The color red leads to higher eBay bids, and other ways retailers trick your senses

Marketers and stores may use color schemes, music, even scents and furniture that trigger your sensory tricks to make you more inclined to spend money. For example, an eBay study shows that a red background on the Pages Results made people bid higher.

Reuters/Danish Siddiqui/File
Hugo Boss stores always use a musky smell with hints of citrus as a signature memory trigger. Even with eyes closed, shoppers can tell they're in a Hugo Boss store. Loading up those new suit pockets with oranges and Old Spice is left to the discretion of the buyer.

As you go on your shopping runs this ho-ho-holiday — whether at malls or on the Internet — you're probably not thinking much about the smells, colors and textures around you. But retailers certainly are, according to findings collected this month by Kate Stephens, the mastermind behind the London-based commerce site AlternativesFinder.com.

Using neuro marketing expert and author Roger Dooley's research as a springboard — which notes that 95% of our buying decisions are made subconsciously — Stephens and AlterantivesFinder collected a host of fascinating facts. Among those she cites:

You Red Right: An eBay study shows that a red background used on the Pages Results made people bid higher.

Touch-Screen: Apple Store managers believe that by leaving their display notebooks half open, customers have to touch the lid to take a peek, and that shops will sell more laptops.

Shopping Warm-up: A Harvard Business Review study found that holding a warm pad made people feel safer and more trusting. They invested 43% more than people with cold hands. Translated to retail that makes sense, especially if the sale is hot.

Tantalize, Infantilize: The smell of baby powder makes you feel nostalgic and, perhaps, encourages you to buy that cushioned reading chair you don't need.

Who's the Boss? Hugo Boss uses a musky smell with hints of citrus as a signature memory trigger. Even with eyes closed, shoppers can tell they're in a Hugo Boss store. Loading up those new suit pockets with oranges and Old Spice is left to the discretion of the buyer.

It's important to note that some of these findings are disputed. For example, AlternativesFinder cites the work of scent researcher Dr. Alan Hirsch, some of which has been criticized by colleagues and rebuked by the Federal Trade Commission. Translation: Go buy those Nikes without deep suspicion.

Yet others have had success using smells to alter perception and performance in positive ways.Connie Kadansky, a sales coach in the Phoenix area, uses essential oil scents to help salespeople overcome sales call reluctance. "We had a golfer who, when he'd hesitate to make a call, would smell the essential oil of cut grass," Kadansky says. "It made him happy, he picked up the phone, punched that number and made that call."

To check out all of the ways that your senses can be used by retailers, check out the full Alternatives Finder infographic

So if you're having, let's say, a little bit of retail sales reluctance this month, use seasonal stimuli to your advantage. Put on your favorite holiday music, stare at a mall Christmas tree, or take in the scent of fresh sugar cookies. Get happy — and get shopping while there's still time.

Lou Carlozo is a contributing writer for dealnews.com, where this article first appeared. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.