Shock, horror – your online customers might not tell you the truth

Can you remember why you did something online?What was the last thing you downloaded? Was it a video, an ebook or a music track? The chances are you can remember what you bought online recently. But can you recall why you bought it or downloaded it? New research suggests that we think we know, but actually we have no idea.

When you ask people why they bought something the often confidently answer. Indeed, knowing this is a fundamental part of market research – discovering why people buy your products and services helps you target them more appropriately in the future. However, in an intriguing study on the recall of buying intentions, researchers at the University of California have demonstrated that we often cannot remember why we bought something.

It turns out that people make things up…! And they frequently cite different reasons for buying or downloading something at different time intervals. Combined with other studies which show we use the context of the situation in which we are asked to recall something to shape what we say, this is another piece of research which shows you simply cannot rely on what your customers tell you.

The problem is not that they are lying – the difficulty this research reveals is that they think they are telling the truth. Yet the “truth” they are telling changes from one occasion to the next…!

So, you may well conduct research on your website to find out why customers buy particular items from you, but what this research suggests is that you should take that information with a large pinch of salt. What you need is other data to help you analyse the information – such as metrics on the speed of purchase, or the revisit frequency before something is bought. Such data can give you an insight into actual behaviour, rather than perceived behaviour.

Your customers can give you useful information to help you sell more online – the problem is sorting out the real truth from the perceived truth.

What your customers tell you should only be part of your market research – you need to combine it with independent data to get a much more accurate picture.

Like this article?

Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on email
Share via email

Other posts that might be of interest

Internet Psychology

Can you do boring tasks?

Last week, not far from the M25 in Buckinghamshire, the biggest-ever boring machine in the UK started its slow churn through the Chiltern hills to dig a tunnel for the HS2 rail system. It will

Read More »
Fence painting
Online Business

When did you last paint your garden fence?

If you are a “big change” business, then you are like my garden fence. Leaving it unpainted for so long has created much more work, at a higher cost, than if it had been tended to every year. Ignoring reviews of your online activity for long periods also means you make more work for yourself and raise your costs.

Read More »