The Business of Fashion: How Companies Influence You to Buy More

January 16, 2012 | Posted By: Adria Saracino | Categorized in: Shopping
Marketers have many interesting psychological techniques to get shoppers to purchase their products.

And these marketers aren’t just in-house employees at big brand organizations. There are companies out there dedicated to helping other companies conduct extensive market research just to find out what makes shoppers buy more. There are countless resource portals for these companies to learn from, ranging from strategy for Fortune 500 brands to tutorials on social media for small businesses that can help them influence purchasing decisions.

Sure, money makes the world go round and these businesses are just trying to make a profit. But many people aren’t even aware that they are victims of these marketing techniques. In a down economy and a time when saving is more important than ever, being aware of how fashion businesses influence purchases is essential.

Here are some of the ways that companies implement the knowledge of psychology to reach your sub-conscious and influence your purchasing decisions:

1) Sales Items in the Back of the Store

One popular technique that clothing and accessories stores use is to advertise for a sale and put the items that are discounted towards the back of the store. This way, everyone that comes to the sale will walk by all the full-price clothing in hopes that they will be tempted to buy. This works especially well on impulse buyers, so if that sounds like you, make sure you go straight to the sales section to avoid overspending.

2) The Psychology of Free Shipping

Many sites like eBay and Amazon offer both free and paid shipping on most of their products. They do this to incentivize a buyer that may be on the fence. Especially for those that find something they want but probably shouldn’t buy, discounts like free shipping or coupons can be enough of a psychological push to seal the sale. Also, notice that most “free shipping” deals require a minimum purchase amount. This is another tactic that helps sellers not only influence you to purchase an item, but also to buy more to “reach that minimum.” How many times have you purchased something online and said “I only need $30 to qualify for free shipping?” Beware of free shipping and always ask yourself, if you would still buy the item without all the discounts.

3) Impulse Buying: In store and Online

Both online and offline retailers know how to take advantage of shopper’s tendency to buy on impulse. There are two common ways that this is done with brick and mortar stores: 1) with bundling (i.e. two for one deals) and 2) with less expensive items near the register in “point of purchase,” or POP, displays. Many e-commerce stores will offer “people who bought this item also bought…” prompts (Amazon anyone?).This encourages shoppers both socially and through the power of upselling.

4) Creating a Sense of Security

One psychological trick that many online and offline shops use is to offer add-on warranties to create a sense of security on a new purchase. Many times these warranties can cost up to 40-50% of the item cost. Sometimes the warranties are worth buying, but just make sure that you consider all angles and read the fine print. How careful are you with your possessions? Does the product already come with a free warranty? Can you purchase this add-on warranty at any time?

5) “Deals” That Ensure a Completed Purchase

There are many techniques that companies use to reinforce a buyer when they are having second thoughts. Since it is much easier to walk away from a purchase online than it is in store, online companies often use tactics to ensure shoppers click “complete order.” For example, Roxy offers a full-year return policy on all online purchases to increase the likelihood of a sale. In addition, many online retailers save your shopping cart, so even when you click off the page the items will still be there upon your return.

6) A Push to Get You in the Dressing Room

Many retail stores train sales associates to encourage shoppers to try clothing on. How do they do this? By simply approaching shoppers who have garments in hand and asking them if they “would like to have a room started.” Studies show that shoppers are more likely to make a purchase once they are in the dressing room. That is because once a shopper sees the article of clothing on, it is more difficult to walk away because an emotional connection has already been made. And once you are in the dressing room with your clothes off, expect sales associates to upsell items by saying things like “I have the perfect shirt to go with those pants” or “let me grab you a pair of shoes so you can see where the hem falls.”

7) Setting the Mood

Ever notice how some stores are brighter than others? Or how about the mannequins—how they are perfectly styled? There are people whose sole job is to craft the visual experience that shoppers experience when they enter a store. Everything from lighting to what items go where have been carefully tailored after extensive market research by experts in a corporate office (not even in the store!). Abercrombie & Fitch—a proponent of concepts like “finger spacing” (spacing out hangers so they are evenly spread across a rack)—is a great example of this. They discovered that keeping the lights low and the music loud encourages people to shop.

8) Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion rate optimization: know it, learn it, love it. “CRO” is a buzzword in the online world. It refers to the practice of websites changing different design and functionality features in a series of tests to see which one(s) return the most sales, or conversions. There are methods such as A/B testing, in which companies create different iterations of the same web page (including the original) and show each to a different subset of visitors. Think of it as the scientific method for the 21st century, where you have control variables that ensure accurate conclusions. Most visitors are not even aware of these differences, but if you notice slight design changes to your favorite sites over time, it might be a result of CRO.

These are just some of the many ways the fashion industry drives sales and influences our purchasing behavior. There are a slew of tactics that companies use to drive business, from pricing secrets to visual display tricks. Moving forward, consider if your purchases are based on actual wants and needs or if they are a result of discreet marketing tactics.

Adria Saracino is the Head of Outreach at a creative internet marketing agency. When she is not connecting with interesting people on the web or discovering new social success strategies, you can find her writing about style at her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.
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