Here’s How Marketers Are Capitalizing on Your Shopping Habits - And 10 Tips to Stop Them
You probably purchase clothing and shoes without thinking too much about how you do it. Yet how you purchase apparel, from the time you first consider a product through the post-purchase experience, is being thought about, a lot, by people whose job it is to relieve you of more of your money. Your purchase process is tracked, studied and analyzed, and then becomes the foundation for new marketing strategies by everyone from retail consultants to the most exclusive business schools in the world.
In fact, data on the retail purchase experience was recently compiled by multinational financial and banking services consultancy Oliver Wyman along with analysis published at Harvard Business Review.
This behind-the-scenes look at how retail marketers think about you is helpful to look at, because it can help you be aware of your actual shopping habits, as well as help guide you to shifts in behavior toward more healthy choices for you and your pocketbook.
For example, one finding and accompanying recommendations work together to shine a light on how people make purchases, and how to encourage them to spend more: Contrary to popular belief, three-quarters of all “branded apparel” purchases are made in actual stores—not online.
That’s problematic to retailers because the data also says you’ll spend 25 percent more if you shop online, especially with “free” shipping once you hit a certain threshold. “When someone first visits a physical store and then purchases online,” Oliver Wyman’s people write, “… Baskets are 64% larger.”
Your online data is also valuable, and quite easy to obtain when you shop online. The consultants then suggest using technology to “customize the in-store experience by encouraging customers to swipe their smartphones as they enter, so that their profile could then be used to tailor the experience and offers. Stores should also make shopping memorable—through drinks and other hospitality services, for example—and encourage customers to complete their transactions online.”
With this in mind, the report says, “it is relatively easy to create impulse purchases online from information gathered about the shopper and to incentivize larger basket sizes.”
What the report doesn’t get into—but what is growing in the industry—is the use of potentially invasive RFID technology partnered with multi-camera video surveillance, among other technology, to track and analyze your movement (as well as employees and products) throughout the store.
Being aware that this is happening, that you’re being encouraged to shop in a way that maximizes the amount of money you spend, might help you pause before you spend it. You’re being targeted for impulse purchases, and you’re being manipulated for bigger basket size.
Transactions, the report also notes, must occur quickly: Online shopping—once thought to save people time—actually takes more time, as consumers tend to comparison shop with other sites, something retailers, the consultants suggest, should seek to diminish.
Knowing that—knowing that you’re likely to get an alert that your cart still has items in it—might inspire you to take pause and assess the merits of spending that money, right now, on that cart (which is, the retailer hopes, significantly larger than what you might have initially wanted it to be).
According to the findings, most consumers start their “shopping journey” by looking for a specific product—not a specific brand. This poses a challenge for marketers—how do they get you to start your “journey” looking for them?
A “key question” suggested by Oliver Wyman is, “What are your customers’ transaction triggers?” Meaning, what’s going to get them to buy?
Yet the answer for what consumers actually want to buy is right there in their findings, too: Nearly 90 percent of people want to repurchase the same retail apparel, and many will return to the same place they made the initial purchase at. Yet, incredibly, fast fashion leaders like H&M will introduce new products at a weekly pace. This is incredibly toxic for the environment, and seems to be even more egregious when putting that harm next to the actual desires of consumers.
As you start to recognize retail market capitalization in the real world, you can start to be aware of how it is influencing your behavior, and you can take actions to keep more money in your pocket, or redirect to small and cooperative businesses and away from fast fashion:
1. Be aware of tactics employed to get you to spend more money. If you only need one item that sells for $9.99, but the website ships for free when you purchase $50 or more, notice how much extra you’re spending on something you probably don’t need.
2. Turn off app alerts from retailers, and unsubscribe from reminders.
3. Use cash.
4. Use RFID-blocking wallets.
5. Shop at local, small retailers who focus more on customer service and support more than on your data, tracking you, and AI analytics.
6. Shop in cooperatives.
7. Divest from fast fashion and invest in regenerative fiber.
8. Comparison shop, especially with big retail.
9. Consider not buying popular “name brand” items that might use slave labor in foreign countries.
10. Remember your humanity, and respect the humanity of others, before you think of yourself as a “consumer” or a “product.”
This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.