Why Customers Buy Stuff

The pandemic years saw unprecedented retail purchases in some sectors, particularly jewelry. Why is this?

To understand why customers buy we need to understand human emotions. The pandemic years are a great case study. Buyers were living in uncertain times, they were fearful, alone. They needed to connect. They wanted to feel good, to be distracted from the real world. They may go through these same emotions in normal years, but during the pandemic, they were all going through it at the same time. That’s why many retailers saw 30% increases in sales.

Hence, here is why they buy:

They buy because it feels good.

Dopamine, that chemical in our brain that makes customers feel good, is released when they do something like get a hug, accomplish something for the first time, and yes, reward themselves with a purchase. That’s why it has been called retail therapy. They feel good when they buy. And they especially feel good when they buy something meaningful. They also get this same feel-good high when they buy for someone they care about. As retailers, when you remember their birthday, their anniversary; or just remind them that you care, they feel good, you feel good.

They buy because they need it.

Abraham Maslow identified the hierarchy of needs, beginning with breathing and eating, but moving onto emotional needs. Humans need to feel accepted. They also need to feel warm. So emotional and physical needs can sometimes overlap. Buyers sometimes feel a need to show appreciation, but also feel a need to be appreciated. Buying is complex, and as retailers we need to understand the motivations of our customers.

They buy because they can’t help it.

Not talking about addiction here but the greatest retail buzz of all time: Finding something on sale. When something a customer needs but can’t quite afford is suddenly reduced in price, they just have to buy it. Been looking at those shoes for a month and suddenly they’re 50% off? That’s when they storm the store. Sales give customers a psychological advantage. But retailers have to beware of sales fatigue. If it feels like a store is always having sales then there is no sense of urgency for the customer. But that twice-yearly big sale, or sales on selective items will always ring true for the customer who can't help themself.

They buy because they can.

Lastly, there is always a segment of the population that seems immune to recessions or inflation. They buy whenever they want, because they can. For example, luxury customers will always buy the big-ticket items because they want stuff that nobody else has. Limited editions are money with this crowd.

In conclusion, know why customers buy is important as a retailer. Understanding your customers and the behavior that drives them will enable you to capitalize when they buy.

Why do you buy?

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