Consumer behaviour is the study of individuals, groups, or organizations and all the activities associated with the purchase, use and disposal of goods and services, and how the consumer's emotions, attitudes and preferences affect buying behaviour. Consumer behaviour emerged in the 1940s and 50s as a distinct sub-discipline of marketing, but has become an inter-disciplinary social science that blends elements from psychology, sociology, social anthropology, anthropology, ethnography, marketing and economics (especially behavioural economics).
The study of consumer behaviour formally investigates individual qualities such as demographics, personality lifestyles, and behavioural variables (such as usage rates, usage occasion, loyalty, brand advocacy, and willingness to provide referrals), in an attempt to understand people's wants and consumption. Also investigated are the influences on the consumer, from groups such as family, friends, sports, and reference groups, to society in general, including brand-influencers and opinion leaders.
Research has shown that consumer behaviour is difficult to predict, even for experts in the field; however, new research methods, such as ethnography and consumer neuroscience, are shedding new light on how consumers make decisions. In addition, customer relationship management (CRM) databases have become an asset for the analysis of customer behaviour. The voluminous data produced by these databases enables detailed examination of behavioural factors that contribute to customer re-purchase intentions, consumer retention, loyalty and other behavioural intentions such as the willingness to provide positive referrals, become brand advocates or engage in customer citizenship activities. Databases also assist in market segmentation, especially behavioural segmentation such as developing loyalty segments, which can be used to develop tightly targeted, customized marketing strategies on a one-to-one basis. (Also see relationship marketing)