Many times in our lives we may have confused Need vs Want. “I really need those new shoes” or “I need to see [insert favourite band] in concert”. Our desperation to ‘have’ confuses the Need Vs Want.
Essentially we only Need 5 things to survive: Water, Food, Warmth, Air (oxygen for us, CO2 for plants), and Sunlight. These are our survival needs. After that, there are a dozen or so core needs (which I will talk about in another blog), that include things like shelter, reproductivity, and good health. These are all the basic building blocks to a sustainable society.
Why does Need vs Want matter?
We are all guilty of saying we need something that is probably more likely a desired want. To be in ‘desperate need’ should only apply to the 5 needs for survival. However we live in a time of opulence; we take for granted our stable society here in the UK, and shift our ‘Needs’ starting point.
Nobody ‘needs’ a smartphone, life will continue without one, but the pain of not having one is the driver for ‘Needing’ one. So let’s examine this:
There are two reasons that humans buy things. Number 1: remove pain; Number 2: receive pleasure. The pain for not having a smartphone would include not having instant access to family and friends, nothing to listen to or watch, no games to play etc. The ‘Need’ isn’t the smartphone, it is actually the solution to these problems. And there are a number of solutions to fix the problem. Obviously, a smartphone is ticking all the boxes, but which smartphone is best for you? What size screen do you need? How much storage space? etc.
Alternatively, you could buy a basic phone, some physical games, and an MP3 player (which may work out cheaper!) but would be far less convenient. It’s strange how 12 years ago, we didn’t seem to have these needs until someone at Apple invented them.
How does Need vs Want affect your business?
Within our capitalist society, there will be some who have higher incomes or greater wealth than others. This is where the Need vs Want really begins to matter. But first, let’s look at it from a basic level. Every item we can buy serves a purpose; that purpose can be positioned on a simple line chart, where Need is on the left and Want is on the right. The further towards the right a product sits on the line, the greater the barriers are to obtain it: generally money and time.
There are also times when I may have greater urgency in making a purchase. Let me use the smartphone example again; if my contract is due to run out in 3 months, I can start to look around, find the best deals, or anticipate the new releases. I’m much closer to the ‘Want’ end of the scale. However, if my phone is lost/stolen/broken I need a replacement fast – much closer to the ‘Need’ end. As a business selling phones, they could offer an express service to cater for my greater Need, and charge a premium for doing it.
What should I use Need vs Want for?
This exercise can help you as a business owner determine how to offer your products or services, depending on the position the customer finds themselves on the Need Vs Want scale. Understanding the needs and wants of your customers will increase customer aquisition, retention and profits!