Article

THE CONSUMER CONNECTION

Demystifying the Digital Shopper

Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, Ph.D., decodes the new shopper mindset, revealing what motivates—and alienates—buyers in the digital age

BY BARBARA THAU

Digital technology is altering our thinking patterns and lifestyles, and redefining our shopping expectations, too. Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, Ph.D., knows this all too well.

Through her work as a research scholar, professor, consultant, author, and keynote speaker, Yarrow helps both businesses and consumers demystify the deeper motivations behind why and how we buy—plus how we connect with others.

From this front-row seat, Yarrow brings an insider’s view to how external forces—from the rise of social networks to the ubiquity of smart phones—are informing the inner life of the modern shopper and reshaping their purchasing desires and consumer behavior.

Focusing a psychological lens on a changing buying public, Yarrow shares here four essential ways that retailers—including ECPs—can resonate with today’s savvy and ever-connected consumers.

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TIP #1

Embrace the New

We are psychologically different from what we were a decade ago, and those mental changes have had a big impact on the things we want to buy—and how we shop. As we’ve seen in the recent demise of several legendary retail institutions, old strategies, no matter how skillfully employed, don’t work anymore. It’s time to learn new things and grow. And for those who do, the opportunities are rich.

MAKE THE CONNECTION

Have an open mind and the flexibility to change, learn new things, and grow your retail business.

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TIP #2

Engage + Educate With Visuals

Our use of technology has changed how we think and learn: We skim more now, get bored more easily, and gravitate toward visual cues. So, the key to engagement is “fast and easy.” For example, a recent study showed that simply adding line drawings to instructions increased comprehension by nearly 300%.

The other benefit? People believe what they understand, and visuals are more quickly understood than words.

MAKE THE CONNECTION

Look for opportunities to replace or enhance words in all your interactions with employees—and consumers—with charts, graphs, and photos.

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TIP #3

Counter Distrust With Social Proof

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, we’ve reached new lows in our trust of, well, everybody: government, businesses, media, and even nonprofit organizations. As a result, we’ve all become a bit wary and guarded in all our transactions.

Whom do we trust? We trust people we perceive to be like us, even if we don’t know them personally. And that’s why we often turn toward social media for proof or insights.

MAKE THE CONNECTION

Explore how social media can help you educate, gain trust, and forge relationships with employees and consumers. For example, use YouTube videos for training, Pinterest to inspire engagement, and Yelp for trust-building.

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TIP #4

Soothe + Bond by Reducing Hassle

Numerous studies point to nearly universal increases in feelings of anxiety. Which means that hassles, complications, and complexities feel worse than ever—so we avoid them and the businesses that put them in our path.

Meanwhile, businesses that simplify processes, make learning easy, and help people feel competent and in control win. This focus delivers an opportunity to bond with customers and employees.

MAKE THE CONNECTION

Reconsider complications—even things like parking, paperwork, rules, and processes. Use technology to streamline and simplify.

ABOUT KIT YARROW:

Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, Ph.D., is author of “Decoding the New Consumer Mind,” co-author of “Gen BuY: How Tweens, Teens and Twenty-Somethings are Revolutionizing Retail,” and a contributor to Time and Money magazines. She’s been cited as a consumer psychology expert by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, “Good Morning America,” NBC News, ABC News, and other media outlets.