top of page

Neuromarketing: Top Tips to Tapping into Your Shopper’s brains to Persuade Purchase decisions

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

What is Neuromarketing?

Neuromarketing is a fairly new approach to marketing that combines, neuroscience, marketing and technology, and more specifically the application of neuroscience to marketing. In layman’s terms it is gaining a detailed scientific understanding of shopper’s brains and marketing to them in a way that taps into psychology and physiology in persuading a purchase decision.

Why is it important for brands, retailers and shopper marketers alike?

As brands and retailers we are constantly on a search for the reasoning and rationale behind what catches a shopper’s attention and what influences a purchase decision. Essentially, we are asking ourselves how to make shoppers see our products while walking through shopping aisles and shelves that are packed full of competitor products, and once we have their attention, then how do we make them put the product into their trolleys or baskets.

In recent years there have been a number of neuromarketing studies conducted using brain scanning and eye tracking technology to assess shopper behaviour and decision-making.

Looking at the results we have been able to deduce a number of common principles that can be applied in retail environments in order to really tap into our shopper’s brains.

Interestingly the studies have shown that the majority of purchase decisions are made with the unconscious part of the brain and not the conscious. In fact shoppers’ subconscious brains are constantly scanning stimuli that ultimately influence a purchase decision. This means that every touch point of a marketing campaign whether online or offline is being evaluated subconsciously – it is then within the retail environment at the point of purchase where the magic happens…. Or not….they decide to purchase your brand….or not.

So how do brands and retailers tap into shoppers’ brains to effectively and positively influence this purchase decision?

Here are 5 top tips to making the magic happen… or rather get those shoppers’ subconscious neurons firing in your direction.

1: Subconscious decisions are driven by emotion

The subconscious brain operates on a stimuli and response mechanic. Emotions are the direct automatic response of sensory stimuli. The smell of freshly laundered clothes, the colours of a sunset and the sound of the rain all trigger unconscious emotional responses. We have all read and heard that activating emotion in consumers is the new way of marketing. You can do this in retail environment by evoking a sensory stimuli associated with your product that triggers a feeling or emotion with your shoppers. See this Sounds of Shoppers Study by Martin Lindstrom and how shoppers reacted when different music was played in retail environments.

So the more sensory triggers you associate with your product in a retail environment the more you will appeal to a shopper’s emotions and positively influence a buying decision if done correctly.

2: The subconscious brain responds more to visual images

Our sight is one of our first senses that develop rapidly from birth and early on we start attributing meanings to what we see with visual perception. Studies have shown that 65% of messages received from advertising is through sight. Sight is the primary sense used in any buying process and as per tip one above has a direct link to driving emotions.

So the more you enhance your product visually on all platforms – through advertising campaigns outside the store environment, on digital platforms, it’s packaging, in it’s arrangement and position on shelf, prominence in the store layout – basically wherever you have an opportunity to visually strengthen you brand and message, do it.

3. The subconscious brain interprets “pain” associated with buying i.e. the cost relatively not absolutely

Neuroscience studies tell us that “pain” in the subconscious brain is mostly associated with price of the item in question. Luckily though, it is interpreted in relative terms such as value, or alternative use of money. Brands need to minimize this pain trigger as much as possible through clever pricing and promotions.

Use “Sales” price. “Marked down” and “Was” and “Now” pricing to minimize the “pain” activating triggers. 3 for 2 and 2 for 1 Promotions to increase value vs. price that that shopper will perceive and interpret as less “pain”. See for more tips on pricing.

4. The subconscious brain only knows what is tangible

Patrick Renvoise, in his book Neuromarketing: Is There a ‘Buy Button’ in the Brain?, writes about how the subconscious brain does not understand abstracts and constantly scans for what is tangible and familiar to the shopper.

It is most effective to explain benefits of your products in a tangible manner and even better, in a way that will evoke positive emotions will do wonders in persuading purchase decisions. E.g. “Will make you smile” instead of “will bring you greater happiness”.

5. Different cultures have different subconscious brains

As our subconscious is heavily influenced through upbringing and heritage, culture plays a big part in the subconscious brain. In her article on Top 7 Insights to Unlocking Your Customer’s Brain for Instant Sales Denise Corcoran explains how studies have found that Americans want instant gratification while Europeans are more thinking and control oriented.

Brands and retailers need to cater to different cultures and should adapt their campaigns and messaging to communicate with different subconscious brains and its particular stimulus to drive purchase decisions.

Although in today’s cluttered retail environments all brands and products are competing for space, share of shelf and pushing to stand out amongst the myriad of other products, the most effective brand, product and retail marketing is that which understands the shopper the best and then communicates effectively with them on this basis of that understanding.

While neuromarketing could potentially revolutionise marketing at retail in the not too distant future, brands and retailers need to use it in the right way for the right reasons – getting to know your shopper better, in order to communicate and serve them more effectively – doing so will have a significant impact on driving sales volumes.

Click here to see some examples of companies who have used neuromarketing effectively to drive sales volumes and how it can be applied to digital marketing.

bottom of page