Shopping with me stresses people out. Pondering whether or not I should get this shirt, dress, jar of nutella, etc., inevitably develops into musings on how my entire life trajectory may be affected by the decision in question. Launching into a Butterfly Effect-esque contemplation of how the future of the entire world would be altered based on whether I chose the yellow or pink shoes detracts from the joy of decision making, or shopping in general. What do you mean “Just pick one already?” Don’t you know what’s at stake?! 

Anyway, I do solo shopping trips nowadays. From a marketing perspective, though, I’ve become curious about what makes people tick. Forbes published this article back in February that discusses trends to look for in consumer behavior this year. This helps businesses market their product(s) so they fall into one or more of these trends, and thus appeal to the 2014 human psyche. 

As both a buyer and a marketer, I’ve noticed the following 3 factors in how we make choices:

1. Risk. No one wants to experience buyer’s remorse. Whether it’s a side dish or a new car, you don’t want to be caught wondering “What might have been?” This article from LifeHacker offers some ideas for avoiding purchase-related regret. 

From a marketing perspective, the objective is making the consumer feel “safe” about their investment. You want to minimize the amount of risk a customer associates with your product. I’m not saying you need to patronize or be all schmooze-y, it’s beyond putting a fancy guarantee on a box to make someone feel warm and toasty (thank you, Tommy Boy). Sometimes, it’s as simple as customer service. People remember how you made them feel, so why not make them feel good? Show them you respect and care about them, and that fear will likely melt away.

2. Positioning.  You know the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Even if your water is the most satisfying and pristine in the market, or if it’s different from any other water out there (say for instance, artisnal water, which probably doesn’t exist…yet), if that horse doesn’t want any water, it really doesn’t care about yours. Trying to force your water on that horse is wasting your time. There may be a severely thirsty llama out there, focus your marketing energy on him.

This blog post from a few weeks ago discusses another positioning issue: the number of choices you’re giving customers. Less is more, folks.

3. Timing. We’re all locked in a battle with time. We may have too much, not enough, or experience inopportune timing (hey, we’ve all been there. Just ask Romeo and Juliet). I think of the timing factor in terms of “It’s not you, it’s me” (i.e. “This BMW rocks, but I am a toddler and have no use for it yet,” or “It’s summertime, so I’m not thinking about buying a shovel”). A lot of this depends on finding the sweet spot between supply and demand, and economics isn’t exactly my forte.

In terms of social media marketing, there’s quite a bit of information about what time of day is best to post on certain sites, such as this infographic from Hubspot. You can also check out analytics on your business’s website and social media channels, and gauge when your audience engages more versus less.


In the end, free will remains a baffling concept. How much control do we really have? What if everything is predetermined?

Unfortunately, I don’t have many answers, and the few I do have may be wrong. But, I know marketers can’t do Jedi mind tricks and force me into buying something (although those last minute register purchases feel that way in retrospect). We all have a choice, and they don’t need to be so daunting.

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