Why Do I Buy What I Buy?

Have you ever made a purchase and then wondered why on earth you bought that? You aren’t alone. In one survey, about 50 percent of people said they feel guilty about purchases, with some saying they felt that way often. However, even though they have buyer’s remorse, 40 percent said they don’t think about returning the item even though they might regret buying it.

Understanding why you buy the things you do can also help you figure out the best ways to market to other people. Many elements factor into why people buy the things they do.

1. Packaging

One psychological study measured people’s response to packages. They hooked people up to an MRI machine to study brain activity in buyers. They then showed them both attractive and basic packaging. People reacted strongly to the attractive packaging.

The area of the brain that recognized rewards was stimulated. At the same time, the ugly packaging stimulated the part of the brain that is tied to negative emotions. Knowing that, you can see why it is important for packaging to be bright, pretty and aesthetically pleasing.

It is also smart to use a color that has an emotional appeal to the consumer. Every woman, for example, knows what a Tiffany’s colored box means. The company utilizes this in their product packaging.

2. Recommendations

A recommendation from a friend is a powerful reason why consumers decide to purchase a product. 83 percent of people surveyed online stated they trust a product or service recommended by a family member or friend, making word-of-mouth one of the most powerful forms of advertising around.

In addition to listening to family and friends, consumers tend to check out reviews for products they are thinking about buying as well. They gather as much information as possible before deciding to buy.

3. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Silly)

People tend to prefer things that seem familiar and are easy to understand. Making your marketing campaign witty may seem like a good idea at first, but if not everyone gets your sense of humor, then the campaign will fail, and consumers may see you as a bit snooty.

Scientists found that companies that had simple and easy to pronounce names sold more stocks than complicated ones. People are drawn to what they know. When doing marketing, imagine what will work for the masses and be comfortable and familiar. If in doubt, run things by a control group and see how they react.

4. Product Outreach

Marketing outreach is quite simply putting the human factor back into marketing and attempting to connect with consumers. There is a commercial on television from an automaker, where the man is riding in his car and singing a song that will be familiar to most viewers. He cranks the radio up and sings out of tune as he pulls up next to another driver.  When he gets to the refrain, she joins in and begins singing with him.

This is the type of marketing that reaches people on their level. Who hasn’t gotten into a car and cranked up the radio to a favorite song at some point in time? Figuring out what people do on a daily basis in regards to your industry will help you figure out how to outreach to them with your product. This is going to vary widely from industry to industry, so you may have to think outside the box.

5. Typography

There is an entire science to how we read and how even the spacing of the letters impact us as consumers. Some experiments have shown certain fonts can invoke feelings of optimism or trust, while other fonts can create negative feelings.

For example, Baskerville font inspired feelings of trust in readers, but Georgia font which has a lot of the elements of Baskerville as far as the way the letters are shaped, did not inspire the same feelings.

There are so many different ways typography can influence buyers. Even the way a certain font is spaced, or the X-height of that font, can influence how the consumer feels when reading the packaging of a product or visiting a website. It is vital to involve a professional designer who understands the psychology of these nuances and can tweak a decision to perfection.

6. Price

Price is one of those things that simply can’t be overlooked as a factor in why people buy what they buy. 80 percent of people state the most important store feature is competitive pricing, which surpasses every other category, even reviews. At the same time, however, many purchases are made from an emotional place. If the consumer is convinced he or she needs a particular brand because it is better or solves a problem they have, they may be willing to pay a bit more for that brand.


There are many factors that play into why consumers buy what they buy. Sometimes it is a push because an item is on sale, and at other times the consumer simply buys the product because she connects emotionally to it in some way. Taking as many of these elements into consideration as possible will give you the best chance of gaining new customers and keeping the ones you already have.


Lexie Lu is a freelance web designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design news and always has coffee in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.