Why You Need to Walk in Your Customers’ Shoes

Written by Anela Perviz

6 min read

What do buying a pack of gum and purchasing a new car have in common?

At first glance, they couldn’t be more different. And that’s true, that don’t have much in common other than that they are both part of that customer’s established buying patterns.

Whether you recognize it or not, you have certain buying patterns for just about every purchase you make. 

So, what exactly is a buying pattern?

Buying patterns look at the why and how of purchase decisions. They are essentially routines and habits influenced by the products and services a customer purchases. Buying patterns are part of the customer purchase journey but are more concerned with the customers’ motivations behind each stage of the journey.

Timing, frequency, and quantity help shape a buying pattern. For example, if someone stops by the local coffee shop at 8am everyday on the way to work to buy his favorite brew, that would be the customer’s buying pattern, all three elements are met. 

Other factors that help mold buying patterns include:

  • Where someone lives and works
  • Salary
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Personal taste
  • Recommendations from family and friends
  • Goals and motivations
  • Price of product or service (and whether it is discounted) 
  • Point of purchase display
  • How necessary the purchase is
  • Holidays and special events

It’s important to develop an understanding of customer buying patterns because they help establish successful marketing strategies, predict sales and traffic, and potentially open the door to expanding your target audience to a new set of customers you had not considered before. For example, in an analysis of buying patterns, you might realize that one small change in your operations, like introducing pre ordering via an app, could bring in a whole new customer group that values convenience. 

The Four Types Of Buying Patterns

Like we said at the beginning, no matter what type of purchase you make, there’s a pattern for it. Below are the most common types of buying patterns. 

Routine Purchases

This is the most prevalent type of purchase where we can detect and predict buying patterns simply because of its repetitive nature. The best example of this buying pattern is someone’s weekly trip to the grocery store. Typically, a customer purchases the same products for the most part and might throw in something new every once in a while, but the buying pattern is well-established. However, let’s say that the customer’s children accompany her on one of the weekly shopping trips. Kids will likely ask for snacks and other items not usually purchased by the customer, completely disrupting the established buying pattern.

It’s important to note that who joins the customer on their shopping trip can severely impact purchase decisions. Businesses use this to their advantage by anticipating these decision makers and trying to appeal to them as well. For example, by placing sugary, colorful cereals at children’s eye levels on shelves, brands are targeting the kids accompanying parents to the grocery store. 

Recommendation-Based Purchases

Just as the name says, these types of purchases occur when a customer receives a recommendation from a trusted family member or friend. Because of the pre established trust, the customer doesn’t deliberate much or research their options. If the recommended product or service ends up impressing the new customer, there is potential for the old buying pattern to be disrupted and replaced with a new one. 

Let’s say you’ve been getting your nails manicured at the same salon for years and you don’t think twice about visiting it for your regular appointments. But when a friend raves about a new place she tried and recommends it to you, you decide to try it out. If the new salon wows you, you could very well switch your buying pattern and become a patron of the new business. 

Recommendations or word-of-mouth marketing are incredibly powerful and influential. Businesses, other than providing great products or services, don’t have to invest that much into marketing efforts if their customers do so for them. The lesson here is to 1) wow your customers and 2) incentivize them to share your business with others. The latter can be done through programs that reward people with discounts when they introduce new customers to the business.

Research-Based Purchases

These are purchases that are pricey, seldom occurring, and require extensive decision making, like purchasing a car, laptop, or cell phone. Because of how spread out these purchases are for the average consumer, in most cases it’s difficult to establish a buying pattern. 

However, what businesses can do is build brand loyalty. Apple has built one of the strongest brand loyalties in the world among its customer base. An iPhone user looking for a new phone will almost certainly purchase an iPhone once again. They might conduct research between the different models and designs, but their mind is already made up as to the brand they are purchasing. Even though this type of purchase occurs once every few years, we can assume that a buying pattern exists based on the brand itself.

Impulse Purchases

These are purchases made based on impulses (to state the obvious!). There is no planning or research that goes into them making it difficult to establish buying patterns. 

But once again, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to establish some sort of pattern and play to your customers’ behaviors. The one thing that is consistent among impulse purchases is the convenience factor. Behavior is influenced when a customer sees something they think they need or when they just need to buy something quickly and get it over with. Because of convenience, proximity and location play a role in these buying patterns. 

A classic example is placing gum, candy, and drinks at the checkout lane in a store. The customer didn’t come to purchase these items, and the sole reason they do is because they were in sight and in reach at the point of purchase. 

A more modern example we’re all familiar with is food order and delivery apps. You might choose a different restaurant every time you order, but the one consistent factor is the “add-ons'' before you complete a purchase. If you always throw in a drink, fries, cookie, etc. when prompted, the app will recognize your buying pattern and prompt you  for an "impulse purchase" every time you order. 

By creating the right environment for impulse purchases, we can facilitate customer behavior and help establish buying patterns. 

How To Recognize Buying Patterns

Buying patterns are established when a customer journey is repeated enough times. The basic customer path is awareness of a problem/need, consideration of solutions, and purchase decision. 

When a buying pattern is formed a customer no longer has to go through the entire purchase journey, they simply just repeat the purchase decision phase, because they already have an ideal solution to their problem or need. 

One of the best ways to uncover the buying patterns of your customers is to simply ask them. Here is a list of questions you can use to survey your audience:

  • Why did you start purchasing this product/service?
  • Who made the decision to purchase? You or someone else?
  • Where did you look for this product/service?
  • How long did it take you to make your purchase decision?
  • Do you try out other types of this product/service from different brands?
  • How much do you spend on this?
  • How far would you go out of your way to be able to make this purchase?

The answers to these questions will provide valuable insights into the “why” behind your customers’ purchase decisions. You can also establish whether their decisions are a product of convenience, brand loyalty, or simply best price. 

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that buying patterns do change based on other’s recommendations, successful marketing from competitors, or because a customer’s life changes and their routine is altered. A successful marketing strategy will anticipate these potential disruptions and try to provide solutions to prevent customers from churning. 

If you wish to harness the power of buying patterns, tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and CRM systems will help you extract, organize, and analyze customer data. 

If you’re looking for more information on this topic and EXACTLY how to improve your marketing strategy and tactics to attract customers, click here to get more info on our in-depth business courses!

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