What’s motivating your customers’ behaviour in 2021

In 2021 the primary motivating force for Australian consumers is the need to ‘feel empowered’. Australian brands need to understand the importance of this as well as other motivational drivers in creating long term engagement and loyalty with consumers.

Even though the importance of understanding human motivation cannot be understated, there’s a lack of a formal, organised, and consistent way of talking about it. There’s hundreds of theories and tonnes of research out there, but it’s all a bit messy. It makes it quite a challenge to understand, implicitly, what’s happening in terms of our motivations and why.

To understand human motivations and behaviour, Sprout uses a model developed by Dr David Forbes called the Unified Model of Motivation. We’ve developed a model that helps chunks the factors that influence our behaviour into three layers. The outer layer is context, i.e. How we behave at work is not the same as when we’re with the kids or how we behave when we’re in the supermarket. Context is critical in understanding our behaviour.

The second layer comprises the traditional behavioural economics principles of heuristics and biases plus the rational or functional factors influencing our decisions. At the very heart of this model, however, are the motivational drivers. Motivations are what drives consumers to buy or people to behave. Motivations are psychological tension states that push us to act – they are the ‘why’ behind our behaviour.

What are motivational needs? Why are they so important to understand?

Most of us like to think we’re wise and rational in our purchasing decisions, but the truth is we don’t know why we make the majority of the decisions that we do. Our motivational needs operate below the surface of our conscious awareness, influencing our behaviours and guiding our decisions. It is our desire and need to feel certain emotions that ultimately motivate our behaviour and purchasing decisions.

Understanding the motivational needs driving human behaviour is essential for brands looking for enduring success and growth. There are three main reasons why it’s so important to understand the motivational drivers behind people’s behaviour:

  1. Designing new products and services that meet their emotional needs as well as their rational and functional needs, creates strong engagement and brand loyalty. A whole new way of thinking about product development can evolve that can breathe longevity into a brand and its products.
  2. Marketing can create relevant and enduring brand messages by activating and appealing to deep seated human needs. The strongest and most successful brands are those that have connected with the consumer at a deep motivational level.
  3. Designing enhanced human experiences that have a behavioural objective.  Being able to understand emotions in the moment they are felt, means you can design powerful, positive, and connected customer experiences that influence people’s behaviour towards a desirable outcome.

According to Forrester emotions and understanding how they drive our behaviour is critical to creating successful customer experiences. Customers who identified as fully emotionally connected, as highlighted by a Harvard Business Review report, are more than 50% as valuable as customers who are just satisfied.

The HBR report emphasises the importance of aligning CX and brand insights investments with strategies that drive an emotional connection with the customer. By identifying the emotional drivers behind the behaviour of a brand’s target market, the brand is able to develop strategies to create personalised emotional connections.

What Australians want to feel in 2021 – Key Findings from Mood of Australia Study

Every year Sprout Strategy conducts research into “what are the strongest motivations that Australians will be seeking to fulfill in the coming year”. Specifically, it identifies what Australians want to ‘feel more of’ and ‘feel less of’ in the coming year and how that will impact their behaviour as consumers. Using implicit research techniques, the Annual Mood of Australia study explores the core emotions and motivational needs of Australians.

In 2021, our behaviour, according to the study, will be motivated by the need to feel:

  1. Empowered – Feeling empowered is about our ability to solve things on our own. We feel empowered when we have the authority, the knowledge and the freedom to do what we need to do.
  2. Engaged – People are engaged when they feel like they are having a great experience. They are engaged when they absorbed by and interested in the things happening in their life and they feel they are living their life to the fullest. When you find someone engaging it means you are interested and entertained by what they say and how they are saying it.
  3. Belonging – The need to connect and be part of a community defines us human beings. We all want to belong and feel accepted by our peers, colleagues and family. We want to be part of groups that we identify with and hold similar values and interests as we do.

These motivational drivers are nothing new. They’ve been a major driving force behind our behaviour long before COVID. The pandemic, however, has heightened our need to feel these emotions. At the moment, we have a greater need to feel empowered and engaged because we’ve just spent a year in lock down, which has prevented us from doing so many of the things we usually take for granted. Social distancing and travel restrictions have heightened our need for connection and feeling we are part of a community and that we belong.

So as the world recovers from the pandemic and the restrictions it has placed on our lives and our interactions with others subside, we will be looking for opportunities to satisfy these needs and motivational drivers.

How do we connect with, engage with and empower our customers? Be more human!

To really tap into the human need and desire for engagement organisations need to reimagine their brand to be more human in tone and language. Organisations need to ask themselves – how do we connect to the broader world and society that we are part of? They need to think about who they are as an organisation, why they exist and who they serve. 

These days there are new rules for brand engagement that go beyond simply providing customers with products and services. As people want to feel connected and a sense of belonging to a community and join groups whose values they share, they want to engage with brands who have a higher purpose and are committed to giving back to society.

For people to feel engaged brands need to be really authentic. We hear a lot about trust and how to build trust, but the basis of any human experience is about authenticity. That means having values and morals that you stick to regardless of the circumstances. It means being honest about how and why you do things. There’s a particularly great quote, “organisations should view themselves as human entities that mirror and support the values of those they serve.”

Customer empowerment is about giving customers the tools and resources they need to be successful and helping them to gain more control over aspects they could not before. It’s also about giving them information that allows them to make better choices and gain greater value from the products they purchase.

Understanding the motivational drivers behind our behaviours will allow companies to re-evaluate how they connect and interact with people on a day-to-day basis. Investments in brand and experience insights need to align with strategies that create personalised emotional connections between the brand and its customers.