Gini Dietrich

Four Things Customers Want When Making a Purchase Decision

By: Gini Dietrich | June 4, 2012 | 

Most of us know the marketing mantra KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

But how many of us actually practice it?

There are so many tools available on the web today that many of us have a hard time not reacting to the shiny, new penny syndrome (squirrel!).

Take a look at the image over there on the left. These are all of the social media tools available on the web today.

When I started out on the social web nearly five years ago, there were a fraction of that. In fact, there were so few, Brian Solis created a pretty flower chart that showed (called the conversation prism) that made it really easy for a marketer to decide which tools to use in an overall strategy.

It had only 31 tools.

Sure, it’s been updated several times in the past few years, but back then it had only 31.

But today? I mean, look at that. It’s overwhelming for us. Can you imagine what it’s like for our customers?

Consumers are Overwhelmed

There is new research out that looks at 7,000 consumers in the U.S., the UK, and Australia, covering a wide range of ages, income levels, and ethnicities.

Respondents were asked dozens of questions about their attitudes and purchase experiences across a variety of price points and channels in categories including apparel, cars, luxury goods, onetime items (such as airline tickets), and ongoing services (such as cell phone service).

Questions explored shopping duration, effort required, purchase-related research, the consumer’s state of mind, his relationship with the brand, the frequency of his interactions with the brand, and the likelihood of repurchasing and recommending.

The researchers aslo interviewed 200 chief marketing officers, brand managers, and other marketing executives representing 125 consumer brands in 12 industries globally, asking about their strategies and beliefs concerning drivers of stickiness.

It turns out consumers are overwhelmed. What they really want is simplicity.

An Example

Let’s take a look at two companies in the same industry. For sake of argument, we’ll make them car companies.

It didn’t use to be we would look for, narrow down, or even buy a car online. But it’s becoming more and more the the trend so we’ll use that as an example.

Let’s say Car Company A does a nice search engine  marketing program where they have some fancy Google ads that drive people to their website, when searching specific keywords.

Once you get to the site, you are directed to the car’s online brochure that is technical and has lots of specs, but doesn’t allow you to compare with the company’s other cars (let alone its competitors), nor does it give you prices. To get those, you have to take a test drive at your local dealership.

Car Company B has the same search engine marketing program, but they use the Google ads to figure out where you are in the buying process.

If you’re just collecting information right now, it directs you to a page on their site that allows you to compare cars in the same class – both their own and their competitor’s.

From there, they walk you through a process, using aided navigation to get you the information you need to help inform your decision.

If, however, the search engine marketing program determines you are ready to buy (based on how and what you’re searching), it sends you directly to the pricing page so you can build the car you want and not only determine its price, but also help you figure out your monthly payments and insurance.

Where would you rather buy your car?

What Consumers Want

The Corporate Executive Board research found there are four things consumers want when using the web to either inform a purchase decision or buy:

  • Make Decisions Simple. They discovered the respondents want decisions to be made simple. They looked at “how easy it is for consumers to gather and understand (or navigate) information about a brand, how much they can trust the information they find, and how readily they can weigh their options.” The easier you make the decision-making process, the higher your decision simplicity score.
  • Aid in Navigating a Site. This really is about creating a clear path to purchase. As we are working on Spin Sucks Pro (in my spare time now that I have a book tour going on), we discovered some of the navigation to get to something really simple – like a case study – was ridiculously hard. We tore down (figuratively speaking) the walls that were surrounding the case studies so it’s easy to get to them from the home page, from a Google search, or from within the paid content. Before that, you had to click six (!!!) times before you got to them. And they’re free.
  • Trust the Information They’re Gathering. We’re so focused on creating engagement – through our social networks and content – that we forget the information our customers are gathering is only as good as what the last person said about it. If you want to tell your company story, ask customers to do that for you. JC Penney does a great job with this because they invite teenage girls to create “haul” videos that then are featured on their website. The videos don’t necessarily have to show the teenagers shopping at Penney’s. It’s simply a way to help customers see how everyday people put together clothes, shoes, and accessories after shopping.
  • Easier to Weigh Options. Marcus Sheridan talks about this when he speaks. He suggests using the word “versus” when you write content. Not only does it answer a customer’s question, it gives you long-tail search engine optimization results. For instance, PR vs. advertising. Or boutique PR firm vs. global PR firm. This answers the question your customer would ask, in a way that makes it easier for them to weigh the option.

So there you have it. You can either be like Car Company A and make the purchase decision really difficult for your customer or you can be like Car Company B and make it ridiculously easy.

Which would you rather?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • We live in an age of customization and options. We can customize just about anything and have lots of options to choose from. For me, I love going out to eat. But when I go into a restaurant where there are so many options on the menu from which to choose, I can get paralyzed with indecision. EVERYTHING looks so good to me. I would much rather find a menu with just a few really good options to make the choice easier for me. Choosing from 8 to 10 entrees is so much easier than 30 or 40.
    Where it becomes difficult, particularly within a store, is finding that balance between quick and easy, and personalization. Banks and grocery stores have been trying to find that balance where you have options for getting personal service vs. something that is fully automated where you have no human contact. It can become quite tricky.

    •  @KenMueller That’s a really good example! I always joke that eating out is easy for me because it’s rare there are more than two vegetarian choices on any menu. And then, when you have 30-40 choices and you ask the server what they like, they say, “Oh everything.”
      Yeah…not making it easier for me.

      •  @ginidietrich Exactly. In those cases I do usually ask the server, and hope they have one or two favorites. Or I’ll order one of their specials, figuring that IF I go back, I can always order off of the menu, but the special might just be there that one time. Yes, I overthink the eating out thing. But I love to eat!

        •  @KenMueller Pete loves to eat, too.

        •  @ginidietrich Yeah, blame it all on Pete…

        •  @KenMueller It’s totally his fault. I’m a dainty little thing.

        •  @ginidietrich I kind of envision you like the Hulk. A dainty little thing, but if someone crosses you, you turn all green, take names, and kick rear ends.

        •  @KenMueller Have you seen Avengers yet?

        •  @ginidietrich No! So don’t spoil it for me!

        •  @KenMueller I won’t say a word! 

  • Psychologist Barry Schwartz delivered a TED talk about freedom of choice. *More* choice doesn’t make us freer, it makes us more anxious and paralyzed by the apparent complexity of choice. 

    •  @jasonkonopinski That’s pretty much what this research shows…it completely overwhelms us, which isn’t good.

      •  @ginidietrich Yep – we have to mitigate choice.  I can’t help but notice the cyclicality of this research in particular. Schwartz has been talking about this intersection of psychology and economics (and the effects on choice and buyer buyer) behavior for quite some time now. 🙂 
        I wrote on this topic a while back. Perhaps it’s time to revisit. 

    • glenn_ferrell

      @jasonkonopinski @ginidietrich  Thx for the link ! @puzyrevmazim did a short post a couple of days ago on “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz ( ) so I had heard about him — but he’s on my reading list now.
      I think I agree with this.  I know I’ve offered clients too many choices before. So maybe this message is: 1) Minimize your offerings. 2) Ensure that each offering is sufficient, clear and concise. 3) Present the choices simply and visually. Fewer words and better design, as always, means harder work 🙂
      Nice post Gini 🙂

  • ryancox

    I think something we often over-look is that when we overload with choices because we feel we are “making it easier for everyone to find something they like,” we’re doing the exact opposite. Suffice to say, I would bet a pretty nickel that if restaurants, companies, etc. looked at the data set they’ve collected around their 30-40 choices, it’s top heavy like good ole Dolly P. 6-10 choices make up some 70-80% of the purchases, and the other 30-34 only 20%. Furthermore, if those 30-34 other options didn’t exist, that 20% would quickly ‘default’ to one of the 6-10 other choices.
    Over exaggeration of supply vs. demand. Saturating choices makes purchasing decisions more difficult. By the time I’ve figured out that your website is far too difficult and doesn’t actually help me — I’ve already closed the tab and re-opened Google. Let’s give this another go.

    •  @ryancox Did you really say it’s top heavy like good ole Dolly P?!?! LOL!!!

  • About 10 years ago I read a book called “Why we buy” by Paco Underhill (who wrote the forward in a recent nueromarketing book called “Buyology.”  At any rate, one of the examples I remember was about cereal — there were too many choices, consumers were confused and sales dropped.
    There are other factors involved, including marketing spend and position on the shelf, but it’s so true, sometimes too many choices can be a bad thing.  
    Ever try shopping for toothpaste?   Good grief.  I have no loyalty and pretty much choose whatever is closest, looks the shiniest, and included the words “whitening” on the label. I know that none of those “whiteners” in toothpaste actually work, but I can’t help myself.  I wouldn’t dare buy a “non-whitening” toothpaste!  🙂 

    • @Frank_Strong Lol, I’m so with you on “non_whitening” toothpaste…. Such blasphemy!

    •  @Frank_Strong Ultra Paste with a new secret “sun flower” yellowing formula.

      •  @ExtremelyAvg I blame it on television.  Fills our heads with hollow aspirations for Hollywood style pearly whites among other things. 

    •  @Frank_Strong What?!?! You have no toothpaste loyalty??? Really? I’m a Crest girl, though and through. But I have LOTS of Crest options. I always buy whichever product they have that says “NEW” on it.

      •  @ginidietrich Just did an inventory, and I’ve got Aquafresh in the bathroom and Crest in the travel kit.  Seems what works best to sell me toothpaste is “arm’s length marketing” — I hear that’s the new “inbound.”

  • You know who does this really well? jillianmichaels  – for the health, diet and weight loss space. They make the path super easy by starting with a couple of quick questions and providing simple choices, walking users through the process from start to purchase. I have been trying to get them to provide a case study for us, for Spin Sucks Pro. 

    •  @Lisa Gerber  I just saw an article on her and her new family. I was on a plane. What was I reading? I can’t remember. But yeah…they said that about her, too.

  • Why do I now have Christina Aguilera “what a girl wants” stuck in my head? Ughh, I guess it was worth reading because this is how I make a living in sales.

    The salesman who tells the prospect everything he knows and presents multiple options doesn’t close deals – he info dumps and further confuses the potential customer.

    The guy (or gal) who gets it understands that a consumer WANTS to be sold. Not sold as in used car trickery, but they want someone knowledgeable and qualified to guide them to right decision with confidence. Let’s face it, if they knew what they wanted, they probably wouldn’t be talking to you. Simplicity is genius, and it sells.

    •  @SociallyGenius Are you going to change your name to Simplicity Genius now?

      •  @ginidietrich  @SociallyGenius I heard Tony’s website passwords contain 87 numerals 219 Letters and 34 symbols and each password is unique

  • Seems pretty easy in concept. But it seems like some companies love bells and whistles so much that they give you every possible option and combination of options to choose from. At that point, how do  you choose?

    •  @Anthony_Rodriguez One of the things we always tell clients is it’s not about them…it’s about their customer. So what if you want the fancy bells and whistles? Is that what your customer wants?

      •  @ginidietrich  @Anthony_Rodriguez you forget the more bells and whistles the more the website building company makes in revenue. Website designers who are contracted will not tell a company that has a $100k budget ‘Hey a $50k design will be much better for your business’

        •  @HowieSPM  @ginidietrich I have found that out from first-hand experience. But when clients/management don’t seek the advice from the people who know, it’s easy to take advantage of them.

  • Uhhhh, I’m pretty sure that chart was on my left; I got a second opinion before I posted this because I wanted to make sure, but then again, maybe you were talking about something else. I can certainly ‘not’ pay attention with the best of them. 
    Yes, the landscape is certainly crowded and I’m pretty sure it will only get more so. However, we seem to be able to adept to whatever the choices are; it just makes it more difficult to be effective without wasting a lot of time. 
    Yep, that’s about all I got…………like that’s a shock, huh? 

    • I noticed the same thing, but then I just assumed I was on the wrong side of my monitor.

    •  @bdorman264 You are holding the computer upside down. I see it on the right. 😉
      Hmm…I wonder if that is because I am in Australia.
      Visit a restaurant with a 20 page menu and watch how long it takes people to order versus the one with 5 pages.

      •  @TheJackB Did you know the water in the toilet swirls the ‘other’ way in Australia when flushing?…:). 
        Sorry Gini, couldn’t pass that up……….

    •  @bdorman264 OMG!!! You’re right!! HAHAHAH! When I wrote it, I had it in a different spot and then forgot to go back and change the words. HAHAHAH!

      •  @ginidietrich  @bdorman264 in Australia that would be AH AH AH AH AH!?

  • For web research for consumer buying Use Interface and reducing number of clicks needed to find stuff is most important of anything. If people have to drill down they are gone. Amazon is great at this stuff. Verizon when it is upgrade time makes it easier to do side by side comparison. Google Shopping via their Search makes it so easy to compare pricing.
    When I searched for a new laptop last winter I seriously was going brain dead from comparing way to many choices in my price point ($550-650). I wound up buying from Amazon because they made it simplest for me.
    The one obstacle for brands to get over is that for many purchases research leads to buying offline and since they can not usually connect the activities they sometimes give short thrift to the online experience not realizing it impacts in person buying way more than any social media influences out there.

    •  @HowieSPM Zappos does a nice job, too. There are few companies who do it right.

      •  @ginidietrich been bugging me. Notice my list and you added Zappos. Companies that make nothing but sell a service do it right. Does Amazon or Zappos care if I buy X brand as long as I buy from them.
        Brands that make something only allow comparisons with competitors when they have full faith in their own value proposition ie quality, service, technology, or price. If you are muddling along with no identity you will never want comparisons on your website.

  • SusanOakes

    I think it was in the 90s when some companies understood that simplicity rules and started reducing options for customers. For example packaged salads became popular because it had all the ingredients and dressing included. It saved them time from gathering all the ingredients separately. The overwhelm is even more today and one additional thing to help them is to offer specific packages instead of a long menu of services with little detail. If you know your customer well you should know what to offer in this way.

    •  @SusanOakes Mmmm…that makes me hungry for a spinach salad with strawberries and goat cheese.

  • NicoleJLeBlanc

    I think this post is spot on. Whether we are talking about buyers of consumer goods or decision makers at large organizations – the simplicity message reigns supreme in today’s information overload environment. I think your post makes an important distinction though, a concept like simplicity is show don’t tell. The market is becoming saturated with companies looking to “own” simplicity – and we are programmed to become skeptical to those push messages. Show us how your brand will make my life, my business simpler – that’s how you win the key to the heart of consumers and business decision makers alike.

    •  @NicoleJLeBlanc And don’t be afraid to do it in a way that also highlights your competitors. When we’re willing to do that, people trust us more automatically…unless we do it in a way that isn’t genuine. 

  • @peter_osborne

    I’m not so sure I totally buy the Corporate Executive Board’s views on what customers want when they’re making a purchase.  I’d argue that successful companies will find ways to help consumers pay (convenience, access, value, control), reward their relationship, help them save, and make them feel secure.
    Perhaps it’s a bit Maslow, but companies that do those things on their websites and at checkout (and within the walls of their bricks and mortar) will be more successful than their competitors.

    •  @@peter_osborne You’re pretty much saying what their research found…it is about finding ways to help customers pay IF they’re ready to pay. Some people aren’t in the part of the funnel yet, though. So if you aren’t targeting different parts of the funnel and focused only on the sale, you’re going to lose some potential customers.

  • jonbuscall

    KISS from the tagline up. Communicating your USP is vital and I think it so often gets lost in the mix of a myriad of brand messaging and communications. As communicators and marketers many of us often forget to look for the simple things. 
    Great post!

    •  @jonbuscall And it’s a good reminder of sticking with what you know, too, instead of trying to be all things to all people.

  • Pingback: How to Beat the Clutter and Your Competition()

  • rdopping

    KISS it goodbye @ginidietrich  Kidding. Couldn’t help myself. BTW, I am slow and we all know that so I don’t get the image thing? You said left and it’s on the left. Weird. @bdorman264  and @TheJackB  and @HowieSPM are messing with my wee heed.
    Simple is the way ’cause there lots-o-me out there. Make it easy for me to buy you particular brand of BS and I will be there all toothy grin and all throwin’ the dollas atcha. In reality, hasen’t simple always been the way? Too many options gives anyone analysis paralysis.

    •  @rdopping  That’s because I changed it after @bdorman264 called me out!

      • rdopping

        @ginidietrich @bdorman264 Whew, for a second there I thought it was me. 🙂

        •  @rdopping  It would have been pretty funny if it had been!

  • Pingback: Possibilities Paralysis: Do we live in an age of too many choices? | Kaarina Dillabough()

  • Brian Solis’ flower graphic continues to be featured in my social networking 101 presentations. It may feature 31 tools — but how many are truly necessary for a small business manager to use today? Sure, there may be upwards of 700,000 social networking sites but that doesn’t mean a small business is going to use all of them.

    •  @Ari Herzog Did you read the blog post? That’s what I said. There is no reason anyone needs 31, let alone 700,000.

      •  @ginidietrich I am reinforcing you, not arguing.

        •  @Ari Herzog Ah sorry…I misread your comment.

  • Pingback: Morning Announcements: Marketing to the Multi-Screen User, Maximizing Conversions for Display Ads & Rethinking Email Marketing | Duncan/Day Advertising()

  • That’s why, it truly is particularly lifelike for any healthy bright white training collars selecting the liechtenstein remarkably if you wish to Lv aftermarket clutches, shopping bags furthermore affordable handbags. Cartier is usually the finest age bracket make from the jewellery country potentially , the favored diamond jewelry type in the midst of aristocratic fames. Offered that personalised Louis Vuitton <a href=””>wristwatches are usually a</a> fantastic more costly anybody unable to have the funds for electrical installer element. Lv <a href=””>purses</a> will often be carried basically in demand personalities just like, Julia Roberts.This make or model keeps growing so as to get known as all of this Rolex piece attributed with clutches which is well-liked all over the world. Many people focus your attention on to do with affordable additionally the shops <a href=””>look-alike pertaining by using</a> designer expensive jewelry,. you can possibly choose an actual Louis vuitton laptop bag of which stores highest possible pieces of your amazing have the need for.

  • Pingback: Four Things Customers Want When Making a Purchase Decision, Gini Dietrich, Spin Sucks | Project Eve()