Think about the items in your refrigerator as it relates to your own consumer behavior. Chances are, many of those purchases, which seem so automatic in the grocery store, are much more complicated than grabbing the first item off a shelf.
Every day, consumers choose one product over another: Coke or Pepsi, white or wheat, organic or budget-friendly. But those purchases have much more to do with psychology and emotions than price.
Understanding consumer behavior—why shoppers buy the things that they buy—is one of the main tools marketers have for building messaging and creating content that gets results.
How do marketers define consumer behavior?
Consumer behavior is the process by which a shopper decides to make a purchase.
The decision to buy is often impacted by a complicated set of interweaving factors involving reasons that are all at once economic, psychological, and emotional. Understanding consumer behavior and creating content that speaks to that behavior requires studying many aspects of the different ways shoppers engage with a brand.
For example, marketers looking to better understand consumer behavior should analyze how consumers feel about their brand versus other brands, along with what inspires consumers to choose their brand over competitors.
Additionally, consumer behavior in the research and shopping phases of their buyers’ journey is critical to understanding what makes consumers pull the trigger on a purchase, along with research into a consumer’s environment (friends, family, social media) and how that environment inspires behavior.
Why is consumer behavior so important to marketers?
Influencing consumers to take action is almost never a simple process.
Purchase decisions are often based on a complex array of patterns and behaviors. Marketers who create content and customer experiences that speak to consumers’ behavioral signals are much more likely to win sales than marketers who take a “one size fits all” approach to appealing to audiences.
What are the main types of consumer behavior?
There are four main types of consumer behavior. However, these types of behavior often overlap, meaning that consumers can be influenced by several of these factors in conjunction with one another.
Complex consumer behavior
Complex consumer behavior usually occurs when customers buy an expensive product that they infrequently purchase such as a new car, engagement ring, or luxury item. Consumers buying products of this type tend to place a lot of weight on the outcomes of their decision, spending a lot of time in the research stage to avoid making the wrong choice. Consumers exhibiting complex buying behavior see their purchase as an investment and expect a high-value return on their time and money.
Dissonance-reducing consumer behavior
Have you ever been torn between two products and worried your ultimate pick would be disappointing? That feeling is a result of dissonance-reducing consumer behavior. The consumer seeking “dissonance reduction” is heavily involved in the research process of the buyer’s journey. However, choosing between two or more similar-seeming products can produce a feeling of panic, leaving the buyer looking for confirmation that the choice they ultimately make is the “correct” one.
Habitual consumer behavior
Sometimes, consumers purchase products simply because they have always purchased that product or even come from an environment where generations of people have purchased it. Consumers who grew up with grandmothers who baked exclusively with one type of flour, for example, might naturally seek out that flour for their own baking projects as adults. These consumers exhibit strong brand loyalty and often have not done much research outside that preferred brand.
Variety-seeking consumer behavior
Alternatively, this type of consumer is seeking a change, not necessarily because they have been unsatisfied with their last purchase, but simply because they seek a new experience. Variety-seeking behavior is akin to trying out a new haircut. Sometimes, change can be exciting.
How are these insights useful in marketing?
Understanding the four main types of consumer behavior is a vital first step in planning marketing campaigns that meet the needs of your target audience.
For example, a jeweler needs to understand that their typical customer is likely exhibiting complex consumer behavior and needs dissonance-reducing messaging to ensure that the purchase is ultimately high-value and that the brand itself is a more intelligent investment than competitors.
Creating marketing that answers the behavioral signals consumers are giving off, whether marketing a body wash as an exciting alternative to bar soap or assuring customers that a brand of flour is the most trusted by grandmothers, is a critical first step for driving sales and growing revenue.
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