As marketers, part of our job is staying informed of the latest trends in consumer behaviour and following how those trends change over time. While the term “consumer behaviour” is often considered just another buzz word, the concept actually goes much deeper than that – it’s a science that has been studied extensively in the marketing world for decades. So let’s look a little closer and see how it applies to our current situation – both on a worldwide scale, and smaller ones.
What Is Consumer Behaviour?
Consumer behaviour is relatively easy to define, but it encompasses a lot of different factors and ideas. It is the study of consumers (i.e. buyers and customers), and the processes – both conscious and unconscious – that they use to choose, consume, and dispose of products and services. These processes can be emotional, mental, behavioural, or environmental.
Some influencers of consumer behaviour (from Frank Belzer)
Marketers use common consumer behaviours to determine what influences their customer base, to predict purchase decisions, and to create new products and innovations that fill in perceived market gaps. Using established data to their advantage, marketers can more effectively reach, engage with, and convert their target audiences.
Some of the most important factors in determining consumer behaviour include:
These include personal interests and opinions, often determined by age, gender, culture, location, and so on, as well as social factors, like family, friends, education, income, and social networks. Psychological factors also play a role in how individuals perceive and respond to marketing messages.
Types of Purchasing Behaviour
These can be broken down into four categories:
- Complex Buying: When consumers buy expensive, infrequently-purchased products/services, they will be highly involved and will do thorough personal research on the investment (i.e. a house or a car)
- Dissonance Reduction: This refers to a purchase with high involvement in the process, but consumers have trouble differentiating brands, and worry about “buyer’s remorse”
- Habitual: There is little involvement in the product or brand category, such as grocery shopping for a few specific items
- Variety Seeking: Buying something different just for the “fun” of it, like trying a new food or clothing type
Beyond individual influences, external and internal factors also play a part in changing consumer behaviour. These include:
- Marketing Campaigns: Done properly and regularly, these can persuade consumers to switch brands, remind them about products/services, and drive impulse purchases – even for more expensive options.
- Economic Conditions: Strong economic situations make for more confident consumers, driving large purchases. A negative economy, such as the one threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, can do the opposite.
- Personal Preference: Dislikes, moral oppositions, priorities, and values all rank among the top of the main behaviour drivers.
- Group Influence: We’ve all heard about peer pressure, and it has a well-earned reputation for guiding behaviour. Recommendations or warnings from a trusted friend can have a big impact on what we buy.
- Purchasing Power: Your marketing and messaging could be perfect, but if the audience simply doesn’t have the budget for your product or service, they won’t be able to purchase it. This ties in to other personal, cultural, and socioeconomic factors, to varying degrees.
All of these factors and considerations taken together and compared over time will give you insights into changing consumer behaviour and how it affects you and your sales process. But it’s a lot of information – how can you analyze these ideas and turn them into better messaging and marketing campaigns?
Analyzing Consumer Behaviour
Taking a good look at consumer behaviour through data is easier than ever before, thanks to the rise of online shopping, website cookies, and detailed records. Some of the most important behaviours to consider are consumer emotions and feelings toward your brand or product (and its alternatives), the major influences on their choices, their shopping behaviour and trends, and what other external factors might be coming in to play that you hadn’t considered.
One example of how these factors intertwine is the big shift that happened due to COVID-19. As lockdowns went into place around the world, a huge portion of consumers moved their shopping online, for everything from groceries and basic supplies to their usual comfort goods and luxuries. This caused a surge in digital advertising in some industries, and a drop in spending across others. The final result? Less competition for ad space, increased engagement with more eyes on your messaging, and a bit better bang for your marketing dollars. But the flip side is that many people went into strict money-saving mode, and weren’t spending on unnecessary items, which was a behaviour trend that affected thousands of businesses.
How consumer mindsets have changed during COVID-19 (from Forbes)
Using Behaviour to Your Benefit
So you know you’ve got to get some info on your consumers’ behaviour – but how do you get that data? Whether you’re running a two-person coffee shop on a downtown corner, or a giant multinational fashion chain, here are some ways you can get a finger on the pulse of your potential buyers, and find out what motivates them.
Gathering Customer Reviews: If someone had a great experience (or a terrible one), this is one of the best ways to find out. You can get insights into specific deciding factors for your products, and identify common themes or issues in your marketing and business.
Using Q&A Sites and Opportunities: Like a more robust review, interactive Q&A sites and forums (e.g. Reddit) can give you a platform to ask and be asked about your products/services. You can get highly targeted feedback, which is useful for improving your sales in the future.
Customer Surveys: Much like the Q&A idea, surveys are more regular, and can be sent directly after purchase or at specific intervals afterward to gain information on the user experience. This can help you find trends in what motivates your buyers, or what your customers think of your offerings, and lets you ask specific questions, depending on your needs.
Keyword Research: Knowing what potential consumers are searching for and interested in – down to specific terms and phrases – can be a huge help in getting your brand in front of them on the screen. Investing in the right SEO content takes time, but when done right, it does pay off.
Google Analytics: Are your customers shopping from their phone or their desktop? Did a big Instagram account tag you in a post and drive a few thousand people to your profile and website? Just how effective was that summer sale you had? Google Analytics can tell you all of that, and a whole lot more. The information provided by Google’s backend platform is extremely powerful in trained hands, and can help you identify consumer trends in geography, demographics, page views, promotions, etc. When you know what works, you can drop what doesn’t.
Some metrics you can measure with Google Analytics (from Hubspot)
Competitor Analysis: If you’ve noticed a slump, take a look at what your competitors might be doing, and how you can switch up your approach. It might be as simple as one key element or bit of language you’re using (or not using).
Comments and Engagement Online: Do you maintain a blog or social accounts? (If not, you should!) Pop in to the comments and see what people are saying. Don’t be afraid of honest feedback – you might get questions or concerns, but you could also find compliments or recommendations for something new.
The RFM Method: Standing for “recency, frequency, monetary value”, this is a measure of how recently someone ordered from you, how many times they purchased from you in a given time frame, and how much they have spent since their first order. This is an excellent way to identify high-value, lifelong customers, and express your appreciation for their support.
The RFM method for visualizing high-value customers (from Moengage)
Social Media: Do you have an ambassador who sings your praises all over their TikTok videos, or a shadow who pounces with negative comments as soon as you post anything, anywhere? We live in an age of immense data, and being able to use that information to create segments of your audience – “People Who Bought Something During This Sale”, “People Who Liked Ad #1”, etc. – lets you market more effectively to each, create better copy & imagery, and curate better content.
The needs, wants, and experiences of your customers are always the benchmark of ultimate success. By ensuring that your brand’s messaging and offerings mesh well with their behaviour patterns, you can create better campaigns that emotionally connect in the right way – leading to more success for you, and more satisfaction for them.