The Moment of Truth

Decoding Purchase Decisions

We have seen that there are two systems driving our decisions, the autopilot and the pilot. But when we are standing in front of a shelf in a supermarket or comparing alternative service providers, how do we arrive at our decision? What determines whether we buy one brand or another? How do we choose between all the different options? In this chapter we deep-dive into these crucial questions and unlock the underlying principles of purchase decisions.

The neuro-logic of a purchase decision

The role of marketers is to influence consumer behaviour, both short- and long-term, in favour of the brands they manage. We need to retain our customer base, increase purchase frequency and turn non-users into users. Therefore the question of why consumers buy what they buy, and the search for what it is that determines their choices, are at the core of marketing.

In a ground-breaking experiment (see Figure 2.1), neuroscientist Brian Knutson, Professor at Stanford University, and his colleagues (2007) wanted to find out if it was possible to predict purchase behaviour by analyzing neural activity. His research began with images of products and brands – for example a box of chocolates –shown for a few seconds. Then, additionally, the price appeared on the screen, and finally the respondents had to state, by pushing a button, whether they would buy the chocolates or not.

Figure 2.1 Illustration of the classic neuro-economics study ‘Neural predictors ...

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