People love buying things – or so we are led to believe. Current psychological thinking suggests that as we spend ever more isolated lives, going shopping plugs an emotional gap in our lives. Depression is known to lead to increased spending, for instance. Shopping and buying things helps us so much we even have “retail therapy”, to make us feel better. And now there’s even a movie about the whole subject – Confessions of a Shopaholic.
But new research suggests there’s an even better way for us to gain pleasure from spending money. And the findings have serious implications for anyone running an online business.
Psychologists at San Francisco State University have discovered that we much prefer spending money on events, rather than things. We gain greater happiness from spending money on trips to the theatre, going out to dinner or watching our favourite sports team than we do from buying an object. The reason, it seems, is that events bring us into greater social contact, which satisfies those higher needs we have to be sociable and loved by people.
For Internet marketers and anyone running an online – or indeed offline – business, this is an important, thought not surprising finding. It means in these economically depressing times, you are more likely to get people to part with their cash if you provide them with a “social experience” rather than some kind of object or item. As people make decisions about spending money in tight times, they will favour events and experiences with other people over objects.
This means you are less likely to sell physical objects, or downloadable products in the coming months. However, if you offer your customers an event or an experience, you will do well.
That’s why you should be working on things like online presentations, webinars, teleconferences and live events, rather than selling things like books, ebooks or physical items. In particular, workshops, seminars and live meetings of all kinds are going to be much more attractive to people now. They will allow them to gain social connection, providing that much-needed psychological stimulus. Try to sell them a book with the same knowledge in – and you’ll find it a tough sell nowadays.
However, if you can’t run workshops, or they are not appropriate in your line of business, consider how you can add a social experience to your products. For instance, if you sell jewellery, what about an online seminar for people interested in jewellery that is about how to choose clothes that set off the jewellery well? People buy the seminar, but get a piece of jewellery as a “gift” for attending. The result will be even more satisfied customers as their memory will be for the event rather than the item of jewellery. That will be psychologically more satisfying and therefore increases the chances of future sales.
So, whatever business you are in, consider ways you can make what you do into a social experience for people. The San Francisco research suggests that by doing so, you make it more likely that people will part with their cash.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+