WHY WE BUY: The Science of Shopping

by Paco Underhill


Print Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Updated, Revised edition (December 30, 2008)
Publication Date: 
Format: ebook
Source: Amazon 

Rating:  4.3 stars

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I wrote my article, 

“Putting the Best Front in Your Window Display”


or Entrepreneur Magazine after I read Paco Underhill’s  “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping” – an excellent tool for understanding the psychology of consumer purchasing behaviour. The book is divided into three parts:  the mechanics of shopping – these involve how customers react to the physical layout and the staff activities in the store, etc;  the demographics of purchasing –  this part deals with different behaviours of segmented market based on sexes and ages; and the final part  engages in the dynamics of shopping – how shoppers respond psychologically to the placement of merchandise, the packaging, and other product features, etc. 

If you tell too much too soon, you’ll overload them and they’ll give up. If you confuse them, they’ll ignore the message altogether.

Here is a summary of book’s main points:

1. The retail environment must tailor fit to the physical and anatomical abilities and other needs that are common to all people. Where shoppers go, what they see and how they respond determine the very nature of their shopping experience.  In other words, build and operate the retail environment that fits the highly particular needs of shoppers and you’ve created a successful store

2.  Underhill went all the trouble of getting his facts right through practical research studies such as observing actual shoppers’ behaviours and talking to the CEOs and retail managers.  The result?  Consumer behaviour + economics = profitability.

3. Shoppers and potential customers have certain ways of walking through stores and how they look at the visual signs. They use the five senses and they want verification with their whole body before buying a product.  If you understand such behaviours, you acquire huge competitive advantage.

4. Women and men shop differently.  As quoted from the book, “men are from Sears hardware, women are from Bloomingdales’”. Men are likely to go into a store, look at a large shelf of items, pick one, and quickly leave. Women on the other hand are actually more information-intensive, reading the label before making a purchase

“Why We Buy” without doubt will open your eyes about what makes people buy. The book is full of fascinating insights and statistics that come from actual observation and consumer behaviour analysis. This material is very suitable for retail marketers and visual merchandisers  . . . and CEOs and retail managers who don’t understand why their shoppers buy.


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