Consumption represents consumers’ usage of the purchased product. Although this definition is simple, understanding consumption is much more complex. Indeed, there are a number of different ways to think about consumption. Let’s start with consumption behaviour itself.
User and non-user are terms often used to distinguish between those who consume the product and those who do not. The number of people who fall into the user and non-user categories is important for businesses to know for a couple of reasons. Knowing the number of current users in a product category is one indicator of the market’s attractiveness to the firm.
An understanding of consumption behaviour requires more than simply distinguishing between those who consume and those who don’t. Indeed, consumption behaviour can be characterised along a number of important dimensions discussed below
When Does Consumption Occur?
One fundamental component of consumption behaviour is when usage occurs. In many cases, purchase and consumption go hand in hand. That is, in making the purchase, we have committed ourselves to consumption. Buying tickets for a concert or sporting event, eating at a restaurant and taking your car to the local car wash fall into this category At other times, purchases are made without knowing precisely when consumption will occur. Food items bought at the supermarket sit on a shelf or in the refrigerator until you decide to consume them.
When consumption decisions are made independently of prior purchase decisions (such as when you are choosing something from your pantry), it may be worthwhile for a firm to consider putting some of its efforts into”. encouraging consumption rather than focusing exclusively on encouraging purchase.
The time of day at which usage occurs is another component of understanding the ‘when’ of consumption behaviour. Food consumption depends very heavily on the time of day.
Knowing when consumption occurs can be especially important to marketers as different products can be used for night-time and daytime. Medications fall under this category and as well as cosmetic products such as moisturising creams.
Where does consumption occur?
In addition to ‘when’ consumption takes place, it is useful to understand ‘where’ consumption takes place. Beer sales are quite sensitive to whether consumption happens inside or outside the home. The majority of sales for domestic brews are generated by in-home consumption. In contrast, imported beers obtain the majority of their sales ‘on premise’ in bars and restaurants. Apparently, many believe that drinking imported beers projects a more favourable social image to those present during consumption.
How is the product consumed?
Different people may purchase the same product but consume it in different ways. Consider rice. Sometimes rice is used as an ingredient that is mixed with other food items (e.g. nasi goreng). Sometimes it is served by itself as a side dish. The particular brand of rice that is purchased often depends on how it will be used.
Understanding how the product is used may also lead to uncovering new business opportunities. Sometimes firms discover consumers using their products in new and innovative ways.
How much is consumed?
Although a group of consumers may share a common bond in terms of engaging in the same consumption behaviour (e.g., wine drinkers), they may differ substantially in the amount of consumption. Some may have only an occasional glass of wine; some may drink wine nearly every day but only at the dinner table; and some may drink it every day, all day long.
These differences in the amount of consumption provide one basis for segmenting the user market. This form of segmentation, called usage volume segmentation, typically divides users into one of three segments: heavy users, moderate users and light users. Heavy users are those exhibiting the highest levels of product consumption. Light users are those who consume rather small amounts of the product. Moderate users fall in between these two extremes. All else being equal, heavy users are typically a primary target market. In most cases, the profit potential gained from selling to a heavy user greatly exceeds that realised from moderate and light users.
Changing the amount of a product’s consumption is often an important business objective.
Those interested in consumer welfare often find themselves trying to change the amount of consumption. In recent years, substantial efforts have been undertaken to reduce the consumption of such things as cigarettes, illegal drugs and alcohol by underage drinkers.
How does it feel?
A critical characteristic of many consumption behaviours is the particular feelings experienced during consumption. How do you feel when you are eating your favourite lollies? The last time you visited a dentist, how did you feel? What (if any) feelings do you experience when pouring laundry detergent into the washing machine?
Feelings come in many different shapes and sizes. They can be positive (excitement, pleasure, relief, contentment); they can be negative (anger, boredom, guilt, regret). Sometimes they are overwhelming. More often they are experienced with much less intensity.
Most consumption behaviour is rather ordinary and experienced with little feeling. Pouring laundry detergent into the washing machine, taking vitamin pills and pumping petrol into a car are activities usually performed without much feeling.
Of course, even an ordinary consumption activity can evoke strong feelings when things go wrong. Negative feelings, such as disappointment and regret, perhaps even anger, may arise whenever the consumption experience fails to measure up to what was expected.
Typically, negative feelings during product usage are undesirable from both the customer’s and firm’s perspective. Although they may sometimes be an inherent part of the consumption experience (such as the nervousness and anxiety that accompanies getting a tooth removed), often they are the result of failing to deliver what the customer wants and expects. Feelings such as disappointment, regret, frustration and anger are clear indicators of a problem. Implementing corrective actions requires identifying the reasons for these negative feelings.
Depending on the nature of the consumption experience, firms may find it beneficial to position their products based on the feelings experienced during consumption. There are two basic approaches for positioning the product in terms of consumption feelings. One approach is to focus on the positive feelings that consumption provides.
Marketers use imagery to incite the desired emotional state. Many consumers feature emotional arousal as a primary benefit. Similarly, many consumers experience tremendous guilt when eating food, especially if the food is less than healthy.