All entries for Monday 11 February 2013

February 11, 2013

Buying behaviour and the hunt for coffee

Day 3 with Prof Lloyd Harris in Rome and this morning we covered buying buyer. Although the concept applies to both B2C and B2B scenarios, it’s much easier to relate to the consumer thought process as we’ve all been consumers of products and services at various times in our lives.

Let’s take a highly consumed product, coffee. The first thing to consider is which type of coffee a business is offering. Are we the coffee producer? Do we make instant coffee, or another type? Who drinks our coffee? How do we attract them? This line of thinking is covered in the concept of segmentation, targeting and positioning (which you can read about shortly).

Let’s assume the role of the consumer. We like coffee, or we like to have coffee in our houses to give to guests when they visit. Coffee is a social drink, so we are likely to associate it with good times, positive experiences, and happy memories. We think of friends or colleagues, and also consider their feedback on whether they enjoyed it, despised it or were impartial to the different types of coffee they have consumed. Our buying behaviour is immediately affected by experiences and the thoughts of various influencers in our social circle.

Apart from social influences, the buyer is also affected by a range of cultural influences (is coffee drinking a norm, or do we usually drink tea?), personal influences (do I prefer instant or pod coffee?) and psychological influences (perhaps a belief that caffeine is not good for you).

These factors then affect every stage in the buying decision making process. Usually, this decision making process starts with identifying a need. We have run out of coffee. We need to get some. An information search may be required in some scenarios where high (or low) value items are being purchased but this may not always be required. We may be so accustomed to buying a regular brand or product that we don’t need to search for information about the various options available. Then again, a promotional advert in the local newspaper may surprise you with a 50% discount promotion, which completely affects your loyalty to your preferred brand.

Once the alternatives have been considered we may already be in-store and standing in the coffee aisle. The purchase decision (which should at this stage be easy) could be further affected by stock availability, price, shelf attractiveness, product (or label) attractiveness, new products, in-store promoters (humans trying to get you to taste a sample), combination promotions where competitions could be entered or other goodies could be obtained for free, or some random occurrence that sways our confidence. Hopefully, you end up buying something and, ideally, it's a jar of instant coffee as you initially intended!

This may seem like a common sense or simple process, but it's actually a very complex thought process that we digest very rapidly, often subconciously. The interesting concept is that this same purchase could consist of a fresh set of steps and decisions the next time you need to buy it.

The level of complexity involved in buying could then be expanded to scenarios where the decision making process and factors are much more evident, such as buying houses, cars, airline travel, holidays and other more high cost items.

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