It’s no secret that marketing is rooted in psychology. A failure to know, understand and place yourself in the shoes of your customers prevents you from acquiring new ones. It also constricts the development of relationships with your current customers. Certain intrinsic motivations unconsciously impel consumers to buy a product or service. Understanding these motivations helps you trigger consumers unconscious yearnings and create products which satiate the mass market.

Just recently I completed reading “Hooked - How to Build Habit Forming Products” by Nir Eyal. A great book full of valuable anecdotes about why we buy certain products and the psychological cues keeping us coming back for more. Last month, I discussed how as consumers we largely purchase absent rationality and conscious decision-making processes. This time I’d like to dive into how to mould these consumer behavioural patterns into a marketing strategy for your business.

Making Purchasing Habitual

Many businesses fail to recognise that their current customer base is their most valuable. Attracting new customers often costs more than retaining the ones you have. Apportioning the majority of the marketing budget to reach new customers can lead to losing current ones. To maximise your relationship with current customers, you need to make their consumption of your product or service habitual.

There’s a reason supermarkets have customer loyalty cards. This serves not only to reward customers but also keeps them returning for more as they feel valued. Weekly special offers serve to make regular shopping trips habitual. This minimises visits to competing stores as their spend is rewarded while they’re continually receiving novel reasons to return in the form of special offers.

Frequent customer engagement culminates in habitual customers. Businesses need to find ways of maintaining the relationship with their customers and regularly bringing them back. Habit keeps users loyal. Change requires cognitive effort and our minds are lazy. Our minds revert to old patterns of behaviour over time so it’s vital your business can get these behaviours to stick.

Why we buy what we buy

At the root of consumer behaviour is a desire to gain pleasure or avoid pain. Since the dawn of time, this is one of our prime motivators as human beings. Your product or service must be able to solve a consumer pain point and enhance their life. If users don’t receive value they won’t want to buy your product. Does your product save consumers time or money? What makes your business better than the competition?

Once you understand consumer pain points you must be able to put yourself in their shoes and tell their stories. These user narratives help aid consumers understanding of your product and its relevance to them. Ice cream provides pleasure and a relief from the stresses of the world. Facebook solves a communication problem helping us to stay in contact with our social network despite transient lifestyles. Understand how your business can provide pleasure and avoid pain and you’ll have loyal and spellbound customers.

Internal Purchase Triggers

In order to be driven to purchase, consumers must have the motivation, desire, and ability to buy your product or service. As much as avoiding pain and gaining pleasure provide internal motivations, other motivators also play their part. Additionally, hope and fear subconsciously govern our behaviour and the need for social acceptance. We all strive for better and achieving more whether this is financial gains, spiritual enlightenment or happiness. Obama’s use of this during his successful presidential campaign offering voters “hope” provides a great example.

Marketing and advertising agencies devote ample amounts of time attempting to convert nice to haves into must-haves. They use sex to sell as a voyeuristic promise of pleasure if you buy their product. This is particularly appealing to hormonal teenagers and young men. Buy Lynx and girls will chase you.

As humans, we’re naturally a pack animal. In ancient times we had to work together in order to fight off predators and survive. Consequently, the need for social acceptance and belonging to a group is embedded in our psyche. Advertisers use this to make us feel like social deviants if we don’t buy a certain product. They also can make us feel like we’re part of a special group e.g Apple users. Beer commercials show us images of people drinking beer with their friends highlighting that this brand brings you closer to your inner circle.

Making Consumption Easy

The user or customer experience must be as pleasant and easy as possible if you want people to buy your product. Many of the biggest companies hold an edge over SME’s due to the investment of millions in market research and understanding the psychology of customers. As a result, they make it easy for customers to do what they want. Most websites allow you log in with Facebook as it saves you the bother of creating new login details. Google has predictive results in the search engine to ease navigation.

One of my previous blogs referenced Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking fast and slow”. This book contains a plethora of information alluding to different psychological effects impacting our purchase behaviour. Scarcity effect concerns our interpretation of value. A product decreases in value if it becomes common while increases in value if it is scarce. This can be seen in my research into Ford’s rebrand where I concluded that Mustang sales declined due to over advertising a niche product to the mass market.

Other effects include the Framing Heuristic. Here our mind makes rapid judgements framed on perceptions. People conclude wine with a high price tastes better. And a nice suit must mean he’s successful. Anchoring is quite similar where our mind attaches to one small piece of information. 50%off deals and buy 1 get 1 free offers trick our minds into believing we’re getting special deals. Many online gaming apps also use the Endowment Progress Effect where we’re more likely to continue using the platform if we see a progress bar. This is in response to our brains natural wiring towards accomplishment and conclusion.

Wrapping It all up

In effect, the human mind is riddled with nuances, complications and irrationality. Understanding whats going on behind those furrowed brows will help you understand your customers better and help you attract fresh consumers. Use these psychological and marketing insights to boost your brand’s effectiveness but most importantly bring your brand closer to your customers.