There isn’t a magic ‘buy’ button in shopper’s minds – There’s 791 of them!

6 FREE examples of how you can activate the buy buttons in the minds of more customers

Like nearly all other shoppers, I’ve succumbed to the occasional impulse purchase.

This temporary lapse in self-control typically occurs when the system 2 part of my mind is occupied thinking about something else. But the omnipresent system 1 goes right ahead and buys that must have, impulse item for me.

To us as shoppers this is a careless slip in concentration and a realisation that we’ve been ‘had over’ by the store yet again. But to the retailers and the owners of the brands they stock, this is another sale, another step towards target and another miniscule advancement towards category superstardom.

What if you could actively switch these ‘buy’ buttons on and off at will? What if you could tap right into the system 1 mind of the shopper, leaving system 2 blissfully unaware? And what if you could activate these buy buttons at a fraction of the cost of many other in-store activation techniques? Well, sit tight and hold on, because…

…you can!

Most shopping behaviour lives in our unconscious, system 1 mind. This area of the brain is the residence of automatic skills, information processing, dreams, and emotion. And According to Psychology Today, the spontaneous urge to spend our hard-earned money is ingrained in our DNA. During my 30 years of analysing shopper and consumer behaviour and psychology, I have amassed a database of 791 (so far) fantastically powerful buy buttons that exist within the minds of shoppers. I have developed the ability to flick these switches in just about every media: From packaging to POS, above-the-line to online. And in doing so, have helped some of the most famous brands on Earth, increase their brand sales grow categories and enrich trading relationships. All from tapping into the minds of shoppers and consumers.

Here, completely FREE of charge, are 6 examples of how you can activate the buy buttons of shoppers and consumers.

Firstly, the word FREE itself. This beautiful four letter ‘buy button’ is just about as powerful as they come. Why, because it is processed almost exclusively by system 1 in the first instance. Let me explain: When we exposed consumers to a range of different special offer mechanisms whilst they lay in a £3,000,000 fMRI scanner, one of the findings was that different parts of the brain process different types of promotions. And ‘FREE’ was handled by the system 1 controlled reward centres.

You put the word free into your marketing communications and you’ve immediately built a buy button into them right there and then.

Secondly, comes laziness. As a species, humans are lazy things. At least our brains are. And this presents those in the know with another buy button. Given the choice, your system 1 brain will almost always take the easiest option, the route to purchase that involves least effort. So to apply buy button 2, simply make sure your product is easier to buy than competing items. It doesn’t matter that the vegetables in the supermarket cost a bit more than they do at the local market, they are easier to get, while you’re there on a big shop, and that’s all that matters to system 1.

Buy button number 3. If lots of other people buy and consume a product, then it must be good. Therefore, my system 1 wants it as well. This fact taps into a number of psychological nuances: From fear of missing out (FOMO), to social proof and mirror neurons.

Enough of the sciency stuff. Here’s how to use it. Whether on pack, online or in-store, communicate that lots of other people buy and consume your brand. That way, you’ll be flicking yet more buy buttons in the minds of shoppers and consumers.

Let’s now turn to numbers as we move on to buy button number 4. Specifically, although I have many, many more, let’s look at numerical anchoring. What this relates to is the fact that the first number we see influences our perception of subsequent numbers. In other words, system 1 helps convince system 2 of the meaning of a numeric value. In research, anchoring was shown not to interact with cognitive load, so the process is predominantly automatic and unconscious (System 1).

Examples of anchoring within retail include explicit slogans to buy more: “Buy 18 Snickers bars for your freezer” or “limit of 12 per person” and ‘expansion anchors’ such as “101 uses!”). In each case, the result has been an increase purchase quantities.

To activate buy button 4, you need to scientifically maximise the numbers you communicate. If your detergent promotes 60 washes, that makes £7 look relatively small as a price. But it depends where you visually put the wash quantity number in relation to the price (I can help you with that).

Buy button number 5 involves humanisation; specifically the right sort of humanisation. Suppose you have an image on your pack, POS or website. Adding a person makes this more engaging. As a species we’re hard-wired to check out any other person to determine whether they are someone to fight, run away from or find a room and mate with. Specifically, when you add the face and in particular eyes of a person to your communications, you instantly flick an ‘added attention’ buy button.

And finally, buy button number 6. This is perhaps one of the easiest buttons to apply, and yet one of the most rarely used. Choice overload. As a civilised society, we have more choice than our minds can be bothered to cope with. When you help reduce that choice you make it easier for system 1 to make a selection. Incidentally, this in one reason why the discounters are doing so well: They offer a much more manageable choice for system 1.

If there are any more than about 7 choices of which your brand forms 1, start to visually sub-divide them into more manageable chunks. For example, the ‘wall’ of garden fertilizer and chemical products is overwhelming for system 1 (and system 2). But visually splitting it down into first kill or cure, then by application (path or flower bed), then by plant type (fruit, flowers, etc.), all helps to guide system 1 down towards a manageable choice.

There you have it, 6 powerful buy buttons that you can apply to increase brand sales, grow your category and enhance your trading relationships. But remember, I have 786 more and if you’re interested in tapping into them the process couldn’t be easier:

  1. Send an image of the communications you’d like me to look at
  2. I’ll summarise how much they can be improved
  3. You commission my expertise and I’ll provide you with all the relevant buy buttons

During the last 30 years, I have advised 62% of the top 100 fmcg brands in the UK. Chances are I’ve already helped either your organisation or your competitors to achieve distinct competitive advantage using shopper/consumer psychology. So isn’t it about time you got in on the act?

Thank you for reading

Phillip Adcock

Price Perception More Important Than Actual Price

Stand out more, but give away less margin

It’s not the price of your product that determines how many people buy it…

…but more the prices of the products adjacent, both in-store and online.

It all has to do with a psychological principle called anchoring. Essentially, the first number you see colours any numbers that come after it.

For example, if you see a bulk stack display of champagne in the supermarket, with each bottle priced at £10.99, then an alternative on offer for £25.49 is perceived as very expensive. But if you put the £25.49 bottles next to some £50 bottles, then they look much better value.

Welcome to the retail opportunity that is anchoring. During normal decision making, individuals anchor, or overly rely, on a reference price or specific information and then compare other items against that reference.

Anchoring plays an important role in how we understand and assess the prices of products in stores and online. Psychological anchoring is particularly prevalent in relation to goods with which we are either unfamiliar or that we don’t consider the price as part of the purchase decision hierarchy.

Imagine that you decide to buy a new car for £30,000. Then paying a further £230 for a spring loaded cup holder – seems reasonable. But what of you went to Costa and paid £2.60 for a skinny latte and they wanted to charge you a further £230 for a bit of plastic to enable you to balance the beverage in your car?

Looking beyond pricing, anchoring can also influence our perceptions of whether a product is good or bad quality, healthy or unhealthy, etc. And there are occasions influenced by anchoring that dictate whether we consider it fair and acceptable to pay a certain amount for a product: A can of Coke from the supermarket, 50p, but buy the same product while at a rock concert, for £1.50: When offered next to £2.50 bottles of lager, seems a snip. This latter example shows just how powerful a simple anchor can be in influencing our perception of value, and certainly undermines the notion that decision makers are perfectly rational beings.

With respect to buying things like grocery items, research suggests that, we draw from a reference category of similar goods, which serve as our anchors. For example, when evaluating a jar of coffee, we tend to look at the prices of other jars in the same area. From that we decide whether the price represents good or bad value.

Anchoring influences our price perceptions by altering the value we attach to different objects. So, when a new and original product enters the market, shoppers have difficulty valuing it as they have no reference point. Therefore, brands and retailers are able to influence shoppers by dictating a reference price for their NPD items. This is usually done by setting a high anchor price, so that subsequent discounts and special offers make the item appear more of a bargain.

J. C. Penney thought it was a smart move to eliminate special offers and instead create everyday low pricing (EDLP). Had they been aware of the power of anchoring? Perhaps they wouldn’t have been so keen. And subsequently, when sales ‘dropped off a cliff’, they got the message. They’ve now reversed their policy and customers are returning, albeit perilously slowly.

The point of this article is to try to illustrate the importance of psychology and behavioural economics within retail. Ask yourself, at the next range review, are you considering engaging a psychologist or a behavioural economist? If not, then why not? Because I pretty much guarantee that their input will prove to be more valuable than their cost.

In summary, when determining how much to charge for our products, we should let psychology and behavioural economics help us. Shoppers don’t see items on a spreadsheet, they see them in-store and online next to other similar products and brands. And it is there and then that they anchor themselves to a perceived value and reference price. With that in mind, how appealing do your products really look?

Hmm, Something to think about

Are you fascinated by how shoppers think? Check out my books on Amazon for more insightful, provocative and stimulating information.

Shoppology: The science of the shopping brain

Master your Brain: The science of your brain

The Presenters Handbook: The science of the PowerPoint brain