Last updated: March 26, 2019
Topic: Family
Sample donated:

How Reference Groups Affect Purchasing Decisions of Consumers


A reference group is any group that can affect the purchasing decisions of a consumer. Although the influence can be very strong, consumers don’t always consciously realize that they are allowing the influence to occur. Reference groups may have a stronger influence on products with fewer differences between various brands. Three reference groups that can affect consumers purchasing decisions are friends and family, social class and celebrities.

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People often trust and respect the opinions of those closest to them, friends and family. For example, a person is more likely to believe their mother when she recommends a product over someone in the grocery store who recommends a different brand. Consumers often perceive their family and friends as the most like themselves and feel that their needs and wants can be satisfied by similar products.

Social classes can also serve as a strong reference group and impact purchasing decisions. For example, a newly licensed 17-year-old teenager with well-to-do parents may really love the 1996 Honda Accord, but would feel embarrassed to drive it around her high-class neighborhood. Middle-class families have often been charged with trying to “keep up with the Jones’.” If they see that their neighbors can afford a Lexus instead of a Chevy, they feel like they should too.

Another reference group is celebrities. Consumers don’t necessarily view themselves as being like celebrities as they do with friends, family and members of their social class, but they often aspire to be like them. If a consumer sees an article in a magazine with her favorite celebrity wearing a long eccentric skirt, she may be inclined to buy a very similar skirt. Purchasing similar items as a celebrity may make someone feel like they will be attributed with the same characteristics of that celebrity.