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).