If you want to sell something better, start by understanding the customer
If you understand your customer and what motivates them to buy, you are well on the way to making a successful sale. Although buyers vary in shapes, sizes, moods, customs etc., they all buy for the same basic reason: "Because it benefits them or their company to do so".
TYPES OF CUSTOMERS
Generally, in retailing, shoppers can be categorised into the following four groups:
1. Economic Shoppers
- Most interested in prices, value, product quality & economic factors.
- Not so interested in treatment by staff, decor of the store, location etc.
2. Personalising Shoppers
- Enjoy the interaction with sales staff, preferring to shop with sales staff they know and like.
3. Ethical Shoppers
- Avoid large chain stores or companies which tend towards monopolies or deal with products which are judged unethical.
- Don't shop at big supermarkets because "they are putting the small man out of business".
- Prefer to buy food from the biodynamic/organic shop because it hasn't been treated with chemicals etc.
4. Apathetic Shoppers
- Don't like shopping, go to the most convenient supplier because they must.
What Influences the Consumer's Buying Decision?
The most obvious, and perhaps most significant influence will be the needs and wants of the consumer. Making a decision to buy is not quite as simple as just that though. Other influences on consumers can have just as much impact; and sometimes more.
During our childhood our family has a huge impact on our values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. Amongst other things, this influences our consumer behaviour. Different families have different cultures around their purchasing. Here are some examples of different families perspectives:
- Keeping up with the “Joneses”… having a desire to have everything that neighbours or friends have.
- Valuing high quality goods so they last longer.
- Purchasing popular brands to uphold an image.
- Purchasing second hand goods to preserve the environment.
- Choosing low price goods to save money.
- “Everything in moderation” – only buying what is absolutely necessary.
There are many other cultures around money that a family may develop, but hopefully this gives you an idea. If a child is brought up in a household with a particular culture, it is likely that this is the culture that the child will develop into adulthood, which will have a big impact on their spending habits.
Another aspect to consider under family influences is the role an individual plays within their family. Traditionally, the mother was responsible for food, clothes and household items, and the father was responsible for providing the money, and possibly the bigger item purchases (car, house, etc.). A child would predominantly learn about what to buy from being taken on shopping trips with their mother. However these days roles are more blurred, with the majority of couples sharing financial and domestic responsibilities.
During the purchasing process there are a number of roles that may be taken by a family member:
- Initiator – The person initiating the purchase.
- Influencer – The person that provides informs and persuades about what to buy.
- Decider – The person with the authority to make a decision by themselves.
- Buyer – The person that actually makes the purchase.
- User – The consumer of whatever is purchased.
- Gatekeeper – Usually attached to one of the other roles, the gatekeeper allows or prevents other members of the family to receive information.
We have looked at the roles the parents primarily play in the purchasing decisions, but the child as the end user can have terrific power over the decision making. Many businesses manipulate this by placing toys, treats, and so on at a child’s eye level, particularly at supermarket counters where children are waiting in line for their parents, to attract their attention so they start asking for it. Children have a lot of persuasive power over their parents to have their desire’s fulfilled. McDonalds has done an excellent job of making use of this power of persuasion by attracting to the child with their happy meals, fun characters, and playgrounds. Children’s desperately want to go there and do anything they can to persuade parents to take them there.
Parents are also influenced by wanting “the best” for their child and not depriving them of anything. So if Sue down the road has bought an iPad for her child that has educational games on it that Sue says is making her child develop great intelligence, Jane will want her child to have equal opportunities so may feel pressure to buy one for her child too.
As an extension of the family culture, an individual will also be influenced by the broader culture that they are part of. This may be the countries culture, the culture of the local community, or a particular cultural group that an individual belongs to (for example a specific religion or racial group within a larger community). A person’s culture will influence them in much the same way their family will influence them, impacting on their values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.
Social influences can also have a large impact on an individuals’ consumer behaviour. People are exposed to peer pressure as soon as they start interacting with people outside of their family group – usually at kindergarten or school. Children will see what other children have to eat, wear, play with, and so on, and want to have the same. This social influence continues to evolve. During the adolescent years, many young people want to conform closely to their peers (although this may be somewhat different to their family!), choosing particular fashion, music, and entertainment. This is also a time when many adolescents have part time jobs, so have their own income to spend and are able to make their own purchasing decisions (without have to convince their parents to buy something for them).
Social influences don’t stop in adolescent, adults continue to be influenced by their peers in work, social groups, sporting groups and so on. In general, people are motivated to conform to groups they identify with. Fashion relies on this, and is a good example when you look at trends in colours, hemlines, silhouettes as they come into fashion and out of fashion. In a social group there will often be a leader that is less motivated by conforming, and more motivated by being a trend setter. It is this person that groups will look towards to conform to.
The media has a huge influence on consumers, children and adults alike. The media shows people what celebrities, and other people of “social status” are wearing, eating, reading, driving, watching… thus inspiring in people a desire for the same. Whether or not the desire is acted upon is dependent on other variables (for example is it within your price range, are other people in your social group following the trend too, is it appropriate for you…), but nonetheless a desire is triggered.
Giving pleasure/removing pain
Many people are driven to make a purchase in order to gain pleasure, or remove pain. Marketers capitalise on this by developing campaigns that show one or the other. Looking at gaining pleasure, people desire instant gratification, and advertisers can appeal to this desire. For example, using close ups of full lips slowly eating a decadent chocolate, or a luxury car driving through a stunning countryside, or an advertisement for a man’s deodorant with lots of beautiful women hanging off the man’s arm. People are also motivated to remove pain or solve a problem that is causing them pain. For example, a piece of exercise equipment showing a muscular man using it (solving the problem and removing the pain of being overweight), a deal that gives people a great rate on their home mortgage (providing a solution to the pain of crippling mortgage costs), or a wonderful health product that alleviates headaches and back pain.