Why Emotion Beats Promotion Every Time

Why Emotion Beats Promotion Every Time

Given the enormous opportunity to create improved bricks and mortar retail and to offer a definitive alternative to the threat of online, brands and retailers should pursue emotional connections as a science based major strategy. But for most, building these connections is more haphazard guesswork than science

When companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge. Emotions are a key part of all stages of the retailing experience, and retailers have to understand and predict customers’ emotions, and also shape retail environments to cultivate desired emotions and eliminate undesired ones.

Shopping and Emotion 101

To begin with, here’s the science: When an emotion is triggered in the brain of a shopper, their nervous systems responds by creating sensations in their body (what many people refer to as a ‘gut feeling’) and certain thoughts in their mind. Most purchasing decisions are based one emotional responses more than reason and rational thought.

Emotions are not particularly sophisticated or precise, but their speed more than makes up for what they lack in sophistication and precision. Emotions, provide information about circumstances in a simple, quick way that does not involve a lot of cognition (thinking about it).

Emotions attempt to tell a shopper whether a purchase decision will help meet a fight, flight or find a mate need. For example,imagine that you are shopping for a party outfit and you begin to feel anxious.

If something doesn't feel right, that's your emotional system informing you to further evaluate the situation (outfit).

Does the outfit remind your emotional brain of someone or something in the past? Is your anxious response a reaction to an event, another person or to yourself, such as your fear of success or failure as a result of wearing the outfit? Similarly, you may have an emotionally negative reaction to a "pushy" salesperson in-store, because your emotions signalling you to protect yourself.

Many people (shoppers and clients alike), think that the best course of action is to try and suppress or ignore emotions rather than understand their amazingly powerful persuasiveness. So why do so many brands and retailers ignore emotion? An integral part of being human, something that has evolved over millions of years? Ignorance mostly, just ignorance.

Emotions in-store

In-store, shoppers are constantly bombarded with an abundance of deals and other information that they are expected to process.They simply do not have time to make sense of everything in a reflective fashion, so their brains process input passively and unconsciously (emotionally, from a fight, flight or find a mate perspective).

If your brain comes across something that it first appraises as a ‘warning’, such as a large red ‘Special Offer’ sign, you’ll be sent a general, vague alert in the form of the feelings and thoughts created by an emotion.

This somewhat imprecise signal alerts you to pay attention,and that’s the pay-off. Strategically targeting emotions is a means of gaining the attention of shoppers, without sacrificing margin! Remember, shoppers buy emotionally and only justify rationally.

Tapping into shoppers’ emotional systems offers you a fantastic business advantage of being able to better engage with shoppers and consumers. Many people think of emotions as mysterious, unknown and‘fluffy’ when they should be considered the keys to the hearts and minds of shoppers.

In summary

Evolution has given each and every shopper a powerful information processing system that they constantly use to summarise a huge amount of data about any given store, aisle, category or shopping situation.

In-store, emotions provide shoppers with a continuous feedback loop: Constantly priming how they feel, their propensity to purchase and a host of other in-store decision related information. Shopper emotions are something to interpret and target rather than to be viewed as irrational annoyances to simply ignore.

An understanding of purchasing behaviour must be based on knowledge of human emotion and include the paramount influence that emotions have on decision-making. Otherwise you end up with boring, sterile, bland retail environments, complete with uniform aisle widths, ubiquitous cream shelving and devoid of any emotional engagement…

… like all too many of those offered to shoppers today;retail space that is completely opposite to that which creates emotionally engaging retail. But that does tick the ‘Clear Floor Policy’ box!

And finally...

Still hesitant about the power of emotion? Consider these further examples: After a major bank introduced a credit card designed to inspire emotional connection, use increased by 70% and new account growth rose by 40%. Within a year of launching products and messaging to maximise emotional connection, a leading household cleaner turned market share losses into double-digit growth. And when a clothing retailer re-oriented its merchandising and customer experience to its most emotionally connected customer segments,same-store sales tripled.

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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?

If you think there is value in this article then please, please share it, thank you.

Phillip Adcock

Phillip Adcock CMRS
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

Phillips Signature

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