Chimpanzees are not so daft; they eat bananas. There’s a lot to be said for this fruit – it has loads of vitamins and minerals, is high in fibre and is low in fat. Not only that, just think about the packaging – it is so much easier to handle and eat than a squidgy orange, or a pear that drips juice all down your front. Yep, those chimps know a thing or two.
What they might not know – though they will certainly experience – is the fact that bananas also increase a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. When you eat bananas, your dopamine levels rise. And, if you watch chimps eat those nanas you’ll notice they go for the rather ripe ones, often with bruises. They are the ones with the maximum impact on your dopamine levels. Those bruised bananas are making those chimps feel good.
For anyone selling anything this is good news. New research on impulse buying published this week shows that when people have raised dopamine levels they are more susceptible to offers. When dopamine was given to people they wanted a financial reward sooner, even if it was a smaller amount of money than waiting longer for extra cash. In other words, dopamine is involved in “instant gratification”. People who simply “have to” get the latest gadget probably have naturally high levels of dopamine. It also explains why people with conditions such as ADHD act impulsively, because these individuals also have higher than average levels of dopamine.
Now, running an Internet business, this is not of much obvious help. After all, unlike a bricks and mortar store you can’t actually hand out bananas in the hope that it will encourage impulse buying…! (Of course if you have a “real world” shop, giving your shoppers free bananas while they browse could raise your takings…!)
But online there are a couple of things you can do, to make people be more likely to buy from you – thanks to their raised dopamine levels.
Firstly, dopamine levels rise when we are socialising. Making your product pages social will help. By allowing people to comment on your products and services and by letting them share their experiences and thoughts about what you provide, you will be creating a dopamine rich atmosphere around what you sell, making impulse buying more probable.
Secondly, create stress…! When people are stressed in small amounts, their body produces dopamine. You can create stress in your potential buyers simply by having a “countdown timer” – such as “this price only lasts for the next three minutes before we have to increase it” and then show the seconds ticking away. Similarly, you can have “only three left in stock” and other signals which create pressure. This is probably how TV shopping channels work, by creating buying stress in the audience who then have higher dopamine levels and then make impulse buying decisions. But there is downside – too much stress and dopamine levels fall, so you need to get the balance right…!
The time of day you sell your products can also have an impact. When people are sleepy they have higher dopamine levels too – consequently promoting items at the end of the day, rather than first thing in the morning could increase the number of impulse buying decisions.
And making people feel good about themselves by giving them a “reward” also raises dopamine levels. So, perhaps a quiz first before any hint of a product sale…? Then you reveal the fact that because they have done so well in the quiz you are reducing the price, just for them. Winning, feeling good, achievement – they all lead to increased dopamine levels. The more you can do that for your online customers, the more impulse purchases you will get.
On the other hand, you could just post bananas to them.
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+