For decades, marketers have been told that customers buy products based on their emotions and then rationalize their purchases with logic. This adage may still be true in the Internet Age, but some modifications need to be made to it. With the advances of online search engines and social media, customers are now exposed to a deluge of information about different brands and products. They are also more aware of the marketing tactics that companies and brands often use to get them to buy those products. What’s more, they know that marketers try to speak to their emotions and are often cautious to avoid being manipulated. Based on recent marketing research, emotions still play a huge role in customers’ purchasing decisions, but so do data, information, and logic. Here’s how your customers really make their purchasing decisions in an era when they have a multitude of options and information at their fingertips.
As mentioned above, the fact that customers make purchasing decisions based on emotions is no secret to marketers. Indeed, there are more than 300 emotional motivators that can inspire customers to buy, including wanting to “stand out from the crowd,” “feel a sense of freedom,” and “feel secure.” Marketing experts have discovered how complex it is to identify and measure emotional motivators. In fact, customers themselves are not always aware of what motivates them to buy, regardless of what they claim their motivations are.
Most importantly, emotional connections with products vary by industry, brand, and product category; across customer segments; and based on a customer’s position in the decision-making journey.
Marketers are now exploring the neuroscience behind what influences customers’ buying behavior and have discovered that more than 90 percent of purchasing decisions are not made consciously. On a subconscious level, people tend to want the same things and will imitate other individuals and behavior to “fit in” socially. For instance, when customers see a celebrity or friends wearing a pair of designer jeans, and those jeans are displayed in stores they frequent, they will want to imitate this behavior and buy those jeans too. This subconscious behavior involves “mirror neurons” that act in cooperation with dopamine, releasing a sense of pleasure in customers’ brains when they purchase something while mimicking the behavior of others.
Another way customers make purchasing decisions is through their senses. This is why free samples are always effective: if you want someone to buy a pastry, let him or her taste a bite of it first. Scents trigger memories and emotional responses. Travel agents trying to sell customers on tropical vacation packages could burn coconut-scented candles in their office, triggering the positive memories associated with being on vacation via a customer’s nose.
Sounds are also important to customers when making purchasing decisions. Wine stores that play classical music in the background will likely sell more French champagne than those that play pop music. Brands that have a logo and marketing materials that are consistent and visually appealing will also be easier for customers to recognize and remember over the long term. For example, everyone knows the roaring lion of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Studios at the beginning of its movies.
You know the saying, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” This applies to how customers make their purchasing decisions too. If customers learn what to expect from a brand they already use and begin to identify with that brand, then they will continue to remain loyal to the brand out of a sense of habit and convenience.
There’s a reason why Mac users don’t usually switch to a PC. It’s too challenging to get used to a new operating system and its intricacies when they’re already so accustomed to what they’ve been using for so long.
When influencing customers to buy a product, brand reputation is more important than ever before. Customers have immediate access to reviews of products and services online. They pay attention to what their online social networks are saying about different brands, and they’re more likely to trust the opinion of members of their networks than a brand’s online ad campaigns. Typically, customers will ask their social networks for recommendations in the initial stages of research when searching for products or services, even before they conduct an online search.