Why Customers Buy?

You Can’t Sell Them All, Right?
You know your products/services better than anyone. The benefits in order of priority are clearly obvious. Your company has exceptional customer service. And, you can provide better value than all of your competitors. However, not everyone buys from you currently or likely ever will. If you’re like me, and not satisified with that statement, you will either work yourself up in a tail-spin of second guessing yourself, your business and/or your products and services, OR seek to better understand why customers buy, to explain it. The latter will likely help you either gain market share, further target your efforts or, at the very least, come to terms with your marketing strategy and limitations.

Why Customers Buy?
There are a couple of ways to answer this important question. First from a marketing perspective, there are several important factors that go into why a customer chooses to buy a product or service from you over the competition (or vice versa). According to Rhonda Abrams’ USA Today article “Strategies; Why Customers Buy From You,” (3.14.08) she cites the following as most important:

  • Awareness Certainly, a customer has to know you exist if they are even going to consider a purchase from you. Advertising and the aged old “location, location, location” are critical for increasing awareness.
  • Features and benefits Let’s not forget some of the fundamentals. Defined by Abrams “Features are the specific attributes of a product or service that distinguish it from the competition; benefits are the ways in which it improves a customer’s life or business.” Good sales people lead with features yet sell with benefits. In other words, customers are more interested in knowing “What’s in it for me?” for driving a purchase decision faster.
  • Price This doesn’t mean simply the best price or price/value ratio yet includes understanding your customers and how they react to price. Whether it’s lowest price (vs. the competition), premium pricing (for luxury products) or value pricing (getting the most for their money), knowing your customers and accommodating with the price that’s best suited could make the difference.
  • Brand and/or reputation How your company is perceived is a primary motivator for most customers’ purchase decisions. Brands are powerful motivators for customers. Abrams mentions, “Branding enhances customers’ familiarity and comfort level with your products or services. In smaller companies, especially service businesses and one-person businesses, the company’s reputation may be thought of as their brand.” Therefore building credibility with other clients you serve and/or testimonials from cache clients, can add great value in serving customers that make purchase deicisions based on brand and/or reputation.
  • Convenience Making the purchase decision as simple as possible by either saving time and allowing the customer to focus on other things is important to customers.
  • Word of mouth According to Abrams, “Personal referrals are one of the strongest motivators. This is especially true when you are selling products or services where the prospective customer can’t easily discern the difference between offerings.” In today’s social networked world, this is especially true.

Another way to answer this question is to look at the classic “buying motives.” I came across a great article on OpenLearningWorld.com that goes into great detail about this. Following are some excerpts (be sure to check out the entire piece at:

– According to W.J. Stanton: “A motive can be defined as a drive or an urge for which an individual seeks satisfaction. It becomes a buying motive when the individual seeks satisfaction through the purchase of something.”

Primary buying motives Secondary buying motives
1. Food and Drink
2. Comfort
3. To attract opposite sex
4. Welfare of beloved ones
5. Freedom from fear and danger
6. To be superior
7. Social approval
8. To live longer 1. Bargains
2. Information
3. Cleanliness
4. Efficiency
5. Convenience
6. Dependability, quality
7. Style beauty
8. Economy, profit
9. Curiosity.
Source: Melvin S. Hettwick

  • Where all of these above mentioned motives are not equally forceful, there are some, like freedom from fear and danger, desire for economy (save costs, more profits, for example), that are most important as buying motives.
  • Most human behavior is fundamentally related to instincts. Instincts make a person behave differently at different times. Therefore timing is important for marketing/advertising strategies for impacting customer behavior.
  • The individual specific behavior in the market place is affected by internal factors such as needs, motives, perception and attitudes as well as by external or environmental influences. Such as the family, social groups, cultural, economic and business influences.
  • The motives mentioned above might look familiar due to their similarity to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Specifically, buying behavior is directed towards satisfying certain basic needs. According to Maslow, an individual normally tries to satisfy the most basic needs firsts and then (s)he proceeds to the next ones. Maslow’s seven basic needs are: psychological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs, need for self actualization, desire to know and understand and, and aesthetic needs.
  • The people with whom an individual regularly associates exerts strong influences on his or her behavior. Reference groups including family and peer groups, social groups, religious or fraternal organizations, exert strong influences on an individual behavior.
  • From the marketers point of view the society (of purchasers) may be classified into five groups; Innovators, Early adopters, Early majority, Late majority, and Laggards.
  • Information regarding consumers may be of two types: (i) quantitative, and (ii) qualitative. Both types of information are required for marketing decisions.
  • Buying motives of the consumers are studied by different techniques or methods. However, no method is free from difficulties The main difficulties that came across in such studies are the following: Consumers ignorance, Consumer’s hesitation or misstatement, Difficulty in identifying the buying motives, Existence of contradictory motives, Dynamic nature of buying motives, Consumer’s personality, and Imperfect techniques.
  • The purchaser passes through five distinct stages in taking a decision for purchasing a particular commodity. These stages are: need arousal, information search, evaluation behavior, purchase decision, and post purchase feelings.
  • There are the following different roles that persons can play in a buying decision: Initiator, Influencer, Decider, Buyer, and User.

Wrap Up
Why customers buy is more complicated than most think. They do because they need to satisfy needs. Several components and factors go into each decision from the customer—including the fundamental marketing factors such as awareness, features and benefits and price, to name a few. There are different types of buyers and stages of buying. Knowing and understanding your customers is imperative in understanding why customers buy from you (or don’t).

Answering Why Customers Buy? Is not easy. However, the more you can minimize risk and better understand this for your business and product/service, the better your chances will be of getting them to buy from you.

About the Author
Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Naples, FL since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and has taught Marketing at New York University for over five years. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasiatsmartmarketingllcdotcom, visit www.smartmarketingllc.com or call 239.963.9396.

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