Retail strategy and sales conversions are part art and part science. Notable advertising campaigns have a person or team behind them that clearly have a creative edge on the rest of the field. But there are ways to increase sales with a more rudimentary understanding of the psychology behind retail. In fact, we’ve all spent our lives behind subjected, unknowingly or not, to various psychological tricks and strategies that have surely influenced our behavior or consumption. These tenets are pretty simple to learn, though varied and nuanced in their application. With trial and error and basic A/B testing, try some of these ideas out at your retail store. So here are 6 strategies for increasing sales with retail marketing psychology at your brick and mortar or eCommerce store.

6 Retail Marketing Psychology Tips

  1. Instill an Obligation of Reciprocity
  2. Find Ways to Get Social Proof
  3. Create a Sense of Urgency/Scarcity
  4. Make Your Retail Store More Novel
  5. Tell Your Story & Get People to Like You
  6. Make the Retail Experience Comfortable

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1) Instill an Obligation of Reciprocity

Think about the last time you walked through Costco on a Sunday afternoon. Sample Day! It’s nearly impossible to say no to a free sample. And in turn, it’s hard to tell the sampler no to buying the product that they’re sampling. The moment you slammed that cocktail weenie down your gullet, you greatly increased your chances of spending more money on that particular trip.

As a retailer, you can create this scenario in a number of ways. Discounts and promos through loyalty programs are another way of instilling a sense of obligation from your customer. Online stores often offer free ebooks (or courses, like the one shown below), hoping to encourage the customer to spend more on other products. What type of strategy would work for your retail store?

pop up commitment marketing offer

2) Find Ways to Get Social Proof

Consumers are also more likely to make a purchase if it comes as a recommendation from friends. Incentivising referrals is a common way both brick and mortar and eCommerce retailers achieve a greater organic word of mouth. Not only will your best customers be more likely to tell all their friends about you, but they will also feel more valued as important guests.

You can apply this in less personal ways as well. Testimonials and reviews are key. Make sure all review sites look good and address any complaints. Keep a “Best Sellers” or “Most Popular” tab in your online store. Partner with social media influencers. Recommendations from celebrities, major media sources, doctors, etc. are also great endorsements to have; most people are more influenced than they think by figures of authority.

3) Create a Sense of Urgency/Scarcity

No one wants to miss out on the next best thing. While you can’t completely orchestrate a craze, you can add small details to your advertising that makes consumers feel like your product is more of a must-have.

Add phrases like, “limited time offer,” “hurry!” “deals, deals, deals,” or “only 10 left.” It immediately creates a sense of excitement behind your product. Just make sure the promotion is simple enough that the customer has a clear call to action and understanding of the conditions. Your email marketing campaigns are a great platform to feature this. Below is an example of one of Amazon’s Kindle Countdowns. They have resulted in an incredible jump in sales for featured books.

countdown deals marketing

4) Make Your Retail Store More Novel

Similarly, people are curious about new ideas and products. Think about how excited half the world gets for the newest iPhone release. There are lines around corners or month long waitlists online. Part of this is, of course, the brilliant retail marketing psychology behind the product. But it’s also the product itself. Perhaps you won’t be able to have people camping out for three nights in front of your store, but you could probably find a way to generate some buzz around your store.

You can also achieve this on a smaller scale in your retail store or on your website. Making small tweaks often keeps the space looking fresh and customers intrigued about the in-store experience. This means people are more likely to come often and spend more time in the space as well.

5) Tell Your Story & Get People to Like You

Humans love story time. Stories evoke trust, kindness, and empathy. So create a story around your retail store. Explain who you are, where you come from, what you stand for, why you sell what you sell. By creating a sort of personality, you will integrate yourself into the community as well. The idea is to serve the people as much as your serving your product.

You also want to tell a story about your shoppers. Consumers who see themselves in a customer you highlighted will be far more likely to begin shopping with you as well. Social media engagement is the easiest and cheapest way to accomplish this. It can be as simple as hosting a giveaway drawing for all customers who tagged your page in a post.

If you have a boutique shop, you might want to promote the artists behind your wonderful products. It’s great publicity for that artist and it shows your customers you really care where your products come from. The image below is from Nike’s Equality Campaign. Nike has been widely praised for their latest story-driven marketing campaign.

tell a story with marketing

6) Make the Retail Experience Comfortable

This is as simple as improving the retail experience. Cut down on long lines with a fast retail POS system, begin to carry products that customers have requested, offer small amenities, start a fun loyalty program, make your online checkout easy, friendly return policies/guarantees.

Retail Marketing Psychology 

There’s a lot of room to play around with each of these categories. They can be applied in many different ways to various retail stores. Once you implement this, try A/B testing with each change. Here are a few suggestions on places to start, whether you have brick and mortar, online, or both:

  • Headlines
  • Free offers
  • Copy
  • Images
  • Store Layout
  • Discounts/Promos/Bundles
  • Reviews
  • Buttons
  • Coupons
  • Signage
  • Your POS System!
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