Management consultant, blog writer, dreamer
There’s an emotional customer in all of us. In fact, emotional experience connotes the whole range of our feelings, including anxiety, fear, apathy, euphoria, depression, sadness, anger, and grief 1. I’m sure we’ve all experienced some of these feelings as a result of our emotional state.
Our emotional state is important because it affects our decisions before and while we’re shopping 2. And all retailers need to know it…
Now, picture yourself as an emotional customer. So, one morning you wake up, and, getting out from the wrong side of the bed, and you feel miserable. But wait, maybe it’s the perfect day to go shopping, I’m sure I’ll feel better…
You’ve made an emotional decision because – hey you’re only human…
The shopping behavior of an emotional customer
Of all the behaviors we possess, the decision to go shopping is one of our most purposeful 3. Apart from buying the products that we need, we also shop to experience entertainment, recreation, social interaction, or intellectual stimulation.
Although purposeful shopping suggests that we should do thinking and planning before purchasing, that’s not always the case. Most of us still relies on our “gut feeling” when we decide to go shopping.
So, in spite of us being so clever and having all the info, technology and tools, we mostly cope with our lives by making emotional decisions. “Decisions cannot be made solely based on logic as they may have pros and cons on both sides and simply may be too complex”, suggests Kane Simms in Guided Selling.
Now retailers need to depend on their customer’s “gut feeling” to make their shopping experience a memorable one…
Selling to an emotional customer
Every customer that walks into your store is in a specific state of mind. Indeed, Robert Taibbi in Psychology Today lists the six most common states of mind as follows:
- Rational. This is the gold standard, the middle of the road, the prefrontal lobes fully engaged; where you use emotions as information.
- Anxious. We all know this one. It’s about the future, the what-ifs, disasters and butterflies in the stomach.
- Depressed. If anxiety is about the future, depression is often about the past – mistakes, regrets, roads not taken.
- Angry. We plot revenge, we say over and over how unfair this is, in place of anxiety’s butterflies this is a raging volcano.
- Fear. Anxiety is worry; everyday fear (not battle-zone fear, surgery fear) is often tied to easily-activated little-kid fears. It’s here where you feel intimidated by someone even though in your rational mind you realize there’s no sane reason to.
- Rebellious. Like fear, there’s usually a little-kid element to this as well. There’s resentment and a bit of passive-aggressiveness or simple digging in of heels.
How do retailers cater for the states of mind of an emotional customer?
To create a store atmosphere conducive to buying, a retailer should establish in the consumer a frame of mind that promotes a buying spirit.
A fix retail setting may be perceived differently by every individual customer entering the store. It has mostly to do with the store’s psychological environment. In essence, a store’s psychological environment is the mental image of the store produced in the customer’s mind 4. Also, our emotional reactions can be guided by sensory information.
Here’s how a retailer can use sensory appeals to affect a favorable store image and a pleasant shopping environment for an emotional customer 4
- Sight Appeal. The sense of sight provides people with more information than any other sensory mode. For example: Lighting is used to highlight merchandise, sculpt space and capture a mood or feeling that enhances the store’s image.
- Sound Appeal. Sound can either enhance or hinder a store’s buying atmosphere. For example: music in supermarkets affects the average time spent in the store.
- Touch Appeal. For most products, personal inspection (handling, squeezing, and cuddling) is a prerequisite to buying. Before buying a product, the average consumer must at least hold it, even if it cannot be removed from its package. The chances of a sale increase substantially when the consumer handles the product.
- Taste Appeal. For some food retailers, offering the consumer taste appeal might be a necessary condition for buying. This is often the case with specialty foods such as meats, cheeses, and bakery and dairy products.
- Smell appeal. Smell has the greatest impact on our emotions and retailers add fragrances to enthuse a certain mood in shoppers. For example, some retailers are using a chocolate scent at the entrance of their stores in an attempt to entice customers to enter the stores.
However, for retailers to use sensory appeals to influence the mindsets of their customers there need to be customers in their stores. Physical retail stores are losing most of their customers to the online channel.
How does the online retail channel appeals to an emotional customer?
Just as with the retailer owning a physical shop, the online retailer wants to create a pleasant emotional online experience for her customers. Indeed, everything about your website – from the colors to the copy – should work to arouse the emotions of customers, according to Virginie Kevers in Emolytics.
The online channel doesn’t (not yet) offer a way for retailers to use sensory experiences like touching, smelling and tasting to influence the buying behaviors of their customers. However, the use of visual and audio sensory experiences can, with the help of a variety of online marketing tools, help convince customers to buy products online.
That’s not all. The internet is an ideal platform for customers that are highly involved in the purchasing process. These customers are interested in gaining more information about the product and processing product information in greater detail, presumably because they are more concerned about making the right decision 3. Therefore, an emotional customer’s need for intellectual stimulation can be taken care of by online retailers.
The online social media platforms are great for the emotional customer to announce her state of mind: : She’s rational; anxious; depressed; angry; afraid or fed-up. Wow, here the savvy retailer may get to know his products and customers better with little effort…
There’s no doubt that your customer’s state of mind has a huge affect on where and what she buys. Because we are all customers, I think we can easily relate to that. It’s a pity that the contribution that physical stores made in catering for the emotional needs of their customers is diminishing. That’s because of the massive closures of physical retail shops.
However, the online retail channel offers additional and more focused opportunities to satisfy the emotional needs of retail customers. And, together with that, can retailers now communicate personally with their emotional customer, online of course.
What is next? Only time will tell if retail customers will bond emotionally with robots and other AI devices. Then again…
Read also: The Joy of Shopping
Video: 8 Emotional Triggers That Get Customers To Buy
1 Goetz, C.G. ed. 2007. Textbook of clinical neurology (Vol. 355), Elsevier Health Sciences.
2 Sherman, E., Mathur, A. and Smith, R.B. 1997. Store environment and consumer purchase behavior: mediating role of consumer emotions, Psychology and Marketing, 14(4):361-378.
3 Puccinelli, N.M., Goodstein, R.C., Grewal, D., Price, R., Raghubir, P. and Stewart, D. 2009. Customer experience management in retailing: understanding the buying process, Journal of Retailing, 85(1):15-30.
4 University of South Africa 2009. Course in Retail Marketing and Merchandising, Practical Merchandising, Only study guide for CRMM02-X, Centre of Business Management, Pretoria.