A successful business hinges on both an effective marketing plan and product quality. However, there are many market forces that play a part in how well the company's product is accepted by consumers. A market's social forces are incredibly important in deciding what gets purchased. Companies who completely disregard the social norms of a group of people when marketing to them aren't successful in business. Understanding the more important social factors in your market help inform your business decisions on what to make and how to sell it.
Demographics are the social makeup of a group of people living within a certain area, like a city or a county. Demographics look at how the population shifts in one place and how that changes the age range and ethnic background there. These different groups of people can be seen as segments of the market in which your business operates; understanding the buying attitudes of those groups is of crucial importance in both marketing and product development.
Marketing and product development must be in tune with the social standards that the different groups in your market possess. A consumer won't normally buy a product with which he doesn't identify or feel as though someone like him could use. Important ethnic and cultural factors that define a company's market opportunities include religion, ethnic background, language and gender roles. American cultural values typically include the ability to be self-sufficient, success for hard work and social equality.
Fads, even the most short-lived ones, can greatly affect the purchasing choices of consumers. In turn, this affects the products that are offered and the way those products are packaged. Interest in popular diets that stressed lower carbohydrate intake resulted in low-carb product packaging for snack food products such as Doritos. Another area of social interest is environmental protection; this has led to any number of products marketed as "environmentally friendly" or "green." Even where one cultural group predominates, minority groups in the area might create a niche market strong enough for a business to thrive.
Another factor that can impact a consumer's buying decisions is the amount of leisure time that person has or, instead, how busy her work schedule is. A person with more leisure time will be able to focus more on personal interests and will purchase more items that don't necessarily have great practical purpose, such as music recordings or games. People with busier work schedules tend to favor products that help them take care of their needs quicker, such as microwaves or cell phones. From 2001 to 2004, the amount of Americans reporting that they did not have enough time to do what they needed to on a daily basis rose from 73 percent to 77 percent, according to the book, "Essentials of Marketing."