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How retailers get you to buy more

by Anna Haug

Spending more than you planned while shopping lately? It could be because retailers are doing more to target your senses and emotions in ways you may not notice (Chicago Tribune Aug. 15).

A consumer's best defense is to be aware of tricks and traps that entice you to indulge, according to Martin Lindstrom, author of "Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy":


You're more likely to buy a product because you touched it. For example, when you go shopping in a clothing store if you can touch the material to feel the quality you are more likely to make a purchase.

Start high, end lower

A salesperson often presents customers some choices to increase the probability of a sale. The customer is shown a full-featured product and asked which features to eliminate, rather than starting with the basic model and asking what to add. In most cases, the customer will not want to "give up" features not originally considered.

"Sincere" flattery

Salespeople use comments that may not be sincere but sound like it. You might not believe a clerk who says, "That dress looks great on you." But if she says, "I had to tell another woman that dress didn't look good on her, but it looks great on you," the compliment sounds more sincere.

Live models

Customers are more likely to buy clothes they see on a live model than on a mannequin, according to a new field of research called neuroeconomics. That's because neurons in the brain associated with empathy are stimulated by a human, but not by a mannequin.


Does that tune make you feel happy and relaxed while in the store? Playing music with a rhythm slower than your heartbeat helps buyers stay longer, and ultimately spend more.

Shopping Cart

One way to avoid getting sucked in by retailer tactics is to shop with a list. Retailers want consumers to linger in the store so they can persuade them to buy additional or more expensive items. If you don't have a shopping list, you're more likely to be a good target for their agenda.

Another option: Wait to buy. Shopping can raise the dopamine levels in the brain, creating a rush. Building in a 48-hour waiting period for discretionary purchases instead of buying it spontaneously can help answer that "Do I really need it?" question.

Published 10-25-2010


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