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The Psychology Behind Hitting the Buy Button

It is undeniable that what we're going through — the global COVID pandemic, followed by lockdowns, losses, and economic disorder — is unprecedented. Therefore, we all know that chaos is the byproduct of confusion during times of great challenges and that that has a direct impact on buying behaviors.

Andre Floriano
Andre Floriano

In this article, I would like to propose a vantage point, if you will, that will allow you to broaden your vision at the same time your marketing strategies are sharpened by the awareness about the new normal of online consumption.

Therefore, it's time to situate ourselves. Let us take a look at the big picture. For that, we start with a question that will give us a north:

What are the major changes that our world, nations, societies, households, and individuals are witnessing during these uncertain times?

In 2009, at the dawn of our most recent global financial crisis, prompted by the late 2008 subprime implosion, a very important study, condensed in a book, This Time Is Different, was led by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. Their study covered sixty-six countries across five continents through eight centuries of tracked major financial catastrophes. Their fact-based conclusion? Financial crashes are more common and cyclical than most people, and even some renowned economists, claim.

But what about human behaviors, do they change on a cyclical pace or something really critical have to happen in order to cause such a worldwide massive transformation?

When it comes to a crisis, one thing we all know for sure is that people tend to buy less — because of the scarcity of resources or the fear of the future, causing them to be more cautious regarding spending money.

Well, starting to answer the above-mentioned question, we can easily say that a major change we are seeing and will continue to see is on buying habits. So, considering that this article has been published on the week of the 2020 Black Friday, let us turn our gaze to the area that has been impacted the most: human behavior.

Now, we will go over the four most important aspects of human behavior that have been directly impacted by the current global COVID pandemic:

Intrapersonal

Photo by Ryan Pouncy on Unsplash

Remaining on the surface of human psychology — avoiding any deep or complex analysis —, we already can notice that this is a moment of inner reflection. Social isolation, no matter if one lives alone or with other people (family, friends, etc.), is imposing on each one of us an opportunity to think about life as, perhaps, never before.

"Have I chosen the right professional path?"

"What if I have done 'that' instead?"

"Maybe it is about time for a real change."

"How can I stay on track to realize my dreams?"

Well, inner reflection does not happen only during global catastrophes, of course. However, during these moments in history, a phenomenon occurs: millions (not to say billions) of individuals are having these self analysis at the same time.

And that is huge!

That will have a direct impact on how people relate to each other, how they generate value to whatever they have to, and how they consume.

Interpersonal

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

First of all, People Need People (PNP adding a drop of mnemonic to the bucket). Human beings need:

  • Physical contacts
  • Natural relationships
  • Purposeful interactions

Unfortunately, we tend to give more value to things (or people) after we lose them — it is our nature.

Blind people are known to have better hearing abilities than sighted ones; but there is no common understanding, among scientists, if blindness physically affects the auditory system by enhancing its capacity. Nevertheless, they agree that the lack of one sense gives the brain "room" to improve other senses.

Human behavior operates in this very same dynamic: by removing, or neutralizing, physical contacts as well as natural relationships (those happening in the real world), there comes an opportunity for purposeful interactions, which means that whatever people are doing — whether it is calling a distant friend or that relative with whom they don't talk for years, or choosing a book to read, or registering for an online course, or purchasing something online — they are doing with much more intention. Their sense of purpose has been enhanced.

And that is also huge!

In the above-mentioned scenario, the chances of impulse buying substantially decrease.

Productivity

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

Throughout the world, companies of all sizes had to rush and migrate their employees to the home office model; most of them, without any preparation or previous experience.

The result? An increase in productivity has been seen across the board. And again, of course, there are several hypotheses to this: the quality of life is improved when one doesn't need to commute to work (especially those who spend more than one hour on each way); overnight change spikes curiosity, enthusiasm, and teamwork; the uncertainty of the future (fear of unemployment) surfaces, empowering self-motivation; the distractions of a fancy office is replaced by the monotony of the home-sweet-home; and so on.

No matter what the real cause is, in general, this pandemic has positively impacted people's productivity.

And that is super huge!

The satisfaction generated by an accomplished task/project drives the brain to produce dopamine (a neurotransmitter related to pleasure). It's the opposite of the boringness generated by the frustration of not doing what should be done, which tends to stimulate impulsive buying.

So, here again, the chances of impulse buying substantially decrease.

Consumption

Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

This human behavior — consumption — offers a two-fold observation:

1. As you could see up to this point in this article, this is a moment in which: a) people are pausing to reflect more than in normal circumstances (INTRAPERSONAL behavior); b) due to the lack of physical contacts and natural relationships, purposeful interactions have been enhanced (INTERPERSONAL behavior); and c) the more productive people become, the less they feel bored, reducing the need for instant dopamine (PRODUCTIVITY behavior). These are behavioral changes that have one specific aspect in common: impulsive buying has lost strength.

2. However, eCommerces are selling more than ever! How is that possible? Because we are witnessing an unprecedented wave of newcomers — first-time e-shoppers (not on this or that store but first time making an online purchase, of any kind) — and a greater number of people shopping online.

This is amazingly HUGE!

Conclusion

So no matter how tragic the economic recession might be, it won't be much different than what the world has experienced in the past — many many times.

On the other hand, we are closely watching an unprecedented shift in human behavior, including — or resulting in — the consumption behavior.

Impulsive buying behavior has been decreased as a result of an enhancement in purposeful interactions. Notwithstanding, eCommerce sales are increasing; and that is because first-time e-shoppers are coming in the millions, combined with existing e-shoppers increasing their online consumption.

So if you want to correctly position your eCommerce during this changing times, understand the human being behind the computer screen. His/her behavior has substantially changed and so must your communication, your offer, the value you are delivering.

Yes, online impulsive buying has been decreased but buying is stronger than ever. It's certainly time to reconsider your marketing strategies and its conventional attention triggers.

As the bright Steve Jobs once invited: "Think different."  

Customer experienceeCommerce

Andre Floriano

Brazilian living in Poland. Lived for 10 years in the U.S. With experience in international business management and marketing. Currently, edrone’s Head of Education.