Influencer Marketing: The Possible Influences on the Consumer Buying Decision Process (Part I)
Influencer Marketing is a re-invented marketing tool that takes the celebrity endorsement into a modern day content-driven marketing campaign, officializing collaborations between Brands and Influencers. Understanding how Influencer Marketing works is essential in the process of evaluating whether this tactic is beneficial for a certain brand and not so much for others, whether its value still pays off, in the post-Covid currency.
Basically, consumers usually want to create and maintain a collection of products that satisfy their needs and wants in both the present and the future. To achieve this goal, people make many purchasing decisions and engage in different decision-making behaviors. The consumer buying decision process includes five stages: (1) problem recognition, (2) information search, (3) evaluation of alternatives, (4) purchase and (5) post-purchase evaluation.
But, the actual act of purchasing may have begun several stages before the purchase itself, as we are living in the fastest paced environment where the number of choices for similar product fulfilling similar needs is practically infinite, with the Internet as our backyard store and the products only a click away.
Possible influences on the decision process
Assuming that the consumers are surfing the Internet in search for a product, the above decision process map may be applicable, with the stages indicated here. However, with a saturated market, what do we really need and want? With the every-day decisions regarding food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, recreation or transportation, how can we classify the consumer needs and wants? And given the fast paced life in the big cities, how is the shopping behavior changed, within the current year alone?
The consumer routine response behavior is generally practiced when buying frequently, for low-cost items that need little search and decision effort. Staring at the yogurt isle in the grocery store does not count for complex decision making, though.
When buying products occasionally, consumers tend to engage in retrieving information about the brand, what we call a limited decision making behavior. At this stage already, we are already influenced by the Instagram scroll, by the Pinterest boards, the YouTube videos or the Facebook Adds.
If the product we seek tends to fall in the category of unfamiliar, expensive, un-frequently bought, social-status enhancer, an extensive decision making behavior comes into play. Here, the consumer uses many criteria to evaluate the acquisition of cars, homes or educational services, and often seeks further information before deciding on the purchase.
Often, role models, established personalities and credible public personas influence the decision process, as they establish their own personal brand and share information about their own choices. They are not on-purpose influencers, as they do not monetize their choices. However, it is debatable whether their influence comes completely free of charge. Dresses worn by Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, fly out of the stores and Instagram pages such as @whatkatewore are dedicated to chasing down items worn by royalty, thus making them accessible to the public and supporting their fast sale.
My favorite type of consumer buying behavior is the impulse buying, however. Call it professional curiosity, the powerful, persistent urge to buy something immediately is the dominant buying behavior for some individuals and worth exploring as it can provoke emotional conflicts, to say the least. The information that Michael Jackson, the music icon and superstar had a negative fortune of $500 mil, at the time of his death is shocking, considering that he earned between $50 mil and $100 mil per year, for more than 2 decades.
While surfing for information, two stages apply in information search, prior to acquisition: consumers first search their memory for information, retrieving bits and pieces that might solve the current problems, and let Google do the rest. However, if they cannot retrieve sufficient information, they resort to external search, thus communication with friends or relatives, attempting a comparison of available brands and prices, company driven and/or public sources.
Now, if we look at this closely, who are our friends? Our Facebook list of contacts? Our Instagram list of followers? Our LinkedIn list of friends? How can we differentiate between ”friends” and ”professional influencers” that are paid to do the job? How many of them are, really, people we actually know?
(discussion continues in the next post)