The Psychology of Promotions

The Psychology of Promotions

Understanding the psychology of promotions boosts sales and frees you from a never-ending cycle of needlessly giving away margin.

Are you part of a £100 billion crime? If you run promotions as part of your trade marketing activity, then chances are, you are.

Over recent years, I have uncovered more than 450 specific psychological insights that can have a dramatic impact on a promotion's likely performance.

I firmly believe that if brands and retailers understood the psychology of the offers and deals they run, they could add literally millions to their bottom lines.

What psychological factors of promotions influence shoppers?

The visual appearance of a promotional message is often more influential than the deal itself. That is to say that how your promotional display looks it much important than your actual promotion.

Take these 5 areas as a starting point:

1. Syllables

Each syllable of a price in a supermarket reduces its chance of being remembered by 20% (£62.30 more memorable than £77.61) - better still, smoother, round prices stick with us, so go for a nice, solid £65!

2. Size matters

When looking at '25% off' or 'save 50p', shoppers will find the one with the biggest number disproportionately appealing. With that in mind, go for communicating in the way that promotes savings using the biggest number, not necessarily the biggest financial saving.

3. Loss aversion

Because humans have a hard-wired fear of loss, the word 'free' is processed as no risk (no way of losing) and so appeal is increased.

The psychology of in-store promotions driving sales.

4. Power of limits

Special offers with restrictions ‘limit two per customer’ or ‘offer valid only until a certain date’ lead to higher sales than the same deals without restrictions due to the fear of missing out. Create a sense of urgency in your campaigns to boost purchases.

5. The % sign

Shoppers look at the ‘%’ without paying attention to the number to which the ‘%’ applies! My recent findings show that ‘50% bonus pack’ sold 71% more than a ‘35% discount’.

6. Charm pricing

23% more shoppers bought a product whose price ended in 9 (£39) compared to when it was £34. There was no difference when the product was priced at £34 or £44.

How psychology can increase consumer spending

In one category, shoppers arrived expecting to spend an average of £7. They actually spent a mere £4.20, due entirely to the unnecessarily aggressive promotions.


When I talk to shoppers, they almost always say that they evaluate and calculate in-store promotions intelligently and would never fall for anything that wasn't an exceptional added value offer...

...but in actual fact, most of us very often do!

Want to improve the appeal of your products on shelf? Or perhaps you are just curious to know what makes for better product appeal? Either way, let’s talk.

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About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

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Phillip Adcock
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

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