The study of Consumer Behaviour concerns the multidimensional factors that inform consumer choices. Broadly speaking, this entails examination of the processes that constitute marketing strategy and communications in respect to buying behaviour. Consumer Behaviour has conventionally been associated with the economic and psychological determinants that drive consumer society, with particular focus on empirical research, quantitative analyses, and managerial precepts. Critical focus has been particularly directed at microeconomic theory and cognitive psychology, with an emphasis on experimental design, database modelling, surveys, and other reductive, linear and logic-centred approaches. Consumer Behaviour, then, has traditionally sought to synthesise the external and internal drivers guiding consumption. This refers, externally, to environmental factors like supply and demand, market conditions, production, distribution, branding, and marketing; and, internally, to personal factors like aspirations, desires, rationality, identity and ideology. These dual concerns translate in scholarly practice to a combination of formal economic and business theory (in the empirical scientific vein) with insights from behaviourist studies insofar as ideas, attitudes and beliefs determine human motivations; how these influence purchasing habits. The guiding principle of Consumer Behaviour studies has been to shed light on decision-making processes, to understand what makes consumers act in certain ways, in order to theorise consumption motivation and, as a result, formulate effective marketing strategies.
In recent years, Consumer Behaviour has expanded to incorporate a far broader range of concepts and methodologies, moving away from the binary production/consumption paradigm that characterised the field for much of the Modern era. New insights from poststructuralist and postmodernist theory have afforded a more nuanced understanding of consumption, as an active meaning-making strategy tied up with identity formation within the greater frameworks of consumer society. These newer approaches incorporate socio-cultural and philosophical considerations into the staple concerns of economics and psychology, encouraging a multidisciplinary perspective that eschews prescriptivism and looks to the innate heterogeneity of consumer behaviour as such. Achieving top marks in Consumer Behaviour consequently demands that the student be conversant with the older and traditional as well as newer and innovative aspects of Consumer theory. Thus one must be adept with in situ research, having a firm grasp of necessary empirical methods, data collection, logical analyses, processes of argumentation, objectivity and the scientific method; must possess a good critical knowledge of psychological theories of consumption, and be able to deconstruct same in lucid analytical prose. A solid command of the fundamentals of Consumer Behaviour will serve as the foothold from which the student broaches contemporary critical insights. The skill of a first-rate Consumer Behaviour essay is in dexterously combining traditional with contemporary practice, pinpointing the relevant aspects from each and fusing them in a coherent argument. Starting with an evidentiary base will be of the highest importance because theories on Consumer Behaviour have a very practical application in the context of the free market. Moreover, numerable and detailed data sources (market research, sales figures, economic trends, et cetera) are readily available, presenting the student with a wealth of first-hand information. The successful student will be able to navigate this diversity and alight upon the connecting points in relation their specific research question.
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