To Buy or Not to Buy, That is the Question Marketers Want the Answer To

Marketers would love to be able to read the minds of consumers. They would love to know what precise combination of price, features, benefits, wants, and needs triggers the decision to buy a particular product. There are many ways to approach this mysterious subject. One that lends itself nicely to online surveys is what is often called a “purchase intent survey.” Here’s how it works.

A survey might ask a question using a five point scale such as:
Which is most true about this product?
__ I definitely will buy this product
__ I probably will buy this product
__ I might buy this product
__ I probably will not buy this product
__ I definitely will not buy this product

You can use information form past online surveys to determine just how these statements translate into actual purchases. For example, you might learn form past consumer behavior that 80% of the people who say they will definitely buy a product actually do. Or you might find that 30% of the people who say they will probably NOT buy a product actually do. (Yes, it’s true that a significant number of people who say they will probably not buy something end up buying it anyway.)

As part of your purchase intent survey you will ask a few questions that will help you build a profile of the respondents. For example, you might ask which newspapers they read or which radio stations they listen to. Now it will be fairly easy for you to target your advertising to those people who “definitely will buy” your product. Since 80% of these people will actually become purchasers, you will earn a fantastic return on your advertising dollars!

You will also gain more valuable data on the relationship between “purchase intent” and actual purchases. The more data you collect, the more accurately you can predict the potential revenues that will be generated by your marketing campaign.

Predicting Impulse Purchases
Conducting online surveys of purchase intent can yield some useful (and profitable!) information, but not every purchase results from a deliberate decision. For example, you go to the drug store to buy cold medicine but you see a candy bar next to the cash register that looks too delicious to pass up. Or you go shopping for a how-to book online but you see an ad for a new mystery by one of your favorite writers and you decide you have to have it. You had no intention to buy the candy or the mystery, but you did anyway.

Online survey software can also be used to predict this sort of unpredictable behavior. You might ask people about the last time they bought something on impulse, with no previous intent. You also could ask what they were planning to buy when they made their impulse purchase. You might find, for example, that a surprising number of people buy candy when they go shopping for cold medicine, possibly as a way to cheer themselves up. This sort of information can help you make decisions about product placement, whether you sell things in a store or online.

You will probably never be able to find the exact combination of factors that will determine purchase intent, but well-designed surveys can give you valuable insights into how customers make up their minds.

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