Why do people buy? And, why do they do it online? When customers visit our online store to buy, we don’t always know the key underlying buyer motivations that lead to their purchase.

Usually, we only uncover certain hints by the product category they’re looking at, the number of items they want to buy, and the size or color they’re planning to get. Other than that, we are blinded until customers take action.

There are many reasons why customers will spend their money with you. If you want to sell more, learning the determinants of buyer motivation is key to get more customers past the checkout process.

So, how do you uncover this buyer motivation? Why is it important to understand why people buy?

In today’s guide, we’ll provide the latest and most important studies about buyer motivation and what you can do to refine your eCommerce process and strategy to intensify people’s drive to convert.

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What is Buyer Motivation?

Behind every purchase, there is an underlying buyer motivation. It relates to the feelings, thoughts, and instincts that can result in a buyer’s desire to purchase an item.

Buyer motivation, also known as buying motive, is a combination of people’s emotional and factual states that drives their urge to purchase. These are also the set of psychological factors that influences their eventual decision of a particular product.

No matter what type of business model you are running, a dropshipping website or a print on demand business, understanding buyer motivation is crucial for you to craft a highly targeted marketing campaign. No matter how amazing your marketing or product is if a customer has no driving motivation to buy from your store, you’ll end up with no conversion.

To understand it better, we have to start by looking at how a buyer progresses in making an eventual purchase decision through the stages of the buyer’s journey. Let’s closely examine these stages to determine how they impact buyer motivation.

Buyer’s Journey

Uncovering what stage a customer is in the buyer’s journey will help you able to nurture that customer toward the most crucial stage: purchase. Every stage of the buyer’s journey reveals deep insights as to what factors will influence their buying decision.

In general, a buyer may pass through 6 distinct stages:

  • (i) Awareness: the first time potential customers hear about your store.
  • (ii) Interest: the customers get interested in your brand and offerings.
  • (iii) Consideration: the customers evaluate your products to match their requirements.
  • (iv) Purchase: the customers commit to purchasing your product.
  • (v) Post-purchase: the customers decide how they feel about their purchase.
  • (vi) Re-purchase: the customers may become interested in buying more from you.

Every stage will reveal different classifications of buyer motivation. This will help you discover the real driving forces why customers buy products from your online store and not anywhere else.

Classification of Buyer Motivation

There are different types of buyer motivation but all comprise of mental and physical behavior that helps an individual to decide what, when, from whom, where, and how much to purchase.

They can be grouped according to the two main classifications:

  • Product Buyer Motivation: This refers to the influences and reasons that encourage a buyer to select a specific product over other choices. These could either be a physical attraction (e.g. product’s size, shape, color, etc.) or psychological attraction (e.g. social prestige brought about by the product).
  • Patronage Buyer Motivation: This refers to the considerations and reasons that prompt a buyer to buy a product from a specific brand over other stores. In short, brand preference is the most underlying motivation for purchasing a product.

classification of buyer motivation

These two main classifications can be further subdivided into the following:

Product Buyer Motivation

  • a) Emotional Product Buying Motivation: A buyer is driven by emotions when deciding to purchase a product. A decision is done without careful thinking or logical reasoning (e.g. prestige, comfort).
  • b) Rational Product Buying Motivation: A buyer is driven by logical reasoning or careful consideration when deciding to buy a product. A decision is made through conscious motives (e.g. safety, durability).

Patronage Buyer Motivation

  • a) Emotional Patronage Buying Motivation: A buyer patronizes a brand without any conscious reasoning (e.g. appearance of the site, recommendations from others).
  • b) Rational Patronage Buying Motivation: A buyer patronizes a brand through careful consideration (e.g. low price, wide selection).

Motives Why Customers Buy

As we’ve seen in the classifications above, there are many complexities in a customers mind when deciding to purchase.

We can summarize them into 6 motivations why customers buy a product:

  • Desire for Gain: Most potential customers will generally consider this as their primary motivation. People want to purchase something because they want to be in possession of a product. There’s a direct or indirect financial gain (e.g. buying company stocks).
  • Fear of Loss: People may purchase in anticipation of a financial loss (e.g. insurance).
  • Security and Protection: There’s always a need to feel safe and secured. For example, people buy safety lockers to safeguard their belongings against theft.
  • Comfort and Convenience: People buy because they want their lives to become a lot easier and more stress-free. For example, products like washing machines, pillows, cushion beds are brought about by the desire for comfortable and convenient living.
  • Pride of Ownership: There’s also that sense of prestige by just possessing a product. For example, people with luxury cars are seen with high stature.
  • Suitability: Because people have varied needs, they’ll look for products that match their current requirements. For example, a buyer will only choose a single bed sheet if he/she has a single bed.

How to find Buyer Motivation

Now that you understand how the mind of your customers works when deciding which products to buy, let’s take a look at the ways on how you can uncover buyer motivation.

There’s a rich hub of audience engagements that will help you see underlying buyer motivation. But, there are so many of them. To simplify the process, ask yourself the following questions to help you discover buying motives:

1 – Where is your traffic coming from online?

Knowing where your customers found you online is one of the crucial elements on how you can determine what buying motives they possess. Start by identifying which acquisition or marketing channels you get the most volume of traffic from.

Depending on what analytics platform you’re using, acquisition channels are usually grouped by paid search, organic search, affiliates or referrals. For example, Google Analytics already has a Channel Report that provides a general view of each of your channels perform. Simply go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. Below is a sample dashboard that you will see:

Sample dashboard of Google Analytics

What you need to pay attention to: Look at the ‘Transaction’ column and see which of the channels have the most number of completed purchases.

However, the ‘Ecommerce Conversion Rate’ is a more important metric for you to focus on. This is the percentage of sessions that resulted in a purchase transaction. Some channels will give you a high volume of transactions, but not always the best conversion rate. For example, let’s examine the figures below:

eCommerce conversion rate figure

Organic Search is the channel with the most completed transactions. But, it doesn’t have the highest conversion rate. In fact, it’s a far cry from Paid Search’s 0.88% conversion rate. What does it mean for you? Why not focus more on your marketing efforts on Paid Search? The quality of traffic is richer here compared to other channels.

Also, ask yourself if you want incentives you can give to those you acquired from Paid Search to get past the checkout process. You also need to make strategies as to how you can improve the conversion rates from other channels. Why do you have a 0% conversion rate from Referral sites? Can you use discounts and coupons to entice these audiences?

2 – What are the demographics of your customers?

The social characteristics of your customers are also important sources of buyer motivation. Demographics like age, gender, and location will automatically give you some insights as to who and what your customers are and their possible motives of buying.

Using Google Analytics, the Demographics report will help you determine what age and gender your customers are. The sample report below will help you identify which age bracket where you get most of your traffic from and compare it to those who made a purchase. Do you have more millennial customers? If yes, why not tweak the tone and aspirational messaging of your campaigns to make sure millennials easily relate to them?

Demographics report in Google Analytics

On the other hand, the Geo Location report can help you locate your customers by country, region, and city. Where are your customers mostly situated? Their location will give you ideas on which cultural and social references to use when engaging with your audience.

Geo Location on Google Analytics

3 – What products are they browsing mostly?

Evaluating the performance of each of your products is also crucial in understanding buyer motivation. How many times a product is viewed by your visitors? What types of visitors are browsing your mostly viewed products?

These type of data will help you tweak you determine if your product page is designed to attract your visitors according to their buying motives. If you see that there’s a high bounce rate in a particular product page, it means that the product page doesn’t match your customers’ buying motives.

Google Analytics Product Performance analysis will unlock how your visitors are engaging with your product pages. Plus, this will also give you insights as to their shopping behaviors: cart-to-detail rate and buy-to-detail rate. Go to Conversions > Ecommerce > Product Performance to get a sample report below:

Pay attention to the following:

a) Cart-to-Detail Rate: Product adds divided by product detail views.

b) Buy-to-Detail Rate: Unique purchases divided by product detail views.

4 – What are the interests of your customers?

Are there specific interests, hobbies or topics that your customers share? Their common interests will also help you understand where they are coming from. It’s important to know what makes your customers pleased.

This way, you’ll know how to attract and sustain their attention during their buyer’s journey. If you don’t know what sparks their curiosity, you will lose them along the way or worse, they won’t even notice you.

To discover their interests, just simply use Google Analytics’ Interest Report. Go to Audience > Interests. Then, a report similar below will appear:

Google Analytics' Interest Report

5 – Are they looking for discounts or redeeming coupons?

Are your customers asking for discounts? Do you have internal promotions or coupon codes? If yes, do you know the redemption rate? Your promotions, discounts, and other similar deals will give you a hint as to what your customers’ buying motives are.

For instance, are they really choosing your store versus your competitors because of your huge discounts? You can also learn if your promotions are attractive enough or not. This will help you tweak your promotions in the future by learning what types of discounts and promotion really drive your customers to conversion.

There is a section in Google Analytics that focuses on this reporting. Just simply go to Conversions > Ecommerce > Marketing. This will prompt you to choose between the following:

  • Internal Promotion: Determine how your internal promotions performed in terms of views, click, and click-through-rates.
  • Order Coupon: Know how your order-level coupons performed in terms of revenue, transactions, and average order value.
  • Product Coupon: See how your product-level coupons performed in terms of revenue, unique purchases, and average product revenue per purchase.
  • Affiliate Code: Learn how your affiliate sites contributed to your eCommerce performance in terms of revenue, transactions, and average order value.

How to apply your findings in eCommerce actions

Marketing or any type of promotion is only effective if it reaches the correct audience at the right place and timing. Now that you understand and know how to look for buyer motivation, you’re now ready to apply what insights you’ve uncovered.

1- Segment your audience according to buyer motivation and acquisition channel

You’ve all learned earlier that your customers’ decision-making process is a complex ordeal. Because of complexity, there are many underlying buying motives that drive them to conversion. This is why targeting your audience with the same message will just lose your efforts.

It is important that you’re able to segment your audience according to their buying motives and then adjust the way you engage and communicate with each specific segment. You can also pair each buying motive with a specific acquisition channel.

For instance, those acquired from ‘Social’ channel and who are motivated because of fear of loss can be grouped together. If you see that there’s high traffic from Social but with 0% conversion rate then maybe you’re not using their “fear of loss” to your advantage.

FOMO (fear of missing out) is a psychological trigger that explains why people are anxious if they feel they’re left out. You need to increase your FOMO triggers so that your potential customers will be urged to take action as soon as possible, else they will miss out on purchasing a product.

stock countdown

You can manipulate the inventory level of a product to boost FOMO. Headlines like “2 items left” will push shoppers to make a swift action to buy. The Stock Countdown feature of the Countdown Timer app will help you show the scarcity of a specific product.

2 – Maximize customer value per product

If you have underperforming products, you need to understand why it’s that way. You want to know what types they are. For example, if you have accessories with low performing sales, you need to make sure you are upselling them to your high performing items to promote them to your buyers.

A great example is how Zappos carefully planned to do some upselling items that might stir the interest of their shoppers. The recommended products are based on the current product their customers are viewing.

upsell with product recommendation

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3 – Use demographics and interest to match promotions

There are certain demographics and interest groups that can be enticed with different kinds of promotions. Others like discounts or coupons, while some love freebies. Determining which particular groups will respond to the different types of promotions will help you target the right people with the right incentive.

For example, Blackhair & Skincare made $5,600 in more than 1 month using Checkout Boost. What they did was to target loyal customers with a popup discount offer to motivate them to buy more and complete their purchase.

Just-take-it offer by Checkout Boost

Motivating Shoppers to Conversion

Because our customers are your lifeblood, it is pertinent that you put them always at the core of your operations. Now that you know that there are different types of buyer motivation, you can now better plan your marketing strategies based on specific buying motives.

The key is to invest time and effort uncovering your buyer motivation. Once identified, you can now make data-driven business decisions that will surely drive customers towards the end of the buyer’s journey.