Understanding the Consumer Buyer Process

7 Min. Read

How great is the difference between wanting something and needing something?  For example, do you need a new car or do you want a new car?  There are many possible contributing factors to any such a purchasing decision. You might want or/and need a car. Or you might need but not want. The answer is complicated by the fact that neither logic or reason rule the consumer buying process

Emotion is in the driving seat of the consumer buying process.  It is how we feel about the item that tips the scale of to buy or not to buy, on the scale of want vs need.  

The answer to the question is not a simple one because, as humans, we are not simple; how we feel can change moment to moment, and because a person’s perspective and situation, their reality, changes over time.  What is true today may change tomorrow.

The Consumer Buyer Process - TOC

A person's wants and needs are constantly being re-evaluated.

In a traditional sense and economical one, need is what is necessary for survival, whereas to want is everything else. Therefore for needed items, the urgency to buy is far greater.

The challenge for Shopify Store merchants is determining how to shift the scale, from customers just wanting your products to needing and wanting your products.

want vs need
Demonstrating that Want and Need are two halves of a sliding scale

Why to Need is more powerful than to Want.

Whether to buy a wanted item or not is to evaluate the desired item against all other competing wants and needs; it is a matter of priority.

To need something is to must-have it at whatever cost of the item; it has to be purchased since it is a matter of survival, or at the very least of great importance.  If the product is just wanted, then the price is more relevant to the purchasing decision. 

Of course, “need” is subjective. To a small child, a game advertised on TV can be perceived as a matter of life and death and therefore needed.  To them, it can be because they feel they must have it and will die without it.  So its perception of reality rather than reality itself.

To a smoker addicted to cigarettes, a cigarette is a needed item. Although this is an extreme addiction scenario, it illustrates the differing perspectives because to a non-smoker, cigarettes are certainly not a needed item.

When does a Wanted product become a needed product?

There are numerous unique scenarios for every product that could influence how a product is seen/perceived, shifting a feeling of wanting something, to one of needing.  If we stick to the same example as above, the need / want a car; then the following situations might tip the balance from want towards need.

  1. A situation where driving is the best way (or the only way) to get somewhere, e.g., a new job and when no car is owned.
  2. Customer’s existing car brakes down once too often (unreliable).
  3. All your friends have a new vehicle, so you feel you need one too (Keeping up with the Jones)
  4. You have a growing family, and the car is too small.
  5. You think you should upgrade i.e., petrol to electric.

In all likelihood, it is not just one factor, but rather a combination of factors that, when combined, results in the all-important mix of emotion for that person to tip the consumer buying process towards a purchasing decision.  So it’s important to reference all the various advantages of each product.  Ultimately the motivation to buy can be influenced by highlighting benefits the potential buyer has overlooked and changing the narrative around the product to increase its perceived value and reducing the perceived costs.

Five steps of the consumer decision making process

  1. Need Recognition – understanding there is a need
  2. Information Gathering (make your product can be found)
  3. Evaluation of Alternatives (Greatest point of influence – your USP, discounts, offers etc.)
  4. Purchase decision (remove all obstacles to purchase).
  5. Post-Purchase Evaluation (give them excellent service, elicit feedback)

The interpretation of customer data is key to Influencing the consumer buying decision process.

Customer analytics, customer analysis, and the correct interpretation of your customers’ data are vital to influencing the consumer buying decision process. By understanding customers’ wants and needs, you can better personalize your offering and audience targeting.  The goal is to provide highly relevant messaging, direct to each customer’s preferred channels of communication.  The purpose of this messaging is to convince prospective customers that what they would like is what they need, but not by saying so but by letting them come to that decision on their own (with your help).

Ways of Influencing the Consumer buying decision process.

Increase personalization by using your customer analysis to refine your messaging.  If you can pinpoint exactly what your customers want, their pain points, or other motivating factors for buying, then you can give them exactly what they want.  Place your product in the context of their need (the ultimate goal that leads to increased sales).

  1. Add value to the product (make it a better deal) by offering a discount coupon or by grouped product discounts.
  2. Build loyalty by offering a discount on future products
  3. Add a dash of urgency with limited time offers
  4. VIP club discounts
  5. Build excitement about the product in a product/category specific + content specific conversion funnel
  6. Make them believe that by purchasing the product that their dreams about the product can be realized (ie you are selling the outcome, the product is just a means to get there).

The importance of personalization can not be understated because you do not want great deals to be offered to people who would buy your product anyway at a higher price.   In this case, it would be better to provide associated items at a discount to upsell.

You need to create tailored offers for specific groups with different aims/interests.

Advanced customer analysis is needed to provide greater personalization, which is why Conversific offers a wide range of personalized KPI reports.

Influencing the Consumer buying Process Through Emotion

By understanding the everyday use cases of your product, you can define a broad range of motivation points.  These might be pain points or other motivating factors such as inspiration.  I have previously written about pain points extensively.  A simple multiple-choice questionnaire can identify your customer’s key motivation by asking why they are purchasing the product, whatever their desire, broadly target them via the opposite of this desire. 

An Example of Influencing the Customer Buying Process

For example, a customer’s desire (and interest in your product) is what in broad terms would help them to “Succeed in life,” therefore the opposite of this is the fear of having a meaningless life with little or no success (fear of failure).  This would be a customer pain point to target.  Use an appropriate campaign with a focus on the positive outcome of using your product.

Carefully consider the medium of your campaign; it should use images or/and videos because you can communicate emotion in a more meaningful way.

Short Circuit the Human Brain

Bypass the buying impulse controls by utilizing hard-wired physiological responses.  Survival mechanisms have left us all with a set of programmed responses to specific situations; these are referred to as cognitive biases or physiological effects and can short circuit the consumer buyer process.

Examples Would Include

  • Building excitement and anticipation about your products – for example, pre-sales promotion.
  • Building trust through reciprocity
  • Choice confirmational bias, your purchases are always good ones, even when they are not!
  • Outcome Bias – decisions judged based on the outcome of a decision or purchase
  • Loss Aversion + Endowment Effect – Leverage human nature of loss aversion (limited time offers etc.)
  • The Ostrich Effect – people don’t want bad news; one example of its use on websites is terms and conditions (80% of people don’t read these) because it contains lots of information we probably won’t like. Multiply this effect by giving them something they will like elsewhere on the screen.
  • Anchoring Bias – over-relying on the first bit of information, add something flashy. 
  • Confirmation Bias, Conservatism bias, and salience –  The term ‘closed minded’ is all about confirmation bias, an effect where we tend to only listen to advice/information that confirms our preconceptions.

Pricing in the Consumer Buying Process

A good price can tip the balance, from want to must have (need).  When combined with a build-up of anticipation and a sense of finality supplied by a limited-time offer, discounts can have a significant impact on sales.  Limiting the number of items available also has a powerful effect, moving that needle from want towards need.

Tips:-  a) Consider selling the in-demand item at a loss to make that first sale because it’s much easier to sell to existing customers than acquire new ones. b) Consider grouping items together and offer a discount if the group is purchased. The use of a tool like OptiMonk can achieve this.

Other ways of influencing the customer buying process would include showing customers that others are also buying the product and provide reviews that highlight its merits.

Gamification is also a powerful tool; supplying discounts based on Wheel of fortune spin works wonders to get customer details before they leave when triggered on exit intent.

Providing incentives to your customers and discounts for future purchases if they share their purchases is a powerful way to reach a new audience.

Work with bloggers and other providers of content to incentivize their work.  Create an affiliate program to incentivize bloggers to write for you and at the same time incentivize their readers to share the offer with their friends to get a discount / free month etc.

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