Woman sitting on the floor next to shoeboxes, shopping on her laptop.
Maximizers are consumers who spend more time in the evaluation phase of the customer journey than others. — Getty Images/Oscar Wong

There’s a new consumer trend that brands are starting to notice: maximizing. And unlike our newfound reliance on curbside pickup and same-day delivery, this trend could actually benefit the planet.

Maximizing is a consumer behavior that could be more environmentally friendly than others. Here’s what maximizing is and what your business should do to better serve maximizing customers.

Background: the path to purchase

The path to purchase, or customer journey, is relatively straightforward for most consumers.

A consumer needs a product or service to solve a problem. The journey begins with an initial consideration set: the brands or companies from which they could shop to get the item they need. The consumer will research and add or subtract brands from consideration as they learn about and evaluate their options. Then, the consumer selects a brand at the moment of purchase.

The consumer decision journey lays out the various moments in which a brand can influence a potential customer to choose them. The consumer decision journey is the framework a company uses to organize marketing activities: influencing a consumer to remember a brand name, launching a campaign to beat out a competitor, or offering a limited-time discount, for instance.

However, there are variations to this journey that are worth understanding.

What is maximizing?

Some consumers spend more time in the evaluation phase of the customer journey than others. These consumers are known as “maximizers.”

“Maximization is associated with increased time spent on online shopping, more decision cycles, and increased propensity for change of mind after having come to a decision outcome, suggesting that maximizers lack confidence in both their decision process and outcome,” wrote one research study.

Maximizers contrast with another group, “satisficers.” Satisficers are consumers who are content with a “good-enough” decision outcome. Satisficers are interested in spending the least amount of time in the evaluation phase of the customer journey, opting to make a decision quickly and move on.

There’s no “right” amount of time a consumer should spend evaluating different options before making a purchase. However, new research shows that maximizing is a shopping strategy that could have surprising environmental benefits.

[Read more: 5 Ways to Make Your Business More Convenient for Customers]

Maximizers are more willing to stick with the product they chose for the long term. This tendency indicates that fast fashion and single-use products — those that end up in landfills most often— can lose out to high-quality counterparts.

How is maximizing more sustainable?

Maximizers have traditionally gotten a bad rap. In the past, studies have shown that maximizers typically feel less happy with their choice, even after all the research. Because these consumers have a complete view of the market, they spend more time wondering if they made the right decision.

However, new research from the University of Toronto shows that happiness and use aren’t necessarily correlated. Maximizers got more use out of the product they chose as compared to the satisficers.

“Apparently, liking what you choose and using what you choose might not have as much to do with each other as you’d expect,” says Professor Sam Maglio, who managed the study. “Instead, maybe the effort-focused maximizers realize how much time they spent on making their choice, which makes them want to get the most out of it.”

Maximizers are more willing to stick with the product they chose for the long term. This tendency indicates that fast fashion and single-use products — those that end up in landfills most often— can lose out to high-quality counterparts.

What does this mean for businesses?

Maximizers tend to make greater use of their choice, lending more weight to the phrase “buy less, buy luxury.” Companies that are seeking to lower their environmental footprint should encourage consumers toward maximizer behavior. Use your messaging to ask customers to accumulate fewer, better things, waste less, and get more use out of their purchases.

Consumers are paying attention when businesses talk about sustainability. “Telling buffet diners that the norm was to not take too much at once (and that it was OK to return for seconds) decreased food waste by 20.5%.” wrote Harvard Business Review.

Not only can you decrease your company’s footprint, but you can help customers do the same, engendering greater loyalty and customer retention in return.

[Read more: Five Small Business Owners On Practicing Sustainability]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published September 19, 2022