Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

The Three Consumer Profiles in Italy

Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

The Three Consumer Profiles in Italy

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this essay is to identify the choice and purchase profiles that can generalise consumer groups among Italian families. By means of multivariate research, the author has been able to identify three choice profiles, three strategic summaries that direct consumers when they make their purchases. The choice tendency composition that was used to create the various profiles has remained constant over time and has allowed, furthermore, the author to pursue its progress over the passing of time and compare its extent and evolution.

Keywords: consumer groups, Italian families, sociology of consumption.

1. Introduction

Within market research, the attempt of identifying consumer profiles, which are chosen on the basis of characteristics that have been, at times, objective and motivational, has always been a priority objective. This type of tendency, which has become particularly widespread and stronger, even on a level of research techniques and data processing, from the 1980's, sustained on a theoretic level by the observations and studies carried out on consumption in the key of projected life styles, instead of behaviour connected, above all, to the censured placement of consumer groups (see Calvi 1977, 1980, Fabris - Mortara 1986, Meroni - Veccia 1982). These were the years in which the famous Italian consumer groups were conceived, produced by technical psychographics as tendency aggregates that were not only connected to consumption but also to other tendency and preferences elements which, when woven together, produced overall life models and famous lifestyles, to which the consumption and purchase tendencies are connected.

Consumption behaviour was no longer a rational or irrational component of individual behaviour, an autonomous process to be studied in itself, but it became the expression, in the field of purchases and consumption, of the consumer's particular "life project", which is also achieved by means of consumption, which become a means of communication to others concerning one's own personality and a place of expression, even reflexive, concerning one's own multiple or multifaceted personality, dear to the observations made on post modernity, thus, completing the picture, connecting purchase and consumption behaviour not only to a dominant personality to be communicated socially, but to endless recreational and transitory personalities, which the consumer may interpret and communicate, especially, at this point, by means of his/her purchase and consumption behaviour.

From that time onwards, the construction of profiles, whether they were of the psycho-value type or the behavioural type or even another one, became an almost obligatory step conducted in research into consumption and consumers, just as the idea that consumption behaviour tends to blend into an overall tendency and a sort of overall project concerning one's own life, giving rise, precisely, to different life styles that are not necessarily hinged into the system of class differences or are merely economic (see Crompton 1995, Featherstone 1990, Ragone 1985, Shields 1994, Shulman 2008 and Secondulfo 1995).

In our research into the consumption styles adopted by families, we have used the same type of logic to try to understand, if strategic aggregates exist, which might characterise the various types of families, on the basis of the type of choices they make in relation to their purchases of various types of goods. All this, starting from the conviction that the various types of behaviour adopted by families, in their attempt to defend their consumption levels, in view of greater, economic difficulties, do not represent isolated and unconnected choices, but which is the fruit of complex and coordinated purchasing styles that might be gathered together into behavioural profiles and characterised by some precise purchasing styles.

The behaviour that has merged into these profiles, which we might call purchasing styles, paying homage to the theory of lifestyles, is essentially made up of two types: on one hand, the choice of goods strategy such as price comparison, for example, or the search for the lowest price of all; on the other hand, the important characteristics of the sales outlets, such as the ample choice among the various products, the sellers' courtesy and proximity to their homes. …

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