Human Buycology: A Small Business Marketing Guide to Consumer Shopping Behaviour

by Emily Retherford

2 min read

The average consumer pays little attention to the specific sights, sounds, and smells that are encountered while shopping, but these subtle sensory elements have a significant impact on consumer behaviour and purchasing decisions.

From background music to signage to merchandising techniques, psychology-based marketing tactics are consistently employed by big-name retailers to illicit emotional responses that boost brand loyalty and increase sales. These same strategies can also benefit small business marketing efforts, from brick-and-mortar establishments to online product sellers.

The Shopping Psychology of Modern Consumers

Just like human psychology, consumer behaviour evolves as society changes and advances. While sensory inputs, such as music, smells, and colours, have always pulled on human emotion and influenced the actions of shoppers, today’s fast-paced society makes modern consumers even more attune to their senses.

Customers expect great deals, readily available information, and extraordinary experiences, whether they’re shopping in-store or online. They form quick opinions based on the sights and sounds around them, and they’re easily distracted during interactions that lack engagement. An effective marketing strategy uses sensory stimulants and psychological motivators to invite, engage, and influence your target audience.

Aroma Marketing

The average human recognizes as many as 10,000 different smells and automatically connects many of them to specific emotional memories. Aroma marketing harnesses the emotional power of scent to create shopping environments that boost brand image, encourage longer visits, and increase sales.

The smell of freshly baked bread comforts time-pressed grocery shoppers and often triggers a sense of hunger, resulting in more impulse buys and fuller shopping carts. Relaxing feminine scents, such as vanilla and baby powder, are ideal for women’s boutiques, while masculine musk and pine aromas increase sales in men’s clothing stores. Choose a smell that suits your brand personality, appeals to your clientele, and creates the right atmosphere in your store.

Sales and Visual Merchandising

Modern consumers expect great deals, both in-store and online. Fortunately for businesses, sales trigger a sense of urgency and a strong desire to buy in the shopper’s mind. Drastic markdowns, buy-one-get-one deals, and similar irresistible bargains particularly appeal to these emotions.

Promote great deals with attractive signs or banners, whether you operate your store online or off. Increase the visibility of emotionally alluring products by placing them near the front of the store or by integrating images of related and popular items in your online listings. Friendly layouts and well-organized displays or categories cater to a human’s attraction to order, encouraging shoppers to browse and explore.

Technology-Friendly Assistance

Today’s consumers have extremely close relationships with their cellphones. In fact, nearly three-quarters of them prefer the assistance of their digital sidekick over a helpful sales associate. Satisfy the shopper’s need for information by providing illustrative product comparisons, and accommodate their affinity for technology by outfitting the sales floor staff with tablets so they can provide accurate information fast.

Shopping psychology and consumer behaviour are continuously changing, and your marketing strategy should shift accordingly. Focus on delivering the ultimate customer experience, and create an emotional sensory environment that influences your typical shopper to stay ahead of the competition.

References & Resources

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