Can neuromarketing save the high street?

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Neuromarketing can unlock the secrets of consumer buying behaviour. / Image by Raquel Martinez on Unsplash.

In recent years a hybrid of neuroscience and marketing has emerged known as 'neuromarketing', the analysis of brain activity to better understand what captures the attention of shoppers and ultimately drives impulse purchases. In the first of a two-part blog, we'll look at how neuromarketing could save the high street, the opposite types of shoppers and what marketers must know about the high street shopper experience.

Controller vs Impulse shoppers

It has been well documented that the high street has been fighting a losing battle with internet retailers who appeal to ‘Controllers’, those amongst us who are very rational, sensible, careful and reflective. Controllers plan their purchases; they research their decisions online and then seek out the best deal.

Impulse shoppers are the opposite. They favour immediate gratification even it is not consistent with the actual situation or their own goal. Impulse shoppers’ purchases are fast and immediate compared to Controllers’ purchases. Impulse shoppers are irrational and spontaneous and make decisions very rapidly.1

The good news for high street retailers is that physical proximity to a product is the primary driver of pure impulse buying. Having the must-have bag in your hand, looking inside it, sniffing the leather, or throwing one over the shoulder and looking in the mirror enforce emotions that trigger impulse buying.

Therefore, it makes sense that more high street retail brands should look to neuromarketing to help them entice people through their doors and shop impulsively.

It’s commonly accepted that passion reward, instant gratification, self-exploration and perceived value are the major motivational factors that drive impulse purchases.

Understanding the triggers

New evidence suggests there are both internal and external stimuli that trigger impulse purchases, especially where expensive and well-established brands are concerned. In this two-part feature, before we unlock the eight secrets of neuromarketing, it may be worth defining the types of impulse buying people are categorised as;

Pure - Buying in response to emotional triggers.

Reminder - Buying when encountering a product that you don’t have but had previously concluded was needed to solve a problem.

Suggested - The purchase of a product you were not intentionally seeking but were persuaded to purchase in response to a deal or fear of missing out.

Planned (controller) - The purchase of a product you planned to buy in the near future but were persuaded to purchase that moment because of a special offer or fear it was selling out.

Even though we like to believe we are making rational decisions about our purchases, the truth is that our unconscious mind is often acting under the influence of basic evolutionary programming. Therefore, if retailers were to unpack the neurological drivers of impulsive purchasing, they could stimulate high street spending.

Ricky Chopra is head of platforms at Wake the Bear

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