Consumer Behavior in Travel 'Literature Review' chapter

Excerpt from 'Literature Review' chapter :

Consumer Behavior in Travel:

This review is a focus of the literature regarding consumer behavior as related to all aspects of travel. This review includes details of the buying behavior of the major generational groups (determined by accepted year guidelines), why travel consumers choose to shop as they do, and what behavioral traits lead to different travel experiences.

Travel itself is a simple concept to define (when an individual leaves the local area in which they permanently reside with the intent to reside temporarily at a proposed destination for a specified period of time (WordNet)), but the behaviors that induce a person to engage in travel are more difficult. First, the concept of behavior is not as easy to define as some would believe. Levitis, Lidicker and Freund did an extensive study on what the word behavior actually means (2009). The researchers are animal behaviorists and biologists, but the definitions apply to any organism. The researchers used several previously wrought definitions such as the "Observable activity of an organism; anything an organism does that involves action and/or response to stimulation" and "the way an organism responds to stimulation" to come up withy their more complete understanding of the concept. "Behavior is: the internally coordinated responses (actions or inactions) of whole living organisms (individuals or groups) to internal and/or external stimuli, generally excluding developmental change" (Levitis, Lidicker & Freund). This definition of behavior can then be used to determine what occurs when a consumer purchases a product and uses it.

This study specifically involves the behavior of consumers. "A consumer is a person or an organization that consumes -- spends, absorbs, devours -- commodities and services" (Windham & Orton 1). Of course, using the word itself, or the root of that word in the definition, is usually not apropos of a well thought out definition, but this does work for the purposes of this research.

With these two basic definitions, then, the next element to understand is what research states as the definition of consumer behavior. It can be as simple, and confusing as, "Consumer behavior is the result of a constellation of stimuli" (Mullen & Johnson 2), or complete such as the one offered by James McNeal in On Becoming a Consumer." McNeal calls consumer behavior "prepurchase, purchase and postpurchase actions toward a commercial object" (10). Further he defines the actions described as:

"The prepurchase activities come first such as planning to purchase -- talking it over with others; writing a list; seeking out sellers; searching for objects to purchase; checking packages at home for exact brands, sizes, contents; going through catalogs, websites -- also going to the marketplace…and confirming means of payment in advance of any purchases; purchase is the exchange of money for goods or services; postpurchase behavior refers to what a person does with the product (or service) after it is bought -- its use…This last step, using the products, is the end purpose of the previous two steps and therefore the most important, because in addition to being the purpose of the purchase and preparation for the purchase, it will determine future purchases of the same or similar products" (10).

This view of how a consumer seeks, finds and uses a purchase is appropriate for a discussion of how a buyer will seek out a travel experience. Consumer behavior in travel consists of all of these elements. First the consumer determines what they want (Davidow), they look for the best deals (Dotson, Clark & Dave), they purchase the package either personally through online means (Milne, Labrecque & Cromer), or through an agency (Catenazzo & Fragniere), then the individual or group uses the product. This behavior is influenced from the outside also, as Levitis, Lidicker and Freund discovered. Family, friends, and various forms of media (Austin) will be used to determine what the best destinations are, what is the most secure (Davidow), and what amenities the different spots offer. It has also been learned that travel consumers vary consistently according to generational differences (Madrigal). Therefore the factors affecting an Individual's behavior with regard to travel can vary widely depending on many factors.

Consumer Behavior

Consumers will act in a certain way because they have been influenced both internally and externally. The internal determinants of behavior are concerned with their personal values. These values -- loyalty, trust, competence, etc. -- are mirrored in the way that a person makes a purchase (Salegna & Goodwin). External inputs include what type of experience the individual values (adventure, educational, site-seeing), people of influence, media, environmental considerations (cooler weather travel during the summer, warm weather travel during the winter (STAR)), availability of the destination and the agency, and price. Previous experience with certain destinations or types of travel (Pizam & Mansfield 19), and the social background of the individual (Austin) are also external experiences that determine consumer behavior in travel.

The internal factors have been exhaustively researched since they are regarded as the primary factors involved (Bagnozzi, Gurhan-Canli & Priester 13). External factors are weighed against the internal to arrive at a consumer experience that is satisfying in both respects.

External behavior has been conveniently broken into two different personality types which define the style of buyer a person is. Madrigal has;

"delineated personality types along a continuum ranging from allocentrism to psychocentrism. The psychocentric personality type tends toward territory boundness, insecurity, and powerlessness. Psychocentric individuals also tend to have non-active lifestyles and are non-adventurous. In contrast, allocentric individuals tend to be self-confident, intellectually curious, and feel in control of their lives" (1995).

These two consumer groups will consistently choose to shop in a manner which matches how they view the world. A psychocentric buyer is more likely to make purchases that lend to a sedentary lifestyle, as allocentric personality types will usually be engaged in activities that fit a more energetic life. The buying behaviors of these two groups can easily be projected into the behavior they demonstrate when they want to travel.

Besides personality, consumers have also developed behaviors due to previous shopping experiences that they have faced (Bagozzi, Gurhan-Canli & Priester;), or the previous experiences of trusted others (Davidow). Barbara Carroll recently wrote, "The traditional paradigm considers satisfaction a cognitive evaluation, the consumer as "rational man," comparing pre-consumption expectations with post-consumption performance, i.e., cognition = satisfaction. This model suggests that consumers are satisfied when their expectations about the product are met or exceeded" (2004). If this expectation is false, then the seller will have a difficult sale the next time. Purchase behavior hinges on a consumer being satisfied with what they have purchased in the past. America is a nation that is loyal to brands (Edwards). The concepts of satisfaction, loyalty, trust and others shape the behavior of a buyer, and either mold a relationship between the buyer and seller, or cause an almost inviolable rift (Carroll; Salegna & Goodwin).

Customer emotions such as those listed above can have the most profound effect on whether a customer will purchase a product in the first place (Carroll), but also whether they will continue to patronize a shop or an internet site (Windham & Orton). "Cognition and affect may play a role in satisfaction" meaning that a consumer is both thinking about and reacting to their purchasing behavior, and from this the seller must understand that "satisfaction is that enhancing a particular emotional response(s), by definition, increases consumer satisfaction" (Carroll).

Loyalty to a brand is much like satisfaction; one response feeds off of the other (Mullen & Johnson). Salegna and Goodwin, in talking about consumer satisfaction, "defined satisfaction as a postchoice evaluative judgment concerning a specific purchase selection." But they also note that "some authors have acknowledged the attitudinal dimension of loyalty, the term loyalty has been defined and operationalized in many studies as repeat purchase intent only. Still others have viewed loyalty simply as a function of past buying behavior: the higher the brand repeat purchase ratio in a given period of time, the higher the loyalty" (Salegna & Goodwin). The satisfaction induced by a previous purchase determines the loyalty that drives the consumer back to a specific merchant.

Closely allied with these two feelings that determine buying behavior is trust. "Trust has been found to be a necessary mediating variable between satisfaction and loyalty" (Salegna & Goodwin). If the trust was not fostered by the previous buying experience, then the consumer will not likely continue to patronize that seller. Salegna and Goodwin solidify their position by noting; a model of agency theory where trust leads to satisfaction due to the actions of agents, which build consumer confidence. They also contend that the "signaling investments" (e.g., buildings; advertising; logos) help to shape the performance expectations of consumers, which in turn may result in higher consumer trust (and satisfaction) if the organization's actions are consistent with such signals" (2005).

Along with these "signaling investments," if the merchant has built a relationship with a party that the purchaser trusts, they will in turn be trusted by the new purchaser (Bagozzi, Gurhan-Canli &…

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