Business November 12, 2021 Last updated November 12th, 2021 4,640 Reads share

The Psychology Behind Shopping Behaviors

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Shopping and purchasing are human behaviors. For every human behavior, there’s the psychology to suggest why it happens. Is it our need for gratification? A way of hiding self-loathing? A desire to feel fulfilled? It’s actually all of those. We shop when we’re sad, we shop when we’re needy, and we shop when we need to feel like we’re treating ourselves. And then there are the psychological triggers a business can put in place to initiate the buying cycle.

Below, we will explore some of the psychology behind shopping, triggers, and how you can maximize your earnings from it all.


The Psychology

In 2000, Kent Eriksson and Anna Lofmarck Vaghult published a study that looked at customer retention through purchasing behaviors and relationships built up through interactions. Most experts will agree there are 4 different buying behaviors:

  • Complex buying
  • Dissonance-reducing buying
  • Habitual buying
  • Variety seeking

Each buying habit is unique, and each we will carry out without realizing it. Complex buying habits are used most frequently with B2B sales. It involves calculating big purchases with high risk – the consumers carry out extensive research to mitigate the risk and make and make an informed decision. Dissonance-reducing buying is where consumers have a hard time distinguishing between brands.

The others speak for themselves. The most common shopping habits are habitual — shopping out of habit — and variety seeking. You might also consider motivation-led buying habits. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation plays a part also. Intrinsic motivation is purchases made based on wants and needs, and extrinsic motivation is purchases made because of external influences – such as a celebrity marketing campaign.


The Triggers

Psychological triggers play a huge part in business success, especially the success of specific marketing techniques and sales tactics. For example, if you use specific colors or words, these are psychological triggers. One of the most famous examples of this is, of course, the use of red and yellow in many popular fast food chains’ logo designs. These colors are said to encourage feelings of hunger – feelings that, so the theory goes, encourage more and more spontaneous drive-throughs and walk-ups than a purple, blue or green logo could have done.

For green, shoppers call to mind nature; eco-friendly practices and healthier lifestyles, while certain luxury brands have long-since made their mark on the world using particular shades of blue and orange.

There is, however, more to psychological triggers than color alone. Let’s explore.


Purchase Rationalization

Product rationalization is a big trigger – we need to rationalize the purchases we make — especially big and less frequent transactions — so that we feel purchasing is the right move. The business to customer sector has this perfected, but business to business loyalty programs are also proving highly lucrative for B2C enterprises. What better way to rationalize purchases than to offer a reward. A b2b customer loyalty programme focuses on a rewards-based programme, and since the day of Pavlova and his dogs, we have understood that rewards initiate good behaviors.

That’s why 84% of shoppers like rewards programs, and it’s not just b2b rewards that are lucrative. B2c programs would work just as well – and there are just as many of them out there. B2b programs work so well because clients are paying big money and expect big rewards.


Creating A Rush

The oldest psychological trigger marketing technique is to create a sense of urgency – the customer must think they need to rush to make the product. Putting a discount on a product is not enough; it’s the wording that matters. Wording like ‘sale ending today’ or ‘last few items remaining’ creates that sense of urgency. Consumers think they have no choice but to buy the product then and there if they want it.


Emotional Connections

Another biggie is an emotional connection – shoppers like to feel an emotional connection to the product or brand. You need to give customers a reason to fall in love with your brand, and that reason is usually your story or your ethos. For example, there’s a big push for sustainability-focused brands or brands that work closely with charities. And a study by the Harvard Business Review found that emotional connection is the most essential factor for customer happiness.

Create and sell your story so that people fall in love with your brand. Gone are the days where brands fell, by default, in favor of formalities and detachedness. These days, it’s clear that it is possible to build more meaningful relationships with customers – and that those meaningful relationships will be far more valuable to you than one-time shoppers.


There’s a lot going on behind the purchasing scene without even realizing it – even for you when you’re shopping. There’s a motive behind each purchase you make, just like there is with your customers. It’s up to you to create triggers and determine shopper habits to maximize your success.


Mildred Austria

Mildred Austria

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