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Consumer Behavior: What Drives Your Decisions?

Hello Neighbor!

We make 35,000 decisions throughout the day – many of them without even noticing. What we choose to wear, eat, buy, and more. Here’s a few questions to get you thinking: How many times have you bought something because you saw someone online had the same thing? Or maybe your friend had it? Have you ever been faced with the choice of a sustainable product or a less sustainable product (I’m sure you have) – what did you choose? Was it in public or in private? What consumer behaviors do you parents have?

So this month we’re going to start by acknowledging our consumer habits and then hopefully learning some tools to improve them to be more sustainable! Because It’s important that we understand our own decisions and what influences them so that we can make better ones!

If you look up consumer behavior – you’re going to get A LOT of different results. Consumer behavior is the actions, decisions, and all the activities associated with the purchase, use and disposal of goods and services. But it also involves how we, the consumer, are feeling, our attitudes, where we are at in our lives, and our preferences.

Marketers use our consumer behaviors to drive our decisions without us even knowing. So what are they? There are 5 factors that influence our consumer behavior – psychological, social, cultural, personal, and economic.

What Drives you?

Psychological

The first is psychological. So what motivates us, our perceptions of the world and what it is we are consuming, the experience we gain through learning, and our attitudes and beliefs.

If you’re trying to decide on whether to buy a product, it may come down to a rational decision for you.

One example is the Tide Challenge. Tide encourages consumers to take the #CleanPledge and wash their clothes in cold water because they clearly say the consequences of your actions – that switching to cold water for a year can save enough energy to charge your phone for a lifetime!

Another example may be that you know if you buy one pair of socks or shoes, the company you’re buying from will donate another pair to someone in need.

Or you may be more emotional. You may be driven by hope in making a decision where the consequences of doing that action are helping the world or someone else. Or you might be motivated by pride – making a sustainable decision because your name goes on a board, or because you receive praise for it.

Social

Next up – social. Social Influence is the impact that a person’s behavior has on another person. Social influence can play an important role in the lives of all people. While some social influences are beneficial to your health and well-being, others can have negative consequences for you.

I’m sure we’ve all been there when we are trying to reach a goal like saving money and then you’ve got a friend or family member that invites you to go shopping or go out for drinks and it’s hard to say no. That’s social influence.

Social influence is growing so much with social media. Like I asked earlier – how many times have you bought something because a friend posted that they got it? It’s as easy as clicking a link and hitting buy now.
But even when you get to the website, it might show you notifications like “4 people just bought this same item.” You think “Wow this must be a good purchase, I’m totally going to go through with it.” That’s a social influence too.

You can be influenced just by being in the presence of someone when making a decision. We think about how people are going to view us and we make decisions accordingly.

We can be influenced by our roles. Like buying fancy clothes because you’re a manager or CEO and you feel like you want to be perceived in a certain way or should have certain habits.

Social influence also happens when you ask your friends and family for their advice and opinion – and then base your decisions on that.

Who you surround yourself with will affect your habits without a doubt. And vice versa!

Cultural

Cultural factors on our consumer habits are because of the values and ideas of the society we are in. This could be culture specific – like eating less meat or not eating beef if you’re from India – for example.

It could also depend on our religion, nationality, or geographical location. Like buying surf boards because you live by the beach, or celebrating Christmas and buying gifts. It depends on our culture.

It will also influence what is available to you. If you live somewhere where recycling is the norm of the culture so you correctly dispose of everything – that can be an influence of your culture.

Personal

Personal can reflect a lot of things about us. Our age, income, occupation, or lifestyle. A 28-year-old who lives in a city working at a tech startup is going to have a lot different consumer habits than someone who may even be the same age living in Missouri and working on a farm.

How we live our lives is one of the most powerful influences on our consumer habits.

Think about what decisions you’re making related to keeping up your current lifestyle and how that lifestyle differs from your parents or your friends.

Economic

And the last factor is economic. Making consumer decisions in a strong, healthy economy compared to a depressed, strained economy gives the consumer a lot more power. It matters how much disposable income we have, what the expectations of us are for where that income goes, our credit, savings, and more.

Recap

So why do I go through all of this?

We want to be green consumers. Mousumi Roy says in his book Green consumer that

“A green consumer is someone who is aware of his or her obligation to protect the environment by selectively purchasing green products or services. A green consumer tries to maintain a healthy and safe lifestyle without endangering the sustainability of the planet and the future of mankind.”

The issue with this is that many people want to buy more sustainable products, make more sustainable decisions, and have more sustainable habits – but the follow through unfortunately just isn’t there. Harvard Business Review notes that “In one recent survey 65% said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, yet only about 26% actually do so.”
Yikes! And I will note here that it takes more than consumer behavior to make a sustainable world – but if we act differently and call for something better, companies will listen.

We’ve got to bridge the gap between our intentions and our actions. And it starts with knowing more about ourselves. Slowing down and taking the time to reflect on these habits and where they come from – and learn how we can choose to make better ones.

Something to grow on

For this week’s something to grow on, I want you to take at least 10 minutes every day this week to reflect on your consumer behaviors. The actions, decisions, and all the activities associated with your purchases and how you use and dispose of goods and services. Reflecting on the situation in which you made the decision as well. We make 35,000 Decisions in a day – so just start with the big ones and see what you learn.

And we will continue to learn in the next few weeks some ways we can make better choices that you can share with others.

So until next time, thanks for joining me, neighbor.

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