Consumer Behavior - Reference Groups

In our daily lives, we all get influenced by a variety of people while making our purchase decisions. We, as humans do a lot to try to impress others. We make purchase to get compliments and try that others should not think less of us.

A reference group is the group whose perspective we consider. Now our reference could be very large or very small including few of our family members or few close friends. Reference groups influence people a lot in their buying decisions. They set the levels of lifestyle, purchasing patterns, etc.

Reference groups are of two types −

  • Primary Groups
  • Secondary Groups

Primary Groups

Primary reference groups are basically the set of people whom you meet every day. They can be from your family, your close friends, your roommates, etc.

These people from primary groups may have a direct and strong impact in your lives and your buying decisions since they are very significant to you. Primary groups make you comfortable and give you a feeling that they are with you when you are confused about a purchase. These people give you very honest and clear advices as they are so close to you, due to which you could be more confident about the purchase. Research shows that the bond between people leads people to be effectively social and as satisfied consumers.

Secondary Groups

Secondary reference groups are usually formal and they speak less frequently. They might be professionals, your collogues, your seniors at work or your acquaintance at club, etc.

In secondary reference groups the power to influence people is quite less as compared to primary reference groups as people in these groups are not that comfortable in sharing their thoughts or views on the purchase.

Let’s have a look at few more reference groups

Aspirational Group

Aspirational group is the one to which a person may want to become part of. They currently are not part of that group but wish to become and get with that group. For doing the same, they try to dress, talk, act and even think the way the members of that group do.

For example, people who like Madhuri Dixit wish to become like her and meet her and so start purchasing and using all those products that she endorses.

Dissociative Group

The people in these groups are totally opposite to the people in the aspirational group. Here people deny of becoming or getting connected to a particular group. They just hate being related to that group.

For example, if people don’t like a particular community, they would never like being connected to them. So they would try all the possible ways to avoid the way in which they dress, think or act.

Thus marketers need to understand the likes and dislikes of the consumers and also the groups to which they belong. Marketers should recognize the extent to which a reference group influences the consumer and he should also understand out of all the groups which group influences him the most.


Family of a consumer plays an important role in the decision making process. The parents, siblings, relatives all have their own views about a particular purchase.

Following are the roles in the family decision making process −

  • Influencers − Influencers are the ones who give ideas or information about the product or service to the consumer.

  • Gate Keepers − Gatekeepers are the family members who usually panel the information. They can be our parents or siblings too who can in any form provide us the information about the product.

  • Decision Makers − Family or our parents who usually have the power to take decisions on our behalf are the decision makers. After the complete the research they may decide to purchase the particular or dispose it.

  • Buyers − Buyer is the one who actually makes the purchase of the product.

  • End Users − The person who finally uses the product or consumes the service is the ultimate consumer also called as End user as per the context.

A consumer gets influenced by his family members as well as friends. Since childhood the culture which he follows or the rituals which he observes and the moral values and the religious principles he usually receives them from his family. However, the individual learns fashion, attitude or style from his friends. All these attributes or traits together influence the buyer’s decision making.