One day after explaining the psychology of restaurant menus, the New York Times opens our minds' eyes to online retailers' manipulation of colours, price points and time distortion to get us buying — and how we can avoid such trickery.
Online shopping may seem like the uncluttered, no-distraction way to single in on a deal and grab it, but shopping sites have long since adapted to consumer behaviour and the subconscious thinking behind it. Ludicrously overpriced Items are put up on inventory pages that the company has little to no expectation of selling, just to make the mid-range options seem more appealing than the bargain choices. And when it comes to product shots, your mind's colour associations can betray you:
Looking at a couch on a furniture retailer's Web site, you probably take no conscious notice of the green-patterned wallpaper behind the couch. Yet, Deborah Mitchell, a senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said one study showed that green is associated with money, and got subjects' neurons firing in a way that made them sensitive to the cost of the item.
In the same study, a blue-patterned wallpaper behind the couch was associated with comfort, and got subjects' neurons firing in a way that made them sensitive to the comfort of the item.
So your mind plays tricks on you, even when there's no salesperson around to distract you. Now what? The Times breaks down the best, if somewhat basic, advice:
- Determine what you are going to buy online, and stick to it.
- Determine the amount of time you are going to shop online, and stick to it.
- Determine your online shopping budget, and stick to it.
These resistance manoeuvres, and the psychology angle, are all detailed more vividly at the link. If you have your own experiences and war stories about online retailers' mind games, we'd love to hear about them in the comments — mostly because our shopping is finally - thankfully - over.
How Online Retailers Read Your Mind [Gadgetwise Blog/NYTimes.com]