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The Technology and Psychology Retailers Use to Incite Impulse Buying

The itch that forces you to reach for your wallet and shop is no coincidence.

If you’ve ever walked into a store expecting to buy only two or three items but walked out with ten, you know the power of the impulse buy.

While you might think that your empty wallet is all your fault, the truth is, it isn’t. Retailers use technology and psychology to encourage shoppers to scoop up last-minute items that they wouldn’t otherwise buy.

Think of the candy aisle in the grocery store checkout line. Did you really go into the grocery store expecting to walk out with that Snickers bar? Of course not. But it looked so tempting, you couldn’t resist.

MoneyCrashers.com took a look at the psychology and the technology of the impulse buy, and they unearthed something that was worth noting:

Many grocery stores have opted for handheld scanners that shoppers can use to scan their items as they shop, which reduces their time spent in the checkout line. While this does indeed provide a convenience for the customer, it also has the benefit of helping retailers encourage impulse buys, because the longer a shopper stands in line, the more likely the shopper is to second-guess their purchases.

Smart. In this case, you could argue that the retailer walks away happy, and the shopper does, too. After all, which would you be more upset about: waiting in line for 20 minutes to check out, or spending money on those extra Kit Kats you picked up on the way out?

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Aug 15 2012 Spice IT

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