Consumer Behaviour vs. Motivation

Research Basics

Understanding The Differences Between Consumer Behaviour and Motivation


Let’s say you’re looking at breaking into the energy drink market. You look at sales numbers, and you can easily identify Red Bull as the most popular energy drink on the market. People buy it more than any other energy drink. That’s an observable, quantifiable fact that displays the behaviour of consumers in the energy drink market, and it’s important information to know. But does that data tell you anything about why Red Bull is the leading energy drink? Taste? Public perception? Price? No it doesn’t, and what that data is missing is harder to quantify through raw numbers alone. It’s missing consumers’ motivations.

When police start looking for the perpetrator of a crime, they’ll look at who may have had a motive. Because without a motive, well, there’s nothing compelling that person to act. Motivation is of the utmost importance when we want to understand a person’s behaviour. It’s what causes people to commit a crime and/or choose a certain energy drink.


Compared to motivation, behaviour is easily monitored and broken down into data, especially if you are selling online. And it’s still very important to have that information. Using data about behaviour can lead you to conclusions that are useful for understanding patterns and trends in behaviour, but more often it just leaves you with a question: “Why is this happening?”


What Behaviour Is Missing

Measuring behaviour alone doesn’t tell you anything about the motivations behind them. Companies often take the data they obtain from consumer behaviour—amount of products sold, when they were sold, where they were sold—and try to use this to determine the motivations behind the sales. Unfortunately, using behaviour to determine motivation is guesswork at best. You come up with shallow answers, and you may end up choosing something that seems as though it should be true.


Motivations are what drive behaviour, not the other way around. 


Knowing your consumers’ behaviour is important—you have to have a way to measure the different aspects of your business—but knowing the motivations behind why they shop is even more important. When you know your customers’ motivations, you can cater more closely to those motivations and double down on activities that work best to drive them.


A Classic Example

For instance, a brand that makes great outdoor equipment and apparel may believe that their core consumers are buying their clothes and gear to go hiking, endure the elements, and stay active. After all, their core demographic skews younger and more active. But that might not be the only motivation that their customers have for buying that brand's apparel. It may be that their clothes have become a status symbol, or have quickly become adopted by those who are looking to project a certain image. Would it surprise them to learn that a certain article of clothing sees more clubs and bars than hiking trails?

Knowing that a love of the outdoors isn’t the only motivation pushing sales will allow that company to begin catering to some of the people who are buying their clothes for different reasons. It may not be a change in the apparel they make, but it might mean adding a few new items, marketing old favourites in a new way, or using other channels to optimise who they are communicating with. 

If that company sticks with the information based strictly on behaviour, this kind of insight can easily get lost in the data. What they need is actionable information that provides them with the “why?” rather than just the hard numbers.


Combining Behaviour And Motivation

Trends develop quickly. Because it’s based on internal motivations, behaviour is just as fickle as the motives that drive it. Have you recently experienced an increase or decrease in sales? It's a good idea to resist the urge to guess the reasons behind the change (you will be either lucky or wrong) and invest in regular brand tracking instead.

Maybe you’ve recently changed your product design and you believe that’s the answer. The problem is that correlation doesn’t equal causation. Your new design may be driving sales, but you don’t know that for sure without proper research and insights about what’s causing your consumers’ change in behaviour.

When you have data on your customer’s behaviour, as well as insight into their motivations, you have the best, most actionable information possible. You know what they’ve been buying, and you have a good understanding of why they buy it. And that helps you create products and marketing activities that satisfy your customers’ wants and needs.


The Payoff

When you come to a deep understanding of who your customers are and why they buy your products, you also know who doesn’t buy your products. Using that information, you can cater more specifically to the types of consumers who have a motive to buy your product or create one for those who don't.

It's also important to look at motivation for consumer for each funnel step: Why did consumer try your product? Why did they buy it? Why do they they say it's their favourite? Looking at this type of conversion data then gives you the holy grail of insights: What type of awareness-driving activities do you need to run to end up with the maximum amount of consumer buying your product.

You don’t necessarily have to change your products, just understand the way consumers think about them. If you know their motives, you can provide them with an outlet for their behaviour—buying your products.


We'd love to tell you how we help brands like yours

Schedule Intro
Request Info