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The Psychology of the ‘Buyer Brain’ and How to Appeal to It Over the Holidays

With the holidays drawing near, entrepreneurs are beginning to study the "buyer brain."

Summer has come to an end, and that means it’s time for … Christmas shopping?

For many people, it still feels far too early to start thinking of the holiday shopping season, but there’s a reason you start seeing ads as soon as November, or even October.

Marketers have plenty of motivation to start their campaigns early — in fact, research has found that over 20 percent of buyers have already finished their holiday shopping by the beginning of November.

Of course, even with these early buyers, the fact remains that the holiday season represents the busiest time of year for retailers, with total U.S. sales reaching $691.9 billion in November and December of 2017.

With shopping and so many other holiday to-do’s, this season can become rather stressful — especially if your holiday happiness is at least partly dependent on getting others to buy your products.

Fortunately, marketers aren’t left on their own in addressing these concerns. I recently spoke with Troy Osinoff and Michael Lisovetsky, co-founders of JUICE, to learn more about how making psychological appeals to the “buyer brain” can lead to big results for your business this holiday season.

What Is the Buyer’s Brain?

“In layman’s terms, ‘buyer brain’ could be used to describe the unique, mostly subconscious cues that affect your decision-making process while shopping,” explains Osinoff.

“Even with online shopping rising in popularity, our brains are still primarily affected by our emotions and sensory experiences, such as seeing or touching a product in person.”

Interestingly, the feelings of anxiety that can sometimes afflict individuals during the holiday season can also impact the buying experience.

As Kit Yarrow explains, the emotions of pressure and competition that occur during holiday shopping “cause our bodies to react — in ways that interfere with calm decision-making … Whether it’s the stress of crowds, time pressures, fears of missing out or physical exhaustion and thirst — we think less clearly when our heart starts racing.”

“For many people, holiday shopping is just as much about the experience as it is making the final purchase,” Lisovetsky notes.

“Shopping increases dopamine levels, and there’s a sense of satisfaction that comes from completing something on your holiday to-do list. This represents a big opportunity for businesses, because people are actively looking to go shopping — you don’t need to work as hard to convince them to check out your store in the first place.”

The Holiday Rush

While the holiday season serves as a great motivator for people to go shopping at local and online stores, there’s still work to be done if you want to be the one making the sale.

“Psychology always plays a central role in successful marketing,” says Lisovetsky. “Leveraging things like the fear of missing out or creating a compelling emotional argument are always essential parts of marketing, but the holidays offer a few unique opportunities of their own.”

Not surprisingly, limited-time deals are one of the biggest drivers of successful holiday marketing. The fear of missing out on a great sale sparks a competitive urge in customers, where they feel compelled to get to the store and buy the product before the last available item disappears from shelves. When people feel they are saving money on a purchase, the incentive to buy comes even more powerful.

Limited-time offers — or even a constrained product supply — create a sense of scarcity that urges holiday shoppers to rush into a store.

One need only look at films like “Jingle All the Way” or real-life examples like the 2016 shortages of Nintendo’s NES Classic to see how scarcity can whip holiday buyers into a frenzy.

The Power of Nostalgia

Of course, not all shoppers are quite so frantic.

“Not every holiday shopper is hunting for a specific item,” Osinoff notes.

“In these situations, marketers need to use other psychological cues beyond a standard ‘product benefits’ list to prove that their item is the ideal holiday gift. For example, playing holiday music or even using the colors red and green in your marketing materials creates a nostalgic link between the season and your product that encourages buying.”

Indeed, nostalgia has proven to be an especially powerful marketing force, especially during the holiday season, when many buyers are already feeling more sentimental.

“Social interactions, sensory inputs and tangible objects commonly inspire nostalgic feelings. Those memories counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety,” explains Jenna Gross.

“In addition to fostering positive effects and strengthening social bonds, nostalgia increases generosity and tolerance to strangers — and that leaves us open to brand messaging.”

Even if you’re not fond of the nostalgic, sentimental ads that play during the holiday season, there’s a reason they show up year after year. By tapping into the positive emotions and memories associated with the holidays, you’ll foster positive feelings in your potential customers that will increase their interest in your brand.

Happy Holidays

With the right psychological pitch, you can go a long way in appealing to buyers as they complete their holiday shopping.

By putting in the prep work now and understanding which factors most motivate shoppers, you’ll be able to craft effective campaigns and get the sales results you desire this winter.

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