How a Customer Thinks Before Buying


    Hierarchy of Needs

    The experts have narrowed down the qualities and characteristics that make a customer think through their purchasing decisions and say it is a magic number 30. This comes at the cost of years of research, study, questionnaires and rel-time study of what goes on inside the customers head before they buy. Ultimately the marketing professionals say it all has to do with the thing most have studied when in college called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy is four elements, one built upon the other. From bottom to top rank: functional, emotional, life-changing, and social impact. Some products use from 1 to 4 of these levels of the hierarchy. For example, if a person is grocery shopping they will consider many types of qualities of the thing to be purchased. Not necessarily in this order.

    Quality: Functional

    The person knows different brands of quality cost more than the other because the brand speaks for itself. The quality of the brand is undeniable. Whereas, the competitive brand, which is unknown, is much cheaper. Having tried it once, the customer checks off the checkbox and decides they will choose A brand over B (cheaper) or C (cheaper even than B brand). Plus, the customer sees the colorful POP displays that are right there in the aisle and decides to take advantage of the offers on a new merchandising effort. The customer decides to spend a few pennies, nickels, even quarters more for A brand corn rather than B or C brand corn.

    Variety: Functional

    Functional needs are often referred to as physiological needs since they are the most basic needs for each of us. They are grounded in the need for human survival: food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, sleep. The customer walks along the grocery aisle and they see an assortment or variety of the same product. They need to decide, but since the person is shopping for a special need—a special guest will be joining the family for a meal—rather than think of the item just for a functional purpose, the buyer also is considering the element of the social impact of their purchase. In other words, how others will respect them for their purchase of quality products. It may also be for a need to feel they want to give a certain experience to their guest.

    Reduce Cost: Functional

    With all things being equal, if the person is shopping for the purpose of thrift and not the quality, they may choose a less expensive brand over a more expensive brand. On the other hand, if they have the extra money and prefer the higher quality brand, then they may forego the less expensive for the higher-priced item. Though both of the values are considered functional, they have a big impact on the needs of the person making a simple decision for a grocery item. Lastly, if it is a parent purchasing for her children and one child prefers one brand over the other, the parent may purchase that item for the child who prefers it for the sake of creating trust in the child. This is another part of the process called life-changing.

    Saves time: Functional

    So the parent has purchased several items so far, but this brand has two kinds of tops. One top is a simple pull top and the other requires a can opener. The pull top will allow the shopper more time to tend to other things rather than have to use the can opener, so the customer chooses the can with the pull top. Even better, this other brand has the product in a simple pull tab plastic top and not in the hefty can and clunky lid. Each of these products has some element of saving time for the customer and its effects on how the customer processes their decision to purchase.

    Rewards me: Emotional

    The emotional needs being met are also a level up from the functional level and are sometimes called safety needs. For example, stability from fear or harm. For example, when the customer sees two types of canned goods and one offers an incentive to save 35 cents on their next purchase, and the next can over doesn’t have an incentive. The customer sees the small reward as worth the purchase since they were already going to purchase the more expensive brand with the incentive, so it solidifies the feeling of reward the brand extends to the customer for their loyalty to the brand. The customer may even sense a great feeling of a reward this day because the local store where they shop are offering two cans at a reduced price, plus they will receive the incentive for each can.

    Yes, many decisions are being made when we make a purchase at the store, even just for small items. It is interesting how the thought process works and what motivates us to buy.


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