SMPL Q&A: 4 questions on buying behavior with Marc Desmond

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SMPL Q&A is a blog feature in which we interview experts on all things relevant to branding, design and simplicity. In this Q&A, we speak with Marc Desmond, senior business analytics and insights strategist, about the surprising factors that contribute to purchase decision-making in commodities, professional services, TV News and B2B tech.

Consumer buying behavior in commodity purchases: What factors contribute to purchase decision-making in commodities?

Typically when asked, consumers assert their preferences for commodity products (things like water, gasoline or milk) are driven by price and ease of accessibility or convenience. These reasons make sense as they’re easy to articulate and directly related to the action of purchasing commodities (paying at the register and traveling to obtain the product, respectively).

However our own business analytics research on consumer buying behavior shows that price and convenience combined only make up about half of the decision to select a typical commodity product offered by one company over another. The rest of the decision relies on factors that most consumers would not expect: brand perceptions, the quality of the product and, in some cases, perceptions of a brand’s parent company. What we frequently find in our brand research is that many purchase decisions in this category are based on factors that consumers struggle to either admit or communicate.

B2B brand research: What factors contribute to purchase choice in professional services?

Deciding which law firm to partner with is a decision that takes much thought and consideration. These decisions historically rely on professional services firms being able to prove their level of expertise and the quality of the services they provide. Recently, however, we have started to see a trend in purchase decision-making shift to prioritize attributes like corporate social responsibility and thought leadership. To choose between firms with a comparable quality of service, clients look for partners with a similar culture to their own.

What factors contribute to channel preference in TV News?

When we turn on the news, conventional thinking is we’re looking for a reputable station to simply and accurately tell us all we need to know about the latest newsworthy events. While one might hope that what we truly value is an unbiased point of view defined by rigorous journalism and expertise, the truth is almost the complete opposite. Our research suggests news interests are quite material. Viewers place high value on a station that has recognizable anchors, agrees with an existing point of view and is entertaining. Even physical traits of the news anchors are important as we prefer to hear the news from individuals that both look and sound like us. Interestingly enough, there is an underlying assumption that all news stations are equally credible (or not credible), and therefore we lean on other traits that either satisfy our own personal entertainment or give us sensational stories to discuss at the water cooler.

What factors contribute to purchase decision in B2B tech brands?

Over the years we’ve done brand research through our proprietary business analytics tool for a number of B2B technology brands. While innovation is universally important, an interesting trend has recently surfaced around what innovation means. Innovation on its own is no longer enough, while innovation for a purpose is what clients value. Decision makers are looking for technological innovation to provide clear, relevant end benefits that impact their daily work. Simply labeling your business as innovative will only achieve so much without also expressing how that innovation will benefit the lives of your customers.

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