A study of consumer behaviour with a particular focus on the factors and attributes that influence the choice of toothpaste in the Pietermaritzburg market.
Gebreyohannes, Amanuel Gebreyonas.
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All of us are consumers. We consume products such as bread and milk and services such as education, banking and transportation. A fundamental understanding of consumer behaviour forms the backbone of all marketing activities and is an imperative prerequisite for the success of businesses. Consumers' wants and needs in today's competitive world are continuously changing. Therefore companies are forced to understand how consumers make purchasing decisions before an effective marketing strategy could be designed. (Skinner, 1994:218) According to Lamb et al (2000:66) in order to design an appropriate marketing mix for their defined market, marketing managers must be able to understand consumers' behaviour thoroughly. This is essential because it will determine how successful the marketing strategy would be. Mowen (1995:5) define consumer behaviour as "the study of the buying units and the exchange processes involved in acquiring, consuming, and disposing of goods, services, experiences and ideas." In a nutshell, to stress the importance of understanding consumer behaviour, Assael summarises it by saying that "marketers have come to realise that their effectiveness in meeting consumer needs directly influences their profitability and the better they understand the factors underlying consumer behaviour, the better able they are to develop effective marketing strategies to meet consumer needs" (Assael,1998:5) This study examined toothpaste purchasing amongst Pietermaritzburg (PMB) consumers. The specific objectives were to evaluate which marketing stimuli affect the purchase of toothpaste in PMB, to evaluate the attributes consumers look for in toothpaste purchasing, to identify the various demographic variables that influence the purchase and finally to identify which brand of toothpaste has preference amongst PMB consumers. Theoretical reviews of the factors influencing consumer behaviour, which are categorised into marketing stimuli as well as environmental and individual factors are first discussed. These are followed by a brief description of the toothpaste industry and the various product attributes. The methodology used for the data collection as well as the interpretation procedures are also outlined. The key findings were Colgate Herbal was top on the list with 16.3% of respondents selecting it while Aquafresh All-in-One came in second with 15.3% of respondents having chosen it. Consumers attach different levels of importance to the different attributes of the toothpaste and the study found fresher breath to be the most important product attribute consumers look for when purchasing their toothpaste. The significance test done between brand preference and demographic variables indicated differences between racial groups. Based on the findings recommendations are then made for appropriate segmenting and positioning of the product that will be of use for manufacturers and retailers in the toothpaste industry.