An employee from Google’s consumer insight team has explored and observed changes in consumer behavior. Let’s take a look at what they have discovered about every buyer’s decision process.

When people make a decision, their thoughts are messy– and over time, it gets messier. There are a lot of things we have to discover about a person’s purchasing behaviour. What’s more intriguing is how shoppers process the information and how they come up with a choice. The trigger point and the decision-making in purchasing are not linear. It has a complicated web of touchpoints that significantly differs from one person to another.


As the Internet has grown and is continually growing, it has a resource for everything. You can check the prices of every product and service brands and companies offer.
Over the years, Google searched has been swarmed with the search term “best,” it has surpassed the search interest for the term “cheap.” It even holds for countries that use local languages.

The value of the term “cheap” may vary between users. However, it carries a single meaning– affordable. On the other hand, the term “best” has a broader scope. It could mean the quality, popularity, value, or performance of the product or quality.

These are the kind of things found in the “messy middle” of trigger and purchase. Moreover, as the pandemic situation has accelerated for a more extended period, online shopping and research have also increased. Thus, brands and companies need to learn and apply the purchase decision behaviour.

Behavioral Science Principle

Last year, the researchers received help from The Behavioural Architects. They are a group of behavioural science experts that helped decode how consumers shape their purchase decision.

The researchers conducted literary reviews, search shopping trend analyses, observation studies, and organized a large-scale experiment. The study aimed to understand how consumers decide on what brand or product they should buy. Today, the digital market offers several choices and limitless information.

They found out that consumers face a complex range of cognitive biases embedded deep in their psychology. Don’t get it wrong– these cognitive biases are present long before the Internet. Thus, the researchers want to know whether these biases affect people’s purchasing decisions as it has become a different environment.


Mental Modes of Messy Middle

The research resulted in an updated purchase decision model. The center of the purchase decision model is the “messy middle”– it is the complex space where customers won and lost because of the tug between triggers and making the purchase.

People look for information about the product and brands. They will list all the pros and cons of their choices. The act represents the 2 different mental modes in the messy middle: exploration and evaluation. Exploration is the expansion of activities, while evaluation is the reduction.

Whatever the consumer will do across online sources can be classified into one of these two mental modes.

Consumers are in the loop through these mental modes of exploration and evaluation. They would stay in the messy middle for a while, repeating the exploration and evaluation cycle until they make a purchase decision.

Cognitive Biases that Influence Purchase Journey

As consumers search and assess the messy middle, there are factors that influence their cognitive thinking. Thus, consumer’s purchasing behavior is influenced. There are several factors, but these are the most crucial biases that can influence a consumer’s journey based on the research:


  1. Product information: Create short product descriptions with their key specifications to help buyers simplify their purchase decisions.
  2. Time: If you make your customers wait for the product, their proposition to purchase your product becomes weaker.
  3. Social proof: Encourage your customers to leave reviews and recommendations. Social proof builds trust and persuades potential customers to buy from you.
  4. Unavailability: You have to be familiar with the concept of supply and demand. As the stock decreases, it becomes on demand.
  5. Authority: When their decision is influenced by a trusted source or expert.
  6. Incentives: Giving out gifts, incentives, or discounts is a great motivator to consumers.

These cognitive biases greatly influence the purchase decision in the real in-market consumers. It was proven when a simulation of 310,000 purchase scenarios happened across retail, travel, financial services, utilities, and packaged goods.

In the experiment, shoppers were tasked to choose two of their favourite brands from a specific category. Meanwhile, the researchers added a fictional brand in each category, which the consumers had no idea what it is about. These 6 cognitive biases were applied to determine if their preference from one brand to another will change.

When the results came out, consumers still paid attention and chose the fictional brand over their established favourite brand. Why? The researchers ensure that the fictional product has several benefits.

The experiment showed that, when these cognitive biases are applied responsibly and intelligently, it would be a powerful move to win your consumer preference in the messy middle.

How Marketers Should Interfere Messy Middle

Although the messy middle is a complicated situation for marketers, consumers consider it a normal situation similar to normal shopping. The goal of marketers in interfering at the messy middle is to provide more information and reassurance when their potential buyers decide. It should not force them to exit the loop.

There’s no difference whether you are a small or large enterprise. The approach will be the same. As a marketer, you should:

Ensure brand online visibility: Strategize how you can present your product or service to your potential and existing customers.

Apply the behavioural principles learned: Make your propositions compelling, products and services the best. Remember, your consumers will research their options before purchasing.

Close the gap between trigger points and purchase decision: Do not let your potential consumers and existing ones spend time over your competitor’s products or services.

Create empowered teams: Hire flexible and talented people to close the gaps in the messy middle. It is best to have a team that can work cross-functionally. There wouldn’t be any brand and performance isolation.

Now, you might be wondering how to get the most out of the messy middle. Take a look at this search marketing strategy that brands and agencies are effectively using.

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