One of the most important reference groups for an individual is the family. A consumer's family has a major impact on attitude and behavior. The interaction between husband and wife and the number and ages of children in the family can have a significant effect on buying behavior.
One facet in understanding the family's impact on consumer behavior is identifying the decision maker for the purchase in question. In some cases, the husband is dominant, in others the wife or children, and still others, a joint decision is made. The store choice for food and household items is most often the wife's. With purchases that involve a larger sum of money, such as a refrigerator, a joint decision is usually made. The decision on clothing purchases for teenagers may be greatly influenced by the teenagers themselves. Thus, marketers need to identify the key family decision maker for the product or service in question.
Another aspect of understanding the impact of the family on buying behavior is the family lifecycle. Most families pass through an orderly sequence of stages. These stages can be defined by a combination of factors such as age, marital status, and parenthood. The typical stages are:
- The bachelor state; young, single people.
- Newly married couples; young, no children.
- The full nest I and II; young married couples with dependent children:
- Youngest child under six (Full nest I)
- Youngest child over six (Full nest II)
- The full nest III; older married couples with dependent children.
- The empty nest I and II; older married couples with no children living with them:
- Adults in labor force (Empty nest I)
- Adults retired (Empty nest II)
- The solitary survivors; older single people:
- In labor force
Each of these stages is characterized by different buying behaviors. For example, a children's clothing manufacturer would target its efforts primarily at the full nest I families. Thus, the family cycle can be helpful in defining the target customers.