Habits – Consumer psychology for small businesses

When it comes to buying habits, we often stick to what we know. We are all habit zombies. Repeating the same tasks day after day. To get someone to try a new product, look for times in their lives when their environment changes. This is when their patterns will be more fluid and they’ll be most receptive to products they’ve never tried before. Jump at this opportunity to become part of their new behaviour as it hardens into a habit. Ok, let’s dive into this.

Going through your day on Auto-Pilot

When it comes to making a decision, how many things do you do on autopilot every day? You are probably unaware of just how many things are done due to habits. From taking a shower, brushing teeth, getting dressed, grab a cup of coffee. These are things (hopefully) you just do. We often take the same route when going from A to B. Only if there is a road diversion, do you take a different route. It’s the same with how consumers buy. You do the same thing over and over again because you are familiar with it. The same brand of coffee. The same pizza. The same curry sauce. Often we have the same takeaway order again and again. There is a range of reasons why this may be. It may be it’s the one you have always used. You like the company, the packaging, or the blurb on the packaging (aka innocent smoothies and Yeo Vally Yohurts in my case). Or maybe, even because it is at your glancing eye level on a busy supermarket shelf.

We’re all creatures of habits

We are creatures of habits and routines because the opposite could definitely make my mind explode. Assessing every decision and action (big and small) would make most people a nervous wreck! It is just too much for our minds to progress. We develop through taking shortcuts from previous information we have gained. By doing the same things on auto-pilot it allows your brain to focus on the more important things. Such as “Did I lock the car?”. It allows our minds to be open to receiving more information and new experiences. So, if we are such creatures of habits how do we get people to change their habits and try your product for the first time?

The Consumer Mind

Most of our decisions and habits are based on a range of triggers. From the time of day, visual clues, feelings, and so forth. However, there are times when our normal habits take a back seat. When you are overwhelmed, tired, or stressed out then your mind switches back into survival mode. These disruption times usually occur at major life events such as moving into a new living space, having a child, starting a new job, or a major change in your relationships. These are the times when environments are unstable and habits are going to be altered.

Using Habits within your small business

When your potential customers are in these changing situations they want to create new habits as both an anchor point, but also in a way to help them identify who they are. So this can create a great opportunity for what you offer to be part of that new way of being.

Some suggestions

How could you apply this to your small business?

  1. By timing your messaging to correspond with these environmental changes, you can alter consumers’ habitual behavior.
  2. Identify the life events and changes for your ideal paying customer. If you help people lose weight, target people on New Year or when the weather starts to get warmer. If you offer a service for busy moms, send out mailers or have a sale when kids are back in school.

These are just some examples, but you get the idea. The key is to be strategic and plan your marketing around these ‘disruptions’ to increase the chances that people will try your product or service.


We are all creatures of habit, repeating the same tasks day after day. Small businesses can use buying psychology to their advantage by understanding how customers develop habits and what triggers cause them to buy. Knowing when potential customers are most likely to be receptive to a new product. This is when their patterns will be altered. Seize the opportunity to become part of their new behaviour as it hardens into a habit.

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