How People Make Buying Decisions



Consumer Behavior:

How People Make Buying Decisions

Why do you buy the things you do? How did you decide to go to the college you're attending?

Where do you like to shop and when? Do your friends shop at the same places or different places?

Marketing professionals want to know the answers to these questions. They know that once they

do, they will have a much better chance of creating and communicating about products that you

and people like you will want to buy. That's what the study of consumer behavior is all about.

Consumer behavior considers the many reasons why—personal, situational, psychological, and

social—people shop for products, buy and use them, and then dispose of them.

Companies spend billions of dollars annually studying what makes consumers "tick." Although

you might not like it, Google, AOL, and Yahoo! monitor your web patterns—the sites you search,

that is. The companies that pay for search advertising, or ads that appear on the web pages you

pull up after doing an online search, want to find out what kind of things you're interested in.

Doing so allows these companies to send you pop-up ads and coupons you might actually be

interested in instead of ads and coupons for products such as Depends or Viagra.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in conjunction with a large retail center, has

tracked consumers in retail establishments to see when and where they tended to dwell, or stop to

look at merchandise. How was it done? By tracking the position of the consumers' mobile phones

as the phones automatically transmitted signals to cellular towers. MIT found that when people's

"dwell times" increased, sales increased, too (Economist, 2009).

Researchers have even looked at people's brains by having them lie in scanners and asking them

questions about different products. What people say about the products is then compared to what

their brain scans show—that is, what they are really thinking. Scanning people's brains for

marketing purposes might sound nutty. But maybe not when you consider the fact that eight out

of 10 new consumer products fail, even when they are test-marketed. Could it be that what people

say about potentially new products and what they think about them are different? Marketing

professionals want to find out (Economist, 2009).

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