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    The Psychology of Consumer Behavior: Why Shoppers Don't Make Purchases

    Jul 21, 2023 9:59:45 AM | Kendra Bandy Customer Experience

    Understanding the minds of your client persona like playing a game of chess. ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ anyone?

    Studying your opponent's moves, patterns, and strategies—anticipating their next move and making strategic decisions accordingly. Sounds familiar, huh? Our feelings won’t be hurt if you decide to steam a little Netflix to see Anya-Taylor Joy in action.

    But, back to business. Consumer behavior is the intent, action, and influences that surround your current and potential purchaser. 

    Without fail, having a holistic comprehension of those intentions, actions, and influences impact your sales conversion rates. The psychological factors that influence your consumer’s purchase decisions is the checkmate to knowing your customer and helping sway their purchase toward your product. 

    Today, we'll do a deep dive into the following factors that influence a shopper towards — or away from — your product.

    The Decision-Making Process

    Like choosing to move your queen instead of a pawn, the human brain goes through a loop of behavior when making a decision. Cognizant or not, the buyer’s decision-making process is a four step journey: product awareness, value consideration, decision, and post-purchase evaluation.

    The choice of what product to buy, and when, may be based on habit, but shoppers can be strayed from the norm to try something new.


    Psychological Factors that Influence Purchase Decisions


    First up is the cognitive factors to gather information, evaluate alternatives, and weigh the pros and cons of different options are all part of the rationale to buy or not to buy. 

    Buyers will take a look at the product’s features, benefits, and prices. They evaluate the available information and compare alternatives to make a logical choice that aligns with their needs and preferences.

    Perceived value

    Consumers consider a product’s quality, functionality, and price—determining whether it’s worth the investment. Of course, the higher the price, the longer this stage takes. Perceived value takes personal experiences, brand reputation, and Ratings & Reviews into account. 

    Information processing

    Shoppers rely on memory, attention, and cognitive biases when analyzing information—whether in store or online. Being able to easily access and read product information, as well as the presentation of options, can influence consumers' decision-making processes.

    Cognitive biases

    Specific psychological biases might influence your shoppers like confirmation bias (favoring info that confirms existing beliefs), anchoring bias (using only initial information), and choice overload (feeling overwhelmed by too many options on the shelf). 



    Just like a chess player assessing the position on the board (and the player!), shoppers perceive products based on branding, packaging, and other user’s experiences.

    Product perception is crucial because it shapes consumers' attitudes. How they perceive it assigns value and quality. If it’s positive, you’re in the clear: it drives interest and engagement (and, fingers crossed, conversions). But if it’s negative: it can deter consumers from purchasing.



    Whether it's the thrill of victory or the desire for social recognition, explore how understanding these motivations can inform your marketing strategies.


    Intrinsic motivation

    Stemming from internal factors like personal satisfaction, enjoyment, or a sense of accomplishment. 

    And, guess what? Brands tap into this. 

    They highlight special features or benefits of a product that provide personal value.

    Extrinsic motivation

    External factors like social capital, status, or rewards. 

    Brands make the most of this motivation by emphasizing how their product can meet those social desires by enhancing the shopper’s image.

    Achievement motivation

    The desire for success by overcoming challenges — either intrinsically or extrinsically. 

    Marketing brand strategies can focus on positioning the product as a means to achieve goals. For example, CPG companies might advertise healthy ingredients on their packaging or advertise fit shoppers reaping the benefits.

    Affiliation motivation

    Social connection is the reason for purchase. 

    Brands emphasize how their product fosters community, or allows consumers to express their identity through shared experiences.



    Consumer behavior is shaped through experiences and information processing. 

    Similar to chess players anticipating their opponent's moves, shoppers will anticipate the outcomes and consequences of their purchasing decisions. Brands can strategically position their products, create compelling brand narratives, and provide the necessary information to engage their shoppers.



    Social Influence

    If you’ve been playing chess for years, it’s likely that you took a move or two of an opponent and added it to your own repertoire. In the same way, consumers are influenced by social norms, reference groups, and opinion leaders. By finding the spheres of influence your shoppers are contributing to and learning from, you’ll have a better understanding of their values—and, how your product can fit those values.


    Social Proof

    Ratings and reviews, and social media play a huge role in shaping consumer decisions. 

    Hearing directly from the consumer on what makes the product great and what can be improved is wildly all-important. You can also gain insight to the product as it’s received on social media, which can also be a major benefit and eye-opening. 


    Social Identity

    Like every chess piece has its specific role, consumers' self-concept and group affiliations influence their buying choices. Consumers' preferences and purchasing decisions are influenced by their desire to express themselves and fit in with their chosen tribes. It's all about finding the right move that aligns with their unique identity and creates a sense of belongingness.




    Emotional Triggers

    Joy, fear, and nostalgia can be effectively used to influence purchasing decisions—along with a slew of others. Packing, message, colors, and design all impact how a shopper perceives your product. How does it make them feel? Do they want to feel it more?


    Branding and Emotional Connection

    Like the smell of the candle your grandmother used to burn or the songs behind sad commercials, brands can establish emotional connections with consumers that foster loyalty. 
    By creating emotional connections by telling compelling stories, utilizing relatable messaging, and staying true to brand identity, companies can dig into the emotional connection to drive more sales.


    The Barriers to Purchase: Why Shoppers Say “No”


    The biggest repellant to a shopper is price. After going through product awareness and value consideration, the shopper must decide: is this worth my money? Is the price for the value worth it? Brands set prices to position their products in the market: higher prices show superior quality, lower prices attract budget-conscious shoppers.




    There’s risk attached to straying from the norm for shoppers. For example, imagine going to the grocery store and your tried-and-true brand of bread is sold out. You still need bread for your french toast you’re serving up in the morning. So, what’s the answer? You take a risk on something new. 

    Whether it’s a functional risk (“This bread falls apart too easily”), safety risk (“This bread has ingredients that I’m allergic to”), or financial risk (“I wasted money on this bread”), shoppers are cognizant of the risk they take on to try new products.


    Decision Paralysis

    Choice overload can overwhelm consumers and hinder their decision-making process. Sometimes shoppers get stuck in an endless cycle of overthinking and excessive analysis, trying to weigh all the pros and cons of each option—preventing them from reaching a clear decision.

    Ultimately, this causes frustration and ultimately saying "no" to avoid the stress of making a choice.


    Actionable Insights for Brands: Overcoming Barriers to Purchase

    1. Simplify

    Make the purchasing process as easy as possible. Optimize website navigation for online shoppers and provide clear product information.

    2. Build Trust

    Overcoming consumer skepticism takes time. Hone credibility by highlighting customer experiences through online Ratings and Reviews and deliver quality experiences and product over and over again.

    3. Tap into Emotions

    Utilize branding and marketing strategies to pull on the heartstrings of your shopper. Never manipulative or forced, use evergreen messaging to convey the true intention of your product.


    All in all, understanding the psychology of consumer behavior is paramount for improving sales conversion rates. By considering the cognitive, social, and emotional factors that influence purchasing decisions, retailers can strategically position their products and connect with shoppers on a deeper level.

    Plum is a retail solutions marketplace that helps brands audit, trial, and market their products in a way that helps shoppers choose the right product—your product. On our marketplace, you can gain actionable insights into consumer behavior and effectively tailor their marketing and sales strategies to drive conversions and build brand loyalty.

    So, just as a chess player studies the board and anticipates their opponent's moves, retailers can master the psychology of consumer behavior to make the right moves and secure victory in the marketplace. Checkmate.


    Hop on the Plum Marketplace to further understand and anticipate your shopper's moves around your product.

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