The Psychology of Shopper Marketing

The Psychology of Shopper Marketing

When you understand the psychological factors that motivate shoppers to purchase, you can use shopper marketing to form more meaningful relationships with them.

Whether a shopper comes into a store looking to get away from their everyday lives, for other humans to engage with, or for a quick buzz, retailers that can give shoppers the emotional experience they’re looking for will be the more preferred destinations.

A retail purchase takes place in a shopper’s mind long before they reach for their purse or wallet.

Here’s a cold, hard truth of retail: Many shoppers who go into a store or log onto an e-commerce website are simply looking for a quick emotional buzz. This needn’t be bad news for retailers or brands, as there are numerous ways to emotionally engage with shoppers quickly and cost-effectively using shopper marketing.

What is Shopper Marketing?

Marketing to shoppers is entirely different from marketing to consumers. It focuses on understanding how shoppers function inside the sales space, how they make buying decisions in the moment, and how they respond to the shopping experience. You may think you know consumers when you're trying to reach them on their couches in front of the television, but reaching the shopper is an entirely different story.

The goal of shopper marketing is to influence shopper behaviour while people are in the shopping mode in a way that builds brands and drives consumption and growth. Here are a few thought-starters:

Introduce urgency or scarcity

Limited time offers like When It’s Gone It’s Gone (WIGIG) give customers the excitement they crave by creating an illusion of scarcity As does all the media coverage regarding Covid-19. This sense of urgency can often be the deciding factor in whether that shopper decides to make a purchase or not. According to CNBC in USA, 80 percent of young shoppers made impulse purchases online during the last year. This high number is no coincidence, because retailers have started to understand the psychology and emotion needed to create the type of shopping experience that makes shoppers feel like they’re getting the deal of a lifetime.

Creating the perception of significant added value or a limited amount of goods in-stock are two of the ways that retailers can do this. Here are more phrases proven to emotionally engage shoppers:

Limit, only 2 per customer

Any limit makes shoppers fear missing out.

Must end Wednesday

Why do retailers hide the promotion end date of shelf edge labels? As they are powerful motivators to purchase.

Was/Now offers

Tells shoppers they are getting better value than was available previously.


Get the word ‘Free’ into your offer and it triggers activity within shopper’s mental reward centres, bypassing reason altogether.


In shoppers minds, if something is new, then it is often perceived as being better

Whether a shopper comes into a store looking to get away from their everyday lives, looking for other humans to engage with, or looking for a quick buzz, retailers that deploy effective shopper marketing executions will give them the emotional experience they’re looking for and will be the more preferred destinations.

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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

Phillip Adcock CMRS
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

Phillips Signature

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