How to analyze consumer behavior

What consumers say versus what they do does not always align. As Voxpopme’s vice president of research, Brian Monschein, said: “Consumers can’t always articulate how they make a purchase.” That’s the reality of consumer behavior.

But there are ways around that, and we’ll discuss the topic in this article.

"We know that sometimes people behave in ways that they are not even aware of. So you can learn something different from their behavior than from actually talking to them."

Consumer behavior can differ from what they are saying

There have also been cases where customers give a company a bad rating on a survey. But when they talk to the company, their feedback is overwhelmingly positive.

Teams need to work together to understand when there’s a disconnect between what’s being said and what the behavior is.

“That’s not just the responsibility of the insights team,” said Jay Lister, head of insights at Reebok, on “Reel Talk.” “But the insights team can enable that with sales and many different partners to make that really kind of a sticky part of the culture.”

Author Melina Palmer explained looking at behaviors is essential because people don’t make logical choices all the time.

“So what behavioral economics has done is it has been looking at, trying to find the common threads, the rules that the subconscious is using to more accurately predict behavior,” she said.

Observation vs. recall

Observed consumer behaviors can include:

  • Asking them to show you something
  • Reviewing their purchases and purchase histories
  • Online behaviors

"Today, more than ever, we need to really analyze behavior and focus on behavioral science rather than just a big box of data."

Brian said he’s also a fan of eye-tracking for online purchases.

“You can get their response in real-time while talking through their thought process,” Brian said.

Once you see what they are looking at, you can ask them about it.

Also, keep in mind that consumers don’t always remember what they did or why they did it, Brian said.

“We might ask them about a purchase four weeks ago,” Brian said. “Let’s think about that. If I were to ask you to give me feedback on something that was a month ago, your memory will probably be pretty hazy at best. But if I ask you for feedback in real-time via video, the responses would be a lot more informative.”

Instead of asking consumers to recall something, ask them to show you what they did. And then ask them why they did it.

Consumer behavior at scale

Looking at consumer behavior at scale is when businesses start paying attention, said Dennis Wakabayashi, a global voice of CX.

“They recognize new efficiencies – certainly from revenue and dollars,” Dennis said. “But also there was a chance for us to learn more about customers and serve them better.”

Consider thinking about the groups of people who are behaving in similar ways.

“I always try to imagine clusters and microclusters of individuals whose attitudes, behaviors, and the likelihood of committing certain behaviors are things that I can approximate to understand,” said Luke Williams, now senior director, CX measurement & insight strategy at Microsoft, on “Reel Talk.”

It’s also essential to track behaviors over time to see what is changing and what behaviors are sticking, said Braden Johnstone, SVP of customer success at Voxpopme.

“It’s a continual motion,” Braden said.

Prioritized consumer behaviors

In a world where many companies have an overwhelming amount of data, we also need to consider what behaviors are a priority in our quest to understand consumers.

“Different channels are more relevant at different stages of interaction,” said Emmanuel Probst, brand thought-leadership executive at Ipsos. “So it’s, in my opinion, behavioral survey data such as clickstream and basket abandonment, plus analyses of first-party data that you collect. Interactions with chatbots and with live agents and so forth.”

Also, keep in mind what conclusions can’t be drawn from consumer behaviors – especially when it comes to online behaviors.

“There’s barely any identifiable online behaviors that could help separate someone who owns their home versus rents,” said Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkToro, on “Reel Talk.” Likewise, there are no identifiable behaviors for people who have paid off their mortgage versus who haven’t.”

How to influence consumer behaviors

First of all, the product must be something that people are interested in and something that solves a need for them. To even understand that, we have to overcome the empathy gap.

“Empathy is so critical in teamwork, in the ideation work that organizations will do,” said Rob Volpe, empathy expert, and author. “Good luck trying to create an advertising campaign if you don’t have MFA and understand the person you’re trying to advertise to the

Once a brand has a relationship with a consumer, be sure to use the data correctly. Please don’t ask me something you already know about me. You have my purchase history, learn how often I buy certain products, and more.

“Sometimes the survey questions that we ask haven’t caught up with the fact that we’re capturing all this behavioral data that we never had before,” said Jenn Vogel, SVP of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk.” “Ten years ago, we had to ask ‘when was the last time you purchased from this store?'”

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Ultimately, it’s important for companies to understand customer behavior and why they are doing what they are doing. That’s why it’s essential to understand how to:

  • view consumer behavior
  • analyze it
  • follow up with relevant questions


What’s a question you’d like to ask consumers?