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Lesson Plan Industry Sector
Marketing, Sales, and Services

Lesson Plan Originally Created By: Jane Lansdown

Buying Motives

Part of Unit: Selling

Lesson Plan Overview / Details

Customers choose to buy certain products for many reasons. Those reasons can be studied and analyzed to see what kinds of motives customers have for making purchases.  Understanding a customer's buying motive can help a sales associate determine which products to show a customer and which features to highlight.

Lesson Time

2 class periods
110 Minutes

Objectives and Goals

  • Define Buying Motives
  • Understand the difference between rational and emotional buying motives
  • Identify the most common buying motives in retail sales
  • Recognize a customer's buying motives during the selling process
  • When shopping as consumers, be aware of personal buying motives
  • Define patronage buying motives and realize that they vary according to each customer's priorities

Activities in this Lesson

  • *Teacher note: You may have these or similar items to show or a large paper bag with various items as if you cleaned out several year's worth of "tacky" items

    When students enter the classroom they will be randomly asked by the Instructor (as they're entering and being seated): 

    "Would you like to buy this pencil for 50 cents? It has white lead."

    "Would you like to order a bowl of brussel sprouts for 75 cents? It's a great, healthy snack!"

    "How would you like to own this polyester leisure jacket for a mere $5.00?"

    "I have this really handy fanny pack with the pink power ranger on the front. Great item for only $2.50! Are you interested?"

    "Do you have a quarter handy? I'd love to sell you this 5 oz. drink of vegetable juice!"

    Once students are seated, announce that NONE of my items were desirable to them, even at a low price. Why would ANYONE choose to buy these items? Allow 5 min. for some discussion.

    Students then will be instructed to answer the following questions from the whiteboard onto a piece of paper which they may share during class discussion but won't have to be turned in. Allow 5-7 minutes.

    1) Think of a recent personal decision you made, having given some thought into making that decision. What was the reason you made the decision you did? (ex: choosing to study, to exercise, to call a friend)

    2) Is there an item of merchandise that you would like to purchase or have recently purchased? If so, why do you desire that merchandise? Be specific.

    3) Take a look at these items on the table (items on display will be a pair of heavy duty work gloves, an encyclopedia and a tube of ben-gay) What are some valid reasons that someone would choose to purchase these items?

    4) Can you think of an item that a customer might purchase for absolutely no reason at all?

    Students will share their answers to question #1. They should be specific; not "because I wanted to."   Explain that all of these reasons they gave are their motives, their personal motivation for making that decision. Students will share their answers to question #2, again being specific. ex: Maybe they want a new bike so they can ride it to school to save money. Perhaps they bought a yogurt at lunchtime because they are trying to add more protein into their diet. Explain that all of these reasons are buying motives, their reasons for making or wanting to make a purchase of a particular product. #3: Students will try to relate to a person wanting these items on display but they are not items that a young person would consider purchasing. Explain that as we sell to customers we must try to empathize with them and appeal to their buying motives. Students will try to answer question #4, but won't be able to. Explain that there will always be reason for making a purchase.

  • Study Guide Lecture

    Students will be given a Buying Motives Study Guide to fill out during Teacher Lecture. Announce that this study guide will be needed for the next activity. As teacher lectures, refer to the Vocabulary Terms.

    * Show 1st slide from PPT images, showing Basic Needs, then 2nd slide, showing how consumers want more, more, and more as below paragraph is presented.

    Teacher: Consumers make purchases for two main reasons; they need or want an item. We of course need food, clothing and shelter, but we want certain food, more clothing or a larger house. Sometimes there is confusion between the two; for example, we think that we can't live without getting a new pair of shoes to start the school year but in reality we only want a certain pair of shoes to impress our friends. It's important to understand the various buying motives and to recognize them during the selling process in order to help a customer make a wise purchase.

    Customers should also recognize their own buying motives in order to become smart consumers in making the right buying decision. A good sales associate will appeal to the customer's buying motives which become evident during effective communication with the customer. Know that two customers may be purchasing the same exact product for two separate reasons, or motives. Ex: one customer might be buying a smart phone so that he or she may conduct business while out of town, another customer will buy one in order to impress his or her friends. The first customer was making the purchase based on a rational buying motive while the second customer's purchase is based on an emotional buying motive. Rational buying motives prompt customers to make a conscious decision based on a reasonable idea. For example, you might buy a flashlight so you'll have light when there's a power failure. You need the light provided by the flashlight to prevent falling or tripping on furniture. Your rational buying motive is that of safety. Another common rational buying motive is financial. Your new winter coat must be $50 or less because your clothing budget only has $50 left. You want the amount you pay for a product to fit your budget.

    * Show images from 3rd slide (enter each image as you discuss different motives for buying these items) ex: coat for warmth or a fashion statement, longboard to save on fuel or for recreation.

    An emotional buying motive is determined by the way a product or service makes you feel. Peer acceptance, power, and the desire to look your best are all emotional buying motives. Most customers don't necessarily recognize their motives as being emotional; they may prefer to think of them as rational. For example, a customer is shopping for a new pair of sunglasses and might say "I need a new pair of these" but has 3 other good pair at home. Does he really NEED a new pair or does he think that a new, stylish pair would help him to look cool and impress others? So, perhaps, the real buying motive in this case would be an emotional one.

    Of course, it is common to have a combination of both rational and emotional buying motives when making purchases. For example, you might buy a new pair of boots because you need protection from the winter weather. Self-protection is a rational motive. You might also buy a pair in the latest winter fashion style and color. Then you have the combination of the rational buying motive of self-protection and the emotional buying motive of peer acceptance.

    * For the following scenarios (in bold, below) ask a student to read the Customer's script as you read the Sales Associate's script. Using a lot of expression, you can get the point across very well.

    Will each customer voice their reasons, or motives for being interested in a certain product? NO! This becomes a challenge for the salesperson, to determine what the customer's motive is. The best way to gain valuable information is to ask questions. Ex: a customer comes in and says she's looking for a dress. Your store carries 500 dresses, so now you need to narrow things down a bit. A good scenario would be something like this: C: I'm looking for a dress. S: We have a great selection of dresses, are you looking for one for a special occasion? C: Yes, for my 20th class reunion in June. It's going to be a semi-formal event. S: What do you think the weather might be like in June where your reunion is held? C: It's in Southern CA, so it should be warm but cooling a little in the evening. S: That sounds like a lot of fun, are there certain colors that you prefer? C: I want something bright with plenty of bling! I want to look elegant and shine bright among the group. I love emerald green, turquoise, or red would be great too! I'm more concerned with how I look than how much I spend. S: I think we've got a great selection of dresses right over here for you to look at!    By asking appropriate questions, the salesperson was able to determine that the customer wanted  recognition and that salesperson should appeal to that motive. Saving money was not a concern of the customer's, so the salesperson should focus on the dress itself, rather than the price range.

    Now, imagine that a customer comes into a toy store.   S: Good morning, how can I help you? C: I'm looking for a gift. S: Great! Is this for a boy or girl, and how old? C: It's for my 5 year old niece. S: That's such a cute age, what kinds of things does she like? C: She loves her baby dolls, so that's what I'm thinking of getting her. S: We have some adorable babies over here who want to be adopted by a 5 year old! Did you have a certain price range in mind? C: Well, I'm on a very tight budget but would like to get her a really sweet and soft one. Hopefully for around $15. S: Oh, that's a piece of cake! We have an entire wall of little dolls over here, the prices range $5 - $25, so we can find the perfect one right in the middle! In this situation the customer revealed buying motives of love and affection and economy. The salesperson was smart to ask questions, listen to responses and appeal to those motives.

    * Bring up 4th slide, explaining each Patronage Buying Motive as it appears. 

    Customers also make important decisions regarding where to make their purchases. Today's consumers want the best value for their money spent and have certain reasons that they would shop in specific businesses. These are what we call Patronage Buying Motives. Common examples are: LOCATION; maybe your parent shops at the grocery store closest to your home. Price is not as important as convenience and saving time by shopping close to home. MERCHANDISE; we shop at specific clothing stores because we like the brands that they carry. It's the first store we think of going to when we want something new to wear. PRICING PRACTICES; shoppers who are price conscious are looking for sales and low prices to save money. They will shop where they get the lowest prices for the products they want. ATMOSPHERE; we have favorite places to shop because we have a positive image of the store. Maybe it's the music they play, the lighting, the displays or layout of the store. Even the scents can determine whether we enjoy shopping there or not. SALESPEOPLE; this is the main reason that a customer might choose to shop at a specific business or not. The location, merchandise, prices, and atmosphere might all be acceptable but if the employees are not friendly or helpful, then customers will not return. We all have certain reasons why we choose to patronize certain businesses, as our priorities are different among us. Try to be aware of what's important to you so you will make wise buying decisions.

    * Show slide #5, featuring the 11 most common buying motives among retail customers  (all are listed below in Vocabulary section) Prestige, Recognition, Gain, Economy, Health, Comfort, Convenience, Safety & Protection, Affection & Love, Variety, Recreation. Give definition and an example for each, then ask students for a couple of more examples for each. Leave this up on the screen for students to refer to when they find pictures for their collage.

    As sales associates, you must realize that buying motives are present in every sale; remember that nobody will make a purchase or even consider a purchase without a reason. Also remember that each customer will have a different motive, even if two customers are buying the same product! If you are aware of your customer's main motive while considering an item, you can better help that customer in making the best buying decision. When customers leave your store feeling that they were directed to the merchandise best suited to their wants and needs, they will return to your store to make future purchases.

    Resources and Materials

  • Vocabulary Lecture

    Need: Something that is essential in our lives, ex: food, clothing, shelter

    Want: Something that is desired, ex: a new outfit for the dance this weekend

    Buying Motive: A reason to make a purchase

    Rational Buying Motive: A decision made based on a sense of logic and careful thought

    Emotional Buying Motive: A decision made based on feelings

    Patronage Buying Motive: A reason to purchase from a specific place of business

    Prestige: The desire to look and feel important, ex: owning valuable jewelry

    Recogntion: The desire to be noticed, ex: a tattoo

    Gain: Intending to earn money, ex: buying a computer to expand a business

    Economy : Wanting to save money, ex: buying an economy car to save money on gas

    Health: To maintain or improve your health, ex: joining a health club to get into shape

    Comfort: To enjoy being physically comfortable, ex: owning a down comforter 

    Convenience: To save time and to make things easier, ex: a GPS system in your car

    Safety & Protection: To feel safe and protected, ex: an alarm system in your home

    Affection & Love: When we buy something for those we care about, ex: flowers on Mother's Day

    Variety: To have change in our lives, ex: owning the same shirt in 5 different colors

    Recreation: To spend money on activities we enjoy, ex: lift ticket for snowboarding

  • Materials needed: Magazines, scissors, glue, poster board, markers

    Students may work in a team of 2 or individually. This is something the teacher should decide, based on the number of students in the class.

    From the list of the 11 common buying motives (Prestige, Recognition, Gain, Economy, Health, Comfort, Convenience, Safety & Protection, Affection & Love, Variety, Recreation) students will look in magazine and cut out a picture of a product that a customer might purchase where each buying motive is present. Ex: a pair of slippers for comfort, a diamond ring for affection & love. *Note: many students cut out a picture of a man & woman embracing. This is NOT a product even though it shows affection & love. They must find a picture of a tangible product.

    Students seem to enjoy putting together a collage and can be creative with borders and additional artwork. They shall label each picture as to which buying motive it appeals to and will then present their collage to the class. I always display their buying motive collage on the classroom walls.

Assessment: Buying Motives Worksheet

Assessment Types:
Writing Samples,

Students will complete this worksheet and turn in at the end of the class period. Answers:

1. ...to satisfy their wants and needs.

2. ...influenced by either rational or emotional buying motives.

3. Emotional influence example:   BREAKUP - tissue, chocolate, romantic movie

4. Rational influence example: STARTING COLLEGE - backpack, books, dorm room items