Just as influencer communications are impacted by community, economic, socio-cultural groupthink, and ideological situations, these universal situations are further impacted by local “situational factors;” they represent the personal factors in the consumer’s life that interact with the universal situations outlined previously to further impact the purchase decision-making process.
Situational factors are discussed in the following sections.
Personal Situational Factors
The consumer’s familial situation is a key disrupter to a marketer’s brand messaging and call to action. Personal situational factors are typically dictated by proximity, intimacy, and nature of the consumers’ personal relationships. For example, a woman who is the mother of three young children makes purchase decisions differently than a woman without children. If the three children, for example, are grown and off to college instead of young and at home, purchase decisions take a different form yet again.
Thousands of women may actively follow a popular Mommy-blogger, reading and even commenting on her every post. Yet, for example, when the blogger recommends a particular game system, the age and sex of the reader’s children will dramatically impact her decision to purchase that product or not. If a business’ audience is mothers, simply broadcasting recommendations to all of them through popular bloggers without an understanding of their personal situational factors will miss the mark with most of them.
Environmental Situational Factors
The environments, both physical (geography) and digital (devices), where brand messages and recommendations are received are yet another disrupter of the brand’s messaging path. Brand messages received on mobile devices while in a store versus a desktop computer when at work are interpreted in vastly different ways. For example, a positive rating on a restaurant by a friend is more impactful on the consumer’s purchase decision if received on Yelp or Zagat’s mobile app while walking down the street searching for a place to eat, than if they viewed a positive brand mentioned by that same person when reviewing their random positive comments or pictures on social sites such as Facebook or Instagram.
Consider the decision-making process of this same consumer looking for a restaurant when travelling in a new city while using the geolocation social networks such as FourSquare or Facebook’s Places. They see who of their friends or colleagues have “checked in” in that city or at a specific restaurant in the city and choose a location based on their need to connect with a friendly face.
Emotional Situational Factors
Emotions or the emotional state of a consumer might have the most effect on a consumer’s final decision-making process. For example, consider the state of mind of auto workers in December 2008, when the three major U.S. auto industry companies—GM, Chrysler, and Ford—asked the federal government for a $34 billion bailout to avoid bankruptcy. The emotional state of the millions of workers associated with the industry was decisively negative in the months after this presentation. Or, on a more micro level, consider the emotional state of the possible consumer of a wheelchair or other accessibility device in the weeks after an accident that gave them a permanent disability? The emotional state of prospective customers have a significant impact on their motivation to embrace or ignore an advocate’s recommendation.
Life Cycle Situational Factors
The final localized factor to consider is where the customer is in the purchase life cycle of a product. A consumer who is in the needs identification or awareness stage of the purchase life cycle will react differently to an influencer’s message than someone at the decision stage. Similarly, if the audience receiving the message is already a customer, are they at the loyalty stage where they’re willing to buy more from you or are they at the advocacy stage where they’re willing to voluntarily advocate your brand to their audience?
This is the blueprint that we use when servicing our clients, moving people along the customer life cycle to build business value and profit by improving the customer experience. As part of that methodology, we recognize that not all customers are—or will be—advocates. Once they become a customer, there’s a period of “satisfaction” where customers look to have their purchase decision justified by good customer service, product utility, and so on. Once proven, they move toward “loyalty,” which is represented by their willingness to buy more from the business based on its continuing good service, utility, and possibly recognition or rewards for continued patronage. Some, but not all of those within the loyalty stage of the life cycle, become so happy that they choose to voluntarily advocate the product and service to their business.