For marketing professionals interested in advancing their careers, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree offers a number of advantages, and it can be a sound investment. Courses in microeconomics, business research, accounting and financial management remain core elements of any competitive MBA program, but the addition of even more specialized knowledge, like consumer behavior, distinguishes the most effective degree programs.
What Is Consumer Behavior?
At its core, consumer behavior is the study of how people make buying decisions. It attempts to understand how buyers choose, use and dispose of products and services, as well as the various stages people go through before making a purchase.
There are several key factors that affect buyers' decisions: cultural, psychological, social and personal. The study of consumer behavior examines demographics and how groups — such as friends and family — and the media influence people's decisions.
Why Is Consumer Behavior Important in Marketing?
By understanding how buyers think, feel and decide, businesses can determine how best to market their products and services. This helps marketers predict how their customers will act, which aids in marketing existing products and services. It also enables innovative businesses to identify new opportunities before others do.
One way that marketers look at consumer behavior is by analyzing demographics. Knowing statistics such as age, income and education level can help predict behavior. For example, a 2022 survey of buyer preferences found that millennials respond best to word-of-mouth recommendations.
Moreover, Insider Intelligence reports, "Most consumers now proactively avoid advertising, whether by using ad blockers, paying for ad-free digital media experiences or skipping ads." Specifically, younger adults (Gen Z, millennials and the brunt of Gen X) are "more likely to use ad blockers." So, marketers know that a push (outbound) marketing campaign is generally not a good online marketing strategy for these age groups.
Marketers attempt to identify buyers' needs through various research methods such as surveys and interviews that probe how often consumers buy, where they shop, where they get their information, how they share this information with others and so on. Knowing the right questions to ask, and how to ask them, is an important part of consumer behavior research.
Marketers also leverage modern analytics technologies to better understand and predict various aspects of consumer behavior. Such technologies can aggregate and analyze vast amounts of data on consumers, drawing relationships between demographics, buying habits and targeted marketing techniques. The power of modern analytics enables the scalable, personalized marketing methods consumers have come to expect, from automated product recommendations on ecommerce platforms to direct engagement through social media marketing.
Understanding buyers can help marketers connect with consumers and influence their behavior. This approach to marketing is important today because in the competitive global market, personal relationships can mean the difference between sales and wasted advertising dollars. In many ways, the world is smaller now than it was a few decades ago, but the behavior of consumers has only grown more complicated.
How Studying Consumer Behavior Helps You
While an MBA can help you develop your career, selecting a graduate program that will allow you to study consumer behavior specifically will equip you with specialized, in-demand skills. A background in consumer behavior is useful for market research analysts, for example, and research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that employment for market research analysts will grow much faster than average — 22% between 2020 and 2030.
MBA programs that offer courses in consumer behavior — such as Southeastern Oklahoma State University's online MBA in Marketing — can help you develop useful skills and expertise in understanding and analyzing today's global consumers.
Learn more about the SOSU online MBA in Marketing program.
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