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How to measure, understand, and influence buying behavior

Start understanding buying behavior by finding your target demographic and audience.

Buying behavior is the way people shop for your product—from product discovery to purchase and even repurchase. It encompasses the practical, personal, and social factors that influence a buyer’s purchasing decision, including drivers for rational and irrational decisions.

Buying behavior includes data points like time of purchase, length of purchase, method of purchase, consumer preference for certain products, purchase frequency, and other similar metrics that measure how people shop for your products. These metrics can be grouped into different types of buying behavior that describe how buyers engage with a purchase decision.

What is buying power?

Understanding buying power is just as important as studying your consumers’ buying behavior. Buying behavior focuses on the way a consumer shops for a product or service. Buying power relates to consumer’s financial ability to make the purchase. It reflects how much a unit of currency can buy. For example, a consumer might’ve been able to purchase a full tank of gas for $60 one year. The next year, the same amount money fills up only half of a tank. Many consumers might not be able to adjust to this inflation while others can. This is buying power. 

Why is buying behavior important?

Consumers need to afford what you’re selling. Conducting a research on your audiences’ buying power will help determine the price your products and services to sell. With the knowledge of buying power, you’re able to strategically tailor your marketing in a way that’s more appealing to consumers on a financial level. 

The type of buying behavior, along with the practical, personal, and social factors that influence it, gives you insight into the real reasons people buy your products. These insights help you create marketing messages that accelerate your customers’ purchase decisions.

With a strong understanding of buying behavior, you can:

  • Adjust your marketing messages to suit the fluid purchasing behavior of your buyers
  • Create targeted messaging that resonates with specific types of buyers
  • Time your messaging, so it reaches buyers when they typically purchase your product—like on holidays, weekends, or when they’ve depleted existing product
  • Help overwhelmed buyers work through dissonance reducing buying behavior with reassuring messaging that simplifies the purchase decision
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What influences buying behavior?

People ultimately choose to buy products based on their immediate needs and personal preferences, as well as their exposure to marketing messages and social influences. Effective marketing messages and recommendations resonate with buyers in a mental or emotional way.

Most purchase decisions include a combination of unique behaviors  Including personal, psychological, and social factors.

Personal factors

Emotional or affective factors include irrational considerations like personal beliefs. How a product might make a person feel will heavily influence buying behaviors. What does the product or service represent? The core values, mission statement, and affiliate companies are factors that influence buying behavior.

Psychological factors

Mental or cognitive factors include rational considerations like product value. Price, quality, and convenience all influence buying behavior, as do irrational considerations like feelings and desires.

Social factors 

Behavioral or cognitive factors include buying patterns like brand loyalty. Every buyer has a “black box” of mental, emotional, and behavioral factors that affect their buying behavior. The contents of this box depends on the lifestyle, consumption habits, personal values, relationships, brand loyalties, personality, and demographics of the buyer.

Economical and public health factors

Consumer buying habits will be directly correlated with how well the economy is doing. A thriving economy results in an increased demand for goods and services. This demand prompts businesses to supply the customers’ needs. However, public health factor can negatively after buying power. For example, the coronavirus pandemic not only increased demand for certain products and services (toilet paper, telehealth services,etc.), but if also decreased the buying power of some audiences due to unemployment. Other unforeseen events like extreme weather will influence consumers' buying behaviors. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods can result in closed businesses and unemployment that can also affect consumers’ buying power. 

Learn more about our coronavirus resources for your business.

People ultimately choose to buy products based on their immediate needs and personal preferences, as well as their exposure to marketing messages and social influences. Some of the factors that influence buying behavior, like social trends, are dynamic and ever-changing. As peer groups, societal norms, and cultural fads change, so does buying behavior. Agile market research helps your businesses stay on top of shifting consumer behavior.

Henry assael buying behavior example

Types of buying behavior

There are 4 types of buying behavior: complex behavior, dissonance reducing behavior, habitual behavior, and variety seeking behavior.

Complex buying behavior

People usually engage in complex buying behavior when they make a big purchase, like a new car or house. People are highly involved in these purchase decisions and will research all their options thoroughly before settling on one. This type of buying behavior comes out when a purchase will impact a person’s life significantly, or the purchase comes with significant risks.

High-priced products or services typically fall into the category of complex buying behavior. However, competitive brands and services are also factors into consumer buying behavior. Too many options can stall a purchasing decision. 

Habitual buying behavior

Someone who buys the same product over and over is exhibiting habitual buying behavior and high product loyalty. For example, a consumer might habitually purchase the same brand of sunscreen or milk every time they go shopping. They’ll make these purchases without spending time researching alternatives because they don’t feel the need to stray from their go-to brand. As a competitor, examining habitual buying behavior will offer valuable insight into how you can position your business to attract more sales.

Variety-seeking buying behavior

The opposite of habitual buying behavior is variety-seeking buying behavior. People seek variety because they’re still searching for a favorite product or because they’re looking for novelty in their purchases. Someone might express variety-seeking behavior when they frequently try different restaurants. The cosmetic and clothing industry is a good example of variety seeking buying behavior because just as consumers are interested in trying different things, styles change. It’s similar to habitual buying behavior because the market of that product may be just as competitive. However, because of the many options these industries provide, some consumers reflect a bit of uncertainty in their buying habits in regards to brand. 

Dissonance reducing buying behavior

When people are afraid of making the wrong purchase decision, they express dissonance reducing buying behavior. This type of buying behavior is often linked to a fear of experiencing buyer’s remorse, which is usually based on a past experience with it. One example of dissonance reducing buying behavior coming into play is a consumer who spends a lot of time comparing different paint colors but significantly less time comparing paint brands. 

Most purchases fall into one of these 4 categories, but buyers can react differently to the same purchases.

Learn more about consumer behavior and the way people choose products and services.

Types of buyers

Most buyers express fluid buying behavior that changes from purchase to purchase. People typically make some habitual purchases—like drinking the same coffee every morning—but thoroughly research other more significant purchases. Many people will try new products like a unique variety of chips on impulse, but are hesitant to commit to bigger unknown purchases.

The best indication of which type of buying behavior people will express in a specific situation or for a certain product is the amount of risk involved in the purchase. Because more expensive products are more of a financial risk, people are usually most involved in their priciest purchases.

If a purchase decision will affect multiple people, buyers exhibit more complex buying behavior that involves input from more participants. When a family purchases a new home, for example, the mental, emotional, and behavioral considerations of each family member are weighed and considered. When someone purchases property alone, the purchase decision depends less on social influence.

Demographic information like age and income also affect buying behavior. For example, teenagers usually make less significant purchases than adults, which might make them more likely to engage in variety seeking buying behavior. People in secure financial situations might also be less likely to express dissonance reducing buying behavior, since their personal financial risks are lower.

While buying behavior is fluid, some buyers are more likely to engage in certain types of buying behavior based on their demographics or defining factors like whether they make purchases online or in store. Buyer personas connect types of consumers with types of buying behavior.

Buyer behavior patterns

Place of purchase

Commerce has always been competitive. Ecommerce has leveled the industry where small businesses can be a direct threat to larger industries. Consumers have a lot of purchasing options between online or brick and mortar. Understanding online or in-store buying behavior between online can have a significant impact on whether you products do well in one location over another.

Items purchased

Purchasing power is a primary factor for the type of items purchased by buyers. The purchasing power for item, the availability of those items, in addition to their quality and price will determine whether items are purchased—and in what quantity, such as bulk. For example, the average consumer does not purchase their clothing in bulk, but they may purchase certain food items in large quantities. Consumers also don’t tend to purchase expensive items such as jewelry in bulk. 

Time and frequency of purchase

If you’re launching an online sales campaign, it’s crucial to understand buyer behavior patterns to appeal to consumers who are most likely to buy your product. Everyone has buying habits. Understanding the time and frequency of purchase will help you detect repeat customers and what types of products they’re most likely to buy. That’s why initiating a customer behavior analysis is a smart marketing strategy.

Method of purchase

What can you learn about methods of purchase? When it comes to digital payments, 49% of millennials choose this method while 42% of Generation X come in second, and 36% of Baby Boomers come in third at 51%. Younger buyers typically choose the latest purchasing apps while mature buyers select a method that’s been around for a while. Furthermore, learning what type of payment method consumers prefer offers strategic information. For example, customers who use Apple Pay may be interested in other Apple-brand products and other high-priced technology. 

How to measure buying behavior

Customer behavior surveys

A customer behavior survey is the marketing tool you need to measure, understand, and influence buying behavior. The information you collect in these surveys will provide insight into your customers’ buying habits. Once you know your customers’ buying habits, you’ll be able to provide them with the product and services they seek. Our consumer behavior survey template will help you ask questions that can end up affecting your marketing strategy.

Advantages of customer behavior surveys

Making a purchase is a thought process and usually comes in 3 stages: awareness, consideration, and purchasing. As a seller, it’s important to market to all 3 of these steps. 

  • Creating brand awareness is critical because you can’t sell a product if consumers don’t know it exists. 
  • The consideration stage is critical because it’s where the buyer decides whether or not to purchase. This is where your marketing strategies need to focus on reassurance and trust. 
  • Offering a free trial or money-back guarantee is a good example of making a shopper feel safe and secure to graduate to the final step: purchasing.

Consumer buying behavior survey questions

  • Who makes most of the purchasing decisions in your household?
  • Do you prefer to shop online or in-store?
  • When was your most recent purchase made?

How to measure buying behavior data

A customer behavior analysis is a type of consumer research that gathers both quantitative and qualitative data points—i.e. statistical data as well as open-ended reflections on buying behavior—from respondents. This type of customer analysis identifies buyer personas and tracks the buying behavior of each persona at different stages in the customer journey.

If your business already has strong customer analytics, you can identify buyer personas before you dive into behavioral research. RFM analysis and customer lifetime value calculations are both powerful ways to find valuable market segments in your customer data. You can also work backwards, filtering your research results by behavioral data to identify demographic correlations.

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.

Complex buying behavior

Complex buying behavior requires much thought because the purchase it typically expensive. A great deal of consumer research is associated with the type of buying behavior. As a result, it’s best to appeal to any concerns that might be associated with the product or service your business offers. Gaining strategic insight into consumer usage and attitudes will help you discover what drives purchase decisions. 

Dissonance reducing buying behavior

Dissonance buying behavior involves infrequent purchases due to the need and/or available options. Such niche products can be hobby-related, or the product is the type of item that’s only needed once like a couch, a car, or recreational supplies. As a seller, you might want to appeal to offer affiliating products. For instance, if you own a lighting business, a person who bought a couch might be interested in home imporovements like a chandelier or outdoor lighting. A person who bought a car could be interested in new tires or specialty floor mats. 

Habitual buying behavior

These are the types of purchases that don’t require much thought. They’re usually recurring transactions. The familiarity of the product or even brand loyalty plays a significant factor in buying power. Habitual buying behavior is usually associated with lower-costing items like the essentials of soap, household cleaning products, and even food. 

Variety seeking behavior

This type of purchase is all about seeking something new and shiny. Variety-seeking behavior isn’t partial to brand loyalty. The stakes for the customer trying another brand are low. Appealing to variety-seeking behaviors requires a savvy and flexible marketing strategy that moves with buyers' usage and attitudes. 

Consumer buying behavior survey questions

Consumer behavior surveys tease out buying behavior—and 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?”

Examples of how to use buying behavior data

When you understand how people behave when they shop for your product, you know how to interact with buyers in the crucial period between product discovery and purchase.

If a purchase decision involves complex buying behavior, for example, you’ll probably want to focus your marketing efforts on nurturing (rather than just identifying) leads. Because complex purchase decisions often take time, it makes sense to pursue leads for a longer period rather than quickly moving on to the next lead if a buyer is slow to act.

If a purchase decision involves dissonance reducing buying behavior, reassuring leads will probably be your top priority. If your purchase seems risky to consumers, they may require some kind of “insurance,” like a free trial or a money back guarantee, to feel comfortable making a purchase. You’ll want to focus your efforts on building trust with potential customers.

If a purchase decision involves habitual buying behavior, brand loyalty is very important. Your business may want to focus on nurturing brand loyalty with existing customers if your research shows that your most valuable market segments express this type of buying behavior.

If a purchase decision involves variety seeking behavior, it’s extra important to differentiate your product and stand out from the competition. Buyers who express this type of behavior often reward businesses that take more experimental approaches to product design and marketing.

Learn buying behavior strategies

Understand what influences your customers’ buying habits so you can better appeal to their buying power. Explore our market research solutions to get the latest research on industry trends to optimize your next marketing campaign. 

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