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Behavioral Science

How the Nonconscious Impacts Consumer Purchase Decisions

Posted On  September 15, 2019

Why do consumers buy the way they do? You probably know that not every purchase decision is the result of a conscious deliberation. Most consumer decisions result from some combination of conscious and less conscious processes.

There are a number of ways that consumers’ purchase decisions are affected by less conscious processes, including:

A consumer’s nonconscious goals may shape how they shop and buy.

Consumers are driven by their BASE needs: Belonging, Appeal, Security, and Exploration. These fundamental human needs constantly drive consumer decision-making, though they usually operate at a less conscious, gut level. For example, if you have a strong need for exploration, you may search multiple retailers before making a decision. If you’re driven by appeal, you may pick the prestige brand that will make you stand out amongst your friends.

A consumer may be unintentionally influenced by situational factors.

If you’ve ever caught yourself filling your cart as quickly as possible to get out of a noisy store, then you’ve adapted your shopping behavior in response to your environment. You’re less likely to browse, inspect ingredient levels, or try new items because of the volume, though you’re unlikely realize and to attribute it to that.

A consumer can go on auto-pilot, relying on the nonconscious to make shopping less cognitively demanding.

When you’re heading down an aisle in the grocery store, you may quickly grab the same detergent you’ve been using for the past decade without glancing at the others. When you do this, you’re making the purchase decision out of habit, saving yourself the time and energy that would be required to consciously decide between products.

Understand the nonconscious and the consumer decision process.

Every consumer has a network of interconnected associations in their mind. The more closely the consumer’s mind associates two concepts, the more quickly the nonconscious makes judgments about them.

Because consumers often make quick decisions that rely on conscious and less conscious factors, a consumer might not fully understand their motivations at the time of a purchase. When you ask them to explain what they were thinking, they will offer a post-decision rationalization. Nonconscious measurement tools can help researchers uncover the consumer’s motivation, context, and goals in a more complete and meaningful way than the consumer can at that point in time.

To learn more about how understanding the non-conscious is critical to understanding consumer decisions, download our white paper, Consumer Behavior: Why Care About the Non-Conscious?


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