Customer Inertia: A Greased Path to Purchase

Customer Inertia: A Greased Path to Purchase

Most of the time when we discuss Customer Inertia we are talking about when consumers continually buy the same brands and products without having any real loyalty to that brand. Shoppers act this way because it is easier than trying to find a new product or brand and spending the time necessary to evaluate the costs and benefits. However, there is another side of this phenomenon that goes less noticed but is impacting consumers’ decisions as much, or more, than brand level inertia. Inertia at the store level, where we buy goods, is having a huge impact on what we buy and how often.

Amazon has been quietly mastering consumer inertia at the store level. We have all experienced the ease through which you can purchase items on Amazon. Their consumer interface, specifically Amazon Prime, was built with consumer inertia in mind. The easier it is to buy products, the less consumers will think about what they are buying and from where they are buying it. You might love Nike sneakers, but is it worth breaking out of the easy purchase model of Amazon Prime if that sneaker is not available? For most shoppers, the answer is generally no. According to research from Multichannel Insights, the average Prime user is worth more than double the average shopper because they think less about their shopping experience. This model is so effective that, according to CNBC, 76% of online shoppers begin their shopping experience on Amazon.

So, the question for marketing teams everywhere is – when do you lean into consumer inertia, especially on Amazon, and when do you try and fight it? First, we must acknowledge that there is value in not having to “overthink” decisions. According to a paper published in the Harvard Business Review entitled Eager Sellers and Stony Buyers: Understanding the Psychology of New-Product Adoption, that value is about three times. This means advertisers and marketers must present three times the value of whatever consumers are currently receiving for consumers to make a change. For products that do not rise to the three times value proposition for the consumer, marketers should consider utilizing Amazon and their shopper level inertia as much as possible. New products that are innovative but not revolutionary are going to sell better on platforms that have their own natural inertia. This is especially true if your competition is not active on Amazon. Meanwhile, products that do rise to the level of “game changers” are able to buck the Amazon inertia trend because they have a compelling story that can convince consumers to try something new. Thus, they are more willing to purchase the product from wherever you are selling it.

Ultimately, the majority of products are iterative in their design, and companies should take advantage of the consumer inertia platform designed by Amazon whenever possible. Consumers enjoy everything at their fingertips without a lengthy thought process. For key products, marketers should also think outside the box. Focus on telling a story and try new executions, but if all else fails, the consumer platform inertia is a strong alternative.

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