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Understanding customers

Have you ever wondered why you sometimes emerge from the supermarket with a full trolley, having gone in for just a pint of milk? In this module you'll tackle questions like this to help you understand why customers buy. You'll learn how marketers influence customers, whether as individuals or professional buyers, and pick up some useful skills you can use yourself. You'll also study how social marketers ‘sell’ things like healthier lifestyles using the same tools as their commercial counterparts. This module is ideal if you're working in marketing, aiming to work in marketing, wanting to gain insights for your own business, or if you simply want to understand more about your own consumer behaviour.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module

Module code
B206
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
60
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU levels correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
OU FHEQ
2 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

Here’s a brief guide to the content of the module, with each of the blocks lasting between four and six weeks.

Block 1: Introduction to understanding customers 
In this block you'll follow the evolution of marketing to its current focus on ‘customer experience management’. You'll find out why marketers now treat customers as partners in value creation, making it more important than ever to understand their needs and motivations. As well as being introduced to the historical roots of everyday practices like shopping, you will learn about cutting-edge developments in how marketers approach customers such as behavioural economics, consumer culture theory and neuromarketing. You'll also address basic ideas about how organisational customers behave differently from consumers who purchase on behalf of themselves and their households, and what this means for marketing. You’ll have the opportunity to reflect on how to develop valuable digital and marketing skills and how the module will support them. 

Block 2: The individual consumer 
This block addresses customers as individuals. You'll encounter classic psychological theories on decision making, involvement, learning, memory and perception, and discuss their continued relevance. You'll develop digital and collaborative skills through blogging about aspects of your own consumer behaviour related to what you are learning, and comment on the blog posts of others. 

Block 3: Attitudes and motivational processes
You'll continue the exploration of attempts to explain customer behaviour through scientific methods. You'll discover how marketers have taken up models and approaches from social psychology and other disciplines to try and understand processes such as motivation, attitude formation, and how customers select and process persuasive messages. You’ll be encouraged to adopt a critical perspective on these theories and techniques, alongside recent theory on consumption and identity, and gendered aspects of consumption.

Block 4: A meso and macro perspective on customers
Your focus now widens to place buyers in their social and cultural settings. You'll learn to identify different groups (including families and other social formations) and their influence on consumption. You’ll also find out how to tap into opinion leadership and followership in social networks (including online), and how to interpret contemporary trends in consumer research. You'll participate in a peer review exercise that requires you to use presentation software to draft a poster on which you'll exchange feedback with other students on the module. This will hone your digital and collaborative skills, as well as giving you invaluable insight into the assessment process which you can take with you into future study. Please note, this exercise necessitates unmoveable deadlines (for submission of drafts and feedback) within the block, so careful advance planning on your part is essential. You will submit your poster in its final version, accompanied by a written reflection, at the end of the block.

Block 5: B2B buying behaviour 
The module concludes as you explore organisational buying (also known as business to business or ‘B2B’ buying) while revisiting your learning from preceding blocks by comparing business customers and individuals who purchase goods and services for personal or household use. You'll learn to use concepts and tools like buyer typology, the ‘buy grid’ framework, relationship marketing, and branding in an organisational context. What you'll learn in this block will increase your effectiveness at work by making you more aware of internal and external exchange relationships and how they relate to your role. 

Vocational relevance

Relevant to students who work in, or plan to work in, marketing and marketing related jobs, in both commercial and non-profit organisations.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have an online tutor to help you with the study material and mark and comment on your tutor-marked assignment (TMA), and to ask for advice and guidance. To support your study, there will be a series of online learning events (one for each Block). These will take place in an online meeting room which is a synchronous online platform used to deliver tuition. They provide an opportunity for you to engage with members of the module tutoring team and fellow students on a series of activities that will help you to consolidate your learning and prepare for module assessments.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

Understanding customers starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2021. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2026.
 

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    No examination
    No residential school


    Entry requirements

    While there are no formal pre-requisites for the module, it would help if you started it with a basic understanding of marketing. This might come either from your existing work experience or from the OU level 1 module An introduction to business and management (B100).

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Register

    Start End England fee Register
    02 Oct 2021 Jun 2022 -

    Registration now closed

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2026.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).


    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2022. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 25/09/2021.

    What's included

    You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • module materials
    • audio and video content
    • assessment guide
    • online tutorial and forums.

     

    Computing requirements

    You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

    It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying B206 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.