What Drives Consumer Purchasing Behaviors?

Customer Motivations are Vital to Persona Development, Segmentation Research Can Help

The motivations behind purchasing decisions are vital components of the buyer persona story. In order to develop and utilize effective buyer personas, we must know the motivations behind customer decisions.

This process is made complicated because there is never a one-size-fits-all product or message. If there were then there’d be no need for marketing research. Truly, there are so many inputs that go into a purchase decision: one’s wants, needs, ability to afford something, motivations, desires, etc.

So, what can we do? The first step that should be taken is market segmentation.  Segmentation is the process of grouping people based on similar characteristics. The goal is to determine if consumers’ wants and needs differ across various measurable characteristics.

There are many ways to segment, the possibilities are infinite. Below are a few of the most common and effective ways to segment a marketplace.


Geographical and Demographical Segmentation

Traditional segmentation involves looking at geography and demography; this is the core of all market research. However, by itself geographic and demographic segmentation cannot tell us why college-educated young professionals, living in a metropolitan city, are buying a particular brand of car.

Demographic and geographic characteristics enable us to understand the trends that we see but are not necessarily enough to understand a group’s current purchasing behaviors and anticipate what they will do in the future.


What are they thinking?

If we want to anticipate consumer purchases, we must understand what is driving their purchasing decisions as well as their general outlook. What is their motivation? What are they hoping to get out of a product or service? To answer these questions, we must consider the customer psychology, and the addition of a customer attitudinal component to our marketing research, and assess their need for and use of the product.


Attitudinal Segmentation

Attitudinal segmentation is the process by which we group people into categories based on their opinions and level of agreement/identification with a certain idea. Attitudinal segmentation is powerful in that it enables one to see distinct differences within a seemingly homogeneous group.

Attitudinal segmentation involves uncovering the psychology behind consumer purchasing behaviors. Since customers self-identify through their previous purchases, understanding their reasons for purchasing as well as their attitudes enable us to uncover patterns and tendencies so we can anticipate what they want and need.

Comprehending the consumer attitude also helps us to better recognize where they may have come from and where they may be going. This aspect of the customer journey is not readily apparent in other segmentations, and has powerful applications. As a general example, there are some people who value having the latest technology, others who value convenience and time saving devices, and others who more highly value frugality. These groups can have distinctly different needs, so knowing the importance of these considerations allows us to tailor a products and/or message which appeal to these different groups of customers and prospects.


Additional Factors for Consideration

There are additional product and consumer considerations that will motivate purchasing behavior. It is important to understand how consumers use a product and additionally how they decide when they will purchase their next one. These are needs- and utility-based segmentations.

Product functionality and cost are balanced against customer needs, use of the product, and status/prestige of ownership. How consumers use a product may determine if they see a need for it. A consumer may think that a product is very cool but at the same time not be willing to buy it because they do not see a use for it. Frugal customers may only purchase a replacement when their current product breaks, and are frequently the late adopters who are either waiting for a drop in price or improved features.

These considerations are specific to product purchase requirements and preferences. When combined with the attitudinal segmentation they reveal a more profound understanding of the consumer landscape. Each level of segmentation allows us to delve deeper into the consumer psychology.

The results enable us to travel with the consumer on their purchasing journey. This gives us an understanding who the consumer is, where they are coming from, why they want to purchase something, and what they are looking for. It’s actionable insight that it puts a face on the customer and establishes the foundation for a better data-driven business platform.


Motivations Become Effective Buyer Personas

As we said at the beginning of this article, understanding customer motivations is vital to the process of persona development. We’ve talked about how to gather this information, but what do you do once you have it?

Sales and Marketing departments can use the motivations behind purchase decisions to help craft their message to potential customers. If your sales department knows that Sally Shop-Saver – the purchaser for her family – could really use a new oven, but needs to feel as though she’s getting the best deal for her dollar, they may highlight the delivery package which includes free installation or the warranty program which protects the appliance from her three rowdy children for an entire year. And that is quite the benefit!

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