Consumerism is the study of consumer decisions, including where consumers shop, why they shop and how they make their consumer decisions. In this process, consumers have certain advantages that help them purchase items for the lowest possible market price, but also specific disadvantages that influence them to spend more money and purchase additional items.
Consumers have the ability to compare products and prices at various stores. Packaged products are uniform across multiple stores, differing only by brand name and style. Consumers have to use a degree of restraint in their shopping to compare the prices of products across multiple stores. However, this advantage creates market competition among stores that can reduce product pricing. Online shopping adds another element of comparison, expanding consumers' shopping options to stores outside of their normal driving range.
Another advantage that consumers have is the right to make the final decision on any purchase. While multiple influences work to direct consumers' shopping, consumers retain the final right to purchase or not purchase any items from a store. This advantage forces stores to adjust the costs of their products down, to persuade consumers to make the final decision to purchase items. This also influences store policies, suggesting that successful marketing and salesmanship require that stores focus their attention on the changing needs and desires of their customers.
Advertising has a strong influence on the purchasing habits of consumers. Successful advertising can obscure the differences between several products and suggest purchasing options that are more expensive. Additionally, successful advertising campaigns can increase the desire of consumers to purchase and own specific items, raising the price of these items in conjunction with the increased demand. Companies can also use advertising to create specific needs in people, such as convincing consumers that they should own a new car even when their current cars are only a few years old.
Another disadvantage of being consumers is the limited resources that they are forced to accept. This includes the limitations on income and the way these decisions influence consumer interest in a product. In conjunction with the increased demand that advertising creates, consumers can feel as though they should purchase items that are beyond their ability to afford. This feeling can persuade consumers to overextend their buying ability with various credit options and purchase items that they cannot afford.