Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The science behind shopping

Did you know that emotion and value are handled by the same part of the brain? According to research from Duke University, this is the reason why we impulsively buy things that perhaps we don’t really need or want.

As marketers, we know already know some aspects of this. In many of our Master of Marketing classes we talk about the Perceived Value of products. This may or may not match up to the real, functional value of products – but value is in the eye of the beholder. How much value you perceive will affect your happiness, satisfaction and how much you are willing to pay.

Although shopping is definitely a trait passed down from our hunter-gatherer days, researchers are continually trying to understand better the science behind shopping. In an article by the Sydney Morning Herald, the link between emotion and decision-making in shopping explains why we go after those impulse purchases. Using brain-scanning technology, researchers are able to see that while we make both long-term and short-term decisions, impulse purchases are motivated by the temptation to satisfy immediate benefits because our brains put more emphasis on the present than the future.

I know we’ve all probably gone through it. I definitely have. Instead of thinking, “those shoes are too expensive, and I really can’t afford them” my emotional my emotional brain kicks in with “those shoes are BEAUTIFUL and they will go with everything in my wardrobe, and they are worth so much more than the money!” My emotional value for the shoes skyrockets, and impulsively, I buy the shoes.

Shops know about our behaviour, and clever marketers use this information to encourage us to buy and spend more. Here’s one trick shops use from learning about our brain’s behaviour:

Shop Right: did you know that most people walk to the right when they enter a store? This is because the majority of the population is right handed. This means shops use this opportunity to guide customers through a shopping journey where you will see the brighter displays, more expensive shinier items that will pull on your emotional value system.

You can read more on the science behind shopping.

Thanks to Associate Professor Marylouise Caldwell for the blog idea!

Hongi Luo
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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