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How to measure consumer attitudes and behavior

People buy products and services all the time. But why? What are their motivations, and their thoughts, feelings and preconceived notions that led up to the moment that they hand over cash to a store clerk or click “buy now” on smartphone or laptop computer? And what influence do those attitudes and behaviors have after a purchase is made in terms of ongoing perceptions and interactions with your company?

These are the questions that you aim to unravel when you set out to measure consumer attitudes and behaviors.  By capturing feedback via surveys or other methods that help reveal these attitudes and behaviors, as well as what may be driving them,  you can gain a deeper understanding of your customers. 

Armed with that insight, you can make decisions and take actions to better meet customer needs, whether that be adding product features they desire, communicating with them in ways that resonate more deeply, or even influencing those attitudes and behaviors in ways that improve their perceptions of your brand -- or turn good customers into loyal outspoken advocates.

Consistently tracking, capturing and analyzing customer attitudes and behaviors can put you on the path to continually improving the customer experience while helping to boost your company’s bottom line at the same time.

What are consumer attitudes?

The old saying goes that attitude is everything. When it comes to consumers, that may be a bit overstated, but it’s safe to say attitudes do play a vital role in forming consumer opinions and driving decisions. With that in mind, it’s important to be proactive in your efforts to gain a clearer perspective on who your customers are, as well as the attitudes they possess that may help explain their actions and behaviors.

Customer attitudes are a composite of a person's beliefs, feelings, and behavioral intentions toward your business. These attitudes are often formed based on a blend of factors. Particularly influential are an individual’s past experiences that play a considerable role in developing and solidifying certain attitudes. 

Another factor, more specific to your business, is what is often referred to in market research as “self-experiences.” Consumers form favorable and unfavorable attitudes towards product and service offerings based on these self-experiences that emerge from trying out a product or service offerings. And those attitudes can evolve as a customer has additional experiences with a product or service, as well as additional  interactions with your company after a purchase is made.

Of course, attitudes that are favorable to your company can be a considerable asset. Conversely, unfavorable attitudes present a risk, both with the individual customer and the potential that others share those attitudes -- and may not be hesitant to broadcast their views. 

Unfortunately, changing people’s attitudes can be a challenge. To do so, often requires a fuller understanding of existing attitudes, perceptions and behaviors so you can take steps to take actions that might initiate a potential attitude shift based on new information or experiences.

What are consumer behaviors?

While consumer attitudes focus on beliefs, thoughts and feelings, consumer behaviors are, in part, the actions and decisions that result from those attitudes.

Consumer behavior is the way people choose and use your products and services – in essence   how people act and behave throughout the entire lifecycle of your product—from first becoming aware of the product, to evaluating its qualities, to purchase, use, and ultimately disposal of that product. More specifically, along this journey consumer behaviors encompasses patterns of:

  • Purchase behavior, such as when a person shops and how they pay for their purchase
  • Product usage, such as how often the customer uses your product and if they’re satisfied with their purchase
  • Product disposal, such as how long a customer holds onto your product and whether or not they resell it when they’re done

A consumer behavior study delves into the thoughts, actions and habits that drive every stage of the customer journey – answering the why and how people buy and use your product with the goal of maintaining high customer satisfaction as well as attracting new customers with similar behaviors.

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Examples of consumer attitudes

There are several different types of attitudes that market researchers aim to measure when trying to get a more in-depth perspective on customers. Here are a few of the most common metrics to explore through your market research and customer experience efforts to measure customer attitudes:

Overall satisfaction

Overall satisfaction is a measure of how happy and satisfied a customer is with a company’s products and services. Overall satisfaction is often captured via surveys after a product is purchased or a service provided. Getting good insight on overall satisfaction offers steady feedback on how you are performing in your customers’ view. It can also have a ripple effect – satisfied customers are likely to say good things about your company online and via word of mouth, and are more likely to be loyal and repeat customers. Of course, the ripple flows both ways – if your customers are not satisfied, they will likely make their voices heard in the form of poor online reviews and comments and seeking out competitor brands to do business with.

Product and factor level satisfaction

While overall satisfaction focuses on the big picture, product and factor level satisfaction takes a more targeted look at customer satisfaction as it relates to a specific product, and the factors that influence a buying decision.

Companies often aim to gauge product satisfaction shortly after a customer makes a purchase by following up with a quick survey that asks them to rate their initial satisfaction levels with the product. Responses to these surveys can be compiled to generate relevant high-level data about how the product is being received by your pool of customers who made the purchase. On a more granular level, surveys also offer the opportunity to quickly address any significant issues or problems with an individual product to help ensure a positive customer experience.

A range of factors can influence a consumer’s attitude about a product purchase, including product quality, price, service,  and product features, as well as less tangible factors such as emotion or perception of fairness. Having a steady awareness of these factors, and the role they play in customer satisfaction and attitudes, can help add valuable perspective to your customer experience efforts. 

Importance vs. satisfaction

Understanding importance versus satisfaction is key to making sure you meet and exceed your customers’ expectations so that you can focus your time and resources on priorities that drive ever-improving customer experience.

To achieve this it is key to consider “importance versus satisfaction” to make sure you are not putting time and attention into things that aren’t important to your customers and that your focus is on satisfying customers with the things that are important.

A common way to approach the importance versus satisfaction issue to create a survey that contains two parallel sets of questions that ask customers to indicate the importance of certain features/services with how satisfied they are with those products and services.

For instance, if you want to get feedback from customers about an in-home service call you could ask parallel questions of importance and satisfaction, with the importance choices being:

  • Very important
  • Important
  • Not very important
  • Not important at all

It’s typically best practice to lead with the importance question first so that survey respondents have that perspective before rating the quality of the service call. 

So in this example you may lead with a question such as “How important to you is it that the technician arrives at the scheduled appointment time?”

If the majority of respondents choose “very important” then their satisfaction scores should carry more weight than that of a question focused on something that the majority of respondents answered were not very important or not important at all. 

Graph of key drivers

And if you find that the satisfaction scores related to arrival time are low, then you have a clear direction that a key focus for your organization is to make sure that all the factors that go into a technician arriving at the front door on time are considered and modified to ensure that customer need is consistently being met.

Not only does this insight help you prioritize, it also provides direction regarding what to focus on in future surveys to make sure you are asking customers about the things that matter most to them and not wasting their time – or yours – on things that don’t.

The bottom line – if it’s important to your customers, it best be important to you.

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Brand perceptions

Companies spend a huge amount of time and money focused on building their brand – and with good reason. Brand perception is the sum of the feelings a consumer has about your company. If those feelings are good – and shared by many (think Apple), then you’ve earned one of the most valuable assets a company can have. Conversely, poor brand perceptions can have a negative ripple effect through every aspect of your business and can be difficult to reverse (think WeWork).

The thoughts and feelings associated with brand perceptions initiate when a consumer first becomes aware of the brand, and that perception gets more defined and solidified  as the consumer hears, sees, or interacts with the brand and its product. Brand perceptions can change based on a company’s activities and media coverage, social media chatter, and personal experience interacting with the brand.

Measuring Brand Perception

Because of its outsized importance to any organization, monitoring and measuring brand perceptions should occur on an ongoing basis. Some effective ways to monitor brand perception is by setting up Google alerts to track online mentions; reading and responding to online reviews; social listening, which entails monitoring social media comments, hashtags, and other mentions; and measuring metrics for pay-per-click brand search.

When it comes to proactively  measuring brand perceptions, market research can employ a range of tactics such as focus groups, conducting a brand audit, and conducting surveys that capture attitudes and perceptions not only about specific products and services, but also how they view your brand. 

Brand perception is a critical part of your company’s marketing effectiveness, and ultimately its overall success. Getting a handle on brand perception, and putting your resources into knowing how to leverage or act on the feedback you gather and receive, will help your company better plan its marketing campaigns and other aspects of the business.

Using surveys to measure consumer attitudes and behaviors

Surveys can be a highly effective way to measure consumer attitudes and behaviors, and should be a key component of customer behavior analysis that gathers both quantitative and qualitative data points—i.e. statistical data as well as open-ended reflections on buying behavior—from respondents. Here’s our consumer behavior survey template to get you started!

This type of customer analysis identifies buyer personas and tracks the buying behavior of each persona at different stages in the customer journey.

While there are many consumer research methods, including interviews and case studies, surveys are usually the easiest way to get data from your customers or target market. Market research surveys help you uncover the factors that influence consumer buying behaviors, while customer satisfaction surveys are a good way to gain insight into customer buying behavior.

Consumer behavior surveys often aim to tease out buying behavior – with the aim of getting to the root the rational and irrational value drivers behind purchase decisions. They ask practical questions like “How many other people in your household use this product category?” as well as reflective questions like, “Do you typically make decisions about which brand you’ll buy beforehand or at the time of purchase?”

Surveys can be the foundation of your consumer behavior and attitude measurement, providing an easy and effective way to capture meaningful feedback and insights.

Guided question bank

Examples of consumer attitude survey questions

What follows are some examples of survey questions that could be asked to get deeper insight into consumer attitudes:

  • How important is it to you to live a healthy lifestyle?
  • How would you describe your political beliefs?
  • How much of an influence does searching on the internet have on your buying decisions?
  • Are you often skeptical of new technologies?
  • What is your main consideration when you make a large purchase?

Factors that influence consumer behavior

A complex cocktail of factors play a role in influencing consumer behaviors. These factors, driven by thoughts, emotions or ingrained habit, can are typically rooted in the following categories:

  • Psychological: Psychological factors grow out of an individual’s internal experiences that shape key drivers of behaviors such as motivation, perception, learning, beliefs and attitudes. 
  • Personal: The personal factors that influence behavior relate largely to a person’s circumstance and station in life. These include the individual's life stage, their occupation, their socio-economic status, their lifestyle, and personality. Some of these factors can change as an individual’s life circumstances shift.
  • Social & Cultural: People are not islands and their behaviors and attitudes can be influenced by social and cultural norms and trends. These factors can include family, friends, organized groups as well a broader cultural influences relating to class, status and ethnicity.
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Consumer behavior survey questions 

Here are some examples of survey questions that could be asked to get deeper insight into consumer attitudes:

  • Based on the information presented to you, how likely would you be to buy this product?
  • Do you plan to buy this type of product in the future?
  • How frequently would you buy this product?
  • Do you tend to return to a website multiple times before making a final purchase?
  • Do you consistently check online reviews before making a purchase?

Getting started with measuring consumer attitude and behavior 

There’s no doubt that getting a better understanding of consumer attitudes and behaviors can be critical in driving your company’s success. Knowing the views your customers have of your company, and its products and services can help you focus on enhancing what is working and dealing with things that are not.  Equally important is assessing the behaviors that affect every stage of the customer journey to elicit valuable insights for strengthening customer relationships and brand loyalty.

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