Why People Buy (And Why They Don’t)

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Karthik Vijayakumar
Published on: June 18, 2023

Humans are irrational. We make brilliant choices with what we buy. And yet we buy absurd things on a whim (sometimes bordering on stupidity!). Much has been written about why people buy. But let’s explore this more from the point of view of a marketer and business owner.

You sell online, and you want clients to buy your stuff.

But they don’t. The same people that don’t buy your products make impulse purchases on Amazon. They spend thousands of dollars on a fancy jacuzzi for their home. Yet, they think a hundred times about whether or not to buy your handmade bags on Etsy.

People make choices for many reasons.

Sometimes they make choices to reconfirm their identity. And sometimes, they are hell-bent on making choices that will break the very identity they tried to protect. People buy luxury goods in a bad economy. And sometimes they buy stuff even when they don’t have the money.

You think people buy what they want. Yet you see the same people spend money buying stuff that takes them farther from what they want.

You dislike buying something because it’s cheap.

Yet, you like to go thrift shopping.

What goes on inside the head when you are buying? What makes you go from “I have everything I need…” to convincing your partner or spouse to buy something you just came across?

With the flick of an imaginary switch, you go from seeing something as an expense…to calling it the best investment you ever made. Why?

Why do people buy?

Americans went on a shopping spree.

1945 after winning over the Axis powers in World War II, Americans were a proud bunch. The country was fast reshaping geographically, demographically, and economically too. With a rapid surge in buying power, the Americans were all out in the market with their giant shopping bags (and ever-fatter wallets).

They bought everything money could buy…

Refrigerators…

Televisions…

Washing machines…

Toasters…

Cars…

The list was endless.

And that brings us back to our big question…

Why People Buy

After 1945, the American economy started to grow fast. Factories that made tanks and military vehicles had spare capacities, and veterans were returning from Europe and elsewhere.

There was an increase in the sense of pride, and Americans wanted to live a better life. Building the Interstate Highway System in 1956 fueled travel between the states and created newer challenges. And that sums up the reasons why people buy. It’s not just the Americans.

People buy because of two main reasons:

  1. They have problems to overcome.
  2. They want to live a better life.

There aren’t many reasons, as you may think or believe. They just come down to these two. When you look at them psychologically, they act as two forces, moving you closer to buying something. Let’s examine these closer with this picture below.

Forces why people buy

1. Overcome Problems

The Americans had a lot of newer kinds of problems. With longer distances between the states and the wider and better Interstate Highways, Americans needed better cars. The carriage-inspired design of the pre-WW II era fell short of these newer needs. And that’s why Americans went shopping for newer, longer, and wider cars.

To overcome problems isn’t an American thing, but a human one. And you see this in our everyday life too. We strive to overcome or eliminate problems–a headache or reducing CO2 emissions. And that’s what you see with Force A in the picture above.

2. Live a Better Life

After WW2, Americans found something they didn’t have access to for a long time–money. Coming out after the great depression and two wars, they wanted to live a better life. With the rise in the economy and access to technology, Americans didn’t want to compromise on what they could access.

That’s why they spend money on buying televisions, washing machines, and expensive cars. The idea of muscle cars was thus born, directly targeting Americans’ desire to look powerful and drive powerful machines. And this is what you see in the above picture with Force B.

So that’s why people buy.

But there’s a problem…

You Are Still Not Ready to Pay

Yes, humans are irrational. Despite having the urge to overcome a problem or live a better life…you still don’t buy.

Why?

It turns out that even though you want to overcome a problem or live a better life…you need someone to sell you the solution.

You want to buy that expensive car but want someone to sell it…to you.

You want to get rid of the knee pain, but you want someone to sell the painkiller…to you.

More about that in my next post–Why You Need to Sell Even When Clients Are Ready to Buy.

If you haven’t yet, take this marketing quiz and get a customized 90-day marketing plan for your small business.

See you in the next one!

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About the author 

Karthik Vijayakumar

Hey, it's me, Karthik. I'm a ghostwriter and copywriter helping B2B founders and businesses. As a copywriter, I help founders validate and nail your messaging. As a ghostwriter, I write strategic blog posts to help you build authority or grow your inbound marketing. Click the tiny button below and connect with me on LinkedIn.

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