The Influence of Friends and Family on Customer Decision and Buying Behaviour in the Purchase of Cosmetic Products

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The quality of a product, self-positioning, and sources of information regarding the product, such as friends and family influence, and advertisements, are some of the reasons that determine the decision of a customer to purchase cosmetic products. This study aimed at determining how friends and family acquire and pass information to their peers regarding cosmetic products, and determining the extent to which product information from friends and family on cosmetic products influence individual customer buying decision behaviour and customer buying behaviour in the purchase of cosmetic products. The investigator used a positivist philosophy in a deductive approach to defining the survey research strategy. Under an exploratory research design, the investigator used purposive random sampling to select 258 participants to collect primary quantitative data using questionnaires about the decisions and buying behaviour with respect to the influence of friends and relatives. Based on the primary aim of this study, which entailed a critical analysis of the influence of friends and family on customer decision behaviour and customer buying behaviour in the purchase of cosmetic products, it was established that social factors linked to family and friends directly influence customer decision and buying behaviours. These social factors include individual social class, self-esteem, friends, family members, religion, and cultural norms. Additionally, economic factors, such as personal and family income were noted to affect an individual’s decision and buying behaviour. Information collected from friends and family members was noted as crucial in guiding an individual the cosmetic products to buy and when to buy. Lastly, individual experiences with a cosmetic product were identified to define the pre and post-purchase behaviour, including whether to recommend a product for or against a purchase.

Key Words: Consumer, Customer, Customer Buying Behaviour, Customer Decision Behaviour, cosmetic products


1.1    Introduction

This chapter introduces the study by exploring background information on the research topic. In particular, the chapter explains how family members and friends influence one another in making decisions to buy products and services and defines customer choice and customer behaviour in the purchase of cosmetic products. A case study is provided with respect to customer decision and buying of Unilever cosmetic products. Lastly, the chapter defines the study problem and outlines the aim and objectives guiding the study, as well as the rationale and dissertation map.

1.1.1    Background

The concept of customer behaviour has been employed in business arena to elucidate the behaviour of an individual, a group or an organisation and the activities surrounding the purchase of a product or service, its use, and disposal (Bauer, Sauer and Becker 2006). It also includes the decision process, emotional behaviours, as well as psychological and emotional responses pre and post-purchase. A candid comprehension of customer behaviour and decision-making offers deep insight to entrepreneurs as they develop and market their products (Culasso 2014). Bauer et al. (2006) assert that the quality of a product, self-positioning, and sources of information regarding the product, such as friends and family influence, and advertisements, are some of the reasons that determine the decision of a customer to purchase the product.

From a marketing perspective, however, friends and family offer a baseline for a study into consumer behaviours as they define their decisions to purchase a product. In this regard, Darabos (2013) assert that the influence of family and friends on cosmetic products and/or brand consumption provides a better understanding of this scenario, and offers a fundamental advancement in marketing activities, including marketing, advertisements, and other related business disciplines (Baird and Parasnis 2011).

1.1.2 Friends and Family Members

According to Beck, Chapman, and Palmatier (2015), a significant percentage of the preferences of consumers to purchase a product are built on influences of their intergroup interaction. As a result, an individual consumer builds patterns of selection from the impact of friends and family members (Sivanesan 2014). Gupta and Ogden (2009) outline friends and family members as individuals whose opinions, behaviours, attitudes, and beliefs are viewed as a standard point for self-assessment and evaluation.

The psychological impact on friends or family members is imminent in influencing peers into making purchase decisions or buying products for social consumption. While Niu (2013) advocates that friends and family members do not suggest what to buy to a customer, a customer is psychologically manipulated to make a purchasing decision based on respect for their opinions and feelings. According to Nair and Pillai (2007), more than half of men in a population (54%) and 47% of women make purchase decisions individually. Importantly, 10.7% of women are influenced by their friends to make purchase decisions and buy cosmetic products, as opposed to 4.7% of men (Nair and Pillai 2007).

1.1.2 Customer Choice

The decisions that consumers make in preference and purchase of a product explain the concepts of consumer choice. Corporate marketing teams need to understand the concept of consumer choices in order to design a strategic marketing plan (Candan, Ьnal and Erciş 2013). Understanding consumer behaviour assists in defining how customers decide what products to purchase when, and their consumption. Further, Candan et al. (2013) provide that the decision-making process is complex since it varies with service or product considered. Kardes et al. (2004) assert that a customer who is interested in purchasing a product would source for more information, whose primary source is family members, friends, or opinion leaders. However, Hoonsopon and Puriwat (2016), explain consumer decision-making process as a product of the degree of participation of the customer in the product purchase and the perception of any variations between competing products. The process of decision-making is lengthened by the duration taken by a customer in engaging product choices.

1.1.3 Customer Behaviour in Buying of Cosmetic Product

Development of competitive cosmetic products is, partly embedded in the understanding of consumer behaviour (Ratnam 2015). Companies need to define consumer needs and wants while building their products in order to meet them. Consequently, corporate marketers develop brand loyalty and gear their products to increased competitiveness in the market (Pride et al. 2000). In the changing competitive cosmetic business environment, businesses are thriving by acquiring value customers in the larger market share (Ratnam 2015).

Currently, the market is flooded with a wide variety of cosmetic products, of which their use of highly attached to particular the preferences of adult friends and family members (Pride and Ferrell 2000). The patterns of these preferences are continually changing too, making it imperative for cosmetic marketers to define the patterns that cosmetic consumers engage in making purchasing decisions in order to retain and expand their clientele (Ratnam 2015). 

The current marketing strategies necessitate influence from family and friends on the purchase choice of customers since global competition has compelled firms to channel huge resources in marketing campaigns and advertisements to stimulate consumers to select their brands (Sheehan 2014). For instance, in 2010, Unilever launched a new cosmetic brand to resurface its new appearance from the older generation, with many product lines targeting children and young groups of the society (Sheehan 2014). The company invests hugely in marketing campaigns that define children as influential groups to other consumers of their brands and product lines (Michman, Mazze and Greco 2003). Hand-washing campaigns are such examples of marketing plans targeting school-going children that underlie a family reference component of an up-coming consumer base.

1.1.4. Case Study: Unilever Cosmetic Products

Every day, more than 2.5 billion people around the globe use products from Unilever Global, a manufacturer of cosmetic products, among other household categories. Customers of Unilever cosmetic products reach for affordable brands designed to meet consumer needs, including everyday household care and enhancing health (Unilever 2016). In every ten households worldwide, seven consume at least one Unilever cosmetic product from a variety of favourite brands. Based on statistics from Unilever financials, cosmetic products form the largest business segment of the company, with a total earning of over Ј20.1 billion in the 2016 fiscal year (Unilever 2016).

Moreover, Unilever engages in corporate social responsibility initiatives (CSR), such as helping more people improve their hygiene and health through their cosmetic product lines globally, which decreases the incidence and prevalence of communicable diseases. As a result, many family members and friends directly influence their peers into the purchase and consumption of Unilever cosmetics, particularly detergents, body lotions and fragrances based on the positive impact of this CSR initiative. In addition, the company designs various advertising and marketing messages using children as the influence of family members to stimulate purchase decisions and buying behaviours into their products. Such campaigns include the use of school going children in the marketing of hand-wash detergents, which revolutionise the consumer base for various household products under cosmetics (Unilever 2016). In this study, Unilever cosmetic products will be overtly used in the results discussion to evaluate how friends and family members are integrated into the influence of the customer decision behaviour and buying behaviour of cosmetics.

1.1.5 Statement of the Problem

A proper understanding of consumer behaviour in marketing has extensively explored yielding wild advancements in the field of research in the modern business arena. Many studies on the cosmetic industry have been explored to enumerate customer buying behaviour and customer decision behaviour. Strategic product positioning of cosmetic products and retailing effectively supplement customer perceptions, which ultimately build consumer value towards a cosmetic brand (Majumdar 2009). The basis of marketing strategy in the cosmetic industry, including the use of people-based CSR initiatives, is to meet customer needs, including the need for satisfying preference needs for family or friends. Many empirical studies on the social influence of customer behaviours focus on the decision to buy (Salazar et al. 2013; Rani 2014). However, among the literature that exists today, they do not explore the influence of family and friends on the buying behaviour and decisions of an individual customer. This study, therefore, aims at defining the social factors surrounding family members and friends in influencing customer buying behaviour and customer decision behaviour in the purchase of cosmetic products.

1.2 Research Aim

The principal purpose of this study was to critically analyse the influence of friends and family on customer decision behaviour and customer buying behaviour in the purchase of cosmetic products.

1.3 Research Objectives

i.    To determine how friends and family acquire and pass information to their peers regarding cosmetic products;

ii.    To determine how product information from friends and family on cosmetics influence individual customer buying decision behaviour;

iii.    To determine the extent to which product information on cosmetics influence individual customer buying behaviour pre and post purchasing.

1.4    Research Questions

i.    What methods do friends and/or family members use to acquire and pass information to their peers regarding a cosmetic product line?

ii.    How do friends and/or family members use the acquired information regarding a cosmetic product to manipulate a customer buying decision behaviour of its peers?

iii.    What is the level of influence does product information have on customer buying behaviour following product recommendation from family or friends?

1.5    Research Rationale

Family and friends form core social component that people identify within the purchase of consumables and products with social reverence.  Establishment of the roles of friends and family in manipulating the purchase decision and buying behaviour of cosmetic products is important for marketers to differentiate their marketing messages. Moreover, the findings of this study assist in justifying the importance of contemporary theories on customer decision and customer buying behaviours, which integrate exogenous factors in understanding consumer behaviour.

The dissertation findings provide resourceful information that will help corporate marketing managers remain productive and competitive in their respective industries, as they will be able to evaluate the behaviours of consumers and respond to their needs effectively. This study is limited to exploring the role of family and friends in the buying and decisions to buy of cosmetic products. Using a quantitative study design, the investigator employed questionnaire survey tools for the collection of raw data. As a result, the collected data was prone to questionnaire bias. In the design of the questionnaire, the investigator undertook thorough check-up to eliminate sources of questionnaire bias, such as those emanating from question design, questionnaire design, or the administration of the questionnaires to command validity of the results.

Another limitation was the time constraint in the exploration and review of other relevant documents. According to Veblen (2005), an extensive examination into prior scholar documents validates and minimises study gaps significantly. Lastly, since the consumption patterns across products or brands vary from individual to individual within a family or group of friends, this study only majored customer buying behaviour and customer decision behaviour in the purchase of cosmetic products.

January 19, 2024

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