10/09/2013 02:14 pm ET Updated Dec 09, 2013

Who, What, When, & Where but Most of All: How & Why?


We learn in school that all situations can be analyzed to determine: who, what, when, where, how, and why. Today, when looking at, and marketing to consumers purchasing consumer electronics and wireless services, we seem to have forgotten this time-tested rule, and focus all of our efforts on the first four instead.

Who is doing the buying - or in the case of our marketing efforts, who do we anticipate being the buyer, is right up front. Demographic profiles, psychographic profiles, behavioral profiles, we look at them all.

When people buy is equally analyzed - were there any triggers we could have determined before they were about to spend their hard earned money? What could we have done (or can still do) to get the person to buy NOW?

What they bought is next in line - were all of the right add-ons and bundles there? Was the total sale above average?

Where is pretty easy - did they buy online or off, in a multi-product store, or specialty shop?

But far too often, that is where we stop. We're missing the most important steps - the context in which the consumer is planning to use their purchase - in our analysis.

How the consumer is planning to use their purchase could be the most important. As I've previously discussed, people don't use any of their devices in isolation - and understanding the environment they're planning to be in helps their decision-making process. For manufacturers and marketers, it should help develop product feature sets, ad creative, and owner's manual material.

And when thought about in conjunction with why a consumer is making their purchase - the old one doesn't work anymore, the need for social gratification of the best and greatest, etc. - you can much more easily make a compelling case for your product to the consumer.

AOL recently completed a Smartphone Path to Purchase study of approximately 1,350 online and off-line purchasers of smartphones. One of the key takeaways was that regardless of what brand of phone or service the consumer bought, or whether they bought online or off, independent of their age and gender, there was a clear, linear decision path to their purchase. The meaning of the decisions that went into the purchase - what, when, where - were all done in the same sequence. Carrier went first, followed by retail outlet, OEM brand, handset features, and finally, price.

This understanding is great - now we just need to apply the individual consumers' intended usage, and we'll be all set.