This article was updated February 1, 2021.
Back in December, 2013, I wrote that “there’s entirely too much focus on social networking and technologies among marketers today, and far too little focus on how and why consumers make purchase decisions.”
I argued that despite being a proponent of social media and its value to brands, social media marketing must be tempered with strategy based on the consumer decision-making process, at least in for-profit businesses.
Without first understanding what motivates a consumer to consider or make a purchase, content marketing, influence marketing, or any other marketing-of-the-day strategy won’t have a dramatic effect on the business’s bottom line.
Fast forward 8 years…8 years more experience (and a lot more gray hair)…and that statement seems prophetic.
Today, more than ever, most consumers make purchase decisions based on an emotion, which can manifest through peer pressure, personal relationships, advertising, location, economic conditions, etc
People are driven by their hearts first and foremost. Gut instinct, physical attraction, fear, love, etc…these are powerful motivators for consumers.
The ever growing presence of social media that we’re connected to all day everyday fuels this to the umpteenth degree.
Typically, whatever emotion leads to the desire to purchase a product – or the selection of one product over another – creates a void in the mind of the buyer post purchase.
Did I make the right choice?
Should I have chosen the other product?
Will I regret this in six months?
All are common questions that move to the front of the consumer’s mind. Of course, the larger the purchase the more evident and powerful this void is.
To fill in this void, consumers will seek some form of logical justification to qualify the purchase decision.
They will fabricate it or crowdsource it through peers, whatever it takes to put their minds at ease and kill the uncertainty that’s instinctually present after the purchase.
Sales and marketing teams must be cognizant of the factors that create emotional connections with prospects and buyers – and where those connections happen – and create the content or outreach that satisfies each.
Emotional and Logical Connections in the Purchase Decision Process
Purchase decisions are not rational as many sales and marketing folks believe. As a result, many sales presentations, advertisements, and “sales slicks” focus on the listing of features and benefits or other similar proof statements.
“This is your problem and here is how our product satisfies that need.”
Unfortunately it’s not that simple.
M.F. Luce conducted some research for the Journal of Consumer Research on the decision-making processes and emotions of consumers that demonstrated how emotions can derail rational decisions.
The study highlighted consumers in need of a car, and actively shopping for one, who decided to NOT to purchase an automobile when presented with information and advertisements that included auto safety concerns.
The negative emotions elicited from the safety information turned “likely to buy” consumers to “not likely to buy” consumers.
In another study by Jennifer Lerner in 2000, reported in “Beyond Valence: Toward a model of emotion-specific influences on judgement and choice,” consumers categorized as fearful made pessimistic judgements of future events whereas those classified as angry made optimistic judgements.
And now in 2021, social proof and social crowdsourcing make this principle even more relevant, not less so.
Research highlights that 70% of consumers first check reviews and peer comments before making a purchase decision, and these reviews are 12 times more trusted than the company’s own brand promises or product marketing. (Source: Buffer/eConsultancy)
The point is, the emotional state of consumers at the time of purchase consideration or decision-making dramatically affects the manner in which they make those decisions.
As marketers, we must consider this when establishing a brand, communicating with prospects, and creating advertisements.
Overcoming Emotional Decisions
Unless you’re selling a high-impulse item like ladies’ shoes, marketers must look to creating emotional connections with prospects, influencers, and other stakeholders through brand experiences and community.
Since this article was first written almost 10 years ago, peer-to-peer connections have become even more important to the decision-making process of consumers.
Marketers must bake-in the logical justification into the pre-purchase lifecycle, which we’ve seen to be most effectively accomplished through brand-owned communities and networking.
This principle was used when designing and developing a brand community for Ringling College of Art & Design.
This is a great example of logical decision-making occurring in advance of the emotional connection.
Too many students were not applying or accepting their art college admissions because their parents pushed them to more “financially stable” and secure career paths, despite the evidence of lucrative career options in game design, movie production, etc.
Through an owned community, we designed a community targeting students (and their parents) first entering high school in order to establish emotional connections to their passions and professional heroes, while establishing the social proof (or logical decision-making factors) by matching them up with mentors attending the art college and successful alumni thriving in their art-focused careers.
The impact on college admissions and acceptance was almost immediate. Both applications and acceptance conversions both went up within the first year.
Through owned-community engagement, a brand can create those emotional connections and through peer-connections, offer natural access to proof points, recommendations, and the logical justification required by today’s consumers.
Alternatively, we can create a return on investment calculator that prospects can self-manage after being drawn in emotionally.
Similarly, you may consider showcasing testimonials by like-minded customers who directly state how the product or service solved the pain point.
The final logical justification is a money-back guarantee or any tactic/offer that the consumer can use to convince themselves that they’ll not be stuck with a bad decision.
Whether you choose to push these messages out via influencers or include them in your community engagement and content, the key is to ensure that the logical justification is inserted after an emotional connection is made, and not as the initial sales tactic itself.
To gain the greatest result from connecting logical justification to emotional purchase decisions, you must first create the desire (through emotional connections) and then close them with logical justification.