Wednesday, 22 February 2012

More on the psychology of shopping and tricks to make you spend...

Salesperson: "Date of birth?"
You: "23rd March 1972"
Salesperson: "That’s amazing, that's my birthday too!"

A mere coincidence? Or a trick to make you spend?

A new study just published in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that when you share something, such as a birthday, with a salesperson you are more likely to buy from them and to  feel good about it.

The researchers found that when people found they had the same a birthday as a personal trainer they were more likely to purchase a gym membership. 

This is just another example of the unconscious psychological forces that are shaping every financial decision we make.  

It’s all down to our human need for connectedness which is so powerful that  even an incidental similarity (the same birthday, name or a shared place of birth) makes us more favourably disposed towards another person.

Perceived similarity makes us feel connected.
This need for connectedness extends to touch too. Earlier studies found that if a waitress or waiter gently touched a customer on the arm when handing over the bill, they would receive a larger tip.

I suspect that compliments work in the same way.  Shopping in London last week I was twice complimented by the sales assistant as I was paying for goods. One loved my rings, another said my glasses were cool. Of course, I left the shop in a positive frame of mind, but were their compliments a clever ploy to make sure I did?
Here's your purchase, with a whopping compliment thrown in... 
In the previous post some other tricks were highlighted. 
  • Many people pop into a shop for a pint of milk only to find it’s right at the back and they have to pass racks of other tempting goodies to get there. 
  • Cosmetic aisles are secluded so that women have time and space to read the labels. 
  • Men’s changing rooms are easier to find because retailers know men are very likely to buy once they’ve tried.

In an earlier post I highlighted some more design tricks aimed at seducing us into spending.
  • The absence of clocks in shopping centres so you lose track of time. 
  • Confusing layouts so you get lost and wander into temptation territory. 
  • Mirrors to slow you down. 
  • Birdsong and waterfalls to slow your heart rate.

With all these wily ways it’s amazing anyone ever gets out of a shopping centre with their finances intact. Short of being mugged, it’s a sure-fire way of being fleeced. 

So next time you think you’re in control, remind yourself of some of these tricks and be on your guard!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The psychology of shopping: how men and women shop

Did you know that every time you step into a shop, there are a million and one things that are designed to make you part with your cash? 

Have you ever popped to the shops to buy milk and come home with a bag full of shopping?

 It's annoying how they place the milk at the back of the shop, isn't it!

An international bestselling book 'Why We Buy - The Science of Shopping' gives an insight into some of the ways retailers use psychology to make people buy more, and it seems that men and women are targeted in very different ways.

Its author, Paco Underhill, has spent years observing shoppers in retail environments. If you want to shop smarter, you might be interested by some of the book's insights.

First of all, not everybody who walks into a shop knows whether they will buy anything. 60 to 70% of purchases in supermarkets are 'unplanned'. A store's success depends on how many shoppers it can convert into buyers.

Frugal tip: Don't go shopping unless you need something

Merchandise, where products are placed on the shelf (eye line products sell the most) the smells and lights, the blast of warm air as you enter the shop, the layout of the aisles: it can all determine whether you buy - and lead you towards a product you never even knew you wanted.

Targeting Women
Mr Underhill says shopping environments are geared towards women, as women generally choose most of the purchases, including mundane things like groceries.

Family-friendly shops have wide aisles for prams and push-chairs, some provide crèches or children's play areas and special parking spaces for mums. These shops want to attract the 'decision makers'.

Cosmetics and toiletries are generally a woman's domain and women like to take their time to read the packaging before they buy. In one study, 63% of women who bought something in a chemist read the packaging. So you'll find that the cosmetics aisle is usually secluded and private to give them time - so they'll buy more! In department stores, greater pressure tactics are used - most of the beauty products don't have price tags, and women feel embarrassed to ask the lady behind the counter how much something costs, and end up buying it anyway.

Frugal tip: Don't be embarrassed to ask how much an unlabelled item costs before you buy it.

Targeting men
According to Mr Underhill, 65% of men they observed who tried on an item of clothing bought it, whereas only 25% of women did so. Women enjoy the experience of trying different clothes on, whereas men seem to find it stressful. Retailers try to make the men's changing rooms easy to find - as they're likely to get a higher conversion rate.

Frugal tip: Men - if you try on an item of clothing - you're statistically more likely to buy it.

86% of women look at price tags, whereas only 72% of men do. While Mr Underhill believes that men ignore price tags to 'prove their virility' - what it really means is that retailers find it easier to upgrade men to more expensive products, whereas women are more cautious.

Frugal tip: Look at the price tag before you buy and decide whether you really need it.

It's interesting to see how retailers use the psychology of shopping to make us spend more - they're well aware of how we will behave in certain conditions. Next time you're out shopping, think about whether the purchasing decision you make is one you came to by yourself, or whether someone pushed you along a little bit. You may be surprised!

This article was provided by Lucy Bower from, where she's been writing frugal tips for almost a year now, and is thoroughly enjoying the frugal lifestyle because of it!