In Between the Numbers: Consumer Decision-Making: A Book Worth Reading (and Thinking Long and Hard About)

October 15, 2011 - 1 Comment

Allow me to suggest a must-read volume for all retail technologists: How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer.

Good friend and UK colleague Lisa Fretwell tipped me off to this book, which explores – through entertaining narratives and occasional in-the-weeds psychology – the process by which we make decisions, and why certain decisions are made.

Obviously an important topic to those of us seeking to influence consumer behavior.

Two caveats: If you’re looking for a bullet-point guide on how to position your next in-store solution, this isn’t it. It also doesn’t (thankfully) boil down neatly into nifty PowerPoint slides.

What it does is demolish long-held paradigms as to the role of reason and emotion in decision-making. And suggests:

  • The primary triggers for effective decision-making are emotional – but not of the teary, sentimental, or laugh-filled type. They’re an expression of deeper, from-the-gut instincts.

Perhaps – and this is my thought, not Mr. Lehrer’s – this is a reason behind the power of social media.  Knowledge of “likes” and peer ratings may reinforce our inherent awareness of whether a product “fits” us, whether it’s in or out, right or wrong. 

We can overload shoppers with choices and bury them with data. But the research shows that they can handle only seven or less data points at one time before circuits overload and decision-making freezes.

  • Which means that as we envision these new interactive, in-store experiences, more is not necessarily better. The user experience must be about narrowing, editing, simplification.

 Plenty of thought-provoking material in this book. (And in Mr. Lehrer’s October 1 column in The Wall Street Journal.)

 Would be interested in your post-read comments.

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  1. Good read about shoppers behavior. I run 3 affiliate websites and it really is hard to walk the delicate line between consumer overload vs online quality and value. I agree with your premise that buying decisions are purely emotional. Honestly, I sell nothing that anyone needs, but through effective marketing I manage to make a great living even in this economy. Anyway, very heady stuff 🙂