower class spends its resources on purchasing derby tick and local and cheap wine (Loudon, 2007). It is not necessary that these assumptions will always come true and apply to all members of a social class. Any individual in a social class can differ from general behavior of his or her social class (Loudon, 2007).

Different social classes have different behaviors regarding leisure time, brand preferences and consumption patterns. Keiser and Kuehl (1972) have established a relationship between social class and brand identification. Income is very important factor that has association with social classes but it becomes irrelevant when products of low social value are purchased (Schaninger, 1981).

It has been argued by the Loudon (2007) that social classes differ in the consumer behavior because of differences in their financial status and education level. The individuals of upper social classes have more opportunities for consumer learning as compared to the individuals of lower social classes. Young, (2003) has analyzed that individuals of upper social class have more choices of food as compared to those of lower class. He further argues that children of upper social class play active role in changing habits. He found that preference for food and other products of individuals of different social classes change by their interaction with the peers.

Social classes differ in their consumption behavior. Upper social classes have high resources so they have high probability of more consumption as compared to lower classes. Mirela (2006) has established a relationship between food, clothing, and financial consumption behaviors and social classes. His findings suggest that upper social class consumers more macrobiotic food as compared to lower social class. While shopping clothes lower social class considers about price to a great extent and ignores quality as compared to upper social class. Mirela (2006) has also found that higher social classes attend theaters frequently in their leisure time whereas lower classes do not have such interests because of low interest in educational activities. When the frequency of visiting restaurants was compared, it was found in his findings that lower and middle classes have less frequency of visiting restaurants as compared to that of higher social classes. When compared about housing facilities it has been found that members of upper social classes have owned apartments whereas lower social classes rely on rented homes (Mirela, 2006). It has also been found that upper social class is much conscious about decoring houses as compared to that of lower social class (Mirela, 2006).


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The implications of consumer behavior for marketing
A case study of social class at Sainsbury
University of Canberra
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Alex Cole (Author), 2012, The implications of consumer behavior for marketing, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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