Consumer classification systems

World War and is still the major classification system used today. The reason for its widespread use is that members of each social group or class show broadly similar patterns of behaviour, consumption, lifestyle, attitudes and media use in many situations. This can help to explain differences in use of, or response to, all kinds of products and services, and therefore gives a basis for comparison. It is also relatively easy to apply in research surveys and so is used in most surveys and marketing activity. However, the very fact that it is a prewar classification system highlights its current social grading deficiencies. Although the process of social change is slow (hence the system still has broad relevance in many situations), since the Second World War there has been considerable social change resulting in more social diversity. For many situations the system of social grading is no longer relevant and so cannot help in explaining or understanding consumer behaviour. The increasing number of single-parent families and the increase in the number of women in paid employment mean that the conventional classification of the male breadwinner is no longer appropriate. In addition, social grading does not reflect propensity to spend or save. In 1990 the MRS published an updated guide to socioeconomic status, but this has still proved problematic. One major area of difficulty is the classification of individuals by interviewers: there are many new occupations that do not fit neatly into the JICNARS system. This explains the recent decision to look again at the social grading system to reflect more accurately contemporary social grading.

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