How to uncover consumers’ true motivations

In a world where we feel the need to post-rationalise every decision, action and purchase, it can be challenging to understand the true motivations and influences at play. This is true for both ourselves, and those around us. The subconscious is a powerful force, allowing our brains to filter through millions of pieces of information every day, without us even realising. Can you remember what your morning routine was today? What about your last weekly shop? Can you really say every action and decision you took was completely rational, thought-through and undoubtedly beneficial?

The truth is, we all take shortcuts. We use past experiences, knowledge, and instinct to determine our actions (more often than not). Weighing up whether to have a coffee every day would be unnecessarily exhausting, so instead we do it with barely a second of thought.

Google’s work on ‘The Messy Middle’

Google’s recent report on ‘The Messy Middle’ provides a fascinating insight into just how complex the decision-making process can be.

During the Messy Middle consumers are exposed to a wealth of underlying external factors which are constantly present; all having some degree of influence on their final purchase choice​.

​The purchase journey and decision-making taking place within this Messy Middle can be bucketed into two key phases, where consumers can be won, or lost: ​

Phase 1: Exploration – adding options to the consideration set ​

Phase 2: Evaluation – narrowing down options until a final decision is made

If this little snippet has made you interested to read more, Google’s full report can be found here:

The Spark difference – blending behavioural science into existing research methodologies

The danger with research can be that we must ask consumers to think about their actions and often rationalise them in a way they may never have done at the time.

At Spark, we constantly strive to push past these immediate, rational, and often over-simplified answers, deploying an ever-growing range of techniques to unpick the deeper motivations at play.

Ever heard of the cognitive biases? You might be shocked at how these simple shortcuts in the brain lead to decisions in which balanced, rational decision-making has been completely bypassed. Here are a few of our favourites:

Power of now – e.g. next-day delivery​

Scarcity bias – e.g. 5 people purchased in last hour​

Power of free – no-fee mortgage​

We believe as researchers it is our job to not only spot when these cognitive biases are at play, but to also translate these into actions and recommendations for our clients. We want to enable the brands we work with to better resonate with their consumer base, and ultimately gain an advantage on the competition.

Another way we push past post-rationalisation is through our product Spark Life360, which uses ethnographic research techniques to enable us to uncover a combination of ‘in-the-moment’ and rational feedback. Spark Life360 is a community, which consumers can share their actions and opinions on any topic of interest, both verbally and visually. With this, we can get consumers to speak to us every step of the way through their Messy Middle journey.

If you have a passion for behavioural science, and applying this to research has piqued your interest, please feel free to get in touch with us – our team would love to help!

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