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Neuroscience of Retail

I would like to highlight a few of the findings on how much research retail companies put into their effort to discover what the customer wants to buy:

  • A university study recently published in Psychological Science magazine revealed people are willing to pay up to 4 times more for an object after they are shown a “sad” video than after viewing a “neutral” video.
  • Research shows people do get a “high” from shopping, as the brain releases positive feeling chemicals when we find something new and exciting.

Sometimes, aspects of the shopping experience such as friendly sales clerks, eye-catching displays or aisles that are easy to navigate can trigger brain activity that brings about these “euphoric moments,” says Dr. David Lewis, director of neuroscience at Mindlab International, a United Kingdom-based consultancy whose clients include athletes, retailers and advertising companies. “The brain is turned on by novelty.”

  • Studies show up to 6% of women and 5.5% of men show symptoms of compulsive buying disorders. I would call this a shopping addiction.

I think we can learn a couple of inportant points from this video and article. The first is that retailers are using advanced neurological studies to discover ways to enhance the shopping experience and get us to buy more. So when we shop we should analyze ourselves to determine if we are buying things we really want or need or just buying for the thrill of getting something new!

Second, shopping to get rid of the blues is dangerous. If we are sad, the studies show we are much more prone to pay a higher price for things we do not need. The uplift a sad person may get from shopping probably does not outweigh the additional financial costs such as increased debt.

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