Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Implicit vs. Explicit Purchase Motivations

Whether in qualitative research or quantitative research, people don't always tell the whole truth about what motivates them to purchase or use a particular brand or product. Sometimes this is because they are unaware of their underlying motivations. Sometimes they are aware of their underlying motivations but don't want to say for fear of embarrassment. Sometimes they say what they think they are expected to say or what they believe to be the norm so that they don't feel like an outlier. Sometimes they are trying to be helpful or positive and give the researcher the answer they think the researcher wants to hear. For a number of reasons, explicit answers to direct questions do not always yield the full answer to human motivations.

This is one of the reasons we use projective techniques in qualitative research. We don't ask people "Why do you do it?" but rather "Why they think some other people do it?" taking the focus and pressure off of them and their personal motivations. Have you ever heard a child ask a question for a friend? "My friend wants to know..." Is that question really for his or her friend?

Likewise, in quantitative research, while you can gain some insight from scaled responses to purchase motivators, this should be supplemented with analysis of correlations between the purchase motivator ratings and purchase intent, or better yet, actual purchases. This can only be determined through analytical correlations techniques. 

So when someone says they really like driving a Mercedes-Benz because of various creature comforts and the way it drives, you may find out through projective techniques or correlation analysis that the dominant reason is that driving a Mercedes-Benz gives the person more confidence because it is perceived to confer more social status. 

Make sure in your research that you are probing not only for explicit responses but also for implicit ones. The implicit ones are often the more important of the two. 

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