Why do people buy? – Part 1

Image result for reasons of buying what you buy

Marketers spend millions of dollars trying to understand why people buy products and services. Just like them, I have been also trying to better understand the drivers of why people buy what they buy. Sometimes it seems that there is no reason for a purchase, a whim or a fancy. It may seem like a spontaneous one but in reality there is always a reason. There are many factors are involved in a customers’ buying decision, any one of which can serve as the tipping point to spur a purchase. Took a pot shot at trying to list as many that comes to mind, so here goes my stab at it:

  1. “I want to be part of the team!”
    People want to feel accepted and loved by their peers and they need to consume products that will appeal to their chosen groups. For example I bought a bike and a special jersey to feel part of my cycling group.
  2. “I want to part of the in crowd.”
    A desire to buy something everybody else is buying; preference for buying increases with perceived popularity.
  3. “It makes my life better.”
    Products are consumed to enhance their well being, for example air fresheners, furniture and convection ovens.
  4. “I’ve made it”
    Lavish spending for the purpose of displaying wealth or social status; preference for buying increases with price.
  5. “I am special”
    Desire to buy something nobody else has; preference for buying increases with rarity or scarcity.
  6. “Makes sense and solves my problem”
    Purchasing products based on researched reports. Perceived popularity.
  7. “I feel it”
    Purchasing products based on feelings
  8. “Fills a need”
    To enhance their lifestyle or to fulfill two of Maslow’s needs: physiological (food, shelter) and Safety and Security.
  9. “I will survive”
    Consumers purchase products because they need them to survive, such as shoes and medicine.
  10. “Just don’t ask me”
    No specific reasons provided.

Some people refer to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for reasons of purchase that we need to have a need fulfilled. So I have decided to be more scientific in the approach. I am attaching the familiar pyramid below for reference.

maslow's hierarchy of needs five stage pyramide

So based on the pyramid, the forces that drive us to purchase are:

  1. Convenience – You need something now and will take the easiest or fastest path to get it. Think about the last time you were running out of gas, or were thirsty and found the nearest beverage of choice. This could also be choosing the safe vendor (no one ever gets fired for hiring IBM), purchasing something to increase comfort or efficiency.
  2. Scarcity – This could be around collectibles or a perceived need that something may run out or have limited availability in the future. Additionally, there’s a hope to gain a return on investment, such as collectible or antiques; anything that accrues value over time.
  3. Basic Needs – We buy things to fulfill what Maslow describes as the bottom of his hierarchy; things like food and shelter.
  4. Prestige or Aspirational purchase – Something is purchased for an esteem-related reason or for personal enrichment.
  5. Replacement – Sometimes you buy because you need to replace old things you have (e.g., clothes that don’t fit or are out-of-date). This could be moving from a VCR to a DVD player.
  6. Scarcity – This could be around collectibles or a perceived need that something may run out or have limited availability in the future. Additionally, there’s a hope to gain a return on investment, such as collectible or antiques; anything that accrues value over time.
  7. Emotional Vacuum – Sometimes you just buy to try to replace things you cannot have and never will. Refer to the pic above.
  8. Lower prices – Something you identified earlier as a want is now a lower price than before. Maybe you were browsing for a particular large screen TV and you saw a great summer special.
  9. Fad or Innovation – Everybody wants the latest and greatest. (iPhone mania.) This could also be when someone mimics their favorite celebrity.
  10. Great Value – When the perceived value substantially exceeds the price of a product or service. This is something you don’t particularly need, you just feel it’s too good a deal to pass up. (Like the stuff they place near the end caps or checkout counters of stores.)
  11. Name Recognition – When purchasing a category you’re unfamiliar with, branding plays a big role. Maybe you had to buy diapers for a family member and you reach for Pampers because of you’re familiarity with the brand, even though you don’t have children yourself.
  12. Compulsory Purchase – Some external force, like school books, uniforms, or something your boss asked you to do, makes it mandatory. This often happens in emergencies, such as when you need a plumber.
  13. Ego Stroking – Sometimes you make a purchase to impress/attract the opposite sex; to have something bigger/better than others, friends, etc. To look like an expert/aficionado; to meet a standard of social status, often exceeding what’s realistically affordable to make it at least seem like you operate at a higher level.
  14. The “I Feel Good” Effect – People feel better about themselves by feeling as though they’re giving to others, almost especially when they’re promised something in return. Purchasing things they don’t need–or wouldn’t normally purchase–because it will help another person or make the world a better place incrementally is essential certain buying decision.
  15. Niche Identity – Something that helps bond you to a cultural, religious or community affiliation.
  16. Peer Pressure – Something is purchased because your friends want you to. You may need to think back to your teen years to think of an example.
  17. Guilt – This happens when somebody–usually an acquaintance, or someone rarely gift-worthy–buys you a gift or does something exceptionally nice and/or unnecessary. Now it’s your turn to return the favor at the next opportunity. Examples:
  18. Event – When the social requirement of an event (e.g., wedding, etc.) dictates buying something or another.
  19. Holiday – Whoopee.
  20. Empathy – Sometimes people buy from other people because they listened and cared about them even if they had the lesser value alternative.
  21. Addiction – I can relate to this one!

So there you go. Comparing my off the cuff list to the more scientific one, I didn’t do that badly. Notice that the needs described above are either relational or transactional which influences in a big way how you would sell and communicate the offering. Now think about your last five purchases and see what needs drove you to do so. The theory is that should there be a frequent purchase reason, then we know what type of shopper you are!

This topic is going to be a two parter where in the next post, I will discuss more about the stages of grief in a wrong purchase. Stay tuned.

Check out part 2 here.

Or go over to my blog for more posts at www.abetterman.xyz

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