Consumers look for their own reason to buy
Traditionally, marketers create and offer an attractive, often seductive ‘reason to buy’ and use a variety of channels to make sure that the voice of their brand is presented to, and noticed by, customers on their journey to the Point of Sale (POS) or the shelf. If all goes well (from a marketer’s point of view), customers would choose the advertised product at the POS or off the shelf. In 2011, the average shopper used 10.7 sources of information before buying – says Jim Lecinski, Google’s Managing Director, US Sales & Service. This means that additional processes have inserted themselves between the brand message – and the point of purchase. In a freely available eBook, Lecinski coined the term “Zero Moment Of Truth”, or ZMOT, to describe this emerging phenomenon.
Customers are now able to learn much more about the product (specifications, vendors, prices, accessibility and availability, suitability and so on) before they actually commit to buying it. In addition, says John Ross, CEO, Shopper Sciences – an increasingly important aspect of the decision to purchase is customers’ desire to learn. Shoppers say “I want to be smarter, make better choices while also saving some money”, says Ross.
Saatchi & Saatchi X have recently conducted a study to understand the emotional benefits that drive and influence shopping behaviour, says CEO Dina Howell. They found that “[s]hoppers today want to explore and think about how products can improve their lives. They do reconnaissance to gain the insights they need, and they’re driven to bond with others and enrich relationships as they learn. They are motivated by a desire to take charge of their own identities and the well-being of their families and homes.”
While almost all product research begins with search, customers indicated that they use more that 10 sources of information before buying.
Multi-channel information resources used
64% of the UK population have researched products or services online within the last 3 months. 78% of consumers used two or more channels and 30% of consumers used three or more channels to browse, research and make purchases.
The data is not limited to online shoppers only – nearly 45% of European Internet users say that in the past three months they have researched a product online and then bought it in a shop. By 2014, 53% of total retail sales (online and offline) will be affected by the Web, as consumers increasingly use the Internet to research products before purchasing.
Facebook, blogs, Twitter and customer reviews are considered the most effective tactics for mobilising consumers to talk up products online.
Customers use websites to…
• Find and read consumer reviews (which, according to the study, are nearly 12 times more trusted than descriptions provided by manufacturers).
• Check for availability of product ratings and for user-generated or consumer product reviews;
• Find the best price and compare brands.
Customers use social networks to…
• Recommend companies and/or products (Twitter)
• Announce their intention to buy the product (Twitter)
• Find information about products and companies (Facebook)
• Make purchase decisions about various categories of products and services
• Receive advice relating to a product purchase from friends and followers
Customers who used email …
• Felt that email newsletter advertising increased their disposition to buy
• Thought that, when email offered a good value proposition, they forwarded good newsletter promotional offers and product reviews on to friends
• Talked directly to other customers through email
• Read information in an email received from a brand/manufacturer
• Watched a video shared through email
• Read information in an email received from a brand/manufacturer or a retailer/store (PDF).
The various stages of the purchase process
In his book “The Psychology of Marketing: Cross-Cultural Perspectives” Gerhard Raab lists four stages that underline the purchase process –
• Unfulfilled needs and desires (“I need this product” or “I want this product”)
• Increased tension (“why should I buy this product?”) and corresponding drives (“I do have a reason to buy this product”!)
• Learning processes (“I’d like to know more about this – and other available, similar products”) resulting in completing cognitive processes (“now I know this product really well!”).
• Lastly- the goal or needs are fulfilled and the tension is reduced
Naturally, customers need an external reference system in each and every stage of their shopping journey.
In “Consumer psychology for marketing, Volume 1” the authors argue that customers consider decisions about brand choices “up to the moment of purchase”.
As customers straddle channels in their search for the first buy, marketers have ample opportunities to find touch points where customers can be reached and offered relevant brand information.