Buyer Motivation

SHORT READ: Buyer motivation is the driving force influencing a purchase, but few brands understand what motivates their customers. The more you understand why consumers want something, the better you can position your brand to solve their problems.

For some products, people don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons. But for others, they buy simply because there is no real difference between brands except the price. This is one reason why private label sales have been increasing so rapidly.

To be a successful brand, you need a basic understanding of why your customers became customers and why prospects purchase competing brands. Keep in mind that buyer motivation varies widely between product categories. Motivation, for example, to buy pasta is completely different than motivation to buy coffee.

When I consult with CPG brands, I am often surprised at how little they really know about their customers beyond demographics. Psychographics are too often overlooked because it means that you might have to microsegment your audience.

The other issue I often run into is the insane overuse of research that confuses their positioning. There isn’t much decision making that goes into some product purchases. If you want ice cream, you might buy Haagen Dazs simply because it tastes great.

A great example of losing positioning is Coke. People are turning off of soda brands and replacing them with sparkling water because the media keeps telling us how bad soda is for us. I bet, however, that Coke spends a ton of money of market research to tell them what they should already know.

Buyer motivation can also be greatly affected by shelf location. A gourmet chocolate bar company was having trouble selling products at Target and Wal*Mart. We found that the product was placed on a lower shelf and hidden in some cases and that the positioning as “health chocolate” because of high cocoa content didn’t resonate with people in the candy aisle.

We decided to experiment with placement. We placed the product at the front of the store by the registers with a header that talked about high cocoa health benefits. Almost immediately sales popped and increased over 250%.

Now they have products in health food stores, including Whole Foods, and have decided to pull out some mass-market retailers. The volume did go down slightly, but their profitability increased, and sell through is excellent. The buyer even sent us an email saying how pleased she was with the product movement.

In the case above, giving people a rationale to eat chocolate was a winner. But we knew, without spending a fortune on research, what would be successful. As the President of the company said, “I know what my customers want.”

I also believe that some brands don’t believe that buyer motivation is more about the price. They believe in non-existent brand equity when the product category is over branded.

Rather than research with prospects, I prefer to listen more to existing customers. I want to know why they became customers and why they stay customers. The days of ever-expanding market share are be becoming dated. Today you need to understand your existing customers to keep them happy. That can lead to smaller unit sales but higher profitability, especially when supply lines are becoming foggier.

Everyone on your brand team should know WHO your customers are. Where do they shop? Where do they go online for news? Where do they live, and how do they feel about social issues? Brands can’t ignore these customer traits anymore.

Buyer Motivation