news image

09 October 2015

Understanding Consumers: What Really Motivates People

Regardless of which kind of business you run, one very important aspect of your business decisions making will impact how successful your business becomes. That aspect is your attention to your customer. How much effort to you put in to understanding what motivates your clients? Business, when it comes down to it, is simply about understanding consumer behavior. If you can understanding how people work, you can also understand a way to become part of their routines and part of their transactions.

For years, door to door salesmen have had to understand how best to manipulate a person and their motivations. In the brief, face-to-face exchange that happens when a client opens their door, a salesman needs to gauge the person, register their emotions and understand what kind of a person they are. They need to understand which strategies are more likely to position this person and move them closer to a point of purchase. That’s a high-pressure situation, and to navigate through it, salesmen have developed a concise set of six buying motivations that drive people towards a point of sale.


People are motivated when they think a decision will be beneficial for them. Think of all the get rich quick schemes there are out there.

Fear of loss

If you offer a product that gives you safety, people will want it. Consider insurance.

Comfort and pleasure

A very common, very simple, very powerful motivator. People want to indulge. Think of chocolate cake.

Avoidance of pain

If something can promise to take away a negative experience, people will be compelled to buy it. How many times have you heard something sold as a ‘time-saver’?

Love and affection

Products are often used as symbolic expressions of love. Think of jewelry for your partner or toys for your children. Products can also make you believe you will receive love; think about sexy clothing.

Pride and prestige

Products are often also used as social flags for prestige. Think about premiums brands. This is interesting because premium products are often coupled with narratives about their superior quality, which gives the consumer permission to indulge in premium products.

Visualising Consumer Rationalisation

It’s important to have some kind of framework to understand the decision making process of a consumer. How to they come to a decision about a purchase. Between collecting information and making a choice, what happens in their heads? If we can develop some kind of model for understanding this, we may be given further insight into how we can embed ourselves into the process in order to influence their behaviour.

One useful way of thinking about consumer purchase decisions is to think of it as two forces pushing against each other. On one side is desire, which pushes the consumer towards the purchase. You want to stoke the flames of desires as much as possible. On the other side are barriers, which push against desire. It’s your job to remove barriers and weaken the ability for the consumer to rationalise themselves out of a purchase. How can you do that? There are a lot of different ways that people try to fit into the paradigm in attempts to skew a consumer’s behaviour towards purchases. How you decide to do that will come down to how you want your business to appear to consumers.