The neuroscience of shopping and buying

by Ofentse Sefolo
The neuroscience of shopping and buying

Customers are bombarded with options such as where to shop and how to shop. Being able to understand your customer’s state of mind plays an important role in connecting with clients and selling products.

Master neuroscientist, Ian Rheeder, discussed the neuroscience behind retail at the first South African Council of Shopping Centres’ (SACSC) Gauteng Chapter Networking Breakfast for 2018. According to Ian, the way messages are communicated is often more important than the actual message.

“It’s important to always remember that people only do things that they want to do. This has huge implications for leaders. It means connecting at an emotional level, one-on-one, with every person. And it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it. Remember Carl Buechner’s words: ‘They may forget what you said but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.’ Feelings are more important than thoughts,” said Ian.

He added that there’s too much advice about what retailers should do and his advice is to get back to basics using the big neuroscience discoveries. Some of the tips that Ian offered about knowing your customers include listening to feedback from customers, conducting focus groups, to do research on what your customers prefer and why, and sampling your core customers to find out more about their preferences.

He also discussed research where he was able to record interactions with staff from a person-to-person view thanks to hidden cameras.

“Retailers can market and advertise till they’re blue in the face, but if the people on the floor are not happy, trust me, your customers won’t be happy either. Start on the floor and encourage staff to smile,” said Ian.

The big lesson that neuroscience teaches us, says Ian, is that humans are more social than any other mammal on the planet.

“We are at least 90% emotional, and trust is the key to doing business. Remember, just because you may not be consciously aware of the shopping environment, that does not mean that unconsciously you are not sipping it all in. Our senses absorb about 11 million new synapses (per second), yet we are only aware of 40 of these, which is why consumers often don’t know what they want. It’s not that they want to lie, they are just oblivious of the subliminal olfactory-logos (scents), sounds, contrasting lighting and the service attendant’s warm smile and single-eyebrow-flash,” concludes Ian.

For more information, contact SACSC on +27 (10) 003 0228 or via www.sacsc.co.za.

Caption to image: SACSC team Audrey Nkunzi, Rene Albasani, Sheila Wilesmith and Vishal Ramphal.

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