Why Do People Buy: Understanding the Buyer’s Motivation

why do people buy
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Why do people buy? It’s the question every marketer tries to answer before creating an e-commerce strategy.

When customers visit your store looking for something, what’s the magic factor that pushes them to ‘add to cart’?

There are actually many reasons why a customer wants to spend money, the question is whether they’ll spend it on your site if you do something to motivate a purchase decision.

So what can you do to uncover these buyer motivation secrets?

Why is it necessary to understand why people buy?

In this guide, we’ll look at what buyer motivation is and how you can define an e-commerce experience optimized for conversions.

Why Does Buyer’s Motivation Matter

When businesses connect to their customers’ on a deeper, emotional level, the pay-off can be that they return to your website to purchase something again and again. 

Most people buy a product or service to satisfy their needs, whether it’s for avoiding pain or seeking pleasure.

While these are really basic explanations, it defines the two greatest reasons that buyers determine purchase decisions.

These factors apply to anyone taking on any project or trying to answer any challenge in life.

As a marketer, your goal is to find the answer to prospects’ problems and determine what pleasure they seek to gain or what pain they seek to avoid. 

So, before you create a strategy, you’ll need to create buyer personas and think about what products or services help them satisfy their needs or get through major challenges in their life.

Understanding the Buyer’s Journey

It’s also essential that brands look at what stage a customer is in when they start considering your product or service.

You can nurture a customer towards a purchase decision just by understanding their buyer’s journey and what they are looking for. 

All stages of the buyer’s journey shows insights into what factors lead to their purchase decision.

buyer's journey infographic

There are typically six different stages in the customer’s journey to consider:

  1. Awareness: This is the first time a potential customer hears about your product or service.
  2. Interest: Now the customer is interested in your brand and what you offer.
  3. Consideration: In this step, customers start to evaluate and research your products to ensure they match what they’re lookin for.
  4. Purchase: Now the customer commits to buying your offer.
  5. Post-Purchase: The customer determines if your product or service helped with their need or pain point. They may decide that it does and need something else related to your products.
  6. Re-Purchase: Now the customer is interested in buying more from your store.

Thus, buyer’s motivation continues, and they may purchase something else if the purchase process satisfied what they wanted. 

Different Classes of Buyer Motivation

There are also different behaviors associated with different buyers and what they’re looking for.

Product Buyer Motivation

When a customer is looking for reasons to buy something, they need to research the product’s effectiveness.

How do other customers like the product?

Then, they’ll look at the product’s specifications, such as size and color. They may also have a greater psychological attraction, such as social perceptions related to owning that product. 

Patronage Buyer Motivation

This is a collection of all the reasons and considerations that motivate a buyer to purchase a product from a specific brand.

Brand preferences also are a huge factor in product purchases.

One brand may have a better track record when it comes to quality or durability. 

13 Reasons Why People Decide to Buy

Some buyers are motivated by their emotions, while others are driven by careful consideration and reasoning. They may look more at the reliability or safety of a product.

Price and selection also matter to why customers purchase one product over another.

However, emotional response decisions are not carefully planned or logically considered, and so these purchases may be made impulsively based on recommendations from friends.

Ultimately, people buy emotionally and justify logically. They don’t buy products or services – they buy solutions to problems.

1. Desire to Gain Something

The number one motive for a purchase decision is that they want to own something that helps in their lives in some way.

There is a direct gain to purchasing the product or service.

In some cases, it’s a direct investment that will lead to more money, such as a buying stocks. For other purchases, it’s an indirect financial gain. 

2. Security or Protection

Many people wnat to feel secure and safe in their homes, cars, or in the workplace. They may buy safety locks to guard their positions or invest in other security measures to prevent burglary.

It’s a huge motivation for any buyer.

For example, the US Department of Defense spends over $57 million per hour to protect the US.

3. Fear

While it’s not the most ethical way to market a product, people often buy things to prevent their fears from becoming a reality.

For example, one myth is that Listerine invented the problem of chronic bad breath in order to sell a product that prevents it.

TV infomercials thrive on showing a problem and fear of a bad result in order to sell a product that fixes it. 

4. Need for Adventure

You know those people who set outside their weekends for hunting trips, fishing, hiking, skydiving, or a getaway to the mountains?

These individuals thrive on seeking adventure, which includes buying equipment and gadgets that will help them achieve those goals.

the need for adventure might be another motivation to buy

In addition, hobbyists may conduct considerable research before purchasing something, or they may make a purchase off of one recommendation from a travel blog. 

5. Staying Significant

There is a huge fear in society today of losing relevance and becoming insignificant.

While mostly due to the reliance on social media, the average millennial has been found to shift between apps and devices 25 times every hour when they’re not working.

This is in pursuit of approval and social significance.

If multiple influencers start to push a brand, it’s guaranteed that more people will purchase those products because it’s part of a social movement.

They’re seeking likes, shares, new followers, connections, and virality. 

6. Focus on the Family

Many brands seek to provide safer, more family-friendly products simply because they know that people want to improve their family’s health. It’s also about a reliance on strong bonds and relationships.

When brands market to social bonds, they show their values are in trust and dependability.

For example, all laundry ads show a happy mom and child who just want completely clean, stain-free clothes. 

7. Improving Your Own Success

Everyone wants to enhance their positions in life. Whether it’s getting ahead at work or finishing a project, most people want to get ahead, and if they can do it quickly, they’ll seek out any product to help them along the way.

For example, many software companies market their products towards specific buyer personas because they’ll be more motivated to purchase something related to work performance or higher financial gain. 

8. Sense of Purpose

What if your product helped someone feel like they’re participating in something greater than themselves?

Since most people are looking for something to do in life, your offering could focus on a new social issue or charity that helps them achieve that purpose.

However, there are certain ways to not market yourself for a socially responsible cause.

For example, the Pepsi commercial with Kendal Jenner flopped because it seemed disingenuous. You have to be careful how you market charities, non-profits, and crowdfunding.

9. Higher Education

Smarter is sexier, and as college tuition shows, people will pay large sums of money to learn something.

people buy products to help them excel in life

However, packaging like “Smart Ones” also plays to the need for individuals to look and feel smart with other products they purchase.

This motivator definitely leans towards the emotional. Human beings tend to look for products that will help them excel in their jobs, relationships, and business. 

10. Nostalgia

Would you pay more for something that your mother or grandmother used to swear by?

The same brands are actually passed down from generation to generation, but that also extends to movies, music, and clothing.

nostalgia can be one of the reasons people decide to buy

If your father purchased a brand of power tools that he liked best, the same brand may be purchased in the next generation.

Nostalgia adds a lot of value for older brands, such as Tide, The Gap, and even Star Wars.

The buyer is looking for something that will remind them of what they like and know best. 

11. Get It Now

When a brand offers fast, overnight shipping or even 2-hour delivery, you may pay more just to have that convenience and immediacy.

Is that rational to expect something in your hands on the same day you purchase it?

convenience and immediacy can play a role in the buyer's motivation

That’s part of the reason why people go to a physical store to shop anyway.

As companies get more proficient at faster delivery, the demand will only increase for companies to supply faster and faster shipping.

They’ll also pay more to get those products when they need them. 

12. Panic Demand Commerce

In early 2020, there was a toilet paper shortage as people believed that they wouldn’t be able to leave their homes for long periods of time.

As a result, there was a panic and may shoppers purchased bundles of toilet paper, leaving none for the rest of us.

That created a high demand for more toilet paper, and for weeks, as soon as toilet paper was in stock, it was nearly almost completely wiped out again. 

However, many brands capitalized on this panic and demand. They marketed what was available like wipes, paper towels, and bulk toilet paper rolls to satisfy consumer demand. 

13. Limited Editions

People also look for products that aren’t mainstream, such as limited edition products.

For example, many toymakers create collector’s edition action figures, offering only 100 editions or fewer.

These toys have resell value that builds year over year. Most of the time, limited edition also suggests special features. In other cases, a limited item could be a fashion statement. 

So Why Do People Buy?

The messaging, imagery, and overall strategy behind your marketing campaigns will generate this motivation to purchase.

Based on these reasons above, you’ll design product images and social posts that promote your product based on these emotional and logical motivators. 

What methods have you used to motivate sales in the past? How did your customers respond to these strategies?

As always, you should test campaigns and messaging to see what buyers gravitate towards the most.

These split tests can also provide more insights into what people want to buy based on the factors you use to target them. 

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Air Force veteran and online marketing authority, Micha is a pragmatic problem solver with relentless dedication to his clients’ success-- with a passion for helping businesses achieve exponential and sustainable growth. He serves clients as a strategic partner who believes in addressing their digital challenges head-on by implementing quantifiable best practices. His hobbies include billiards, chess, mountain climbing, and traveling with his loving wife and kids.

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