Retailers Must Get Reptilian
By Staff -- Home Textiles Today, 1/24/2005 12:00:00 AM
New York —
Retailers must tap into their customers' earliest, most visceral memories of the products they offer if they are to significantly increase sales.
Such was the advice of Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille, who addressed an audience at a National Retail Federation conference in New York last week. Rapaille, a trained psychiatrist, applies theories of learning to understand how and why consumers buy.
First off, he said, don't believe what consumers say when asked why they bought something. The reason is that impulses to purchase often come from the subconscious and are completely unknown to the buyer. Those subconscious impulses, he said, come from childhood first impressions — deciphering a customer's first impression of a product is the key to moving merchandise.
For example, Rapaille said that studies done regarding coffee have shown that a more effective way to sell the product is to communicate the sense of smell rather than taste, as people remember the smell of coffee as children long before they had their first taste.
“What is the window in time when your customers created the impression of your brand?” he asked.
Rapaille said there are three levels at which customers take in product information. The first, and most powerful, is at the “reptilian” level. At that level, customers interpret product information instinctually, in terms of the needs to eat, sleep, reproduce and protect their children.
The second level deals with the logic of emotion. On this level, he said, it is important to try and understand your customer as well as possible. Men, Rapaille said, are much simpler and easier to market to. Women, he offered, need to be segmented into a number of distinct groups as they pass thorough different phases of life.
The third level Rapaille described is that of the cortex or the part of the brain that deals with mathematical logic and numbers. Engineers and other people involved in the sciences are more likely to connect with a product on this level.
Rapaille noted that no matter the power of the second two, the reptilian connection will always win out. For example, regardless of data which may prove a certain product is the best on the market, if, for some reason, people feel it is dangerous to their children or themselves, no amount of data will convince them to buy.
“The key issue is that — whatever your business — understand the reptilian code, then the logic of emotion, then the cortex,” he said. Find out, “Where is the reptilian hot button in my store?”
He also said that, while product quality must be superior, it is critical for retailers to understand that customers are also buying the experience of a purchase, not just the product. He gave the example of going to a store with his wife where she planned to shop for jewelry. Rapaille said the simple presence of chairs for him to use while waiting caused him to ultimately make the purchase at one store over another.
Additionally, Rapaille addressed the concept of retailing in different countries, noting that different countries need to be addressed in different ways. “Each culture has its own code,” he said.
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