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Why Customers buy what they buy – the six-factor syndrome

Marketing, to put it simply, is all about finding what customers need, creating a product to fulfill that need and doing all that is required to make the customers buy that product. If we look around, firms are continuously carrying on their marketing activities yet, customers, generally buy only when they choose to. The point this article discusses is that, if a customer has chosen to buy, what are the factors that influenced him to do so.
Why do customers buy what they buy? The question may sound little absurd. But it is one of the most difficult things to discern. The customers mind is likened to the Black Box. It is very difficult to understand as to what exactly goes on in the mind of the customer before he or she takes the decision. There are many models explaining consumers’ decision-making process yet, it is very challenging to a marketer to fully grasp as to what is going on in the mind of the consumer. It is challenging because, people don’t buy products for the reason you feel they ought to buy them for, but rather they buy it for their own reasons however ridiculous these may be.”[1]  It is very easy to enumerate the reasons for a customer not buying; however it is very difficult in the other case. In our effort to understand why they buy, we first need to understand why or when they don’t.
Reasons for customer not buying
If a customer is not buying a product, following could be the reasons:
1.    The customer is not in the need of the product.
This is a very basic reason. A customer who does not need the product would obviously ignore the product. The marketer cannot do anything about this. The marketer simply has to wait for the opportune moment. The moment a need germinates, marketers do two things. They are
a)    it(need)  is brought to maturity quickly by all the marketing activities and
b)    the need is channeled to the marketer’s product of choice.
Unless a customer opens his door of need, it is impossible for any marketer to achieve his objective, no matter what he does. However, if the customer remotely needs, marketers do what all they do.
That is to say, as long as one is not hungry and feels like eating, the marketer cannot sell any eatable to him however hard he may try. But the moment one starts feeling hungry, albeit slightly, the attractive advertisement might entice the customer towards that particular item rather than the conventional food.
2.    The customers are not aware of the product.
This too is a simple reason. Customers who are not aware about a product definitely cannot buy it. It is the job of the marketer to create awareness about the product. This is where the advertisement plays a vital role.  The marketer needs to ensure that the right message is reaching the targeted people in the way it is intended.
For example, if one is not aware of the existence of a 24 lane bowling alley in “Park Square” Whitefield, the customer might never visit the Mall for the same. In other words, the product will remain unsold.
3.    The customers are aware of the product but aren’t aware of its benefits.
A customer may be aware of the existence of 3G mobile services but if he is not fully aware of its features and benefits, he may not buy it.
Customers buy only those products that they believe would meet their needs. If this is so, they should clearly understand the benefits of the product in order to match with their requirements. If the marketer fails to explain the benefits of the products, the customers will not be attracted towards the product.
4.    The product is not accessible to the customer. 
Customers cannot buy a product that is not available to him. This where the distribution plays a important role. Consumers would like to make least effort and would prefer convenience. The marketers should ensure that the products are available easily and conveniently so that the customers may purchase them.
Take the case of a customer who has travelled from Chennai to Lucknow and is aware of “Medimix” soap. This brand of soap is not marketed in Lucknow and so is not available there. Now this customer is aware but cannot access it.
5.    The product is highly priced.
Many women customers may be aware of “Dove” brand of soap and yet may not buy it because of its cost. This means that the customers do not see value for their money. The perceived benefits are less than the perceived price of the product. The marketers have a big role to play here. It is the marketing activities in general and advertisements in particular that help them to build a perception and attitude besides other influences on the customers about the product.
6.    The quality of the product is not up to their expectations.
The customer will not buy a product that does not meet his expectations in its performance. He may not buy even if it fails in its aesthetic value. This implies that the marketer should pay attention to the quality of the product as well as the packaging.
For example, a customer seeking to buy some dress material may not buy unbranded material since he is not sure of its quality.
The six-factor syndrome
As stated at the beginning, though it is extremely difficult to predict the reasons for customers buying, following are the factors that have a bearing on the customers’ purchase. As the markets are already filled with products and our focus is on ‘why they buy’, this discussion assumes the existence of a product and the customers’ affordability.
1.    Need
A need cannot be created by the marketers; it is intrinsic to the customer. If the customer is not in the need of it, he or she will not buy it with any amount of persuasion. (see point 1 above)
2.    Utility
This is very basic and obvious. Customers buy a product either to rid of a problem they have or to have something that they presently don’t have. So the product should have functional utility above everything all.
This might be social, cultural, religious or even psychological. Take the case of Jeans trousers. All women are aware of its existence and its utility. Yet, many women do not like to wear it for some reason or the other. The customer should be interested in the product to buy it.
4.    Value
Unless the product commands a value in the hands of the customer, however good it may be, it will not bought.
5.    Trust
Customers deal with the only those people whom they trust. Even if the product is useful and needed by a customer, he will not purchase from a source that he doesn’t trust. This means that the marketer should build the brand’s reputation or esteem or credibility as one may choose to say. This is equally important if not more. 
6.    ‘X’ Factor
Sometimes marketers face situations wherein they fail to understand why a product is not doing well in spite of it being good in all the above five factors mentioned. The reasons to buy or not is their very own however strange or absurd they may be. Strangely, sometimes there could be no reasons at all for their action or it may not be known to them at all. Only a deeper questioning adopting ‘laddering technique’, would able to uncover it. Yet in other instances, people buy on impulses or do it for the sake of ego satisfaction or under so called peer-pressure etc. Much of the study to understand consumer behaviour is on unraveling this ‘X’ factor.
The above six factors will help the marketers in designing the marketing programmes more effectively. Of the six factors, the first and the last are not in the control of the marketers. It is rest of the four that marketers should focus their attention and all the marketing activities should be directed towards building them.

[1] accessed on Septem
ber 21, 2012