Using Psychology to Sell More?

“50 % off”- says a huge billboard on the Western Express Highway in Mumbai. Placed at an important & busy traffic light juncture, it definitely attracts innumerable eye balls in a day. I’m sure all of us at least once has responded to such an advertisement luring us to visit that store and make a purchase.

 Consumer Psychology has been defined as- "the study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society". Understanding human psychology is an art which in recent times is increasingly being cultivated by marketers. The vast majority of marketers aren’t psychologists. But many successful marketers regularly employ psychology in appealing to customers. Smart & honest marketers use psychology ethically & legally to attract and engage customers, and compel them to buy. 

 One important aspect of being a great marketer is understanding how & why other people (read consumers) think & act the way they do. Give it a thought. How can you create content if you don’t know why it would be compelling to your audience in the first place? How can you personalize content to reach the right people if you don’t know what type of content they would like, and why they would like it? 

“Consumer psychology is all about getting into that unconscious territory where people are being directed to make purchases for reasons they are not clear about”. When businesses strive to understand their own customers’ psychology, business and marketing becomes “way more predictable and more compassionate in a way.” Advertisers appeal to several common psychological themes to motivate people to buy their products. Some of the most common psychological appeals are to self-preservation, sex, self-esteem, fear, authority, and imitation. A subliminal message is designed to pass below the normal limits of perception.

  Some such psychological keys have been mentioned below. These have been used successfully time and again in the world over and soon becoming a favorite with marketers in India.

1.       Showcase emotional ideas

Research studies have shown that emotional and psychological appeals resonate more with consumers than feature and function appeals. For example in India ,Tata Nano remarketed itself by telling customers how it will resolve their issue of travel for a family of four rather than saying it is a car for the middle class in the entry level auto market. 

Salespeople have long understood the power of emotional appeals. For example, Indian advertisements right from Khushiyon ki Home Delivery (Dominos), Khushiyon ki Chaabi (Tata Nano), Khushiyon ki Diwali (Airtel) to Khushiyon ka Khazana wali Maggi, Indian advertisements have used “happiness” as an emotion to position their brands since many years to create an emotional bond with the customer. Coca-Cola launched the global marketing campaign 'Open happiness' in 2009.

2.       Offer less options to your customer

 “Analysis Paralysis” is a term denoted to explain why customers choose none of the options when there are too many offered.  

Cutting down options does not mean eliminating options which might harm the business but categorizing the various products into fewer categories which will help the customer choose the right bucket from which he can choose the products he needs. For example, Flipkart, on its website has categorized all the products it offers into separate categories for ease of navigation on the site. Under categories, there are sub categories to further narrow your search and to filter the undesirable items.

3.       Reciprocity

This concept was introduced in Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. The concept of “reciprocity” is simple -- if someone does something for you, you naturally will want to do something for them. This is not bribing but a sincere act of giving back.

Delighting the audience with small gifts helps in building a solid relationship with visitors, leads & customers. These gifts can range from free gifts in contests, branded merchandise to a tete-a -tete with a popular brand ambassador.

4.       Highlight losses rather than gains in marketing campaigns

Going by human psychology, we fight & fret more over losing our money rather than gaining that extra buck. Logically, it makes no sense but emotionally it does. A rupee which belongs to us is more valuable than that which is not ours. This explains, why we overvalue the product when we sell it, be it a household appliance or a car.

Consumers always respond better when they are told what they are losing out on rather than     what they stand to gain.  Interspersing both losses and gains in the sales pitch gives best results.

5.       Promote Exclusivity 

Everyone likes to be made to feel special & important. Several marketing campaigns aim at making the consumer feel royal & exclusive. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states “self esteem needs” as being somewhere near the top of the pyramid. Products which advertise themselves with the tag lines on the lines of “We’re not for everyone” clearly want to state that.

6.       Scarcity

This psychology principle in simple terms means; the rarer the content, or product, the more valuable it is. A careful approach needs to be taken to use this tactic. The idea to be showcased is popular demand for the product is leading to the scarcity. Showing that only a few products have been produced for consumption may not lead to a very receptive audience.

Airline careers and entertainment event companies use this all the time to woo customers to make a quick booking.

Hence, it’s very important to understand how people operate, which is what psychology attempts to explain. Understanding human psychology will help create campaigns which customers connect with and visit, which will lead to further converting these leads to consumers. Definitely, the principles cannot be all inclusive & universal & there will be outliers for each category segment of customers.

(This article  of mine was published in Buzz- Markazine, (December '15) the quarterly magazine by the Marketing cell of NMIMS & was adjudged amongst the winning articles)



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