As we discussed in the What is Marketing? Tutorial, customers make purchases in order to satisfy needs. Some of these needs are basic and must be filled by everyone on the planet (e.g., food, shelter) while others are not required for basic survival and vary depending on the person. It probably makes more sense to classify needs that are not a necessity as wants or desires. In fact, in many countries where the standard of living is very high, a large portion of the population’s income is spent on wants and desires rather than on basic needs.
In this tutorial when we mention the consumer we are referring to the actual buyer, the person spending the money. But is should also be pointed out that the one who does the buying is not necessarily the user of what is bought and that others may be involved in the buying decision in addition to the actual buyer. While the purchasing process in the consumer market is not as complex as the business market, having multiple people involved in a purchase decision is not unusual. For example, in planning for a family trip the mother may make the hotel reservations but others in the family may have input on the hotel choice. Similarly, a father may purchase snacks at the grocery store but his young child may be the one who selected it from the store shelf.
So understanding consumer purchase behavior involves not only understanding how decisions are made but also understanding the dynamics that influence purchases.