Recent advances in brain imaging technology have provided marketers with new windows into the subconscious minds of customers. In fact, researchers have been able to determine how consumers react, at a visceral level, to displays and other elements of the shopping experience.
A new book on neuromarketing, The Buying Brain: Secrets of Selling to the Subconscious Mind by Dr. A.K. Pradeep, offers a host of insights that can help us today as we seek smarter ways to grow our businesses in this challenging economic environment.
Interestingly, these insights are based on years of brain studies conducted by his firm NeuroLabs for major companies worldwide.
Spending is Painful
The first thing to note is that the act of spending money lights up the areas of the brain that are associated with pain (although the experience of shopping itself may be equated with pleasure). So it takes a lot of positive emotion to overcome the pain at the moment of truth when we hand over our hard-won earnings. That, Dr. Pradeep says, is especially true for high-ticket products associated with complex areas like kitchens and baths.
“The brain must have a compelling emotion centered behind a luxury purchase. A great deal of emotional response is needed to enable the rational breakthrough process that justifies expenditure. Complex purchases will still be guided in large part by emotion,” he writes.
And the current economic uncertainty exacerbates the need even more. Women’s brains, he points out, are literally hardwired to feel economic anxiety more and to carry it with them longer than men’s brains. So it is imperative to fully understand that your female prospects especially will need reassurance that it’s okay to buy, particularly when it comes to purchasing high-end kitchen and bath products.
Soft & Natural Sells
Brain studies have shed light on creating showroom environments that can encourage purchasing. One key finding is that the brain dislikes straight lines and sharp edges. So eliminate them where possible and think instead about incorporating softer curves into your displays.
“That sharp corner – of the end cap or your kitchen cabinet – represents…a threat, and your brain cannot but help react instantaneously, and subconsciously, to avoid it,” Dr. Pradeep reports.
“In many studies across categories and retailers, we have found display devices with rounded edges to have greater levels of neurological effectiveness,” he adds, noting that in one store test, changing an aisle design to one with rounded edges actually resulted in a 15% increase in sales.
In addition, the brain prefers natural textures such as wood, grass, leaves and water because they are familiar, comfortable and inviting. And yes, plastic imitations of wood work as well, providing they are realistic and believable.
Real-life vignettes or full-room settings are superior to a warehouse-like line-up of sinks, faucets, appliances or cabinets. You want your displays to mimic as much as possible the real world where consumers will use your products.
“Environments that prime the occasions or life situations in which the consumer uses or experiences the displayed products and services create significant emotion,” Dr. Pradeep has found.
Novelty is important, too, to make the shopping experience memorable. Use your lobby or entrance area to place an unusual or new product. Video, when used correctly, can also introduce novelty in an inviting way.
When it comes to signage, nothing should hide the customer’s view of the products they are looking for. Signs should not have too much text…photos or icons are better. So, in a decorative plumbing and hardware showroom, for example, pictures or icons of sinks, faucets, vanities and hardware can be more effective than text. Either way, the object of interest should be at the top of the sign.
It is also important to make shopping a multi-sensory experience for the client, paying attention not only to visuals but also to scents, music and touch. Visuals will be the most important element, though, since 70% of sense receptors are in our eyes. Scents, however, resonate the most emotionally, especially those scents that are reminiscent of childhood. Think of baby powder in the bath or cinnamon in the kitchen. The scent of lemon, for example, can also increase alertness.
Dr. Pradeep encourages marketers to think about entertainment in the store. He says it provides emotional relief, minimizes the pain of purchase and increases overall shopping time. Entertainment, he points out, should involve interactions with humans or technology. People play a key role in providing entertainment by offering education, insights and interaction. Signage that offers facts, insights and trivia can also provide entertainment.
Displays emphasizing educational value, he notes, are processed differently in the brain than displays that have purely entertainment value. They are processed more “rationally” and lead to more price and feature comparisons than entertainment-oriented displays.
Educational materials at point of purchase contribute to brand loyalty shifts. So, for a new or unfamiliar brand, educational displays are a good idea.
If you are thinking of using videos, Dr. Pradeep recommends avoiding ones that have a continuous story line like a TV commercial or a sequential educational video. In a showroom, consumers will only be interested in something they can absorb quickly, with a single scene. A series of project photos or product photos that can be viewed one at a time for just a moment is more effective. And, if you are using words, opt for just a concise few.
It’s important that a consumer who has made a purchase leaves your showroom feeling good. However, in our industry, they often walk out having paid a substantial deposit yet having no product to show for it for weeks or even months. So they have experienced the emotional pain of spending without the immediate emotional reward. This is the time to enhance their self worth and their social worth, Dr. Pradeep points out.
Congratulate purchasers on having made a good buy or on their good taste or on the fact that they’ve made an ecologically responsible buy. Is there something you can give them that will keep the emotional payoff in sight while they wait? Can you give them a membership into a special club of your Best Customers that entitles them to benefits at other area stores, or a special newsletter? If you make a donation to a charity in conjunction with a purchase, now is the time to put it into effect. Let them choose from one of several causes, so they leave feeling they’ve done some good.
Their brains will be happy.