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Changing purchasing habits

A guest blog by Fairy Dharawat

We tend to be tied to our habits and behave habitually. Bad habits and good habits influence the outcome of most of our decisions. Habits are an acquired pattern of behaviour that often occurs automatically. Habits are what make us who we are.

After all this talk on habits, lets get to point; shoppers can be irrational sometimes. They usually shop as per their habits. How to cash on this? Habits are also known to be triggered by an irrational cue. People tend to be driven by habitual and seemingly automatic behaviour. The retailer can take advantage of this to improve the marketing of his products.

Purchases are based on irrational emotions. However, purchase decisions are rationalized in the minds of the shopper. Purchases are triggered by one moment – lets call this moment critical shall we – when the decision is taken.

Shoppers usually believe that their product is trusted brand and they are habituated by it. Remember that belief drives single mindedness, while love drives absolute belief. Watch romantic movies and you will know insanity drives love and irrationality drives insanity.

Get shoppers to fall in love and they are waiting for that to happen. Give them logical arguments and they are not listening. Give them something to build their habits on; make them habituated by the product.

When decisions are based on emotional habits and irrational cues, shoppers go through a series of steps before and after the purchase. They usually rationalise their purchasing decisions. This is a theory of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance means feeling the discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. The theory goes on to tell us that people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of others. It also proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce these feelings by altering existing way of thinking. They do this by adding new motivational ideas to create a consistent belief system or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant or less important elements.

There are many factors possibly responsible for the change in the mind of a shopper, and there is a possibility that even the shopper may not know why they change their minds. Hence it is the responsibility of the retailer and the brand to provide the triggers that will result in the shopper changing their minds and buying a different brand. Simple things make huge difference. The details are important, little things will help shift the balance and help the shopper consider a different choice. The shopper wants to be the centre of attention; they want to feel important. There is a reason why there is a therapy known as ‘retail therapy’, so make most of it. Do something with your shoppers, entertain them, thrill them and engage them. Nothing works better than going all out for your shoppers and making shopping an emotional experience.

In conclusion the marketers need not offer logical arguments, because there is a strong indication that the shopper is not thinking logically, but making decisions driven by their emotions. They are paying attention to cues that might help them rationalise their decisions, to satisfy an emotional desire. So open all your senses and try to woo in your customer in the best possible way. If the discreet message on the deodorant makes them think they will be more attractive to the opposite sex, rather than being just a pleasant smell that might just tip their cognitive dissonance in favour of buying the product. Appeal to their emotions, their desire to be popular, sexy, liked and attractive; their desire to feel good and look good. Use your emotions to imagine what they want to feel and offer them a product that will help them feel good. Tell them that healthy foods will not only make them feel good, but they will make them look good too. Use all the messages usually used in merchandising, but subtly appeal to them emotionally rather than logically. Even the most technological product can be sold in this way. Would a man prefer a cell phone that is black to an identical cell phone that is pink? Black suits him emotionally; pink might suit a teenage girl. A simple colour change can tip the balance of cognitive dissonance and make one product more attractive emotionally than another product.

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