In the last few days I’ve been interested in the analysis of how, when and why people purchase products and services. What really affects shopping behavior and what pushes people to make buying decisions in certain categories and subcategories of products? Today there’s a new subject which is called Neuroshopping which has the aim to study shopping behavior at a higher level. Shopping Theories are today fundamental for managers and academics in order to analyze demand of goods and services. Usually consumers rely on business reputation that makes them feel safe about getting a great product or service under the qualitative point of view. Quality is a must today for all kinds of organizations, big or small.
So, my analysis starts from the question “Why people buy something?”. The first important factor which should be taken into consideration is information seeking process. For all kinds of consumers, information is the starting point of their orientation toward a specific category of products. Actually, when people get information about products and services, they create in their own minds perceptions of all kinds. Then, the next step is “evaluation of offerings”. That means “How many products and which products am I going to analyze and take into consideration in the decision process?”
We can then notice how much the psychological factors are very important for our shopping behavior analysis. The psychological involvement may vary from category to category – we may take into consideration high-involvement categories and low-involvement categories under the psychological point of view. Commodities are of course low-involvement categories for the simple reason that consumers do not have to think pretty much about buying or not buying a commodity and no big amount of information is necessary for the consumer’s decision process. When we analyze low-involvement products under the psychological point of view, the buying process is very much simplified. On the other hand, for high-involvement products consumers feel a great amount of risk related to the buying process and they try to get the best information possible about the organization which creates the product and about the product itself.
Buying motivation, information seeking and then evaluation of the best alternatives are three main processes that lead the consumer’s perception of making the right choice. There are some people who can be defined as “functional buyers/consumers” and they’re those who buy something for the simple reason that they need it in order to get a functional benefit from its usage. On the other hand we may find “symbolic-emotional buyers/consumers” who go out for shopping for the simple reason that they have the social and psychological need of buying something.
These are the main needs people want to purchase products and services:
- Identity need: which kind of status am I going to get and cover within the society thanks to the usage of this product? What is the main reason why I am buying this particular product? How will people identify me and how will they consider me as member of a particular social group?
- Affiliation need: seeking social contacts, being an exclusive customer of a certain store/selling point
- Affirmation need: getting a superiority status in comparison with the sales staff and trying to optimize my choice
- Getting-out-of-monotony need: many people usually need to get out of monotony and routine and that’s their major reason for purchasing new products and services
At the same time there are some consumers who are the so called “recreative shoppers” who want to go out for shopping just because they want to try something different and have fun through shopping. Functional consumers are mostly men of all ages who need something and just go to buy it.
We may analyze consumers thanks to the usage of demographic and socio-economic variables such as age, family, income, job title, location, level of education, life-style and so on. Getting information about consumers is today very simple thanks to fidelity cards and new tools which can give companies the possibility to track immediately new target-audiences and get new customers for new promotions. One of the most important variables while talking about buying processes is information cost. Information cost may vary a lot from individual to individual. Usually consumers analyze all attributes of the product they’re intended to buy and then try to get all kinds of information about the specific products.
When the consumer goes out for shopping and buys new products he immediately does two things: he buys the product he wanted to buy and gets new information about new products which are exposed in-store. We can talk about pre-purchase search and ongoing search. Pre-purchase search is taken into consideration in order to achieve specific objectives and is strictly related to the specific buying process of a certain product or service. While the ongoing search represents a continuous process of getting new information which can take place even if the consumer is not willing to buy a product in-store. Especially when we talk about low-involvement products, price is the major asset that is taken into consideration by the consumer. When we talk about high-involvement products price is not the major asset, while quality is the major one. Consumers seem to seek quality in every purchasing process and explicit their need to get the best alternative they can find in the marketplace.
Shopping behavior analysis can also be studied through the observation of traffic flows and the kind of atmosphere that is provided in-store. These kinds of tools are the so-called in-store marketing tools. Merchandising is the major responsible for delivering the best level of information ever possible about products and services which must be sold and increase the customer satisfaction. Crowded stores are not the best preferred once by consumers. Usually displays should contain the right information about the right products and every possible mistake is a negative asset for the company. Products combination within displays is very important. The display itself has become a major communication asset over the years and the organization can use it for its informational aims.
Does the store provide the brand I need to buy in-store? That’s another fundamental question category managers should ask themselves. Not having a specific product which is highly required by consumers is a big problem for the distribution and that should never happen – as an effect of that, consumers may activate a negative chain of word-of-mouth negative comments and negative posts on the internet which can persuade negatively other customers. Usually consumers buy branded products for the simple reason that they can so reduce the amount of risk perception in their minds. Risk perception is the main reason for purchasing top-branded products and services. “I buy your brand because it gives me safety during the buying process. Your brand provides high-quality items and that’s why I’m going to purchase them”.
Is that last statement correct? Well, probably most of you buy branded items in order to reduce the risk perception during the buying process, that’s something marketers and brand managers studied over the years and it can be considered an important statement.
Shopping behavior analysis is a very complex topic which can be analyzed taking into consideration the big variety of categories we have in the marketplace. Information seeking seems to be a very important process for consumers. Store image is also important. The main question organizations should give an answer is “Is my store going to be visited by potential customers? Am I going to deliver branded products that consumers expect to find in the displays?”
In-store shopping behavior analysis is also very important. How is the customer going to react to the atmosphere of the overall store? Qualitative research seems to be the best tool in order to get better and worthy results and tracking customers’ journey. Data Analysis and statistical tools can make a big difference in Shopping Behavior Analysis… quality, displays and information delivery are a must-have for today’s organizations.