What Makes People Buy?

The average consumer is a different beast to the pre-internet age - what do they look for in the things they buy?

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The average consumer is a different beast to the pre-internet age - what do they look for in the things they buy?


What Makes People Buy?

The average consumer is a different beast to the pre-internet age - what do they look for in the things they buy?

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Understanding why your customers buy is key to developing a successful sales strategy. However, this knowledge is not always easy to come by. Plus, there’s a pervasive belief that most consumers have decided on their purchase before they’ve even engaged with a salesperson.

The problem with this mindset is it implies that salespeople are helpless and can’t exert any influence over the consumer’s buying decision. This simply isn’t true. There are many different factors that influence the buying process such as convenience, value, trends and online research.

Rather than react once a sale has been lost, your salespeople need to understand these factors – and use them proactively to guide their consumers at every stage of the buying journey.

These are the four most important things modern consumers look for when making a purchase.

Online research

Lots of reports exist on the topic of online consumer research. The general conclusion, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that consumers do a lot of it before buying something. It’s much easier to find information about products online – including all-important testimonials and reviews – than ever before.

This gives people a chance to weigh up the pros and cons of what they want or need, and make a fully informed purchasing decision.

To use this to your advantage, make sure that your business has a strong online presence. Build an appealing website to house useful information about your products and services – and use search engine optimisation so that your content ranks highly in Google searches.

Be consistent with all the content you create. Every product guide, web page, case study or blog needs to be relevant to the reader and offer some assistance. It’s very easy for customers to find misleading information – you want to guide prospective customers to the right sources using the right messages.

Tracking and analysing how your target audience engages with your content can help you segment, and determine what content to distribute, when and via which channel.

Product trends

Whether you like it or not, consumers are influenced by current trends. Popular culture, peer groups and general media all play a very prominent role in why someone buys something.

Instead of ignoring this, investigate how you can adapt your offer to resonate with what’s trending. Assess your goods with a sharp eye and ask yourself if they keep pace with what your customers need.

Some trends will come and go, but others can be entirely transformative and change the market forever. Just think of the impact mobile functionality, automation and eco-friendliness have had. If your offer doesn’t evolve in line with trends like these, you risk falling out of touch – and falling behind.

Keeping up with trends is important, but staying ahead of them is even more valuable. A forward-thinking approach is a winning way to stand out from the competition – especially in heavily commoditised industries such as electronics and FMCG.


The fact that the convenience of an offer is an influential buying factor is by no means a new idea. Businesses have known about this for years and years. However, the buying process is increasingly dominated by speed and connectedness. Convenience is now more of a necessity or demand than just a ‘nice to have’.

Convenience also means more than one thing. There’s the convenience of WHAT is being offered (the product), WHEN it’s being offered (the time) and HOW (through which channel). You need to understand what convenience means to your customers – and you don’t need to be a mind-reader to do it.

This information lies in the tons of customer data you’re likely already collecting. An in-depth analysis of it can review historic buying behaviour, assess seasonal trends and market influences, and identify relevant up- and cross-selling opportunities.

These insights can help you tailor specific offers to certain audience groups, ensuring that your entire customer base experiences convenience according to their individual preferences.


How does the modern consumer perceive value? You’ve probably heard it said that today’s buyers want experiences rather than just things. These consumers are so immersed in their digital environments that they can connect with their favourite brands in more ways than one.

This online interaction has elevated how people engage with businesses – it’s no longer a simple transaction, it’s an experience that continues long after the sale has been done.

Consumers are significantly influenced by the experience they have with a brand. If your company is not doing much to offer a remarkable customer experience, then don’t be surprised if you find it hard to retain customers. ‘Customer experience’ is not some buzz phrase – nor is it all that hard to improve.

There are so many ways you could add relevant value to your basic offer. If you’re a tools and equipment company, why not bundle bespoke training and maintenance services into the sale?

A food and drink business could offer customers free samples and invite them to exclusive tasting events. Software companies can include one-on-one product demos, bespoke systems integrations and 24/7 support.

If your customers associate your company with added value, they’ll be far more likely to come back for repeat business. This is essential for standing out in competitive markets, retaining existing customers and winning new business.

A winning sales strategy relies on information. Businesses that understand who their customers are and what makes them buy have a greater chance of success.

Paul Black is CEO of sales-i.

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What Makes People Buy?

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