The Marketing Advantages in Understanding What Really Motivates Customers to Buy

Learning What Motivates Customers to BuyAs we note in our Consumer Buying Behavior tutorial, identifying the factors that most influence a consumer to make a purchase decision is likely the most difficult challenge facing marketers. Pinpointing these triggers of purchasing is made even more complicated because buyers are influenced by a wide variety of internal and external factors. One of these factors is motivation, which has to do with a certain outcome a buyer wants to achieve when making a purchase. For example, a buyer may be motivated to purchase a product she believes offers the best value for her money.

However, while understanding what motivates customers to make a purchase would seem to be an obvious goal for marketers, uncovering these motivations often becomes an arduous task. It can be especially difficult since customers may not be able to express fully what their key motivations are for choosing one product over another. For instance, customers may say they are motivated to purchase Starbucks coffee because they like the taste, but they may actually be more motivated to buy it because they subconsciously believe drinking Starbucks is the sign of someone who fully appreciates good coffee (obviously competitive coffee brands will dispute this!).

For marketers, the key point of this example is that they can better appeal to customers if they know what really impacts the purchasing decision, even if the customer cannot express what this may be. But how does a marketer know what underlying motivations may drive a purchase decision? As discussed in this story from the Harvard Business Review, getting a handle on key “emotional motivators” often takes extensive research. In particular, the research not only includes talking to customers, but it also may require the use of advanced marketing analytics to uncover the key motivators. The authors suggest that identifying and then targeting these emotional motivators with certain marketing strategies can result in significant improvement in product sales.

Unfortunately, the methods discussed here are expensive and, consequently, may have somewhat limited application to all but the largest marketing organizations. Nonetheless, the story provides useful insight into how firms use these techniques in an effort to gain a better understanding of their customers.

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