Spotting the Changes

In this week’s Thursday Night Insight, Carol-Ann Morgan assesses what is now driving buying decisions

I simply cannot make up my mind! Do I want to move house or not? I have been looking around now for more years than I care to count, but it appears there is a forcefield around my house stopping me from moving. I have been through all the logical processes; compiling lists of the pros and the cons of moving, the things I will miss about where I am and the things I will gain by going elsewhere, identifying the benefits versus the costs of making the shift etc etc. Still status quo! I simply cannot make the decision, and the prevailing economic circumstances over the past 3 years have not helped. The media has taken on the role of my superego; tapping me on the shoulder, reminding of the uncertainty of the future, and the potential risks.

Decision making is not an exact science, though many have tried to unravel the rationale behind it. Indeed, decision science is a discipline on its own. And yet, when faced with making decisions of mini or magnitude, it all appears very personal, linked to the emotions and attitude towards risk.

However, we cannot ignore the current conditions and cultural influences on decision making. In the current economically challenged times, there is a permanent under/overtone of prudence. It is apparent at a high political level, at business practice level and at a personal level. It is pervasive, and, to me, feels as though it is impacting on everyone, regardless of their economic need for it to do so. Governments, businesses and individuals are tightening their belts.

In more affluent times, we think less of cost, possibly attaching a higher value to those aspects of our purchases which are not associated so closely with “hard” product – we value the “nice to have’s”, the “delight” factors, the things that say something about us, or make life easier/better for us. Could it be that in difficult or uncertain times, we feel the need to wear the hair shirt, simply to remind us that we do not know what is around the corner; a fear that we may not always be able to afford the fabric conditioner? Buying decisions at these times, therefore, appear to answer to the practical, rather to than the pleasure. Freud might have said that the ego and superego are holding the balance of power over the id.

Changing consumer attitudes towards cost impacts on buying practices right down the supply chain. With this shift, there is an imperative for suppliers and organisations to understand what is driving buying decisions now, from buyers of the end product down to buyers of raw materials. It is important to know what the key driving factors are, how these have changed, where priorities lie, how customers are reacting to current conditions, and how they are planning for a healthy recovery. Old priorities can no longer be assumed. The supplier that has up-to-date understanding about its customers and its markets is better placed to meet needs now, and in the coming years.

You might ask what this has to do with my own decision about the house move; well, no doubt my situation will rumble on until times pick up and I run out of excuses for my indecision. Either that or there emerges a winner in the battle between my id, ego and superego!

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