Why We Buy

Free Why We Buy by Paco Underhill

Book: Why We Buy by Paco Underhill Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paco Underhill
the fact that so much of the country has been turned into parking lots. Buildings can be put to a variety of uses—a clothing store can sell electronics or groceries or even be converted into office space. But our vast plains of asphalt will require more imaginative thinking. A few years ago, I visited a shopping mall in Johannesburg, South Africa, where they put a drive-in movie on the roof of one of their city’s parking garages. Also in Johannesburg, I saw a display of Audis—every model car in every color an Audi can come in, some forty-seven cars in all, lined up in tight rows—and yeah, you bet, it was mobbed with people.
    Our finding that being first isn’t necessarily best actually extends beyond the decompression zone and into the store proper. In any section of a store, the first product customers see isn’t always going to have an advantage. Sometimes just the opposite will happen. Allowing some space between the entrance of a store and a product actually gives it more time in the shopper’s eye as he or she approaches it. It builds a little visual anticipation. Someone making a study of, say, the computer printer section of a store is highly unlikely to stop at the very first model and buy it with no further comparisons. By the time he reaches the midpoint of the printer section, though, he may feel confident and informed enough to decide. At trade shows, the booths just inside the door may seem most desirable, but they’re pretty bad locations. Visitors zoom past them on their way into the hall, or, even worse, they arrange to meet friends by the entrance, thereby creating the (false) impression that there’s a crowd at the first booth and scaring off genuine clients. Besides, just inside the door is usually drafty. It feels as though you’re in the vestibule.
    Cosmetics and beauty product firms don’t usually want to occupy the first counter inside the entrance of a department store’s makeup bazaar—they know that women, when reinventing themselves before a mirror, prefer a little privacy. That’s not the only reason to wish for a little peace and quiet. If you were one of the two major players in the home hair coloring market, you’d want the best position possible in drugstores. Now, young women tend to buy hair color as a fashion statement—they’ve decided to go red for prom or they’ve been dreaming of that little extra glamour that being a platinum blonde creates. Older women, however, buy it as a staple—they’ve been using a particular color for fifteen years now, and more gray is coming in every day, so it becomes as regular a purchase as soap. As a result of that difference, older shoppers just find their color, grab it and go, while younger ones need to study the rack and the packaging awhile before they buy. In one study we performed for a shampoo maker, we found that older women shop for one third fewer products than their younger counterparts, 2.2 to 3.3. And so in a store where younger shoppers predominate, hair color will do best away from the bustle and the crowding, which usually means away from the front of the store. If most shoppers are older women, however, closer to the entrance is better for hair color—these shoppers won’t be browsing for long anyway.
    Finally, there’s a famous (around our offices) story about a very elaborate and costly supermarket display for chips and pretzels—a handsome fixture featuring the cartoon character Chester Cheetah, who, aided by a motion-detector device, would say, “If you’re looking to feed your face, you’re in the right place,” every time a shopper walked past. Frito-Lay, the fixture’s owner, paid a great deal of money to have the displays stationed up front in supermarkets. They were effective—so much so that the greetings ran constantly, which soon maddened the cashiers who had to listen to the drawling voice for eight

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