Breaking Down Our Purchase Decision Process

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It’s interesting how we make our purchase decision as humans. I myself can recall one good story on this.

I remember this was in 2017. It was a crazy hot day and I was driving home, dehydrated after a long morning of being outdoors for work. I stopped by a Shell gas station to get an ice-cold drink to quench my thirst, and at the store I was greeted with dozens of beverage options.

My first choice was to go for an ice-cold can of Coke. But I remember telling myself not to go for a soft drink, as it’ the unhealthiest choice and I was trying to lose some weight. So I was exploring my options. Should I go with an iced-lemon tea? No, there is still some sugar in it, it may cause me to become even thirstier. Some apple juice perhaps? No, it doesn’t quench a thirst that well. How about the trust old 100-Plus? No, it somehow doesn’t hit the spot. I must have stood there for a good 5 minutes debating with myself on which drink I should go for. But alas, I still decided to go for a can of Coke.

I remember sitting in the car, chugging down the Coke, feeling refreshed, and immediately feeling regret and disappointment with myself for choosing a soft drink. Why did I choose Coke? Soft drinks were the #1 thing I told myself not to get. There were so many better and healthier options then, some may even have done a better job rehydrating me. Like the 100-Plus. But, I got over it quickly and drove home without giving my purchase decision process any further thought.

Fast forward a few years, I was preparing some materials for a training session I was about to conduct on content marketing. The topic I was going for was on influencing purchase decision. And I once again revisited this incident that I went through. What really happened that day that ultimately led to me purchasing a drink that I didn’t want? This time, after years of experience with marketing, I had a clearer picture of what happened in retrospect. This is what I think went down in my brain that fateful day:

#1 The first thing that happened in my mind was that I instinctively relied on the FACTS that I’ve already gathered. The first fact that I recalled was that soft-drinks are the unhealthiest option out of the bunch, so I shouldn’t go for it.

#2 I then started doing my RESEARCH on the spot. Because I was being health-conscious, I looked at the nutritional information of each of the drinks I was considering and started comparing the level of sugar and calories that each contains. I was trying to find the healthiest option. Now naturally at this point, the Coke was not even involved in the process.

#3 I then consulted my LOGIC, which of these options made sense for me to purchase? I wanted something that’s healthy, refreshing, and doesn’t cost a lot. I found an option that meets the first 2 criteria very well, but it was almost 2x the price of anything else. Alternatively, I also found an option that’s healthy and cheap, but it doesn’t help much in the refreshment area. In the end, I managed to narrow it down into a couple options that best meets all 3 criteria: 100-Plus and Mineral Water.

#4 Then, I started to find a REASON to purchase either one of the 2 options that I’ve narrowed down. Mineral water is great, but the reason that I wanted to get a drink is because I wanted to feel refreshed. So it doesn’t quite cut it. 100-Plus probably will do well to help me rehydrate, but something is still missing to satisfy my need to feel refreshed.

#5 Lastly, this is where Coke made a surprising comeback. I ultimately let me decision-making be governed by my EMOTIONS. I had this huge need to feel rehydrated and refreshed, I was stuck between choosing mineral water or 100-plus. Then at the corner of my eye, I saw it. An ice-cold can that is strikingly red, with Coca-Cola written across it. I immediately knew, the drink that is famously known for its brand positioning on REFRESHMENT. A drink that delivers REFRESHMENT every single time without fail. The drink that will confirm give me the “SHIOK” feeling. Within seconds, I completely forgot about my initial 2 options, picked up the Coke, and proceeded to pay for it without further hesitation.

So what really happened here? This was a very good example of how our purchase decision process as humans is heavily influenced by our EMOTIONS. We may spend a good amount of time gathering FACTS, doing our RESEARCH, consulting our LOGIC, and finding our REASONS. But in the end, we cannot resist what we cannot detect. That is our subconscious that has been heavily influenced by our past experiences, personal preferences, nostalgia, and familiarity all feeding into one thing: our EMOTIONS.

That is why brands like Coke has been so successful. For many years giant brands like them have spent billions of dollars into content marketing. Feeding their market’s subconscious with their brand positioning and messaging at a high volume and frequency to the public whether it is through TV commercials, billboards, or social media. You may have felt a lot of these ads are a huge waste of money. You may have even grown to loathe some of these brands because you hated their ads. But in the end, any kind of publicity is good publicity. Who knows? One day when you’re indecisive with your purchase decision, you might end up picking their brand just because they’ve gone to the top of your mind, and made you familiar with it.