Meaning, Roots and Need of Consumerism

Table of Content:

Meaning of Consumerism

Consumerism can be seen as an organised movement of the government and citizens for reinforcing the power and rights of customers concerning sellers. It is a concept and ideology which is used quite a lot in business literature. Due to unfair trade practices, a consumer faces several harmful environmental and physical exploitations for which he/she needs protection.

For example, a customer needs protection against unsafe products like adulterated food products, drugs, defective electrical appliances, etc. Such protection safeguards customers against the deceit and malpractices of sellers. Thus, appropriate rights and duties should be given to customers to find remedies against defaulting sellers.

According to Cravens and Hills, “Consumerism is a social force within the environment designed to aid and protects the consumers by exerting legal, moral and economic pressures on business”.

According to Philip Kotler, “Consumerism is a social movement seeking to augment the rights and powers of the buyers in relation to sellers”.

Consumerism is a policy framework or movement with its main focus on controlling the products/services, standards of manufacturers, methods of trading, sellers and advertisers in the interest of customers. Such policies and regulations can be in the form of statutory, institutional or embodied voluntary codes either acquired by a certain industry or different consumer organisations.

Roots of Consumerism

Several principles of consumerism have originated but the persisting problems that triggered the programme are given below:

1) Disillusionment with the Systems: Recent research studies have revealed that many customers are disgusted with politics, doubt businesses and feel negative about their position in society. Consumers are disappointed with the system. They are disappointed with their position of bargaining. Consumers think that they are getting bad deals in the market than those they used to get earlier. All the institutions are facing increased public inspection, doubt and loss of honour.

2) Performance Gap: A lot of consumers are not satisfied with the products or services. Advertising creates hype which increases the expectations of consumers about the performance and reliability of a product. Increased complications in products bring new risks of malfunctioning which in turn widens the performance gap in the minds of the consumer.

3) Consumers Information Gap: Usually, buyers encounter thousands of complex products that need proper evaluation regarding several dimensions related to quality, reliability, performance and convenience Due to the lack of time, interest and capability to gather information, many times buyers are not able to take ideal decisions in the marketplace.

4) Antagonism towards Advertising: Advertising is normally not considered useful and honest by a large segment of society. Moreover, it is condemned for its pushiness and invokes feelings of irritation, Labelled role portrayals and campaigning of impractical expectations. In a recent survey, it is found that two-thirds of the people surveyed, rated telemarketing as a major annoyance, whether it is a human or interactive voice response service at the other end. 

5) Unresponsive and Impersonal Marketing Institutions: Sometimes, consumers develop a feeling that no company is paying attention to them and do not concern about them. Factors that incite the feeling of impersonalness include reduced sales personnel knowledge, bureaucratic structure, self-service, computer-mediated communication, etc.

6) Intrusions of Privacy: Increased usage of computers by the government, institutions and organisations has made it possible to develop many consumer information databases which in turn increase concern over the access and usage of such data, Companies try to protect consumer privacy by protecting illegal access to such information but still the problems of intrusion continue.

7) Decreasing Living Standards: Consumerism tries to cater for the situations of disappointment and negativity in the economic system which developed due to the decrease in the discretionary income of the consumers.

8) Special Problems of the Disadvantaged: Consumerism finds its roots in addressing the problems of disadvantaged people. Poor, young and old people are more susceptible than other sections of society to problems which include not only economic pain but problems relating to necessities like food, cloth, hygiene and social evils. People take up non-traditional employment activities (lending labour. garbage collection, mining, etc.) to overcome these problems. Such problems restrict them to become ordinary customers. 

9) Different Viewpoints of the Market: Business people differ in their views about the nature of the marketplace depending upon how they see the marketplace. A product-oriented marketer considers every customer as similar, whereas a market-oriented marketer sees every customer as different.

Need for Consumerism 

The need for consumerism is as follows:

1) Limited Literate and Aware Population: In India, a major portion of the total population is illiterate. uninformed and ignorant. Thus, organising consumers becomes a very difficult task. This problem becomes more severe as citizens belong from different types of cultures, religions and linguistics. In such a scenario, consumerism becomes essential for spreading information about the rights and duties of the customers.

2) Economic Backwardness: When the customers are compared with the producers and sellers, their economic situation is quite poor. The price, size, quality and weight of products can be easily manipulated by the seller. Customers, on the other hand, depend solely on the sellers for obtaining the required products/services. Hence, a consumer requires various types of protection against the malpractices performed by the sellers.

3) Huge Variety of Products and Services: Due to rapid advancements in science and technology, manufacturers and producers are now able to produce countless varieties of products and goods. There are numerous producers of similar types of products. Although, this creates massive alternatives and a variety of products for customers but also adds to the complexity and confusion while choosing the right product. Thus, expert guidance is required by customers.

4) Deceptive Advertising: One of the most effective methods of sales promotion is an advertisement. Considering the present marketing scenario, advertisements have become more deceptive. Such advertisements create an illusory picture in the minds of customers due to which they are unable to recognise the actual quality of the advertised products.

5) Required Support for Customers: Customers require support against sellers and producers as they will take customers for granted and continue their unfair trade practices unless the customers become strong enough to know and protect their rights.

6) Feedback for Business: Feedback will be provided to the business with the help of consumerism. It enables the sellers to identify and understand the needs, wants and grievances of the customers. Consumerism will also ensure the effective implementation of marketing and societal concepts. 

7) Responsive Environment: Government can become more sensitive towards the interests of customers with the help of consumerism. It will motivate the government to take necessary actions and change institutional setups to protect the rights of consumers.

Agencies that Influence Consumerism

Various agencies and institutions that play a major role in the development of consumerism in a society or a country across the world are discussed below:

1) Governments and Administrations: For the protection of consumer interests, the government and administrators act as overseers. To ensure consumer safety, they employ various reformatory, legal, and constitutional methods to confirm that all the activities pursued by marketing agencies for marketing are ensuring ‘consumer welfare’. These measures are undertaken to maintain the desired standards of decency, morality and fair business practices by the marketing organisations while pursuing various marketing activities for the consumers.

2) Marketers and Advertisers: Marketing agencies that operate on the notion that the consumer is their top priority always make efforts to work in a way that benefits the firm as well as the consumer. For this purpose, marketers need to understand the prominence of consumers. Marketers have made their way from the concept of sales to that of marketing and have ultimately reached a level where consumer service is their highest priority.

3) Public Policymakers: Keeping in mind the welfare and benefits of the society as a whole, public policymakers formulate these policies and further, these policies are implemented by the government and executive agencies. Marketing agencies that are operating in the marketplace are under continuous surveillance by these policy decision-makers. Any activity performed by these marketing agencies that are not in the interest of the general public is convicted by these agencies by making required changes in the existing policies or bringing new policies in place. Some policies that are made by the policymakers to safeguard the interest of the general public is recommending maximum ceiling prices, information about ingredient in food products and medicines, mentioning of manufacturing and expiry dates of a product, proper usage instructions, etc,

4) NGOs, Social Reformers and Social Critics: For the protection of consumer interests, various non-governmental agencies, social welfare agencies and social workers make continuous efforts. To encourage the government to ratify laws that favour the consumers’ interest, these agencies create public awareness about consumer rights and privileges from a strong public belief which is the main task of such agencies.

5) Consumers: Consumers can act as the best guard to protect their rights and privileges; no one can perform better than the consumer on this front. When the consumers are aware of the laws and start exercising them, this is where the consumer movement begins. The outcomes of customer education can be determined by the demanding customers who employ their impact on the practices and policies of marketers and manufacturers. Marketers and manufacturers that simply want to make profits from the consumers must be discarded by them. Presenting themselves as a single united front, consumers must get united.

By Arya

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