Buyer behaviour is strongly influenced by family members and the values shared within a family unit. Throughout life there are generally two types of family that a person will experience; the family of orientation which is the family you are born into, and the family of procreation which is the family founded through marriage. Families provide a person with an "orientation towards religion, politics and economics, and a sense of personal ambition, self worth and love" (Kotler, 2008) and the variations that a person may be exposed to throughout life could affect their values and ultimately buying behaviours. Kotler states that even if an individual no longer interacts with their parents in the same way that they did as a child, their buyer behaviour can still significantly be influenced as a result of specific values that they were brought up with. In many countries, families stay together throughout life with the parents still living with the children or staying very close geographically and therefore continuing to have an crucial influence on values and behaviours. As well as these aspects, decisions can also be influenced by a person's individual characteristics such as age and life cycle stage, occupation, economic situation, lifestyle, personality and self-concept.
The role a child plays within the decision making process is also seen to be changing as they are seen to be having a stronger influence on purchase decisions, especially the major and more expensive purchases including holidays, cars, electrical products and even on what they eat. One way in which a child influences a purchase decision may be whilst food shopping. Marketers target children to encourage impulse buys as they are very easily influenced by stimuli such as packaging that may feature their favourite animal or cartoon character or even advertising that they have seen on TV, encouraging them to pester their parents until they get what they want.
"Children undergo a process of socialisation whereby they learn how to be consumers. Some of this knowledge is instilled by parents and friends, but a lot of it comes from exposure to mass media and advertising. Since children are in some cases so easily persuaded, the ethical aspects of marketing to them are hotly debated among consumers, academics and marketing practitioners" (Solomon, 2006).
Pivotal events in the family life cycle, such as children moving out of home and getting married or losing a loved one, tend to alter role relationships and "trigger new stages of life" which in turn can modify priorities. Significant changes in expenditure are likely to accompany changes in the FLC as a result of buying a first home and starting a family or having a diminishing income if a member of the family retires.
These characteristics are stages in which all individuals will go through at some stage in their life and at each stage there are different patterns in consumption and buyer behaviour. As stated in Solomon (2006) "young bachelors and newlyweds have the most modern sex-role attitudes, are the most likely to exercise regularly, go to pubs, concerts, the cinema and restaurants and they consume more alcohol." Families with young children are very different in comparison as they are likely to have a lower disposable income and purchase only the necessary products.
In the early stages of the FLC the value of large and high involvement products such as houses, cars and durable goods are lower, but soon increases as consumers move through the "full nest and childless couple stages."
Decision making is a term used to describe to process by which families make choices, determine judgements and come to conclusions that drive behaviours (Scanzoni and Polonko, 1980). "Individual members of families often serve different roles in decisions that ultimately draw on shared family resources" (Consumer Psychologist). If a situation arises where each member of the family is involved in the decision making process, conflicts may occur due to differences in preference and need although price tends to be the main issue when the overall decision is to be made. There are many factors determining the degree of family decision conflict including the following:
- Interpersonal need (a person's level of investment in the group);
- Product involvement and utility (the degree to which the product in question will be used or will satisfy a need);
- Responsibility (for procurement, maintenance, payment etc); and
- Power (or the degree to which one family member exerts influence over the others in making decisions) (Solomon, 2006).
"Democracy in families is growing fast. Consequently, there is a strong move from individual to joint decisions, which has serious implications for advertising" (Bronner, Admap 2004). Traditionally, products such as cars and electrical products are seen to be chosen by the husband of the family although due to the change in lifestyle and the requirements for the product the wife is now a major influencer and in some cases the child too. In order for a family to come to an agreement about which product to purchase, 10 influencing strategies are used:
- "You scratch my back, i'll scratch yours" meaning that a compromise is made so as to satisfy each person;
- The golden mean which is more a strategy of give and take and reach a compromise or a reasoning to be able to come to an agreement;
- Internal expert in which a family member attempts to persuade others that they know more about a particular field in which a choice has to be made;
- Socialisation where the parent attempts to teach the child about how to become effective consumers with regards to price/performance etc of a product;
- White lies which involves a member of the group distorting reality in order to try to persuade other members that a certain purchase would be the best option;
- Authoritarian where someone in the group takes a leading role "without justification on the basis of expertise" for example the husband taking charge when deciding on what car to buy; and
- Throw a dice involving a random strategy in order to come to a decision
(Bronner, Admap 2004).