Monday, April 9, 2012

“Consumer” versus “User” Behavior

Our behaviors as “consumers” are not necessarily the same as our behaviors as “users” of a product. Our behavior as a “consumer” when deciding whether to select and purchase a product is more driven by functionality rather than by the ease of use or usability. As a “consumer” we become more cost-oriented rather than comfort-oriented. Our decisions also tend to be more emotional instead of rational. For instance, we might make a decision merely based on the visual appeal, the packaging, or simply the brand name. As a "consumer", we sometimes become obsessed with the number of features in a product, even when we are aware of how unlikely it is that we will use all those features; how many of them will never be touched. Just take a look at your latest digital camera and consider how many of its features you have actually used, or even attempted to use. I remember a digital watch that came out a couple years ago which offered a feature where one was able to enter over 100 telephone numbers into it. Of course you would have to enter each number digit-by-digit with a pen since the enter button was so very small, and if by chance you were one of the few courageous people who did such a thing, you were still only an accident away from losing all of your data.

Our behavior changes to “user” immediately after we begin to interact with a product, a process starting from the moment we open the product packaging and ending on the day we replace it.

As a user, we interact with the product on a regular basis. We need to problem solve it when we have issues and work on maintaining it. These activities generally happen after the period that we can return the product, and so if the interaction and user experience is not satisfactory we are still obliged to live with our unhappiness until we can afford to replace it. This unhappiness will most certainly affect our decision to acquire the same brand or a similar product.

Consequently as “users” we are more comfort-oriented than functionality-based; we prefer the product that provides us with ease of use for the most important and frequently done tasks. We love error-free products as well as ones that are easy to maintain. We prefer being able to problem solve eventual issues by ourselves, rather than ever having a relationship with a customer support line—which we connect to long phone calls, spelling out our names multiple times, stating the case number serial again and again, completing pre and post call surveys, and so on until finally our support agent starts to investigate our problem and eventually helps us to solve it. Often times we even feel the agent is just as clueless as us, the only difference being their access to manual pages which they read robotically.

Users love a product that offers a better user experience, becoming more forgiving when the product does not always behave as expected. Users who like a product with good user experience will continue to buy the same brand as long as they are built with their type of user in mind.


Published in: AHFEI NEWS
April 2012 - Number 31