The Purchaser role involves the act of purchase by one of the family members. In other words, the individual who buys the item in the store or, perhaps places a telephone order for merchandise is acting in the role of purchasing agent for the family. The decider and purchaser need not necessarily be the same individual. For example, a teenage son or daughter may merely execute his or her parents’ supermarket shopping list. In this situation (in which bands, sizes, and the like are specified) the youth is only a purchaser, not a decision maker. At other times however, the purchaser may occupy a very strategic role in the brand decision. One study, for instance, found that nearly one third of beer drinkers delegated the brand decision to the purchaser (usually the wife) and that the purchaser was aware of the consumer’s preferences nine out of ten times.
Sometimes the purchaser may be referred to as the gate keeper, that is, a family member who is able to control the flow of products into the family. In other words, the purchase may be consummated or blocked by this individual. The role of gatekeeper is well illustrated in a study of children’s purchase influences on parents. In this research children were found to suggest which cereal brands their mothers should purchase when shopping. The mothers, however were in the gatekeeper position, frequently disagreeing with their children as to what cereal should be purchased and hence the flow of this product into the family.
Users are those who consume the product or service. A user may be the same person who performs each of the other roles or it may be another person. The latter situation is often possible for instance in the case of a child for whom products such as clothing toys and so forth are purchased.
For the marketer it is important to distinguish each family member’s role in order to develop an optimum through consumer research so that marketer is certain that the correct mix is aimed at the right individual. Knowledge of who generally performs which purchase and consumptions process role within the family unit will aid in product planning and development, providing promotion messages, determining distribution decisions and so forth.
This factor has to do with which family member is dominant or considered to be the family’s head. A family may be patriarchal, in which case the father is considered to be the dominant member. In a matriarchal family, the woman plays the dominant role and makes most of the decisions while in the equalitarian family, the husband and wife share somewhat equally in decision making. Although the American family is still generally patriarchal and our society is male dominated, egalitarianism is a continuous pattern.
The United States is also moving increasingly toward a child centered family in which children have strong influence on their parents’ consumption decisions. For example, parents often yield tot their children’s television viewing preferences (such as watching Sesame Street rather than an afternoon movie) recreation or entertainment requests (a vacation to Disney World rather than Europe) and product choices (Kellogg Frosted Flakes rather than Special K).
Purchase Influence Pattern: Research on power in the family has taken several directions. One approach to understandings the marital power structure in consumer decision making categorizes the possibilities for dominance in the following way: (1) autonomic, in which an equal number of decisions is made by each spouse, (2) husband dominant, (3) wife dominant and (4) joint or synchronic in which most decisions are made by both husband and wife.