Understanding Customer Behavior with Market Research

Understanding Customer Behavior with Market Research

Customer behavior is one of the foremost areas of concentration in marketing, as consumers are the bedrock of a company’s success. 

Businesses must therefore understand their customer behaviors in order to suit their needs and drive revenue. In fact, 66% of customers expect businesses to understand their needs and expectations.

But there is far much more to customer behavior than customer desires and expectations. This concept encompasses several facets of customer actions, along with the driving force behind them.

This article explores customer behavior, its importance, aspects and how a well-established campaign of market research techniques allows businesses to be well-acquainted with the customer behavior within their target market. 

Defining Customer Behavior

Also called consumer behavior, customer behavior denotes the study of customers, particularly those in a target market, including the processes they use to choose, consume and discard products and services

This field of study involves recording and examining customers’ mental, behavioral and emotional responses. Observing customer behavior goes beyond studying behaviors in a customer journey, that is, the actions customers take prior to making a purchase.

Rather, consumer behavior studies how customers choose products, why they avoid certain products, their buying behaviors, along with how they interact with a product or service. Thus, this concept transcends looking into what customers want and don’t want. 

When studying these behaviors, researchers often incorporate scientific approaches, using notions from psychology and economics and even chemistry and biology. 

Studying customer behavior can also involve studying organizations, especially for B2B businesses. However, B2C businesses can also stand to scrutinize companies as a kind of competitive analysis. 

Consumer behavior is the study of individuals and organizations and how they select and use products and services. It is mainly concerned with psychology, motivations, and behavior.

The Key Aspects that Customer Behavior Investigates

As aforementioned, customer behavior takes various elements of customers into account, going beyond its subsets of customer journeys and customer buying behavior, which themselves span different concepts.

The following enumerates several key aspects that customer behavior encompasses.

  1. Buying habits, including locations, devices and frequencies 
  2. Social trends and background factors that influence customers to make or avoid purchases
  3. Customer sentiment around product/service alternatives, such as related products/services, those from different brands
  4. Preferred methods of purchasing such as in-store versus online or both, at a large retailer or at a mom-and-pop shop, etc.
  5. Behaviors of customers as thy shop
  6. How customers search for companies
  7. How customers find businesses during their research 
  8. Customer reasoning behind different alternatives
  9. How customers are influenced by their environments such as their friends, media, culture and other target market members 
  10. How marketing campaigns influence or affect their behaviors

The Importance of Examining Customer Behavior

Studying this concept may appear to be laborious at worst and tedious at best, however, brands ought to avoid omitting it. This is because the aspects of customer behavior paint a critical picture of who customers are, allowing businesses to market and cater to them accordingly.  

Understanding the customer behavior of customers allows companies to adapt and improve their marketing campaigns, sales promotions, customer service and more. Most importantly, it allows brands to influence their customers more productively. 

Additionally, by understanding how customers choose, consume and discard products, businesses can identify issues in the products themselves and make innovations. In this way, studying customer behavior helps with product-related issues such as customer development and product satisfaction.  

Businesses can therefore study it to find gaps and flaws in existing products and improve upon them. Or, they can create products with alternative features and even new products to gain a competitive advantage.

Studying consumer behavior also allows marketers to present their products more effectively, so that they can drive a maximum impact. That way, customers will be more keen on interacting with a business, whether they’ve long known about it or recently discovered it.

When customers engage with a business more frequently, they become far more exposed to marketing and advertising messages that can influence them to make purchases. In this way, engaging with a company, whether it is viewing their content or browsing their offerings lodges that company in customers’ minds, which is key for brand awareness.

Generally speaking, it is also ideal for customers to have businesses on their minds subconsciously. In fact, a Harvard Business School professor declares that 95% of purchases are made subconsciously in his book, How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market. This book also discovered that the biggest drivers of unconscious urges are emotions. 

All in all, examining consumer behavior enables businesses to become more attuned to their customers, thereby allowing them to better tailor their marketing efforts and retain customers for the long term

Customer Behavior Patterns

It is important to identify the patterns that makeup customer behavior. Patterns are not to be confused with buying habits, as the latter refers to inclinations for an action that can become spontaneous, whereas patterns exhibit predictable occurrences.

Customer behavior patterns are also contrary to buying habits in that patterns are indicative of groups, while habits are more unique and individual-based.

The following explains the four customer behavior patterns:

  1. Items purchased: Businesses should study their customers’ shopping carts, as they reveal exactly what customers buy and how much of it they buy. Patterns usually show that customers buy everyday-use items in larger quantities and more frequently, while luxury items are bought less frequently and in smaller quantities.
    1. Customers tend to buy products based on the products’ perishability, a unit of sale, price, number of users of the product and the buying power of the customer. 
  2. Place of Purchase: Customers usually shop at various stores, even when all of their intended products are available at just one. This largely depends on the accessibility of getting to various stores. When customers are not restricted to just one store due to transportation limitations, they are at liberty to choose items from multiple locations.
    1. Businesses must study place of purchase patterns, in that it will reveal customers’ choice of place, helping marketers understand which areas their customers visit. 
  3. Purchase Method: The way a customer chooses to buy products divulges the kind of customer that they are. That is because there are various purchase methods, all of which tie into a customer journey. 
    1. Customers can window shop online, then make up their minds at home and buy a product online. Or, they may buy a product in-store, via different payment options such as cash, debit or credit card.
    2. Businesses that gain this kind of insight into behavior patterns help them find ways to make customers buy again and more frequently.
    3. This pattern can also help businesses upsell products.
  4. Frequency and Timing of Purchase: Customers exhibit different times and frequencies of purchase. Regarding the former, they won’t all buy during business hours, given the prevalence of e-commerce, which allows them to shop at the earliest and latest parts of the day.
    1. Businesses can meet customer demands by studying their purchase timing and frequency in order to serve them better. 
    2. Studying these concepts will help businesses adapt to regional (and global) time differences, along with seasonal variations. 

The Things That Affect Customer Behavior

There are various influences and facets that can affect how customers behave. Businesses ought to acclimate themselves with these customer behavior factors, in that they all have a bearing on customer behavior and behavior patterns in one way or another.

When studying customer behavior based on these factors, businesses will be able to understand it more holistically. This helps in market segmentation and building customer personas, two market research tactics that allow businesses to gain a deeper understanding of their target market. 

The following lists the critical factors of customer behavior:

  1. Purchasing power: even the wealthiest of customers are constrained to some sort of budget or need to buy things within their means. Thus, much of what customers buy depends on their purchasing power.
  2. Marketing campaigns: Specifically designed to persuade customers as well as reel in new ones, marketing campaigns have the capability to influence buying behaviors, when done correctly. They can prompt customers to switch brands or opt for a more expensive product with the correct messaging — which requires understanding your customers. 
  3. Personality traits: Personality affects many kinds of behavior, including customer behavior. These spring from background and upbringing, which affect how people will behave in different settings. Some customers will be drawn to events (grand openings, sales, etc.) due to extroversion, while others may not be and some may fall in between.
  4. Personal preferences: The way customers choose purchases often relies on their personal preferences. Advertising and marketing campaigns can surely affect these but some preferences are unyielding. For example, a vegan will not buy animal-based products, while a meat lover is not going to shop for exclusively vegan items. Businesses should therefore be well-acquainted with the preferences of their target market. 
  5. The economy: Economic conditions play a role in customer behavior, especially in relation to more expensive products; positive economic environments are bent on making customers more willing to indulge. In times of inflation, consumers are less likely to spend on expensive items, as well as make frequent purchases. Negative economic conditions are fruitful for businesses to introduce promotions and bargains. 
  6. Group influence: Peer pressure and the opinions of others can also weigh heavily on buying and usage decisions. When customers’ friends and peers speak negatively or positively about an item or brand, it affects the way the customers perceive it. In some cases, group influence provides a setting of brand advocacy, while at other times, it can cause major reputational damage to a business. 
  7. Social trends: Related to group influence, social trends set the scene in terms of what is popular and acceptable. From social media, to movies, blogs and podcasts, various talking points and fads can form and leave strong impressions among customers. Some of these platforms provide a breeding ground for new trends, the kinds that marketers can access, depending on their budget and strategy. 

How Market Research Helps Businesses Understand Customer Behavior

Conducting market research enables businesses to understand all the key facets of customer behavior. There is much involved in market research, all of which can help marketers deliver more effective campaigns. 

First off, market research encompasses a wide breadth of studies, from secondary research to primary research and from quantitative research to qualitative research. There is a vast pool of available resources, i.e., secondary sources available. These can take the form of industry news sites, statistics sources, published studies and more.

While secondary research is an important starting point for conducting market research, it does not address all the specific needs that a business may have, let alone the specific questions that businesses intend to probe their customers with.  

As such, all businesses should turn to primary sources to understand their consumer behaviors. There are different routes for market researchers to take on this front; effective survey studies are the most useful. This is because surveys allow researchers to understand where their target market lies in all the factors and patterns of customer behavior

For example, market researchers can conduct surveys to learn more about their customers’ purchasing power and how it relates to what they buy and how much. In addition, they can qualify only certain people from taking a survey, so that they can study respondents who fall within a particular income bracket.

Another example involves surveying customers based on their awareness levels of cultural trends and their opinions thereof. 

In relation to studying customer buying patterns, surveys provide value, in that customers can ask detailed questions about all patterns, whether they are concerned with purchasing methods, the place of purchase, frequency, etc. 

A strong online survey platform will allow businesses to gain a deep understanding of these aspects, through the use of advanced skip logic, which routes survey respondents to appropriate follow-up questions based on their answers to previous questions.

Finally, surveys allow market researchers to make decisions in an organized way, as they help form a customer behavior analysis report. This report reveals:

  • How customers behave while researching, browsing products and purchasing
  • How customers use products
  • How long customers use their products
  • What customers think and feel about different brands and product options
  • How their environments affect their behavior

Improving Business Goals and Scaling by Understanding Your Target Market

Customer behavior to a business is like blood to mammals. While this may sound dramatic, it analogizes the importance of understanding your target market’s behavior. When businesses fail to study their customers’ behaviors, they are remiss on so many meaningful opportunities.

Thus, marketing campaigns of all sizes and calibers are at a much larger risk of failing. Market research, particularly survey research helps combat ignorance of customer behavior. This is because surveys give researchers the freedom to study any factor and pattern that relates to this behavior, arming them with critical insights on how customers shop throughout their journeys. 

The most crucial component of survey research is using the correct online survey platform. Not all surveys offer advanced skip logic and can qualify respondents based on various demographics and psychographics. Thus, businesses and market researchers must invest in an online survey tool wisely, as it can make or break any market research campaign

How Surveys Influence Customer Buying Behavior

How Surveys Influence Customer Buying Behavior

All businesses must examine their customer buying behavior in order to survive, not least if they seek to flourish. This is notably due to the direct effect this behavior has on patronage, such as sales, site visits, in-store visits, intent to purchase, customer loyalty and more.

Thus, all businesses ought to keep a close eye on their customers’ buying behaviors. There are a number of ways to do this. Market research techniques offer the most data-driven approach to understand these behaviors and a business’s target market at large. 

Surveys, in particular, offer quick access into the minds of consumers, allowing businesses to study them at their whim and procure intelligence on their many facets, such as their sentiments, opinions and buying behavior.

But did you know, aside from studying customer buying behavior, surveys can also influence it? In this way, the surveys themselves act as marketing and advertising vehicles that allure customers to specific brands.  

This article explores the concept of customer buying behavior, its importance, its four types and more, along with how surveys alone can influence it. 

Understanding Customer Buying Behavior

As its name implies, this is a kind of customer behavior, one that is especially concerned with how customers buy, along with the actions and behaviors they take part in before purchasing.

Customer buying behavior refers to the ways in which a target market, the customers most likely to purchase from a business, acts when shopping for a product. Customer buying behavior takes into account the entire customer journey — from discovery, to nurturing, to browsing, to purchasing and possibly repurchasing.

This “behavior,” or rather, set of behaviors is shaped by personal and aided factors, along with external and environmental factors such as social climates, issues and occurrences. All of these play a role in driving customer perceptions of a brand, thereby driving their buying decisions, whether they are rational or irrational.

Buying behaviors take place both on and offline before customers make a purchase. 

Given that customer buying behavior encompasses a wide breadth of interactions, such as searching for a product on a search engine and discovering a brand that sells it (SEO and SEM), engaging with a brand’s social media or reading marketing collateral, marketers have plenty of environments to observe their customer buying behaviors

As such, marketers and market researchers study customer buying behavior to better produce marketing initiatives that influence customers to make purchases.

The Importance of Customer Buying Behavior for Businesses

This phenomenon is critical for businesses to study and especially to influence. When a brand has enough sway over its target market, it will generate more revenue, customer loyalty and a longer customer lifetime value (CLV).

When businesses fully grasp the customer buying behavior of their target market, they can intelligently conceive and carry out different marketing campaigns. In this way, understanding customer buying behavior not only guides marketing efforts, but helps avoid missteps, errors and wasting time and resources.    

It is critical to examine buying behaviors, as they are not stagnant. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 48.7% of customers changed their buying behaviors, switching their purchasing preferences to the digital space. That is because they replaced products that they regularly bought at physical stores with competitors' online shops.

Additionally, in the wake of COVID-19 click and collect sales grew in the US by 60.4%, attesting to the popularity of buying items on the internet, however merging internet purchases with physical pick-ups, that is, at a store or retail hub location. This comes as a rather 

Customers also change their buying behaviors in terms of brand switching. This has been documented during the pandemic, as 36% of consumers tried a new product brand in the midst of COVID, while 25% of customers switched to a private-label brand. 

73% of consumers who have switched brands will continue using their products regularly, which means that they will either use the new brands alongside the brands they’ve used before, or completely replace the old brands with the new one(s)

Thus, all businesses should expect their target market to either switch or try their competitors’ products and services at some point. In this way, studying and influencing customer buying behavior largely affects customer retention and loyalty.

When businesses have a solid understanding of their target market’s buying behaviors, they can produce messaging that is better targeted, thus resonating with certain market segments. This helps improve brand equity and will generally leave customers with a better impression of a business. 

Additionally, it allows companies to understand when customers typically make purchases so that companies can target their messaging accordingly and reach consumers when they are most likely to shop. For example, some businesses may observe that customers buy during the weekends or on the evenings of weekday nights. Thus, it would be apt to incorporate a new sales banner or social post during those times.

All in all, paying heed to customer shopping behaviors helps businesses on several fronts.

The Key Influences on Customer Buying Behavior

As aforesaid, there are various factors at play when it comes to influencing customer buying behavior. First off, there are the external factors, such as current events, social and political issues and other emotionally evoking happenings

In 2018, a Harvard professor reported that emotion is one of the biggest drivers of buying behaviors and decisions in general. Thus, brands ought to study their customers’ emotions, particularly their responses to current issues. 

Some customer segments may be inclined to buy from socially responsible companies: companies with business models that focus on social change via philanthropic, charitable or activism-based activities. Others may have a buying behavior influenced by such companies. 

But there will always be customers who gravitate towards a brand that supports a cause or idea that they too care about. Thus, it is crucial to understand the key influences of customer buying behavior.

Aside from the way companies present themselves in relation to external issues, there are three other key influences on customer buying. The three other key components are: 

  1. Rational considerations of the product and service. These include:
    1. Price, quality, and convenience 
    2. Mental or cognitive factors such as product utility and value
  2. Irrational considerations such as feelings and desires. These include:
    1. Emotional, aka affective factors such as irrational considerations, which include personal beliefs
  3. Behavioral aspects such as
    1. Buying patterns
    2. Preferences based on routines and habits

The 4 Main Types of Customer Buying Behaviors

When customers make purchases, their buying behaviors almost always fall into at least one of four categories. These categories classify a wide range of situations that can occur in similar ways based on the behavioral aspects of the scenarios

The following explains the four main types of customer buying behaviors:

  1. Complex buying behavior
    1. The most typical buying behavior
    2. This usually occurs when buyers make big purchases, such as a new vehicle or real estate.
    3. This type of behavior includes a high level of research and prudence before choosing a product.
    4. As such, this kind of behavior involves long considerations before customers make any purchase.
    5. This behavior stems from an instance in which a purchase will have a significant impact on a customer’s life, especially when the purchase involves risks.  
  2. Habitual buying behavior
    1. This refers to customers who buy the same product repeatedly.
    2. Such customers manifest a high level of product loyalty.
    3. This involves brand loyalty, such as buying from the same bread company during each shopping trip or online visit.
    4. Consumers who engage in habitual buying rarely research alternative products of brands.
    5. They don’t look for similar brands or products as they are used to buying a particular kind (or kinds). Thus, they exhibit the most customer loyalty. 
  3. Variety seeking buying behavior
    1. This behavior stands in opposition to habitual buying behavior.
    2. Consumers with this buying behavior look for variety because they have yet to find their favorite product.
    3. This kind of behavior takes shape when customers seek novelty in their would-be, go-to products.
    4. For example, when customers try different hair-dying brands before settling on one.
    5. Customers with this buying behavior carry little to no brand loyalty. 
  4. Dissonance reducing buying behavior
    1. This occurs when customers are afraid to make the wrong buying decisions.
    2. This behavior stems from a fear of buyer’s remorse.
    3. It is especially prevalent in situations where customers cannot return items should they not be satisfied, or when returning products is too difficult, such as in the case of a faraway store or expensive return shipping.
    4. This behavior comes about when customers’ have a bad past experience with a particular product. 
    5. This often occurs when customers spend more time comparing different aspects of a product rather than comparing different product brands. 

How Surveys Influence Customer Buying Behavior

Although there are many ways businesses can study customer buying behavior, they can also take part in activities that influence their customers’ buying habits. There is also a means that offers businesses with a twofold prowess: being able to study customer buying actions and influence customer behavior as well.  

The solution that offers this dual prowess is a market research survey. Surveys give businesses and market researchers access into the minds of their target market. There is a vast amount of surveys and broader survey research methods.

Businesses can run survey campaigns for all 6 of the main types of research. As such, businesses can probe their customers’ buying behaviors by deploying surveys to their target market online. They can also send surveys to specific segments of their target market.

Surveys have the ability to reveal major aspects of consumer opinions and sentiments, thereby allowing businesses to examine their buying behaviors. This is because surveys allow businesses to ask their respondents virtually anything, allowing them to better deliver their marketing messaging, images, advertising and other campaigns.

Thus, by studying customer behavior through surveys, businesses can make more informed decisions, the kind that can allow them to produce more effective marketing campaigns. 

However, since surveys offer a dual power, their ability also extends to influencing customer buying. 

Several years ago, Harvard ran a study to discover how surveys can affect customer behavior. The results of the survey study bear good news for businesses; as it turned out, customers that were surveyed were more than as likely to open new accounts with businesses.

In addition, this study discovered that the customers who were surveyed were less than half as likely to renege on their patronage and were even more profitable than the customers who weren’t surveyed

This study reveals that surveys have the power to present a brand in a positive light, or at the very least, bring brand awareness to a brand that target customers may otherwise not have heard of. 

Thus, businesses that wish to influence their customers’ purchasing behaviors ought to conduct surveys. They must bear in mind that in order to influence their customers via surveying them, the surveys must mention the business by name. Companies must paint their brands in as positive a light as they possibly can. This includes making light of the fact that they support causes that their customers care about.

The more surveys that businesses run to study buying behaviors, the better they can present themselves in upcoming surveys to influence their customers. 

Creating the Strongest Behavioral-Influencing Campaigns

Surveys are an excellent approach to reaping intelligence on customer buying behavior, as well as influencing this behavior. However, in order to maximize both efforts, businesses must use the proper online survey platform

All online survey tools are not built with the same dashboards, capabilities and interfaces. Thus, market researchers should research the available online survey software before deciding on one platform to run all of their market research campaigns. 

Given that these platforms offer a primary means of research, they must be chosen carefully. The most convenient online survey platforms will offer various capabilities, ease of use, deployment across a wide network of digital properties, including websites and apps, along with artificial intelligence and machine learning to stave off faulty answers and poor data quality.  

Moreover, such a platform should offer global support, so that businesses can rely on experts to guide them with their surveys at any point of the day. A survey platform of this caliber will make it easy to both examine and influence buying behaviors