Go shopping smart

The emotional change seen as social behavior and retail shopping

09:00 | 10 май 2024
Обновен: 12:57 | 15 май 2024
Снимка: Bloomberg L.P.
Снимка: Bloomberg L.P.

Dr. Boyan Ivanchev

Shopping is a social behavior which can be motivated by plenty of factors. Social background or a current or expected emotional state are among the main drivers for searching for pleasure in shopping and acting as a consumer.

Many scientific articles, experiments and big data analysis confirm that decisions for acquisition are made irrationally. Two big branches of science study the irrational decision-making by the human being, behavioral finance and neuroeconomics.

There are three main reasons for irrational making of economical decisions, limited rationality, and systematic errors due to emotional and cognitive inclinations which affect our judgments and our decisions. This analysis aims at explaining and giving examples regarding only a part of the reasons why our emotions are leading when it comes to acquisition of retail goods.

Probably not everyone realizes that the distribution of goods in retail shops nowadays is carefully elaborated so that clients not only see a particular product, but also touch it and/or try it on. The (higher-level) clothing shops are a good example with the pieces exhibited on tables or freely accessible stands. Consumers can touch (tactile sensitivity) the piece of clothing, try it on in the dressing room and look themselves in the mirror. The possibility to interact physically with the products allows the customers to assess (or at least have the illusion of assessing) the quality of the good, the material it’s made of, the pattern, and even if it suits them, and to use their own senses to do so.

Touching and trying goods and objects might provoke sensual experiences which contribute to the creation of an emotional relationship with the particular object and, therefore, make it more desirable and more valuable for the user. Definitely, such emotional relation can be enhanced additionally. How does it work? Through the overall retail shop ambiance. Lights, music, scents, a delicate presence of the shop assistant and the overall shopping experience are very important for the emotional guidance of the client towards an emotional reaction and an emotional purchase. An overall pleasant experience and environment can certainly put the client in a good mood and increase the probability that they buy compulsively. In order to achieve such purpose, it is not enough to put loud random music, as many Bulgarian shops and restaurants usually do. They play music which doesn’t even come from Bulgarian radio stations. They tend to prefer foreign radios in order not to pay copyright, which is mandatory according to the Bulgarian legislation. The ambiance in retail shops is important for shaping the emotional reactions to market environment.

Factors such as lights, music, scents and shop design may provoke specific emotions and have some influence on the purchase decisions. A pleasant ambiance put the client in a good mood and increases the probability that they buy compulsively and spend more time in the shop.

Emotional influence in the shopping process is also built in the interaction with the staff; a delicate, personalized and expert support can improve the shopping experience. It can also create and/or bring to a higher level the sensation of relationship and loyalty to the brand, chain, etc. If shop assistants, on the other hand, don’t know the characteristics and sizes of the goods and if they behave as if clients were bothering them, such bond cannot be built. Most shops and the big part of the clients’ care in Bulgaria, follow the latter. Shop assistants tend to be young and energetic but not well-prepared in any professional aspect – a change with can be lethal and the business is going to realize it soon, since it is already losing clients due to it. To avoid any doubt, definitely, in a shop for girls fashion, the music shouldn’t be the one that I like, performed by Ozzy Osbourne. On the other hand, heavy metal is desirable for customers of shops for chopper motorcycles and rocker accessories where the smell of leather clothes, motor oil and beer is preferred to gender-free perfumes. The question is, how can this be understood by those who can’t make a difference between music styles and have grown up considering their own mental misery as a reference point for judging the others, e.g. as good clients and bad clients.

High-level retail shops should be able to offer opportunities for social contacts and experiences of proximity with friends and family, but also with strangers. Going shopping with friends and family is a behavioral model with a lot of different emotions involved. It could promote family unity and to create unforgettable memories. Purchasing something for someone else is an expression of love, thankfulness, respect, sexual desire, excuse. Interaction with people you don’t know that well, on the other hand, can be kind of a bribe with sexual purpose (look at the women with big lips, cynical gaze and husky voice who are getting adorned in shopping malls in order to be used few hours later). Going shopping together with girlfriends, schoolmates, university mates, etc., is a process with strong emotional impact which seeks approval of the own choice and/or an advice for pattern, color, size of clothing or good, or an opinion if it suits you, or not.

Shopping might be also a form of emotional coping with or unloading everyday work or existential stress. Shopping therapy, the act of purchasing for relieving stress, feeling better or rewarding ourselves (e.g. “I worked horribly hard this week and I’m rewarding myself with a dress or a new phone”) – it is all guided by emotional needs rather than practical considerations.

The purchase of goods which might make us feel good or feel better about ourselves can be a temporary escape from negative emotions and everyday stress – but only if the overall arrangement of the shop, as stated above, lets it happen instead of scaring the potential client away quickly.

Encouraging the emotional reaction, in the better retail shops, is often done by limited sales, exclusive offers and events carried out in the shop, thus creating the sense of urgency and to stimulate impulsive purchases. This is how the psychological effect of Fear of Missing Out – FOMO is activated. The effect causes discomfort and feeling of abandonment due to the knowledge and the information that our friends have something we don’t, or they have something which is more meaningful or more important than what we have.

The FOMO effect is revealed in human behavior as a desire to be constantly connected to what others do, and to be informed about what is happening to these other people. In the particular case of retail shopping, it works as a psychological trigger which shows an extraordinary opportunity to buy one and get one free or to get 50% off on a certain good, which eventually provokes emotional reactions and drives the customers to buy – because others do so, too.

According to most scientific sources, about 70% of our economy-related actions are irrational, i.e. they are influenced by limited rationality and cognitive and emotional inclinations. Therefore, be careful, change can also be perceived as an emotional trigger and a gift aiming at a particular use of its addressee.