When marketing a product or service, most companies will agree that online marketing is one of the best ways to go about it. Virtual shopping carts and credit card readers are two technologies that have made virtually every business viable to market online. Even brick-and-mortar stores such as clothing brands and furniture makers have adjusted their tactics to take advantage of the worldwide web.
When a consumer clicks on an online ad or enters a website, they expect to find accurate and up-to-date information. Some companies take this fact a step further by offering consumers the ability to research an item online before purchasing it. With that, the possibilities for consumer confusion increase. What is the best practice in regards to online research? Should a company let consumer know there is more than one source of information, or shield them from seeing multiple options?
To find the answer, one must understand the psychology of marketing and the role of the internet in shaping consumer behavior.
Marketing Psychology Basics
The science of marketing, also known as psychographics or consumer behaviorism, emerged in the early 20th century to understand and predict consumer buying behavior. The goal of marketing is to influence purchasing decisions by understanding people’s thoughts and feelings.
While marketers may believe that people behave in a certain way based on their biological makeup or social status, research has shown that behavior is actually based on a combination of internal and external factors. In today’s world, marketing is used to describe the process of getting someone to buy something through advertising. However, this definition has changed over the years and today, marketing is used to explore the dynamics of consumer decision-making and predict purchasing behaviors for more in-depth analysis.
The Importance of Research
In the digital world, consumers are more informed than ever before. Thanks to the internet and the various platforms built on top of it, consumers can access endless amounts of information in moments. What was once reserved for books and magazines is now available on a click of a button.
That being said, most people still rely on traditional research methods such as speaking to customers or reviewing marketing materials to get their information. However, with the rise of the review website and social media, consumers can now access information about a product or service in less time than it takes to watch a television ad. The issue with this is that oftentimes, the information is out of date or simply wrong. What’s more, since there are so many competing reviews and so much noise on social media, the chances of someone finding the right information are slim to zero.
How the Internet Shapes Consumer Behavior
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, consumers have access to all kinds of information and research about products and services. However, this also means they have access to all of the information about a product or service, which can be both beneficial and confusing at the same time.
On the one hand, having this depth of information is incredibly beneficial to consumers. They can now perform extensive research on any product or service and compare it to all the other options available. On the other hand, having all of this information available means there is more than likely going to be some degree of product or service comparison, which can lead to consumer confusion.
When comparing products or services, consumers are more likely to be influenced by the number of reviews available rather than the quality of those reviews or the reputation of the company that made the product. In other words, the internet has made it possible to have many “choices,” but not all of those choices are created equal. Since consumers have unlimited options, the chances of them making the right choice are slim. This is where marketers can step in and help by offering consumers multiple options and making sure those options are clearly labeled. It’s also important to make sure that the data presented is up-to-date and represents the full scope of all the options available. Oftentimes, companies will put out misleading or simply inaccurate information to scare away potential customers or get them to buy their product or service.
The Importance of Multiple Choices
When choosing a television or a streaming device, for example, consumers have a variety of options in terms of the types of content they want to use or view on their device. While many may prefer using YouTube to find and watch content, they could also go the more traditional route and use Netflix or Hulu for their TV content. Since there are more than two options to choose from, this can make navigation a little difficult for the average person. This is why marketing teams should ensure that consumers are clearly guided through a seamless and effortless shopping journey. When multiple choices are available, marketers can improve conversion rates by taking the time to explain the differences between the various products or services and how those differences affect their life. This may mean taking the time to walk the consumer through a quick comparison sheet or providing them with a small business guide that contains all the information they need to make an informed decision.
Making a Purchase Decision
After researching multiple options, consumers may feel that they have enough information to make a purchasing decision. However, this may be the case only if the information is presented in a simple and straightforward manner. Since people are always looking for the cheapest option or the best value for their money, companies may try to trick them into making a decision by using certain methods. In the TV world, this could mean showing them the cheaper alternative only after they’ve made their choice, or having a salesperson approach them after they’ve made their decision and try to convince them to choose their product instead.
Even more to the point, some companies will go as far as to show only those products that are most similar to the one they’re researching. While this makes the decision-making process a little easier, it can also lead to more consumer confusion. Since similar products may not be exactly the same, this could mean that the product they’re researching may not be exactly what they’re going to get once they make their purchase. This is why marketers should always make sure that the information they provide to consumers is 100% in accordance with what they’re seeing online or within their mobile app.
If you’re a business owner or marketer, you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with marketing and the research process. Let’s recap: Marketing emerged in the early 20th century to understand and predict consumer buying behavior. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the various platforms built on top of it, consumers can now access unlimited information about products and services. However, this also means they have access to all of the information about a product or service, which can be both beneficial and confusing at the same time.
Since research is an important part of marketing and the options available to consumers have increased, what is the best practice in regards to online research and multiple choice? Should a business simply provide consumers with all the information they need or are they being tricked into making a purchase?