A 2007 study from the Stanford Graduate School of Business notes that shoppers who are forced to pay separately for each item purchased spend less that shoppers who buy a lot all at once. The study states that people who spend more may be doing so because they’ve built a “shopping momentum” with an initial purchase. Researchers found that for most people buying a first item leads to a “purchasing floodgate.”
In one of the field tests, students were given the opportunity to buy discounted items from the researchers as compensation for their participation. Some students initially were offered a light bulb, while others were offered a better and more relevant item, an educational CD. The folks offered the light bulb were way less likely to buy it compared to those who were offered the CD. THEN each of the students was a chance to purchase a second item––a keychain.
Those were offered the CD were much more likely also to buy the keychain. One study head noted, “That was the case even though the second item was completely unrelated to the first… it’s not like we offered chips followed by soda, which would naturally go together.”
Results of the study showed that shopping is a two-stage process. “In the first stage, people deliberate about a purchase, weighing cost and benefits, the degree to which they need the item, and so forth. But once the deliberation phase ends and the buying phase takes over, a subtle psychological mechanism comes into play. People in this transition go from thinking from their mind to thinking from their cart. The cart takes over. Once that happens, a roller coaster of shopping can begin.”
Thus the purchase of an initial item creates “shopping momentum.”
How you can use this info:
In some case studies the researchers gave some participants two separate envelopes with money for different purchases and those folks were less likely to make a second purchase. The researchers figure that this is because opening one’s wallet (or envelope) a second time created another deliberation point. So people had to think twice about buying which then stopped all purchasing in its tracks. Additionally the more the first item was perceived to be a luxury buy the less likely people were to make a second purchase.
So to use this info to your advantage, try the following…
- Buy that one indulgent item for yourself first to curb major shopping frenzy.
- Break up holiday gift money into envelopes labeled per person so that you have to stop and consider an item before you buy.
- Go to a department store where each area has their own check-out point. For example, if you have to pay for items in home goods, you’ll also have to stop and think again when you get to the shoe department. Along the same lines, go shopping in a city area, in many small shops vs. one large discount store with just one check stand.
[image via stock.xchng]