Consumer Behavior Essay

3589 words - 14 pages


Assessed Coursework Title:

"Reference Group Theory in its application at IKEA, Leeds."

Word Count: 2675


Introduction Page 3

Observation Page 5

Conclusion Page 10

References Page 12


With this essay we seek to elaborate our understanding of the implications of group reference theory applied within the format of a three-hour individual observation at one of the world's largest furniture retailers, IKEA in Leeds. Group influences can be perceived whenever purchase decisions are involved. However researchers state this process occurs not only on a conscious level, but often unconsciously. This gave rise to our desire to investigate group influence theory on the basis of our observations, as we constantly seek to understand ourselves better and determine as to what drives us to purchase certain products. These circumstances therefore predispose the structure of our essay, as we will present relevant theory and subsequently relate it to our ascertainments.

Reference group theory has been defined by Bearden and Etzel (1982) as an individual or group that have a major impact on the buying behavior of a single person, where a group is seen as "an aggregation of individuals standing in certain descriptive relations to each other" (Seshadri, 2006; p.35). Furthermore they propose that the underlying concept of `Group Reference' (Hyman et al., 1942) not only relates to but actually explains why individuals often do not comply in their behavior with other members of the same social group. To explain this phenomenon, Park and Lessig (1977) conducted a research, which identified the three factors of reference group influences. The first one being the impact of informational influence, which describes the need to build an information base for decision making. The second dimension is described as utilitarian group influence, where an individual seeks to comply with other's expectations to achieve rewards or to avoid a sanction. Thirdly, individuals experience cognitive desires to relate and mimic other's behaviours, norms and values, as part of the value expression concept. These dimensions have been confirmed by the contemporary author Perner (2010), as well as in earlier literature (French and Raven, 1959).

As specified by Bearden & Etzel (1982) and ascertained by Childers & Rao (1992), the two most immanent types of reference groups are `comparative reference groups' and `normative reference groups'. The dimension of normative reference groups has been defined by Seshadri (2006) as "a source of individual's norms, attitudes and values". Additionally he comments on comparative functions "when individuals use a group to establish a frame of reference for value formation and decision making" (p; 35). However,...

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