It’s not just your subconscious that has an active role in getting you to buy more things than you initially planned. As you might have guessed, shops also have a vested interest in triggering impulse buying. In fact, there are marketing strategies specifically designed to prey on your subconscious desires and fears.
In order to learn how to avoid impulse buying you’ll first need to understand all the techniques that the retailers are using to get your mind to turn against you. Forewarned is forearmed – knowing these techniques you can more easily avoid them.
The Feel, Felt and Found method is perhaps one of the oldest tricks in the book. This one is used by the salespeople in the shop to get you to buy items you think are too pricey or aren’t in the market for, right now.
It operates on a simple level – the sales person connects to you through a line like ‘ I understand how you feel’. Then they generalize the problem, and by using the past tense they suggest it can be solved: ‘Initially, other (shoppers, mothers…) felt that way’. Finally, they propose their product as an unexpected solution: “What they found, however, was that…”.
Retail stores aim to sell not just an item, but a whole package complete with supporting items – shoes to match the dress, speakers for the new pc, batteries and tripods for the cameras etc. They prey on the subconscious idea that you won’t get the best out of your product, or the product is not complete without these extra items. This is how people end up overspending.
It’s also the reason why you get recipes at the front of supermarkets or outfit ideas in front of clothing stores. It’s all about image building – you don’t buy a product, you buy a story.
Stores tend to create a ‘impulse purchase section’ – this is the place where most deals can be found at. Here they have ‘one of a kind’, ‘being removed from stock’, limited offer’ kind of deals that trigger your sense of urgency – and the loss aversion switch we discussed about in the previous section. Namely, you might feel bad for missing a deal, since you feel that you’ll miss the opportunity if you don’t act on the spot.
You know the saying, like a moth to the flame? People are drawn in by their senses – sight, touch, taste, smell. And retailers take advantage of this fact.
Shops like to delight your senses. Not only are items presented in visually appealing ways (from displays to lights that accentuate colors), but shops also involve your sense of touch (clothing shops most of all), and your sense of smell.
The latter is by far one of the most used techniques by supermarkets – by placing baked goods near the entrance of a supermarket, this incites the salivary glands which in turn trigger cravings and a sense of hunger. You can already taste the products on the tip of your tongue. That’s also why there are so many free samples.
Another way for marketers to get you to spend more than you planned is a clever shop layout. They place essentials at the back of the shop, so people have to travel through the entire shop – and then get to see the other products. The more deals and other products you see, the more chance that you’ll take something extra with you.
The eye line is the key to making a purchase – people notice most items that are placed within certain margins from their eye level. Big ticket products go straight there, so they are noticed first.
Seeing is buying, so aside from line of sight, big eye catching signs are placed next to the discount items. The same goes for placing the same type of non sale item next to a sale item – it makes the latter look more attractive by comparison.
We’re curious by nature, novelty items greatly appeal to us. Stores like to bring in new ‘impulse buy items’ – new brand of lip-balm, new bracelet design etc. Impulse products are small and inexpensive. These are items that people can pick up and easily add to their baskets or hand in to the cashier.
For repeat customers, the novelty is a trigger – based on the same loss aversion switch, in the sense that you might miss out on a great/better experience with the new product.
The last line of defense is at the cashiers’ desk. Shops line these areas with small price items that play on your cravings (from gums and candy bars to pretty hairpins, gift bags, novelty items, batteries).
Consumers should be aware that their fears of forgetting something are being manipulated – many checkout lines feature items you might neglect.
There is another strategy at play at the cashier desk, namely keeping the line moving fast. It’s because you’re more likely to experience buyer’s remorse while waiting in line than at any other time during the shopping process. However, if the line is short and you can check out quickly, you are likely to keep the items you’ve brought to the register.
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