Everything we buy involves choice, so we have to make a selection and what we choose depends on decision-making styles. Even if there is only one product of its kind available, only one person delivering a specific service, we still have a choice – buy it or forget it.
The “Consumer Style Inventory” was established over 30-years ago by researchers at the University of Arizona. This established eight different types of consumers and further research over the past few decades have confirmed that these various types of buyers exist. The list is:
- Quality conscious / perfectionist: Quality-consciousness is characterised by a consumer’s search for the very best quality in products; quality conscious consumers tend to shop systematically making more comparisons and shopping around to compare quality and value.
- Brand-conscious: Brand-consciousness is characterised by a tendency to buy expensive, well-known brands or designer labels. Those who score high on brand-consciousness tend to believe that the higher prices are an indicator of quality and exhibit a preference for department stores or top-tier retail outlets.
- Recreation-conscious / hedonistic: Recreational shopping is characterised by the consumer’s engagement in the purchase process. Those who score high on recreation-consciousness regard shopping itself as a form of enjoyment.
- Price-conscious: A consumer who exhibits price-and-value consciousness. Price-conscious shoppers carefully shop around seeking lower prices, sales or discounts and are motivated by obtaining the best value for money.
- Novelty / fashion-conscious: characterised by a consumer’s tendency to seek out new products or new experiences for the sake of excitement; who gain excitement from seeking new things; they like to keep up-to-date with fashions and trends, variety-seeking is associated with this dimension.
- Impulsive: Impulsive consumers are somewhat careless in making purchase decisions, buy on the spur of the moment and are not overly concerned with expenditure levels or obtaining value. Those who score high on impulsive dimensions tend not to be engaged with the object at either a cognitive or emotional level.
- Confused (by over-choice): characterised by a consumer’s confusion caused by too many product choices, too many stores or an overload of product information; tend to experience information overload.
- Habitual / brand loyal: characterised by a consumer’s tendency to follow a routine purchase pattern on each purchase occasion; consumers have favourite brands or stores and have formed habits in choosing, the purchase decision does not involve much evaluation or shopping around.
This list is not such a problem for real-world, bricks and mortar stores as it is for online businesses. In the physical world, the sales staff can spot the behaviour of shoppers and work out what kind of person they are. We give-away our decision-making styles when we wander around the stores. We might have a confused look on our face, we could be roaming around not really sure of what to buy, or we could go straight to the same spot in the store every time we visit. For real-world sales assistants, spotting the kind of buyer you are dealing with is relatively straightforward because our non-verbal behaviour demonstrates our decision-making styles quite easily. Indeed, this could help explain why people prefer real-world shopping to buying things online.
Online, though, things are not so easy as for real-world stores. Much of the behaviour that an online store might be able to usefully spot happens outside the store. For instance, how people search would indicate whether they are a brand-conscious shopper or someone who is price-conscious. All the online store gets is both those visitors potentially landing on the same page, looking at the same item. In the real-world, sales assistants would be able to handle these customers differently to ensure they got the sale. But online, you can’t do that because you have one page which is attempting to deal with two different decision-making styles.
Similarly, shoppers may arrive on a website having clicked an advertisement or link on another page. They may have clicked such a link because they like the brand or because they are impulsive, yet the online shop doesn’t know which is the right motivation. That means, inevitably, that the page that people land on has to be “all things to all people”. In turn, that means that online stores end up selling fewer items than they could if every encounter were able to match the decision-making styles of each individual visitor. Not only that, people are making much faster decisions to buy online than they do in the real world.
Solving the decision-making conundrum
Given that, unlike real-world stores, it is tough to get a handle on the decision-making styles of your online shoppers you need to take some steps to maximise the potential of understanding your buyers.
Live chat: This is one way in which you can get to understand your online customer a little more. An operator can then detect what kind of customer is on the particular web page and direct them to specific elements of that page or to an alternative page which more closely matches their decision-making style.
Chatbot: A chatbot could operate in a similar way to live chat, but saving your company time and money in dealing with website visitors. The chatbot could ask questions that would lead it to provide a tailor-made solution for each individual customer.
Interstitial landing pages: These are pages that people reach having clicked on a link elsewhere on the web. They offer the customers a range of options as to what to do next. This means that people can be directed to particular web pages that match their decision-making style.
Highly-focused marketing campaigns: Make sure your marketing campaigns are directed at each of the individual decision-making styles you are likely to encounter in your business. Then, each of these campaigns would lead people to highly specific landing pages with wording and images that would appeal to that particular style of shopper. Often landing pages are devoted to the product or service and not to the style of buyer. Maybe you need eight separate landing pages for every one of your products and services, each targeted at individual decision-making styles.
One thing is for sure, getting to grips with the decision-making styles of shoppers is much easier in the real world than it is online. That’s why web-based shops need to do all they can to understand their customers in greater depth so they can match what they offer to the styles of their buyers.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+