You're always hearing about how to sell products. Whether you're a brand, a business, or just a person trying to get by, you're always told that people buy when they feel like they need something. But what if that's not true?

What if people don't buy because they feel like they need something? What if there are other factors in play? What if the way we work with customers and sell products has been misinformed for years?

That's where research comes in. It's not just about finding out what people want, it's also about finding out why they want it. This is called Consumer Behavior, and it's how we can learn more about our customers and help them make better decisions when it comes to buying from us or not.

What is consumer behavior?

We know that consumer behavior is the study of how people make decisions about what they buy, want, need, or act in regards to a product, service, or company. This definition may seem simple and straightforward on its face. However, let's take a look at what this definition really means.

Consumer behavior is not just limited to studying why you bought your significant other flowers because it's Valentine's Day and you felt obligated to do so. Consumer behavior also studies why you decided to buy expensive flowers instead of the less expensive ones right next to them at the grocery store. Or why you decided to buy flowers instead of chocolate or stuffed animals—or even a gift with no sentimental value whatsoever! Furthermore, consumer behavior studies would include an analysis of why you felt an obligation to buy your significant other something in the first place (because society told me I had to? Because I love him or her? Because everyone else was doing it?).

Stages of the consumer buying process

When it comes to buying, there are certain stages that the consumer goes through before making a final decision.

Let's say you want a new car. You've done some research, figured out what kind of car you want, and now it's time to make a purchase. But what does that process actually look like?

The first stage is recognition of the need for a product. This is where you realize that your old car doesn't have enough seats or you hate driving an automatic transmission.
The second stage is information search, which is when you start trying to figure out what kind of new car will meet your needs.
The third stage is evaluation of alternatives, which is when you decide on exactly what kind of car you'll buy. You might consider the price or whether the color options are right for you.
The fourth stage is purchase decision. At this point, you're going to actually go to a dealership and buy a car, or shop online and have it delivered to your house.
And finally, we come to the fifth stage: post-purchase behavior, where after buying your car, you might reflect on how well it meets your needs or whether anything about it surprised you in any way.

What influences our buying decisions?

We're all consumers. When we go to the store, whether it's a brick-and-mortar or online, we're all making important decisions every day. What am I going to get? What will it look like? Will I like it? Is this worth my money? Studying consumer behavior helps us understand not only what will influence our own buying decisions but also how to best advertise and market products that people will want.

Before a person even steps foot in a store, he is surrounded by hundreds of images trying to sell us something. The industry term for this process is "information processing". We are constantly being bombarded with images of different products in commercials, billboards, and magazine ads trying to persuade us into thinking we need whatever product they happen to be selling.

Cognitive dissonance and post-purchase behavior

Once the purchase has been made, cognitive dissonance can continue to play its part. Let's say you purchased a new blender (like a Vitamix 750) and thought it was a great choice at the time of sale, but are now second-guessing your decision. You may be feeling cognitive dissonance because your mind is trying to rationalize spending so much money on one kitchen appliance. As this weakens your belief that you made the right decision, there will be an increase in motivation to strengthen your belief. In order to justify choosing the expensive blender over all other options and feel good about the purchase again, you might use it all the time, find recipes that utilize it or convince yourself that it is worth every penny by convincing others of its benefits as well.

Motivated by the need for harmony between beliefs and actions, people may experience regret even if they chose correctly from among given alternatives. They may also experience dissonance if they have alternative options which would bring greater satisfaction than what they ended up with! This means that marketers should be aware of how customers feel about their product after making a purchase; efforts should be taken to keep them happy as possible with their decision!

For the past couple of years, a trend among millennials has been to buy more than they can afford. This became an issue where banks would not lend them money to purchase homes due to high debt ratios and heavy borrowing practices. Banks also tried to sign up these consumers for credit card debts as a form of rehabilitation.

When this trend was first noticed, some businesses realized it could be a profitable market. Businesses that sell aspirational products like specially designed furniture or cars (e.g., the Tesla Model S) are able to sell their products at higher prices because sales associates are able to teach consumers about how good their product is and educate them on why they think it is quality and warrant a higher price.

Is an understanding of consumer behavior necessary for business success?

While it may not seem like a "sexy" subject, there's no doubt that understanding consumer behavior is crucial for business success. It helps you make better marketing decisions and anticipate customer needs to lead to greater satisfaction.

Here are a few reasons why we need to understand consumer behavior.

Understanding your consumers allows you to create a better customer experience.
It helps optimize the buying process.
You can anticipate customer needs before they even know them themselves.
A better understanding of who your customers are will enable you to offer products or services tailored specifically for them as individuals, which is how all of us like to be treated - as individuals rather than faceless cogs in some generic marketplace machine.
An understanding of consumer behavior is key to creating a good marketing strategy.

Understanding consumer behavior is key to creating a good marketing strategy because of how it enables you to develop a deep insight into the factors that are driving consumers' purchase decisions and their motivations and feelings towards your product. Having such an in-depth understanding of your target audience's buyer journey makes it easier for you to meet them where they're at and provide them with the information they need at each stage.

It also helps you figure out where your preexisting customers can be reached on the web, so that you can target them in your advertising efforts. This means that if, for example, one particular type of person visits a specific website every day, then the chances are that advertising there will be more effective than advertising somewhere else (or not advertising at all).