Acting on Impulse.

Proctor and Gamble (P&G) research conducted globally indicates that more than 72% of purchase decisions are made at the very last moment possible – at the shelf. And this figure is heading north according to the data. More and more shoppers delay until they are forced to reach out and select a product to put into the basket.

According to Yale University studies, the 21st century shopper does not narrow down their options definitively before they enter a store. Much of this they articulate in a model based on the 2 decision systems at play. System 1 is the emotional and sub-conscious reflexes that form an instant first impression based on multi-sensory stimulus and embedded memory. System 2 is the rational decision system that actively uses reasoning and context to consider trade-offs.

In a perfect world our ego would like to think we combine emotional and rational systems together like Yin and Yang to produce a harmonious purchase decision that satisfies both rational and emotional criteria.

The reality is far different.

Yale experiments have proven that under stress (emotional, physical, time, social), System 2 shuts down and purchase decisions become impulsive, based almost entirely on System 1.

To make matters worse, our lives are becoming more stressful and purchase decisions are becoming more impulsive.

Combine the P&G and Yale University findings together and you have the reason why the store is once again the primary battleground for sales success – but with greater complexity today than ever before. Human impulses can be manipulated in a store environment to radically alter purchase behaviour. Multi-sensory stimulation today is a science. While the shopper’s impulses determine the store’s success, few retailers really understand how to act on impulses as is evidenced by the customer experience in the majority of retail selling environments – both physical and virtual.

Even fewer understand how to embed and trigger multi-sensory mnemonic cues that can act like runway lights to get the shopper to land exactly where you want them to land – from couch to cash register. Shoppers themselves provide no insight because most of the factors affecting their behaviour are sub-conscious or unconscious. They simply don’t know what they don’t know.

Many retail consultants like myself have spent most of our careers learning about and working with the “dark arts” of shopper behaviour manipulation through a range of scientific measurements and observational research. ‘Acting on impulse’ is very straightforward and combines accepted principles of psychology and physiology. It is important for every retailer to learn about these aspects of their shoppers and how they relate to their business. As shoppers become less rational and sales become more reliant on what happens in the store, learning to ‘act on impulse’ will increasingly determine retail business success.