Psychological Factors That Influence Consumer Buying Behavior

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If you want your business to be successful, you must first understand what drives your targeted customers in their purchasing decisions. How do they decide which product to buy, or when? What makes them choose one company over another? To maximize your sales revenue and grow your business, it’s important to leverage the four key psychological factors that influence consumer purchasing: motivations, perceptions, experience and beliefs.

Motivation Describes the Customer's Willingness to Buy

A consumer’s motivation is the basic degree of the psychological drive behind a specific purchase. If the consumer’s motivation is high, that basically means that the level of need, or the consumer’s perception of that need, is fairly strong. Given a high degree of motivation, the individual will actively seek to satisfy that need by making that purchase.

Consumer motivation is related to the “Hierarchy of Needs" proposed by psychologist Abraham Maslow. This theory states that human beings actively seek to satisfy physical needs first, followed by safety, social, esteem and self-actualization needs, in that order. Businesses that successfully speak to these needs, and fill them, will motivate consumers to buy their products.

Perception Influences the Way a Consumer Sees the World

Perception is essentially the way a person selectively views, processes and interprets the larger world or any part of it. It’s basically how we as human beings organize and make sense of information to form some sort of worldview.

Consumers also have perceptions of themselves that may affect a particular purchase. For example, people who view themselves as having exquisite taste are willing to pay more for a specific brand or product that is perceived to be “the best.” By the same token, consumers who pride themselves on being great bargain hunters may choose a lesser-priced product, even though they might otherwise prefer the pricier option.

It’s human nature for consumers to make all kinds of associations, both conscious and subconscious, from their experiences. Once a brand has established itself as having a certain personality – for example, Walmart and other similar stores' low-cost positioning – it’s difficult to overcome that in the marketplace. The consumer perception is that products from these stores are cheap and on a subconscious level, the products are therefore lower quality.

By the same token, a diamond dealer may be quick to point out their stones come from Antwerp instead of Sierra Leone– where the stigma of "blood diamonds" prevails – in order to avoid negative consumer perceptions.

Experience Describes the Impact of Familiarity on Decision Making

Consumers are above all human beings, and all human beings are products of their experiences. We catalog each experience we have as either good or bad. Then we recall that experience and how we categorized it when a similar situation arises. These experiences influence a shopper’s behavior by changing the way the consumer reacts to products similar to those they’re familiar with. For example, many consumers choose to buy Toyota cars because they have had good experiences with their previously owned Toyota cars.

Companies that focus on the consumer experience earn repeat business from those customers. The consumer doesn’t need to look anywhere else to solve that specific problem or meet that need. Prior experience often outweighs the fact that the competition may be cheaper or even better in some cases.

Belief Describes the Consumer's Attitude Towards a Brand

A consumer’s beliefs and attitudes greatly influence the buying decisions that consumer makes. Beliefs are the way people think about a particular product or brand, while an attitude is the individual's consistently favorable or unfavorable evaluation, tendency or feeling about a product or brand.

These beliefs and attitudes shape the consumer's perception of the product. It can be tough for a business to overcome or change those beliefs and attitudes. That’s because they stem from the individual's personality and lifestyle. They’re inherently personal and connected to the consumer’s sense of self.

Consumers often block out or ignore information that conflicts with their beliefs and attitudes. They tend to selectively retain information or even distort the information to make it consistent with their previous perception of the product.

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About the Author

Annie Sisk is a freelance writer who lives in upstate New York. She holds a B.A. in Speech from Catawba College and a J.D. from USC. She has written extensively for publications and websites in the business, management and legal fields.