Addressing Consumer Pain

Balancing Safety with Customer Experience

Years ago, I began teaching a class on the psychology of selling. The class explores how the human brain makes buying decisions and what can be done to encourage the decision to buy products. We learned that the human brain still makes decisions based on very primal criteria.

“Many stores are forgetting the consequence of making shopping too difficult.”

The brain is lazy and does not want to “work” at making buying decisions. In fact, it would rather avoid any difficult decisions or time consuming effort to purchase products. The term used by psychologists for the types of things that the human brain tries at all costs to avoid is “pain.” The act of making difficult buying decisions or shopping in places that place a lot of hurdles in the buying process actually is interpreted as pain by our brains and we tend avoid shopping where pain levels are high.

As I travel from city to city, I’m reminded these days how much more “pain” there is in dealing with any kind of shopping in public. As the country struggles to find ways to protect shoppers from the virus, it seems that many stores are forgetting the consequence of making shopping too difficult.

One example might be how grocery stores insist on dictating the direction a shopping cart can travel down an aisle. By allowing only one-way traffic, they are forcing shoppers to choose between breaking the “rules” or doubling their time inside stores because you must go up and down every aisle to navigate the store (especially if you’ve never shopped that store before). Since most the states I’m visiting require a mask, it seems like a major overkill to insist that shoppers not pass each other as they shop. This rule definitely has an impact on my desire to grocery shop (although I must admit that urge has never been a strong one). Because grocery stores supply essential products, this induced “pain” has less ramifications than it would for a store with specialty products.

I realize we all have a duty to help keep each other safe. We also have to keep our businesses viable by minimizing the “pain” of shopping these days. It is important that we don’t introduce more restrictions than necessary. Even more important is to provide extra services that help your customers save time and experience less pain.

While we all try to get through this, remember that it will end someday and customers will be drawing conclusions about our businesses based on their most recent experiences. Stay safe, follow local guidelines, but keep in mind that customers don’t want things to be any more difficult than they must be.

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