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Part 1: The Psychology Behind Consumer Decision Making - Intelliverse - Blog

Part 1: The Psychology Behind Consumer Decision Making

Consumers now have easy access to extensive amounts of information to inform their buying decisions. Once a consumer has become a prospect, a marketer’s goal is to assist them through the sales cycle so the prospect can actually make the decision to purchase the product or service.

Traditionally, many companies envisioned consumers as price-sensitive and therefore would focus their marketing and sales strategies mostly on prices. However, consumers are much smarter and more complex now more than ever, and consequently, companies have had to transform their marketing efforts to meet the ever-changing consumer trends. Today, so many factors affect the buying process that it is nothing short of overwhelming. To better understand consumers, it is important for companies to take into account the psychology behind the consumer decision-making process to architect more effective lead management and sales acceleration strategies.

Theories of Choice

Standard economic theory is based on the assumptions that individuals make prudent and logical decisions that provide them with the greatest benefit or satisfaction, or decisions that are in their highest self-interest. Sometimes this is referred to as rational choice theory. [investopedia] This approach generally involves creating an incentive structure to influence consumer decisions and choices.

However, consumers often make choices and decisions that are not necessarily rational, but may be influenced by cognitive bias, the order of product presentation, the framing of incentives, default options, fatigue and many other variables. This approach is often referred to as behavioral economics. [beworks]

Too Much Information

Many companies approach prospects with a strategy of “more is better,” increasing their messaging with the hope that the influx of information and the frequency of interaction will convert the prospect into a customer, or to solidify customer retention. This strategy may be ill conceived, because it creates so much noise that consumers are driven away rather than drawn toward a company’s products or services. [hbr]

Decision Fatigue

John Tierney reported in the New York Times on “Decision Fatigue” which he describes as the mental exhaustion from making decisions and processing choices. Decision fatigue can wear people down, causing them to make impulsive decisions without carefully thinking through consequences, or it can cause them to do nothing due to the energy needed to weigh options.

In his article, Tierney cited an experiment where customers at a German car dealership had to chose from a myriad of car options for the sedans they were purchasing. The customers would carefully weigh choices at the beginning, but when they became fatigued from making decisions, they would settle for the default options – the path of least resistance. The researchers found that if they adjusted the order so that difficult option categories were presented early in the process, the customers then settled for different choices as fatigue set in. When they presented the options in this different order, the customers ended up paying more for expensive cars.

Simplicity for “Stickiness”

A 2012 Harvard Business Review article studied what makes consumers “sticky” or how likely a prospect was to follow through with a purchase, to buy the product again and recommend the product to others. The study was based on extensive surveys and interviews and found that the single biggest factor influencing consumer stickiness was, by far, “decision simplicity”—the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options.

The easier a prospect can move through the process to a purchase decision for a brand, the higher its decision-simplicity score. Comparing brands with scores in the top quarter and those in the bottom quarter, consumers were 86% more likely to purchase brands they were considering, 9% more likely to repurchase those brands and 115% more likely recommend those brands to others.

In today’s environment with consumers having access to, and being inundated with so much information, it is crucial for a seller to effectively nurture leads in three fundamental ways: (1) by aiding navigation; (2) by building trust; and (3) by simplifying options. Sales acceleration data science and analytics allow a seller to determine where the customer is in the sales cycle and what information the customer needs most to help in the purchase decision. The seller can then maintain consistent contact, with appropriate content, with appropriate frequency and at appropriate times.


Publish Date: August 4, 2015 5:00 AM

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