Consumers don’t operate in isolation; they interact with other individuals on daily basis. These interactions influence each other in many ways. Interpersonal influence is referred to the change in one’s behavior due to other’s feelings, thoughts that are communicated, to them through different sources. As the action follows beliefs and formation of belief is a complex process affected by numerous reasons and factors. And one of the major factors contributing is exchange of the thoughts, feeling with others. People operate in society, so the transfer of one’s ideas takes various forms ranging from following values of culture, observation, feed back from others, moral values, family standards, mass media etc. Although people like to think that their decisions are their, but in real it is shaped by the social context one lives into.
There is a broad spectrum of factors that lead to transform consumer decision making. Few of those includes is the consumers own information and experience regarding a product/ brand. If the consumer has a hand on experience with a brand, then there is a lesser possibility to get influenced. Another reason can be the source of information, i.e. how credible and powerful it is for the consumer. This can also impact the consumer beliefs and alter his attitude. Sometimes in order to portray conformity with a group, a consumer may get influenced and behave according to someone else’s belief.
Tools of influence
There can be various forms of influence, but they are broadly grouped into three major categories including;
1) Normative Influence
It occurs when consumer takes an action that is to meet other’s expectations and to gain a reward or avoid punishment. Mostly this approach works the best, if the product is distinct in use and purchase and consumer wants to affiliate with certain group or to be at certain social position.
2) Value-Expressive Influence
It takes place when consumer uses other’s norms, values and beliefs to guide his own action. It is an effective approach to use celebrities and role models to endorse a specific product/brand.
3) Informative Social Influence
It appears when the consumer seeks other’s information or belief, and viewed it as credible evidence about reality.
It is the practices of marketers to persuade the consumers about their own product/brand:
1) Reciprocity: It means people try to repay what other people and group has provided to them. Marketing practices such as free sampling and small gifts /token given by the companies, not only enhances the brand image but also promotes the buying decision to reciprocate.
2) Commitment and Consistency: It is followed when people try to understand why things happen and form judgment about them. Also people look for consistency in their judgments otherwise it would generate contradictions. The marketing sales technique foot-in-the-door plays works around this concept. As the consumer is engaged in first initial requirement and if he first agrees then the request is increased.
3) Influencers: The core of this tactic is to play with the characteristics of the influencers. The marketers select celebrities which are more close or similar to the target market they are catering to so that the consumer would empathize. These characteristics include the source/endorser’s expertise (knowledge, experience), similarity (social comparison, social status) or attractiveness (beauty, ruggedness, physical strength).
With the advancement in technologies, consumers are more accessible to other’s opinions and therefore marketers should aim to influence the consumers through role models, reference group.
Zinkhan G, Arnould E (2002) “interpersonal influence” Consumers 1st Ed New York, McGraw-Hill Publication Pg 537-547.