One of my favourite models of consumer behaviour is buying system analysis. It works like this:
- Motivation: Understand ultimately why someone wants something. What is the rational driver and the emotional driver? And what are the consequence when this need is met or unmet? When you take this far enough you invariably end up at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, but there are clues along the way. The motivation for buying a sports car will meander around the thrill of driving fast, the love of the machine, and ultimately ladder up to power and status. The motivation of buying a washing machine will be to easily wash clothes, to save time and ensure your family’s status doesn’t suffer by sending them out the door in grubby clothes. Ultimately it is probably about order and control. This will influence the tone and style of your communications.
- Trigger: Why is the customer buying it now? What external factors triggered the need to buy? Did the previous widget break? Did an offer come along that was too good to pass up? Did an influencer post about it? Or did a catalogue come through the mail? If you understand the trigger, you might be able to pull on it.
- Influencer. Who else is involved in the decision? What is their role? What are the different things they look for? Who really decides? Understand how you will reach them and what you want them to know about your brand. What are the messages and how will you deliver them? You might find clues to innovate here too.
- Consider: Which brands make it onto the shopping list and why? If you’re not on the considerest set, you can’t be bought. It’s that simple. This is why it’s so important to not just speak to your own customers. There are others out there who are not buying you and who may not even be considering you. Go through this process and you will know why.
- Choose: What factors influence the final decision? How are they ranked? Why do they matter? Go beyond understanding the rational: you are not as rational as you’d like to think you are, and neither are your customers. It is never just about price, but you do have to understand how price and value fit in your buying system.
- Buy: What are the mechanics of buying (and delivery if you are selling online). What are the pain points? Do people sometimes drop off here because it is just too hard? How can you make is seamless, easier, faster, delightful?
- Experience: How well does the product or service perform compared to expectations? This matters because people talk and write reviews. And because they post-rationalise and buy again in the future. You need to know from the moment they get it in their hands what the feelings and excitement and disappoints are, and you need to understand the nitty gritty of it beyond this… sometimes right through to the next purchase, where this leads back to the beginning. Do the feelings match those you uncovered at motivation?
You can use this model for all sorts of categories from big ticket items, to services and FMCG.
You will find new insight even for a product or brand that is well established if you just know where to look.