Tangible has been researching consumer buying behaviour and motivations for over 15 years. Underlying all of the shopper ethnography, segmentation studies and needs analyses are 3 simple principles of consumer behaviour: Satisficing, Risk Avoidance and Optimising. We think they are worth understanding so we are sharing them with you here.

1. Keep Going

Carry on doing the same thing – it is working, everyone seems happy, there is no need to change.

Some would label this as consumer inertia, but we recognise it as a characteristic of consumers called “satisficers”: if something is good enough to meet their needs there is no need to look for other brands. It may also appear as loyalty, and in some cases, it is as deep as that. However, it is most probably a passive acceptance; i.e. potential alternatives are not likely to be worth pursuing over what is already doing an acceptable job.

Most likely to say: “That’s that done, now I can get on with something else”, or “that’ll do nicely”.

These are the core buyers of your brand and, although they appear undemanding, must be served well to reinforce their behaviour, retaining them in the medium term. If these people start to doubt your brand, that’s a sign of trouble!

2. Better the Devil You Know

Stick with the same old thing, even though the alternatives look good on face value.

These are “risk avoiders” who prefer to stick with familiar and known experiences rather than trying something different in case it fails to deliver. For them, the risk outweighs the potential gain so they avoid change and stick with their existing brand, product or service. This is often a reluctant, slightly grudging and unrewarding association though.

Most likely to say: “Better not, there’s probably a catch in the small print somewhere”, or “after you”

This group are the true exemplars of inertia behaviour, but they aren’t as bonded to the brands they buy as their buying statistics might suggest. They are prone to transferring allegiance to alternative offerings if they are reassured by great service, value for money promises and pain-free experience. They are also very likely to base decisions on recommendations and take great reassurance from following the crowd. If there is a lot of this type of buyer in your customer base it represents a significant vulnerability to your business. However, If your competitors have a lot of them, they are another source of potential growth.

3. A Change for the Better

Look for something new to replace the current or previous brand, in the hope or expectation that it is better.

This might be described as innovation or adventure seeking, but in most cases is more likely to be based on a consumer trait to always seek something better to maximise the experience or return. We call these consumers “optimisers”. This motivation leads to unconscious disloyalty, to portfolio or repertoire buying and the consumer gaining satisfaction from the act of choosing between potential offerings.

Most likely to say: “This is good, but I wonder if there is something better if I keep looking”, or “what else have you got?”

These are switchers and could buy in or out of your brand. They are key to maintaining or increasing penetration and are the primary source of growth. The challenge is to keep them engaged with your brand by demonstrating value and benefits over competitors.

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about the motivations behind consumer buying behaviour in your market.