Photo by Sam Lion
“When products or services are the same or similar, price is the same or similar, emotional engagement always wins!” – Steve Ferrante
It is more than just affordability that affects consumer buying behavior. The spending power of your target audience and level of affluence is a small determinant of who buys what and how much of it they buy. In addition to economic factors, there are social, psychological, cultural, and personal factors that dictate buying patterns. Some emotional drivers dictate buying patterns. We may think that it is rational thought and balanced analysis that causes us and others to make coherent buying choices. In fact, our emotions dictate most of our buying decisions. Some are conscious and some are entirely subconscious. So, how can you achieve consistent performance across sales teams? You can use interactive decision trees.
According to psychology researchers, the value that we attach to various objects and experiences is influenced by previous related occurrences. Our emotions decide our preferences and help decide consumer buying behavior. They process choices as suitable and unsuitable, based on those emotional associations. Studies using neuro-imagery demonstrate that people use experiences and personal feelings about a brand to make a buying decision rather than relying on information such as product features or attributes.
Consider for instance, how the ‘likeability’ of an advertisement influences us. We are more inclined to buy a product if we are amused, moved, or entertained by the product ad. It is not a rational decision that guides consumer buying behavior here. When you enter a store and see that product, you recall the advert. The emotions trigger, making the consumer reach for one product over another, a comparable alternative that may have similar features, price points, and even perceived value.
A positive emotional connection or attitude with a brand is a very important determinant of consumer loyalty as well. Hence, this emotional factor not only dictates how you behave when you go to a store today, but it also determines consumer buying behavior in the future. That’s because of how you feel about the brand. It is irrational, but consumers will pick one product over another simply because their favorite celebrity is endorsing a product. The alternative may be equally good and desirable in all respects. Celebrity endorsement may be the simply biggest factor that sways the choice.
Consider how fashion consciousness affects consumer buying behavior. A designer label means that some buyers are willing to pay more for a product that may be identical to or only marginally inferior to the expensive branded product. It is emotion, which dictates the obsession that so many have with designer labels. Some buyers are simply devoted to one or more designer brands. They may be convinced that it’s ‘premium quality’ (often a difficult-to-quantify concept) products that guide their choices. However, this is sometimes not borne out by the fact that when the designer label is removed, those very buyers may not be able to tell the brand from the generic.
This is of course not the case in a great many instances. The cut, quality of fabric/ raw materials, and innovative product design often set apart designer products from generic ones. In other words, cogent factors such as exclusivity, durability, and quality would be what a person pays for. However, it’s not always the case. It is the emotions of the buyer that guides consumer buying behavior.
Buyer does not always like a label because they like how the designer looks. It could be because they admire the celebrity who is frequently seen wearing that label. Another reason could be because they like shopping at that particular store. It may be as silly as liking the way the store smells or maybe a shopping experience, such as knowledgeable, helpful shop assistants! In any case, these are not rational decisions based only on product attributes but on emotional aspects as well.
A great example of the way that emotions drive consumer buying behavior is the concept of Veblen Goods and Giffen Goods. A Veblen good is one whose demand increases along with its price. It may sound contradictory to the law of demand but it is a very real phenomenon in economics. A product generally seen as being of consistently good quality has become a coveted one over time. When the price of that product is increased, it doesn’t result in demand falling. Rather, it has the opposite impact of making that product even more desirable.
The product is seen as exclusive. As a status symbol, the buyer doesn’t mind paying extra, simply to be seen and associated with that product. Conversely, Giffen goods are seen as inferior for several reasons; one of them being low price points. Consider how people queue up outside stores ahead of the launch of the brand’s flagship phone. Though that phone may be very highly-priced. It is an emotion that drives a person to reach that store early in the morning of the launch and queue. Emotional satisfaction is seen as cool and the first to have their hands on the latest, most desirable gadget.
The concept of emotional drivers impacting consumer buying behavior manifests in other ways as well. Take the emotion of trust, for instance, and apply it to pharmaceuticals. At a cerebral level, many informed buyers know that generic medications and formulations have the same ingredients, in the same proportions as many branded medications.
That informed buyer also knows that laws relating to patents and costs incurred in research and development could be the only reasons for a branded formulation having a higher price point. However, emotions could dictate consumer buying behavior here as well. A known pharmaceutical company, one listed on the stock market, with a well-known manufacturing facility is easier to trust than a lesser-known company or a formulation that goes only by a generic name and not a brand name.
One study found as many as eight emotional mindsets that determined buying behaviors. One type of emotional buyer is the one that needs validation. They base their buying choices on opinions about a product. Those could be their own opinions, those of ‘experts’, or others whom they see as knowledgeable and/or trustworthy. Then there is the Got-To-Be-First type of shopper. They buy high-end phones. The latest trends (waiting for sales is not their style) and all the cool stuff before others can even hear about it.
Decision anxiety is another emotional state that assails some buyers and impacts consumer buying behavior. Some people tend to become quite overwhelmed when they shop. They become anxious and not comforted by the fact that there is so much choice out there. Such shoppers are comforted by a scenario where they are offered help with the purchase decision process. Their questions are answered, distractions removed and their worries allayed. Quite different from the anxious shopper is the Know-it-All shopper. They fancy that they make the most informed buying choices based on extensive and in-depth research. It is their desire to be educated influencers that guides not only their buying choices but also be a guide to buying choices of others.
Does emotional driver affect buying behavior?
There are many other types of emotional mindset, but it is an ineluctable fact that emotional factors influence consumer buying behavior. Emotions such as fear, guilt, pride, greed, and love guide purchase choices. Even our insecurities, our desire to be perceived by others in a certain way, our less than admirable desire to keep up with the metaphorical Joneses, and to be seen as privileged or belonging to certain social strata. In other words, our little human frailties decide what we buy and how much of it we purchase!