Surprise: You Buy and Spend More When Calm


rushed mall

Hey, maybe somebody should alert the flash sale sites — there’s strong evidence that people actually buy more, and are willing to pay more, when they’re relaxed.  The news certainly undermines the notion of, for instance, getting people to increase their spending under timed pressure.  Instead, researchers have found that a calm shopper might spend up to 15% more for a particular item than a stressed one.

One way to entice shoppers?  Help them avoid this sort of crush.

In a simulated auction, relaxed participants bid about 11% more for a digital camera than their more frenzied counterparts.  One theory behind the increase is that a calm shopper is better able to more wholly consider the item in question — not just for, say, its technical utility, but its potential sentimental value.

So how are retailers helping their customers relax?  Beyond holding before- and after-hours private events, some are offering complimentary cocktails and snacks, plus entertainment amenities like free wi-fi.  And though it might play to gender stereotypes, one of our favorite new examples of a retail relaxation device is the advent of comfortable seating areas, sometimes including flat screens.  Yes, those areas have been designed with the bored, impatient husband/boyfriend in mind.

Beyond changing how brick-and-mortar retail does business, we also wonder how much the relaxed-shopper theory is contributing to the extreme rise of online retail.  After all, a web site can be perused in one of the calmest venues of all — one’s own living room.  With the theory that the graphics are appealing and the touch screen draws in shoppers, online retailers have reported promising conversion rates from consumers on tablets — but maybe those numbers are also a result of the tablet’s portability, to any convenient setting.  Either way, whether it’s in-store with a cocktail in hand, or with one’s feet up and iPad at the ready, we’re all for the new, escapist shopping experience over a utilitarian, rushed version.