Retail: The Secret Psychology

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Retail: The Secret Psychology

Let’s be brutally honest here, right now retail is suffering from a never-before-seen uncertainty that stems from a bizarre combination of short-term thinking, terror accountancy, threatened staff cuts, and wild rationalisations.

Guess what? There is no need for this uncertainty – Psychology has the solution. Never mind reading spreadsheets for the answer, forget worrying about supplier funding and focus instead on the all-important shoppers and their psychological make-up and motivations.

The underlying factor of retail is simply this: human emotion. That is it and that is all. Here are three statistics that anyone in retail needs to know to understand the power of human emotion in shopping:

  • Emotion stimulates your mind 3,000 times more rapidly than rational thought
  • The brain’s emotional centres process sensory stimuli 5 times faster than the cognitive parts of the brain
  • Emotion is 24 times more persuasive than reason

Emotions trump reason every time, and with this in mind, do you see how reaching the shoppers’ emotions can increase sales? It doesn’t matter what the store is, B&Q or Boots, TK Maxx or Tesco, if you touch their emotions, you are on the way to prying open the wallets and purses of more and more shoppers. As an added bonus, if you touch their emotions, you will improve their perception of the store.

Our emotions motivate us, protect us from harm and, well, they keep the human race viable. There are about 140 human emotions and they can be categorised into three components:

Enjoyment, Excitement and Intimidation.

Each individual emotion has its own special response to enjoyment, excitement and intimidation. If you can modify how enjoyable, exciting and/or intimidating a store, category, brand or product is, you can alter the shoppers’ emotional reactions and perceptions.

Let’s take a closer look. If you read a great book or watch a really good movie, you are taken along on a journey of emotions. You might laugh or cry, you might become angry or even terrified. This is because the story you are reading or watching is pulling you in to its emotional engagement. This is why your feelings can change from moment to moment.

In the same way that these stories appeal to your range of emotions, so too can a shopping experience. If the retailer can change the shopper’s emotional state, they have their attention. However, this rarely happens. Shopping for tools is the same as shopping for socks, and so there isn’t much going on by way of emotional attachment.

One good thing about bricks and mortar stores is that there is far more opportunity to capture shopper emotions by getting them involved with the product. In a DIY outlet they can feel the weight of a tool in their hands and know which type will get the job done when they can view it in front of them rather than on a screen. When it comes to what we call ‘ROBO shopping’ (Research Offline, Buy Online), emotions are typically captured offline when shoppers look at the product in a bricks and mortar retail outlet.

Retailers need to be able to think ‘omni-channel’ as well as ‘omni-emotional’. Look to your suppliers for help, because Brands are simply commodities with emotional tags. Look at these stats:

  • ‘Emotional’ carpet displays increased brand sales by 350%
  • Changing shoppers’ perception of a particular brand of consumable increased its share by 150%! Other examples include: BWS 38%, Garden tools 23%, Confectionery 15%, Pet food 15%, Cosmetics 15%, Camcorders 12%, Hair Care 6%.

Emotions are the driving force behind the success (or failure) of in-store promotions. Shoppers respond to promotions with their emotions, not with reason or logic. As hard as it may be to accept that psychologists know what accountants don’t when it comes to sales, I can assure you that they do. I have studied human emotion for years in order to deliver strategy and insight to leading brands and retailers.

My series of shopper emotions workshops and the measurement tool that I have developed allows clients to quickly and accurately measure the emotional connection with just about any store, product, brand, person or thing. And then there’s my book, Shoppology – The Science of Supermarket Shopping.

Human emotions are crucial to understand and it is a passion of mine to want retailers to realise how powerful they can be. I’m always delighted to lecture, workshop, consult, advise and even just talk about one of the most powerful opportunities in retail today.

If you would like to find out more, contact me on: 07960 109 876 or Email: