“Why We Buy” Good for Shoppers and Businesses Alike

October 23, 2012

If asked why they buy things, most consumers would probably tell you they purchase the things they need or want, goods that are going to make their lives better, easier, happier, and so on. But that is only true to a limited extent. Most people in a consumer society could easily fulfill their basic living needs for far less than what they spend in retail stores. So what is it, exactly, that prompts them to buy stuff? Why do they choose one store over another or one brand rather than competitors? It certainly isn’t entirely due to practical concerns. These questions and more are not only presented in “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, Updated and Revised Edition” by Paco Underhill; the so-called retail guru also strives to give listeners some answers in this updated version of his popular publication.

The psychology of shopping is nothing new; manufacturers and retailers alike have spent years studying which colors are most eye-catching, what type of text (both font and content) will capture the attention of potential buyers, and how in-store placement can influence which products consumers will reach for (eye-level goods versus merchandise on the bottom shelf, for example). While this audio book is ostensibly a guide for retailers to recognize the blunders they’re making (placing promotional items at the entryway where shoppers will breeze right by them on their way in rather than stopping to look as they would when they reached the middle of the store, just for instance), it can also serve as an eye-opener to shoppers, as well, clueing them in to their own habits.

As it happens, different types of people tend to shop in different ways. You will no doubt be familiar with some of the examples since you naturally fall into one or more of several groups (women, men, young, old, married, with children, and so on). Each category has certain methods, triggers, and weaknesses when it comes to shopping, and it’s interesting to hear them spelled out and realize that retailers have you pegged. For some listeners it may be a bit disturbing to think that vendors have been manipulating them for years. But you must become aware of something before you can change it, and Underhill’s audio book could help you to spot the ways in which retailers are using psychology to coerce you into spending.

Of course, while most of the material covered in “Why We Buy” is fascinating to both shoppers and the businesses they support, it does fall a bit flat towards the end with a section pertaining to online shopping, which seems cobbled together when compared to the rest of the narrative. And there seems to be some kind of infomercial tacked on as well (can’t blame the guy for touting his services, although a simple detailing would be more appropriate and far less heavy-handed). He may as well just tell listeners to go to his website and click here to view coupon codes and buy. In any case, much of the audio book is well worth listening to, whether you’re a consumer interested in learning some of the crazy ways that retailers manipulate you, or you happen to be a store owner seeking the best ways to cater to customers and sell certain products.


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