Shopping Hauls: The psychology of shopping

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Have you ever stopped to wonder the lengths that some retailers go to tempt us to buy from them? Think about when you walk past Lush and their distinctive smell fills your nostrils – or when the smell of baking bread or croissants from a bakers hits you – it’s enough to lure you inside pronto. 

But smells are just a very small part of the obvious psychology of shopping that retailers use – there are plenty more that you are probably not even aware of. Let’s take a look…

A sense of order

According to Visuality Group, retailers pay attention to cognitive psychology when setting their retail strategy and designing the retail space.

For example, the segmentation of products by what is expected is hugely powerful when it comes to selling. Shoppers shouldn’t be left guessing where products are; they should be easy to find and grouped to offer a shopper-friendly experience.

So you’ll often find in supermarkets aisles of baby products. If you haven’t got a baby, chances are that you’ll avoid going down that aisle. But unbeknown to many shoppers, it’s what is placed opposite or adjacent to the aisles we choose to ignore that is really important.

Retailers are either going to grab the shopper’s attention – and prompt incremental purchases – or they’re not. I don’t know about you, but I find the whole process of this quite fascinating!

A natural curiosity

Retailers also take advantage of the fact that we’re naturally inquisitive. We look to seek out new products on shelves that catch our eye, wondering if they’re better than the ones we use. Retailers use signs to avoid us getting too distracted and forgetting what we came in for in the first place though – another clever tactic!

The other thing that retailers do when looking at the psychology of shopping is to prioritise items on display. Our attention is limited and shops know this, so they’ll use the shelf space wisely, positioning items that will catch our eye – at eye level.

And finally, emotions play a huge part in determining whether we buy something or not – and retailers capitalise on this by appealing to our senses. Remember the bakers to capture our imagination by delicious smells – or how about the taste tests in supermarkets? They’ll play nice music in store and use bright colours and signs to catch our eye making us want to pick up products for closer inspection.

The bargain hunters

People are naturally keen on ‘getting a bargain’ and value for money. We like to think we’re getting the best deal and retailers will use this knowledge to excite us by bargains on offer.

According to the BBC, one of the oldest tricks in the retail trade is to mark an object with a price ending in 99p.

Consumer psychologist from London Metropolitan University, Dr Dimitri Tsivrikos, says: “These prices are obviously used to convince you that you are spending less than you actually are. The bargain price is appealing to you because it challenges the status quo. The retailer appears not to be in complete control of the final price of the product, and this makes you feel that you are now in control.”

And finally, another interesting tactic used by retailers is to refrain from stacking shelves full of products. Apparently (and according to Campaign Live), when confronted with a promotional display we are more likely to purchase something from it if it looks as though other shoppers have bought into the deal first – hence a half empty shelf. This is what is known as ‘social proofing’, where we are reassured by the fact that others have bought into the offer.  On the other hand, we are reluctant to purchase from an untouched display!

So the next time you’re on your weekly shop or out and about doing a spot of High Street shopping at the weekend, think about some of the psychology of shopping used to lure us inside a shop, keep us there for longer and tempt us to buy their products or services.

If you’re more aware of how retailers are trying to influence your purchasing decision, you’re less likely to fall victim to those impulse purchases that we all make. And the net effect of this? More money in your pocket – and only buying things you need rather than want.

But of course, it’s great to treat yourself now and again and reward yourself; after all, life would be a little dull if we didn’t allow ourselves a little spending spree once in a while – happy shopping!

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About Lauretta Wright

Lauretta’s love of creative writing began when she was just 7 years old when she would write weekly family newsletters – a tradition now taken over by her daughter. Nowadays she’s the editor of a weekly travel magazine, mum of tweens and the wife of an overworked teacher, who she refers to as ‘VIP’. In her spare time Lauretta enjoys blogging and vlogging at Home and Horizon, which offers tips, tricks and trends on affordable travel and home interiors. Apart from family days out, Lauretta enjoys hunting for bargains – from boot sales to boutique hotels and can be found tweeting at @LaurettaCWright and is on Instagram @HomeandHorizon

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