People buy products not merely for their utility value, but also for what they mean.
Understanding this and other aspects of consumer behaviour was crucial for Vietnamese enterprises looking to build customer loyalty, experts said at a conference in HCM City last week.
However, the bottom line of quality, durability and convenience of products remained unchanged, and enterprises needed to ensure this before paying attention to competition via promotion programmes, they added.
Participants at the conference, titled "Understanding customer behaviour to be successful in business", agreed that now, more than ever, building customer loyalty was critical for a business to thrive in the marketplace.
"Customer behaviour is the study of processes involved when individuals or groups select, purchase, use or dispose of products, services, ideas or experiences to satisfy their needs and desires," said Prof Ton That Nguyen Thiem, director of Brussels-based United Business Institute's MBA programme in Viet Nam.
He said customers' purchasing decisions were influenced by what a product means or how it projects their personality or defines their place in modern society.
This explained why many local consumers were fond of foreign goods, he said, noting that if local producers wanted to win consumers' hearts, they might find measures to create pride for consumers when they used their products.
"Researching consumer behaviour will help us understand it clearly and scientifically and help managers make better marketing decisions," he added.
Understanding consumer behavior would be a sound basis for developing marketing strategies including product positioning, identifying market segments, developing new products as well as developing brands, said Cao Thi Ngoc Dung, general director of Phu Nhuan Jewelry Company.
Each primary marketing activity would be more effective if it was based on knowledge of consumer behaviour, she said.
To convince customers to use local products, enterprises must display the strengths of their products, not merely call on the patriotism of Vietnamese people, said Vu Kim Hanh, director of the Business Study and Assistance Centre in HCM City.
According to a research on consumer behaviour conducted in HCM City by the Sai Gon Tiep Thi magazine, top concerns for Vietnamese consumers are durability and safety of the products, not their prices.
Customers also tend to pay more attention to the product's brand, model and information listed on the package when they opt to buy it.
Along with the surge in e-commerce, there are now unlimited places for customers to spend their money, especially the youth.
Modern distribution channels, including supermarkets and shopping centres are attracting more customers.
However, long-standing customs and community culture have ensured that traditional channels like local markets and grocery stores still play an important role in the retail sector, the research has found.
This required businesses not only to widen their distribution systems, but also to improve them to reach out to different markets in order to expand their market share, experts said. — VNS