Understanding Consumer Behaviour
As marketers, our job is to stay informed on the latest trends in consumer behaviour and follow how they change over time. Often considered just a buzzword, the study of consumer behaviour actually goes much deeper than that, with science that goes back decades. So, let’s look a little closer and see how it applies on both a worldwide and business-level scale.
What Is Consumer Behaviour?
Consumer behaviour is relatively easy to define, but it covers a lot of different factors and ideas. As you might have guessed from the name, it’s 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, predict purchase decisions, and create new products and innovations to fill market gaps. In the age of big data, this helps marketers more effectively reach, engage with, and convert their target audiences.
Some of the most important factors in determining consumer behaviour include:
There are about as many of these factors as there are people in the world. They include personal interests, beliefs, age, gender, culture, location, social influence from family and friends, education level, income, and psychological traits.
Types of Purchasing Behaviour
- Complex Buying: When consumers buy expensive and infrequent products or services, they will be highly involved and will do thorough personal research on the investment. You wouldn’t buy a car without digging deeper!
- Dissonance Reduction: If consumers have trouble differentiating brands and worry about “buyer’s remorse”, they will have more involvement in the process.
- Habitual: There is little involvement in the product or brand category (think a quick stop for a few things at the grocery store).
- Variety Seeking: Buying something different just for the “fun” of it, like trying a new exotic fruit or outfit.
Surprise! This rabbit hole keeps going deeper. Beyond the behaviour itself, these internal and external factors play a role, too.
- Marketing Campaigns: Meant to persuade consumers to switch brands, remind them about products/services, and drive impulse purchases.
- Economic Conditions: Strong economic situations make for more confident consumers and larger purchases.
- Personal Preference: Dislikes, moral oppositions, priorities, and values all rank among the top of the main behaviour drivers.
- Group Influence: 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.
Whew! That’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 online shopping and little pieces of website code called cookies. But don’t overlook the more intangible info from a potential buyer: the emotions and feelings toward your brand or product (and its alternatives), the surrounding influences, and what other external factors might be present.
One example of how these intertwine is the COVID-19 shift. As lockdowns gripped the world, most people moved their shopping online for everything from basic groceries to their usual comfort goods. This caused digital advertising to spike in some industries and drop in others. The final result: less competition for ad space, increased engagement with more eyes, and a bit better bang for your marketing dollars.
But the flip side? Many people went into closed-wallet mode. With all the uncertainty, they weren’t spending on unnecessary items anymore. This behaviour trend affected thousands of businesses.
How consumer mindsets have changed during COVID-19 (from Forbes)
Advantages of Using Consumer Behaviour
So, you know you’ve got to get some info on your consumers’ behaviour. But how do you get it without coming off as creepy? Here are some tips, whether you’re running a two-person coffee shop on a downtown corner or a giant multinational fashion chain.
- Gathering Customer Reviews: If someone had a great experience (or a terrible one), this is one of the best ways to find out. You’ll get insights into specific deciding factors for your products, and identify common themes or issues.
- Using Q&A Sites and Opportunities: Interactive Q&A sites and forums (e.g. Reddit) can give you a platform to ask and be asked about your products/services. These are good for highly targeted feedback that proves useful in the future.
- Customer Surveys: Surveys can be regularly sent after purchase or at specific intervals to gain information on the user experience. It’ll help you discover trends in what motivates your buyers or what your customers think. Plus you can change out the questions as needed.
- Keyword Research: Knowing what potential consumers are searching for and interested in – down to exact terms and phrases – pays off by getting you right in front of their eyes. Investing in the right SEO content takes time, but it’s well worth it.
- 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 more. The information provided by Google’s backend platform is better than gold in trained hands, and it can help you identify consumer trends in basically every metric. When you know what works, you can drop what doesn’t.
Some metrics you can measure with Google Analytics (from Hubspot)
- Competitor Analysis: eeling a slump? Spy on the competition and see how you can switch up your approach. It might be as simple as one key element or a 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 into the comments and see what people are saying. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll get a troll or two, but you’ll likely also find compliments, recommendations, and new ideas.
- 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: Maybe you have a #1 fan on TikTok…or maybe you have a shadow that immediately pounces on anything you do. Either way, we live in the era of Big Data, and you can use that information to create audience segments – “People Who Bought Something During This Sale”, “People Who Liked Ad #1”, etc. This lets you market more effectively and curate better content for each. By ensuring that your brand’s messaging meshes well with their behaviour patterns, you’ll create better campaigns that emotionally connect like a pro. This equals more success for you, and more satisfaction for them.
Having a team with the necessary tools and experience on your side is an excellent way to forge and solidify those connections. When you’re ready to work with what’s next in the field of consumer behaviour, let us know!