Some reasons why we purchase…

Everyone is a buyer, whether it be a litre of milk or a mink coat (heaven forbid!); we all buy something at some stage, and this is generally centred around two main factors: a need to avoid pain, and/or a need to experience pleasure. Retailers drive this by using either the carrot or the stick approach to either lure or ‘punish’ the prospect.

However, several things influence the buying action. According to Maslow, we make purchases to fulfil what he describes as the bottom of his hierarchy, the basic things, such as food and shelter.

That said, there are definitely shades of grey when it comes to making a purchase.

One is the convenience factor, when you need something immediately and will take the easiest or fastest path to get it, such as having a real thirst or running out of petrol. You would take the most convenient path available to quench that thirst or fill that tank.

Many aspects drive purchasing, including emotional fulfilment and simple generosity…

People also purchase when something is perceived as valuable or scarce, whether it be monetary value or availability, something that may run out or you could have limited access to in the future, such as collectibles or antiques; something that amasses value over time. This is not to be confused with a replacement. When something needs to be replaced, from too small clothes to a broken fridge, this purchase is classified as a necessity and realistically, you cannot afford not to make the purchase.

Keeping up with the Jones also plays its part when it comes to purchasing behaviour! People often buy things that are seen as a prestige-related reason or for personal enrichment and, by having it, would increase their esteem within the community, family, country etc. Into this category the fad aspect fits well. This is when someone mimics their favourite celebrity/influencer and buys an item they endorse, whether or not it’s something they personally need. On the coattails of this category is peer pressure, when you buy something that your friends want you to. This is normally experienced during the teen years but can overlap into adulthood and mimic the prestige-related behaviour.

Believe it or not, there are people who are addicted to buying and, although it’s far from the norm, it accounts for more sales than anyone can measure.

There are so many reasons people purchase anything.

Note to self: a guilty purchase doesn’t solve the feeling of guilt!

Fear is a great motivator when it comes to buying extra security items, from stun guns and dead-bolts to upgrading a laptop with the tightest security software, or purchasing that Pitbull to keep the baddies at bay. This could also flow into overstocking on vitamins and antiseptic to stave off potential illness…

A sector that many can relate to, is buying an item you feel is beyond your grasp or cannot have for a variety of reasons. This purchase fills an emotional vacuum, sometimes to our detriment, but that’s another story…

This can be related to an empathy purchase, which is when you buy (an often worthless item) from a person because they listened and showed that they cared about you.

There is also an obligatory syndrome whereby people buy something to make themselves feel better, or by supposedly helping someone else through purchasing things they themselves don’t need – or wouldn’t normally purchase. For example, a charity Lucky Draw where the purchase of a ticket will make them feel as though they are doing something for the community — sweetened by the benefit of a possible win for themselves. 

This is closely related to the guilt purchase, where we buy something for another person because they bought something for us!

There is nothing more frustrating than a compulsory purchase, such as having to call in the plumber!

Then there is what can only be cynically called the ‘ego stroking’ purchase, made to impress/attract the opposite sex. The aim here is to have something bigger/more expensive/valuable than anyone else in your circle. This helps you appear to be an expert/aficionado, or to meet a social status that often surpasses what’s realistically within your budget/personality/character, to make it at least seem as though you operate at a ‘higher’ level, whatever that may be.

An interesting one is something that gives you affiliation into a cultural or religious community. Such niche identities include being recognised as part of a university alumni or a sporting team, where members have a lapel pin or fans purchase merch that supports their favourites, endowing them with almost a ‘badge of honour’ status.

Then there are we mere mortals…

Who can refuse a bargain? Maybe you’ve been keeping your eye on an item and waiting for it to come up on sale, offered at a lower price. This can be anything from a TV or an overseas air ticket. In tandem with this, is the perception that the value of the item purchased substantially exceeds the standard price of the product or service, and the offer is too good to ignore.

And let’s not ignore the value of brand recognition when a purchase is made, more so if it’s in a category that you are unfamiliar with. For example, purchasing a drill for your partner and only knowing the brand that he likes. Here’s betting you purchase that brand!

Every parent knows this one: the compulsory purchase, specifically when it relates to school uniforms or such like. Then, something that any homeowner may have experienced in an emergency, namely, calling an electrician or a locksmith. This purchase is definitely compulsory, else you will be stymied for a solution.

But the best purchase by far is the simple indulgence. Ah, that’s one we can all relate to as who doesn’t deserve a bit of luxury now and then? This can be anything from that expensive hand lotion, a day at the Spa, a slice of cheesecake after weeks of dieting — or that 60-foot yacht…

And if you can afford it, why not purchase it?


Some reasons why we purchase… 1
An interpretation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Source:



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