In 2015, companies spent $68 billion worldwide on market research alone. For a long time, consumer behavior has been of interest to marketers and companies alike. But why? For one, it helps us understand why customers buy – the motivation. And two, it provides clues on what the customer hopes to gain from the sale – the desires or feelings.

“Consumer behavior is the study of individuals and organizations and how they select and use products and services,” explains Content Writer Kit Smith, for the social media monitoring company Brandwatch. “It is mainly concerned with psychology, motivations, and behavior.”

Consumer patterns can influence everything from the products made to product color. The very first laptops were a standard dark grey or black. Today though, even someone who fancies rose gold can find their perfect match. With so much variety, you may begin to ask how your business can influence your customer’s behavior. Begin with these three simple factors: market trends, personal motivations and desires, and reviews.

Make Waves With Market Trends

Marketers often go straight into a consumer's personal behavior. Buyer personas and customer avatars all use desires and motivations as a foundation. But, consumers are first influenced on a cultural level. First, you have to see what's happening in your product category and how it’s influencing society. Current trends in the market will tell you a lot about the consumer’s perspective.

Take blue jeans for example. Today, seeing blue jeans in a women’s department store is not unheard of. But in the 1920s and 30s, they were. Women were at the onset of a revolution and trousers for women became a symbol for a new type of female expression. This cultural shift influenced women's stylistic choices.

USC Assistant Professor, Lars Perner, Ph.D. shares a similar example. “Although we may have developed a product that offers great appeal for consumers, a recession may cut demand dramatically.” These kinds of details are important when thinking about how to market to consumers. Looking at larger trends will illuminate smaller details in consumer behavior.

Dive Deeper Into The Individual

There’s a great quote by Simon Sinek that says “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” That’s because people buy on a more emotional and subconscious level than most realize. There are natural desires that motivate us to buy – such as the desire to be part of a group or community. Then there are desires tied to our self-image – such as the desire to look youthful or powerful.

In a 2016 research article two professors, Rocklage and Fazio, explored emotional reasoning. The conclusion? “When people had to resolve their ambivalence quickly, they were more likely to use their emotional reaction to the product than their cognitive reaction.”

So when consumers are making snap decisions, it’s unlikely they’ll have a long reasoning process. Instead, they’ll use their own feelings and intuition to make the final decision for them. That’s why Leslie Zane, Founder, and President at Triggers Growth Strategy, suggests:

“Discovering the images and stories that build positive associations with your brand... the subconscious drivers. The moment people look at your brand, what thoughts, images, experiences, and feelings pop into their minds?”

If you build positive associations to your brand then you can build a connection to the consumer.

Innovate With Reviews

A third factor that plays huge importance into consumer behavior is social proof. A whopping 84% believe online reviews are a trustworthy source of information. Consumers want to know what others think about your brand, products, and services.

Going back to personal motivations and desires, we can see there’s a reason why. Reviews let customers know early if your product or service can deliver on the outcome they want. They’re already looking for that positive connection.

Because social proof influences consumer behavior, maximizing on testimonials is smart. Some of the best ways to use reviews are on a website, in product brochures, or even in marketing campaigns. Reviews can touch on any aspect of a business – from customer service to product features.

There’s another way that reviews influence consumers. Can you guess? Here's a hint: product development. Not only do consumers read reviews but businesses do too! Reviews are great when doing market research. Or looking at market trends to understand how to better serve customers.

Improvements to a product category influence consumer expectations. Think about how many cell phones now come with cameras. Like women's trousers, businesses can make major influences in consumer behavior using reviews.

A Winning Recipe to Influence Consumer Behavior

Market trends. Personal motivations and desires. Reviews. Three major factors that influence consumer behavior. But what do they all have in common? The consumer. All three come back to that one central focus.

Customers are complex and multi-layered. But when you can get deep into their world and motivations you can create products that fit their needs.