What drives a customer to make a purchase? 

It’s the question on every marketer’s mind – and the better we get at answering it, the more successful our brands will become.

But keep in mind, an initial purchase is only a starting point. In order to build a sustainable ecommerce business, it’s important to understand what will keep customers coming back to you again and again, and how to treat your different types of buyers to ensure that they’re likely to remain loyal for years to come. 

So let’s focus on the psychology of customer behavior to help us understand who’s buying your products and why – so you can use those insights to get them even more engaged with your brand.

The four types of consumer purchasing behavior

A variety of factors, including personal factors (age, sex, cultural background), social factors (income level, living conditions, family dynamics), and psychological conditions (brand perception) can drive customers to make particular purchase decisions. Some are more likely to make purchases under certain conditions than others, and so it’s important to pay attention to different customer attributes to understand their buying behavior so that you can segment your audiences effectively.

These are the four primary types of consumer behavior that help us understand when and how a customer might make a purchase:

  1. Complex buying behavior
    If a customer is going to buy a Peloton bike, they’re not going to hit “buy” seconds after seeing an ad for the first time.

    When it comes to high-end, expensive purchases that a customer doesn’t make often – an exercise bike, a new mattress, a new car, a new home – the buying journey can be long and complex, requiring ongoing engagement and education from your brand. In the case of the Peloton, for instance, the customer might spend several hours reading reviews of the bike and its other competitors; watching video workouts; asking friends about their Pelotons; and even trying out a bike at a local showroom.

    With this type of purchase, you should be prepared to offer hands-on customer support to each customer as soon as they reach out – but keep in mind that they may not engage with your sales team directly until the end of their journey, so make sure that you have plenty of marketing assets available for them to conduct their own research through the process. With this type of buyer, cost isn’t the biggest concern – they want to understand the value they’ll get out of the purchase, and it’s your brand’s job to help them understand that.

  2. Dissonance-reducing buying behavior
    We’ve written previously about cognitive dissonance in the post-purchase experience, which can often lead to returns if the customer isn’t satisfied with their choice. Before the purchase, this customer is struggling to decide which of many options to consider, and is focused on factors including cost, convenience, and features.

    To put these customers’ fears to rest, it may be helpful to provide side-by-side comparison charts with some of your closest competitors, showcasing the features that your product offers that the others don’t. It’s also very important to offer a great returns policy – these types of customers will likely never take the plunge if they don’t feel confident that they can change their minds if they’re not satisfied with their purchases. By giving them the confidence that you’ll stand behind your brand, you’re more likely to see these customers give your products a try.

  3. Habitual buying behavior
    There are some products that shoppers have a strong brand loyalty to – say, a type of shampoo, a skin cream, or a certain romance novel author.

    It’s every brand’s dream to have their products be one of these “habitual” purchases, but how do you make it happen?

    The best way to steal the crown from another brand is to make sure that you’re there at the point of need with an attractive offer. For instance, if you’re an outdoors gear brand and ski season is coming up, run a multichannel promotion with a special offer for new ski gear.

    Sometimes it can take more than a discount to win over new customers, though: Consider offering a try-before-you-buy deal, or an ultra-generous returns policy. (Allbirds, for example, allows customers to wear their shoes out in the wild for 30 days, and send them back for a full refund if they don’t love them.) By connecting with customers when they’d normally make their purchase and attracting them with a compelling offer, you may be able to get them to switch their habit, resulting in a customer loyalty windfall.

  4. Variety-seeking customer
    Some customers are the opposite of habitual – or they may be habitual for certain types of products, but not others. For instance, while a customer may be loyal to a brand of toothpaste, they may be eager to explore a wide variety of lipsticks and hair gels to try out different styles and see what they like best.

    Offering a variety of different product lines, and adding new items regularly, can help keep these customers from getting bored with your brand – especially if you use a digital loyalty program to incentivize them to keep shopping with you, rather than testing out your competitors. Keep them in the loop with regular email, in-app, or SMS updates that let them know about new products they can try out, with personalized recommendations based on their previous shopping behavior.

Optimize purchase behavior all the way through the customer journey

It’s important to understand which type(s) of purchase behavior fits your brand, and by gathering data insights about your customers, you’ll be able to segment them to predict their purchase behavior based on shared characteristics, including both demographic and behavioral data. Build customized marketing funnels for each segment that help them through the purchase journey and encourage them to remain engaged with your brand.

During this process, don’t forget about the post-purchase phase! With all four types of purchasing behavior, it’s important to provide flexible and generous returns options so that customers can have confidence in their purchases. And by building a seamless process to help customers exchange items, you’ll be able to retain more customer revenue and increase customer retention all at once. 

Want to learn how Loop can help you build customer loyalty? Contact us for a demo.