Think You Know Your Customer?

Think again – tapping into the psychology of the consumer.

Getting to the heart of consumer behavior may be key to success, but it’s a daunting task. Turning to psychology can help.

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The factors influencing purchasing behavior are 80 percent emotion and 20 percent logic.

From a psychological perspective, human emotions and motivations are some of the biggest drivers of consumer behavior. Studies suggest that the factors influencing purchasing behavior are 80 percent emotion and 20 percent logic. It therefore follows that reason is subservient to emotion.

How do you feel when you buy a designer pair of shoes or a brand name watch? Excited, for sure. But you may not even realize the even deeper feelings you develop for the products you buy.

Why? What makes us behave this way? Emotion.

We’re not rational

We like to think we’re rational beings who make our purchasing decisions based on logic, but science tells us that’s not true. We first emotionally find reasons to buy, then we try to find reasons to validate that purchase.

We enjoy our emotionally driven reasons for purchasing because they activate the brain’s reward system. At the same time, the level of feel-good hormones, called endorphins, increases in our brain, leading to positive and upbeat feelings. Closely related to our five senses, this allows us to experience the world around us either positively or negatively.

Ask yourself: How does my brand look, smell, sound, feel and taste? Whether we smell or taste or touch or see, or hear something or a combination of all our senses, we automatically link it to emotion either positive or negative.

Remember that consumers are humans who would happen to either like or dislike your brand. If your brand personality stirs positive emotions in people, they are more likely to associate those emotions with your brand and vice versa. Therefore, it reasons that triggering the right emotional response to your brand will elicit the action you want your customer to take – in other words, make the purchase.

Getting motivated

Consumers also have needs that motivate buying behavior. Motivation is a driving force that leads to action and is relative to our needs. So, triggering the right emotions but also finding what motivates your customers is a powerful psychological combination that leads to influencing buying behavior.

When you understand what motivates your customers, by listening and discovering their needs, you can create a powerful brand message that is a right motivational fit for your target audience.

But how do you create a motivational fit?

One way is the use of gain-versus-loss framing. According to prospect theory, gain framing is promotion oriented while loss framing is prevention oriented.

What does that mean? The clue is in the name. Gain-frame messages accentuate the benefits of actions while loss-frame messages emphasize the consequences of failing to take certain actions.

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When you understand what motivates your customers, you can create a powerful brand message.

Here we have two messages that convey similar types of information but in very different ways, and depending on a person’s specific situation, they will perceive these messages differently.

Generally speaking, younger people are more promotion minded – they seek opportunity and are more comfortable taking risks. Older people, on the other hand, are prevention oriented and want reliability and security.

This latter point should help to inform how you market to different demographics within your customer base. For example, Generation Z will likely behave in a very different manner to baby boomers.

You need to be clear on what your brand stands for to understand the most appropriate messaging for your audience. Sounds straightforward, but it’s a source of constant surprise how many brands pay little or no attention to this vital ingredient.

So, when you are trying to position a particular product to a target population, having these facts in mind makes it easier to influence your customers’ buying behavior.

Key takeaways

In summation, remember these three things when trying to better understand your customers:

  • Reason is subservient to emotion in making purchasing decisions.
  • Always remember that emotion and motivation drive behavior.
  • Know your audience, and use the two types of motivational framing correctly when conveying brand messages.
Andrew Busby is Founder and CEO of Retail Reflections and an IBM Futurist.

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