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Consumer Behavior: Irrational? Perhaps. Measurable and Malleable? Most Definitely.

As marketers, we often think about influencing the behavior of consumers and get them to do what we want. After all, the ultimate goal is to get them to engage in a certain behavior (buy this, yes? Click on this, pretty please?). The disproportionate focus on behavior makes us forget the driving forces behind consumer actions and arguably leads to less results. A focus on consumer behavior might be able to motivate an initial sale, however, we have to think about buyer psychology if we want them to keep coming back. Maybe, if we focused on psychology a little more and behavior a little less, we would ultimately garner more results.


Buyer behavior is, simply, what buyers do. Behavior is observable, factual and measurable, as such, it provides a false sense of rationality. However, as marketers we must be aware that buyer behavior is driven by buyer psychology, which is highly complex and not nearly as simple to measure, understand or manipulate. Buyer psychology encompasses why consumers do what they do, their thoughts, beliefs and feelings. Consumers are not nearly as rational as we would want them to be, and, according to Duke University’s behavioral economics professor Dan Ariely, “we consistently overpay, underestimate and procrastinate”. Although this may provoke feelings of helplessness when trying to influence consumer behavior, this apparent irrationality is measurable and can be predictable.


What we think precedes what we do and our goal as marketing professionals should be to understand consumer thoughts in order to influence their psychology and ultimately their behavior. In order to better comprehend buyer psychology, we may employ surveys, focus groups, field experiments and observation to understand what truly drives consumers. This data is an invaluable tool when designing strategies and campaigns for our brands and should not be overlooked if we wish to be successful.

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Let’s look a little more closely at the Buying Decision Process that consumers usually undergo before finalizing a purchase. The first step is desire recognition: I may be hungry and my internal stimuli may be hankering for a cheeseburger, or perhaps I just ran out of my keratin infused shampoo and may start thinking of purchasing a new formulation to keep my hair shiny and soft (external stimuli). Next, consumers engage in need formulation in which they may compare their alternatives. Not all purchase decisions require extensive evaluations nor comparisons. As marketers we must think about our brand or product and make it memorable, recognizable and accessible when said needs arise. Lastly, consumers undergo in need fulfillment in which the purchase is made, the product or service is consumed, and the experience is evaluated. We must work hard at promoting our brand and product but ensure that the experience meets expectations, otherwise, we are at risk of disappointing our clients and prevent them from coming back. The Rolling Stones once said, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and that may well be the result of brands who overpromise and underdeliver. Let’s provide our consumers with some real satisfaction instead.


As marketers we must think about the Buying Decision Process and work on influencing the purchasing journey and not just the results. Let’s engage in conversation with our clients and really get to know them. We must cultivate our sense of curiosity and be willing to listen what consumers have to say (even if it’s painful or uncomfortable). In the long run, our results will surely be worth the effort. 



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