#20 Art of persuasion: balance between concrete & abstract

People experience a heightened sense of engagement when they process information that fits with their goals. When the level of abstraction fits the goal, people understand messages better and are more easily persuaded.
— Journal of Consumer Research 2009, Angela Y. Lee, Punam Anand Keller, Brian Sternthal

What types of messages are most persuasive? For example: would you be more likely to buy a TiVo if an ad described it as offering you freedom, or if it explained how you could replay sports events?

Whether shoppers are more persuaded by abstract or concrete benefit information depends on their goals.

  • When shoppers aim to fulfill aspirations and satisfy achievement goals, more abstract messaging stimulates purchase.
  • For shoppers who sought to fulfill their responsibilities and satisfy security goals, concrete messages were more persuasive.


Get clear about what your product stands for. Identify shoppers’ goals for using your product. Communicate directly from your essence to their goals. 

#18 - How to use explicit “opportunity cost”

IKEA employed this strategy brilliantly in an ad campaign showing an unhappy woman next to an expensive custom cabinet containing one pair of shoes opposite a modestly priced IKEA cabinet overflowing with shoes.
Given that consumers who bring to mind opportunity costs become more price sensitive, manufacturers of less-expensive brands interested in increasing price sensitivity may promote their products more effectively by reminding consumers to consider the opportunity costs.
— Journal of Consumer Research, Shane Frederick, Nathan Novemsky (both Yale University), Jing Wang (Singapore Management University), Ravi Dhar (Yale University), and Stephen Nowlis (Arizona State University)

When we choose to spend $10 more than usual for a bottle of wine, we'll have $10 less to spend on an appetizer or a dessert. That's known as the "opportunity cost" of that choice.

Unless opportunity costs are explicitly named, most shoppers don't consider them when making purchases.

Shoppers tend to make different choices when opportunity costs are made clear. For example, the choice share of a 16 Gb iPod Touch roughly doubled when the cost difference compared to the 32 Gb model was phrased as "leaving you $100 in cash." 


Less-expensive brands interested in increasing price sensitivity may promote their products more effectively by reminding shoppers to consider the opportunity costs.

#19 - How to design for fast attention

The brain’s ability to understand a whole scene on the fly gives us an enormous edge on an organism that would have to look at objects one by one and slowly add them up.
— Journal of Neuroscience, Irving Biederman

One of human survival trait - our brain's ability to comprehend a scene - happens in a fraction of a second.

Shoppers process the interacting objects that comprise a scene more quickly than unrelated object,

The interaction of objects in a scene actually allows the brain to identify those objects faster than if they were not interacting, so called "scene-facilitation effect.”

Another visual that works like a magnet for shoppers’ attention is a human face.


Use the “scene-facilitation effect” to design in-store visuals – from packaging to POS. Then add human faces,  bright appetizing objects and some humour for a winning strategy.

#17 - We want to keep things that are beautiful

Design has intrinsic value. So rather than returning the item, we actively seek ways to make the item fit, often by making complementary purchases. This has financial implications that may have been entirely unforeseen when the consumer made the initial purchase.
— Journal of Marketing Research, Vanessa Patrick and Henrik Hagtvedt

When in full shopping mode, a seemingly innocent luxury item purchase can lead to an impulse spending spree.

Emotions play a role in whether or not the buyer will return the item.

People get attached to pretty things faster, and experience less regret and frustration if pretty things don’t fit. Instead of returning the purchase, more luxury items get in the shopping cart.


Play the art of seduction. Design beautiful complementing packaging for your premium product line to seduce shoppers to purchase multiple products.

#16 - Fill in the blanks

Shoppers who generate spontaneous inferences about missing product information are more likely to make a purchase decision.
— Journal of Consumer Research. Kunter Gunasti and William T. Ross, Jr.

In many high involvement & high price categories, shoppers don't like to make a purchase without complete information about the product. But too much information can also scare shoppers –  almost 1/3 of them walk away.

When information about a purchase is incomplete, shoppers can learn to make inferences about missing information, that in turn increases the likelihood of purchase.

Research demonstrates that both explicitly and implicitly prompting shoppers to ‘fill in the blanks’ about the missing attributes can decrease the chances of them walking away because of insufficient information.


If a product has too many features to list, in-store displays and on-pack information can prompt shoppers make inferences about product features.

#15 - Context influences price perception

When examining prices, shoppers focus on the relative differences of the price. This leads to a lower-price perception when it is in a set with more expensive products, and to a higher-price perception when it is in a set with less-expensive ones.
— Journal of Consumer Research 2011, Marcus Cunha, Jr. and Jeffrey D. Shulman.

Shoppers tend to perceive products as more expensive when they are grouped with expensive items, and less expensive when grouped with inexpensive ones.

Displays that elicit a "generalization mindset" can lead shoppers to perceive a product price to be closely related to other products in the vicinity.

The opposite – “discrimination mindset” - occurs ifshoppers are encouraged to think about the uniqueness of a product in the set. When shoppers are discriminating, a given price is perceived as less expensive if it is viewed in the presence of other high-priced products, and more expensive when grouped with less expensive ones.


To put shoppers in a discrimination mindset, use a display strategy for a new high end product that emphasizes how it is different from its competitors.

#14 - Creating the store for shoppers’ brain

The brain is organized into territories, sort of like a map of Europe. There are visual regions, regions that process sound and areas that process sensory and motor information. In between all these areas is the area which is known to be the key for processing attention.
— Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 2010, Jeffery S. Anderson

The brain pays attention to visual, cognitive, sensory, and motor cues by switching attention from one feature to the next.

  • A shopper searching for a ripe tomato at the grocery store is more likely to notice apples, strawberries and other red fruits as well.
  • Paying attention to one direction of motion makes the brain more responsive to other objects moving in that direction.

First, shoppers’ brains pay attention to potentially threatening or potentially rewarding stimuli. Once the scan is done, shoppers open up for what’s interesting and new.

Men tend to have “laser” attention of a hunter, while women have wider and less focused attention of a gatherer.


Design the store and shelf with shopper’s brain in mind, with Her or His brain in mind. What works for female shoppers, might not work for guys. Focus on one main and 1-2 complimentary senses in each store section and aisle. Don't overwhelm the shopper, yet do not get them bored.

#13 - Shopper emotional journey: virtue or vice, happy or stressed

As shoppers spend more time in the store, they begin to feel time pressure when making the visit. They are less likely to spend time on exploration, and instead focus on visiting and shopping at store zones that carry categories they plan to buy.
— Journal of Consumer Research, 2009. Hui, Bradlow, and Fader

The more time people spend in a store, the more purposeful they become. After purchasing a "virtue" product” (like a healthy food), people are more likely to purchase something from a "vice" category (like an unhealthy snack).

Shoppers are attracted to crowded store zones – butthey are less likely to make a purchase there.

Stressed out or tired shoppers spend minimum productive time at the store – they are either rushing to get out or wonder aimlessly feeling lost. They are also more price sensitive.

Happy and confident shoppers follow their mood flow: from browsing, exploration and playing to purposeful shopping.  They are less likely to be in a frugal mode.


Create a step-by-step shopper experience that enhances positive moods and helps minimize the negative. Map your store's "mood" zones and improve (or completely re-design) each key zone using shopper insights and good retail design.