As you can imagine, consumer buying behavior is a topic that is studied extensively by academics and advertisers alike. It encompasses popular psychology, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, sociology, and economics (some experts refer to this as Buy-ology).
We live in a consumer driven culture and there are so many products and services available to us through thousands of separate avenues. Those individuals that understand what we buy, why we buy, and when we’ll buy it come out on top.
The typical model of consumer behavior focuses on 4 major steps in the purchasing process: the problem, the search, the evaluation, and finally, the purchase
It’s assumed that necessity requires action, and when a typical consumer perceives a problem they will be driven to find a solution.
Some problems are more dire than others – your tire goes flat on the drive to work, your water heater goes out, you feel a weird sensation in your stomach and need medical attention.
Some problems are simple, but just as annoying. Maybe you’re hungry, thirsty, bored, tired, or angry and need to buy something that makes you feel better.
I like to look at the consumer’s problem from two different points of view.
The first is a basic evolutionary problem that can fit into the 4 F’s of evolutionary psychology: fight, flight, feeding, and…well…reproduction. These evolutionary motivations drive us to experience roadrage, avoid our bosses, check in at the nearest McDonalds, and drool over that gorgeous girl in the grocery store.
Some issues are caused by exploiting these basic drives. Let’s use fast food as an example again. When our primal ancestors were roaming the plains searching for food, they evolved a preference for high-sodium and high-fats. These foods provided the most energy, and allowed for better survival of the species. As such, our brains fired dopamine to let us know that this particular fatty substance was good, and we need to eat it again.
And we wonder why the McRib is so addicting.
This type of motivation is seen in drug addiction, crazy serious gamers, Facebook stalkers, and those people that buy celebrity magazines once a week. These problems come from the natural progression of building society around the 4 F’s.
Consumer buying behavior is also influenced heavily on our own personal experiences as well as the opinions of family and friends.
If you’re looking for a car you might be told to go with a Japanese model (they last the longest). Other examples:
“Don’t eat at Golden Corral, I saw a mouse there once.”
“I never fly Delta, they have terrible customer service.”
“Dude, don’t ever drink 99 Bananas. It gave me the worst hangover.”
Social proof is a powerful influencer in our decision to buy. That’s why online services such as Yelp are so successful. We look to others to tell us if a product is worth our money.
Now, just because we might like a product and we’ve heard that it’s good, doesn’t mean we’ll buy it. Consumers must weigh their decisions against the cultural landscape.
Here in Utah, we have to sneak into liquor stores and smoke shops because drinking and smoking is taboo. Some communities might encourage shoppers to “buy local” or “buy American” products, and look down on corporations and big box stores.
The price of the product must also be considered. It doesn’t matter if Porsche makes your favorite car, you probably can’t afford it and will consider a more conservative option.
Consumers also look at how the product is advertised. If Rogaine’s marketing strategy was for “the man that has no confidence,” they probably wouldn’t do so well.
Social proof is just as powerful in the evaluation stage as it is in the search stage.
It’s known that buyers that are presented with too many options in a certain market are less likely to buy. If you’re selling a product, give 2-3 main options and you’ll get more sales.
Another interesting fact is that consumers are less likely to complain about a product if they’ve spent more money on it.
Say I just spent the equivalent of 5 years of my salary on a house and then discovered that the roof needs to be replaced and the air conditioning doesn’t work. Because of the cost, I’ll have to justify my problems by telling myself that I love to fix things and the purchase was a “good learning experience.”
Some people will complain if their $12 steak is undercooked – they’ll send the steak back, the server won’t get a tip, and they’ll promise never to come back to that restaurant.
Th articles in this section section will encompasses several different topics, some of which have already been discussed above. Additionally, we’ll add topics focused on brain chemistry and how it motivates consumers, as well as the participation of sex, drugs, and other forms of popular entertainment in consumer psychology and decision making.
We’re all consumers, and some of us are salesmen. Keep in touch and learn why you buy, and how you might sell your product successfully.
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