Who's to Blame for Your Splurging?
Consumers may like to believe they have complete control over their shopping decisions, but a growing number of studies are starting to shake this belief. “We are much more seduced by outside factors when shopping than we think we are,” said Martin Lindstrom, a marketing expert and author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. “And the more on top of the world the consumer feels when they walk into a retail store, the less they probably are because they let their guards down.” This may strike some shoppers as nothing more than paranoia. After all, isn’t it the consumer who decides what items to put on their shopping list, which stores they want to shop at and ultimately which items they want to bring up to the cash register? Salespeople may be pushy at times, but at the end of the day, we have the final say over whether or not to swipe our credit cards and actually make the purchases. But as Lindstrom and others have found, by the time we decide to approach the cash register, a wide range of unseen factors in the store – and in our own heads – has likely influenced our decision to shop and how much we are willing to spend. “Most researchers that have studied non-conscious processes are comfortable saying that the majority of the influence over our choices is something that occurs outside conscious awareness,” said Gavan Fitzsimons, a professor of marketing and psychology at Duke University who has unearthed some of these influences. “Of course, there are times when consumers have 100% conscious control over their choices, but these represent a tiny minority of consumer decisions.” If that’s true, does this mean we have no choice but to accept that our spending is somehow beyond our control? MainStreet spoke with behavior experts and rounded up several recent studies to highlight some of the lesser known factors that influence our spending, and in some cases, just knowing that these factors are at play may be enough to mute the effect they have on your shopping behavior and avoid making a purchase that you’ll regret. Photo Credit: Getty Images