Tag Archives: shopping

Selling Premium Goods

In a short pro­file of ‘lux­ury sales con­sult­ant’ Jean-Mar­ie Brück­er, we dis­cov­er a few psy­cho­lo­gic­al tech­niques he teaches to his cli­ents on how to sell high-end lux­ury goods:

  • Describe an item in terms of its ‘value’ rather than it’s ‘price’ or ‘cost’.
  • Sell a story (‘romance’ and ’emo­tions’) rather than ‘products’.
  • The macar­oon tech­nique: sand­wich­ing the price “between the pro­duct’s more romantic bene­fits”.
  • Har­bour and eli­cit pos­it­ive emotions–they sell (e.g. com­pli­ment your cus­tom­er on their exist­ing items, even if they’re from your com­pet­it­ors.
  • Don’t dis­count. Gift instead (dis­counts get for­got­ten, free gifts don’t).
  • Cre­ate con­trast between old, exist­ing items and new ones.
  • Sug­gest ‘sorry-gifts’ for those who may lay guilt on the pur­chas­ing party (e.g. their part­ner)

As ever with these things, I believe you could sum­mar­ise it as: play on and exploit a cus­tom­er­’s emo­tions (hap­pi­ness, guilt, etc.) while using subtle lin­guist­ic tricks to dis­guise the price.

These hap­pen to be key ten­ets of casino mar­ket­ing, which revolves around flat­ter­ing men, dis­tract­ing their wives, and keep­ing them around as long as pos­sible; the longer they stay, the more likely they are to spend money. But Mr. Brück­er was nev­er dis­dain­ful of customers—in fact, he cham­pioned the need for bet­ter, more thought­ful ser­vice that makes the cus­tom­er sense caring and qual­ity —the stuff of lux­ury.

“You’re selling pure emo­tion,” he said. “That’s why I love this job.”

Buying Cashmere

Like lin­en, buy­ing cashmere is a mat­ter of dis­cov­er­ing the import­ant met­rics and dis­card­ing the unne­ces­sary.

The truth about qual­ity cashmere is much more com­plex than simply look­ing for that pure cashmere label.

Pure is not an abso­lute term. The finest cashmere con­sists only of the whitest, longest, thin­nest hair from the under­fleece, where­as lower-qual­ity cashmere may be either the short­er, coars­er hair from the undercoat–typically from the rear end of the anim­al rather than its belly–or, more dubi­ously, short­er hair that has either not been prop­erly dehaired or, worse still, blen­ded with yak or rab­bit hair. […]

Yet even cheap cashmere can feel lovely. It’s hard to know, as you queue at the till, wheth­er your bar­gain will pill or sag with­in days. (Pill­ing afflicts expens­ive cashmere too, though it should stop after the first wash.) But there are subtle signs of qual­ity, and once you’ve got your eye in, much of the cheap­er cashmere on the mar­ket starts to seem a false eco­nomy.

Look for ten­sion in the knit­ting: stretch a sec­tion and it should ping back into shape. Hold it up to the light and you should­n’t see much sky: para­dox­ic­ally, the best cashmere, though made from the finest hair, has a dens­ity to it. Exam­ine its sur­face: fluffi­ness sug­gests the yarn was spun from short­er, weak­er fibres and will pill. Be scep­tic­al about soft­ness, too. Over-milling can make a gar­ment too soft and silky, and there­fore prone to bob­bling and los­ing its shape. More expens­ive cashmere may be harder to handle in the shop, but will ease up with wear and hand-wash­ing. The best cashmere actu­ally improves with age–so long as the moths don’t get to it.

Buying Linen: Thread Count Marketing

Remem­ber that numer­ic­al spe­cific­a­tions drastic­ally influ­ence our choices: even if they’re mean­ing­less and con­tra­dict our per­son­al exper­i­ence?

The same goes for thread count, it seems: Tex­tiles expert Mark Sch­euer calls it a “mar­ket­ing ploy” and tells you to for­get about it when pur­chas­ing, while Lin­en­place says it is a met­ric we should consider–just not the most import­ant one–offering ‘the truth about thread count’ (via Kot­tke):

In a qual­ity product, the incre­ment­al com­fort value of increas­ing thread count over 300 is very little. A 300 thread count can feel far super­i­or to a 1000 thread count. Thread count has become a simple met­ric used by mar­ket­ing people to cap­ture interest and impress with high num­bers. The prob­lem with mass pro­duced high thread count sheets is that to keep the price down, import­ant ele­ments of qual­ity must be sac­ri­ficed, mean­ing in the end the cus­tom­er gets a product with an impress­ive thread count but that prob­ably feels no bet­ter (or even worse) than some­thing with a lower thread count.

Toronto-based Au Lit Fine Lin­ens goes one fur­ther, sug­gest­ing that while thread count is import­ant, where the cot­ton is grown (its qual­ity) and where and how it is woven is what mat­ters most.

Egyp­tian cot­ton is acknow­ledged to be the finest cot­ton in the world, just as the Itali­ans are renowned for their long-stand­ing tra­di­tion of weav­ing. The soft­ness of your sheets depends more on the qual­ity of the fiber, which is why a 220 thread-count sheet can feel softer than a 500 thread-count sheet that uses an inferi­or grade of cot­ton or a twis­ted thread. (The lower thread-count sheet using Egyp­tian cot­ton and woven in Italy will also last longer than a high­er thread-count sheet woven from inferi­or cot­ton.)

The crux: ignore thread count, buy 100% Egyp­tian cot­ton woven in Italy.

An Analysis of Supermarket Checkout Times

An ana­lys­is of super­mar­ket check­out times has shown that express lanes (for people with few­er than 5 items, say) are not always the most effi­cient check­out route for time-sens­it­ive shop­pers.

Dan Mey­er, a high school maths teach­er, has done the hard work (provid­ing his data and ana­lys­is) and came to the fol­low­ing con­clu­sion:

[Express lanes] attract more people hold­ing few­er total items, but as the data shows […], when you add one per­son to the line, you’re adding 48 extra seconds to the line length (that’s “tender time” added to “oth­er time”) without even con­sid­er­ing the items in her cart. Mean­while, an extra item only costs you an extra 2.8 seconds. There­fore, you’d rather add 17 more items to the line than one extra per­son!

via Kot­tke

Psychological Pricing and Other Shopping Persuasion Techniques

The endow­ment effect, sex in advert­ising and pri­cing anchors: all bits of ‘shop­ping psy­cho­logy’ we’ve heard before.

Ryan Sager looks at these shop­ping per­sua­sion tech­niques we should be aware of, adding a few small pieces of inform­a­tion that may be nov­el:

  • Endow­ment effect: We place a high­er value on items we own, and just by simply tri­al­ling goods (try­ing on clothes, test­ing soft­ware, cars, etc.) we start to feel own­er­ship.
  • Own­er­ship imagery: Feel­ings of own­er­ship (see above) can be induced by thought alone.
  • Romantic prim­ing: We (men, not women) increase spend­ing on items of con­spicu­ous con­sump­tion when romantic­ally primed (i.e. induced to think about sex, men pur­chase items as a sig­nalling beha­viour).
  • The ninety-nine pence/cent effect (psy­cho­lo­gic­al pri­cing):

A recent study in the Journ­al of Con­sumer Research found that when pens were priced at $1.99 and $4.00, only 18% of the par­ti­cipants chose the high­er-priced pen; but when the pens were priced at $2.00 and $3.99, 44% of the par­ti­cipants selec­ted the high­er-priced pen.