For marketers, your professional life is all about creating and keeping customers. The more you understand your consumers, and their behaviors, the better you willl be in doing just that. I am Mwebya Fred, and I have been in the online marketing for over 6 years. I train online and social media marketing to youths, and I help companies improve their commercial effectiveness. In this article, I will share with you a structured way to think about consumer behavior. I will share certain psychological factors, such as what motivates consumers, how they react to other consumers, and how their personality has such a big impact on what they buy.
I will also cover the step by step process that consumers use in just about every buying situation in my next article. If you work in marketing now, this curated article can help you sharpen your skills, and add more depth to your current programs, but you don't have to be in marketing to study consumer behavior. If you work in product development, packaging, or really any part of your company that affects your customers, understanding consumer behavior is an essential step.
Let me start with a confession: I'm a big Wrestling fan, and my favorite character in WWE is John Cena. Now, if you've watched the show, you may remember that John Cena has this special talent where he always assures his fans of the never giving up spirit even when he has lost, his fans still stand up and clap for him as though his the winner, wouldn't it be great if you could do a John Cena mind relationship with your customers? Your customers would stand with your brand through all seasons.
Their preferences, attitudes, motivations, how they make decisions, what they're willing to pay, and so on. It would be great! (Laughing softly) Well, unfortunately we don't have the John Cena, but we do have the next best thing. It's a body of knowledge called "consumer behavior." Consumer behavior is defined as: The study of individuals, groups, or organizations, and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas, to satisfy needs, and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society.
Think of consumer behavior as a combination of many disciplines. The theories and research from these other disciplines overlap in a very important way when it comes to understanding people as shoppers. These disciplines include: Economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and even neuroscience, the study of the brain. The contributions of each of these fields make consumer behavior a rich part of marketing, and this gives marketers tremendous insights to how consumers think and behave.
We may not be able to read their minds, but we can come pretty close. To understand consumer behavior, let's first understand this: What exactly is a consumer? I define a consumer as anyone who has the potential to buy something. It could be for themselves or for someone else. They could even be buying something for their company. Now, people have many roles that they play as part of their everyday lives.
Roles like coworker, friend, perhaps father, or sports fan. But when people put on their consumer hat, something special happens. They transform suddenly with a whole different mindset about their needs, their wants, what motivates them, how they acquire products and services, how they use them, and ultimately how they feel about themselves after consuming the product or service. What's interesting about consumer behavior is that for all of us, we put that consumer hat on just about every day of our lives, even if just for a tiny bit.
That's why it's so important to understand consumer behavior. In this series of articles, we will study consumer behavior by looking at the key components one at a time. We will examine motivation and how people transition from needing something to wanting it. Then we will look at the many uncertainties people face when being a consumer, and how they deal with it. We will also look at personality effects, especially what is called "the self-concept." We will learn how consumers learn to be consumers and how they improve and adjust their buying patterns over time.
And finally, we'll look at how people's circle of friends and other influential groups can affect their buying behavior. This lays the foundation to examine the customer buying process, and what you as the marketer can do at each step of their process to improve commercial results. Consumer behavior is powerful, so it must be used ethically.
Why consumer behavior is important?
Now that you understand what consumer behavior is, let's look at why it's such an important aspect of marketing. Marketing is all about taking actions that make your company more competitive in the marketplace. Those actions typically include analyzing and forecasting a market to understand its business potential. Marketers then develop a strategy to know where to focus their resources. They must segment, target, and position the offering. And finally, they have to execute their plan, by developing a coordinated set of marketing tactics, including what products and services to offer, pricing, distribution approaches, and marketing communications.
Hey, there's a lot at stake. If you get it wrong, you might be wasting a lot of money that could have been spent on other things. Even worse, you could lose valuable revenues, and the profits that go along with those revenues. Long term, you might start losing customer loyalty. As you can see, you have got to get this right, right from the start. One very important way to sharpen the focus of your marketing initiatives is to apply the principles and concepts of consumer behavior.
How people think, decide, and act, when buying things. When you embrace consumer behavior, you are putting the customer at the center of your marketing activities. Here's an example. Consumers often buy products and services that help shape the image they have of themselves. If you understand that phenomenon, and develop your programs to help the customer associate your product with their self-image, you will be more successful.
The study of consumer behavior doesn't apply to just individual consumers like you and me. In business-to-business industries, companies buy products too. If you are in a B2B company, you will need well-thought-out marketing programs to reach through to these more difficult clients. Now, organizations are made up of people. And guess what? The concepts of consumer behavior apply to them too. Understanding consumer behavior will sharpen your B2B marketing campaigns more effective.
Think of marketing as an entire spectrum of activities and decisions. It starts with strategies on how to acquire and retain customers, followed by segmenting, targeting, and positioning your offering. And then implementing the right products at the right price through the right channels, and promoted with the right marketing message. You can improve what you do at every point along this spectrum, by applying the principles of consumer behavior.
The best marketers are those that have the customer's interests at heart. And a solid understanding of consumer behavior can help you do just that.
Think about the last time you bought something, and ask yourself a simple question: Why did I buy it? Well, the answer most certainly is that you felt you needed it. Something motivated you to shop for that item, buy it, and use it. Consumers only buy things when they're motivated. Understanding consumer behavior starts with understanding motivation. If you know what drives people to buy products and services, you can make sure your products and services have the right features and benefits people want. But it's more than that.
If also understand how that motivation to buy develops inside a person, you can communicate more effectively what your products and services do. You will understand when people are most likely to buy, and that helps you market to them more effectively. First, let's look at some definitions. You need to understand the difference between needs and wants. Needs are A perceived lack of something. Needs are the basis of all motivation. When you sense you are missing something, you become motivated.
If you become motivated enough, then you want it. Wants are the specific satisfiers to fill that gap. In other words, when consumers sense a gap in something, they first ask themselves, do I need this? If so, they move from needing it to wanting it. They are motivated. So how do you motivate a consumer? You have to show consumers how your products and services connect the things that consumers want. For that, you use a tool called feature benefit laddering.
Think of feature benefit laddering as unpacking your product or service, by starting with its primary features, and how they connect to the benefits they generate, and how those benefits ladder-up to the values people want. Here's an example. Imagine we are selling drill bits. How do we motivate consumers to buy drill bits? Well here's my feature benefit ladder. Think of the steps of a ladder.
At the bottom rung is your product, and right above that are its main features: Sharp, spiraling edges, length, material, and so on. Then, above each feature is the primary benefit it delivers. In the case of a drill bit, that is simply a hole. Now keep going and you see that you can do a lot of things with a hole, including hanging a picture, and so on. To motivate consumers, we start by showing how their homes would be more comfortable, if they just had memorable pictures on their walls, pictures like family vacations, and so on.
That makes them realize they're missing something. Then we have to show them how drilling a hole lets them hang that picture. That activates them to want a drill bit to fill that need. And finally, we direct that want to our specific model of drill bit, and show how ours does it better than the competitor's. Great marketers motivate by activating needs and directing wants. You create a feature benefit ladder starting from the bottom up, but then you motivate consumers starting at the top and working down.
Resources: Wikipedia, LinkedIn Learning and Forbes