Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Marketing Mocktail: From heart to cart—emotional drivers of shopping explained

Retailers, e-tailers and marketers need to understand and apply the emotional drivers of shopping to design their buying experience for greater engagement and conversion

Published: Apr 19, 2023 04:39:38 PM IST
Updated: Apr 19, 2023 04:56:38 PM IST

Marketing Mocktail: From heart to cart—emotional drivers of shopping explainedLike any human endeavor, shopping too is driven by emotion, even though it may not be overtly evident. Studies conducted globally with shoppers have uncovered the hidden emotions behind shopping. Image: Shutterstock

Is shopping a rational activity or do emotions play a role in it?

Like any human endeavor, shopping too is driven by emotion, even though it may not be overtly evident. Studies conducted globally with shoppers have uncovered the hidden emotions behind shopping.

There are eight emotional drivers that motivate and influence shopping behavior.

Retailers (both offline and online) and marketers need to understand and apply these emotional drivers in designing their shopping experience. This includes both the store experience design, as well as the category presentation.

Let’s look at each of these eight emotional drivers with examples.

1. Sanctuary: Escape, therapy, relaxation


Here, the shopper is looking to take a break from everyday life and use shopping as a getaway.

Lululemon sells athleisure wear created with the philosophy ‘Helping our collective be well in every aspect of their lives – physically, mentally and socially.’ Their stores are a sanctuary for shoppers, where they conduct yoga sessions and events around holistic wellbeing, to help people destress and reboot themselves.

2. Connection: Bonding, belonging, community


This is about building a community of shoppers to create a sense of belonging.

Costco, the big basket retailer has created the ‘Costco Club’, where members are invited to special shopping events that are filled with fun and games for the family centered around products, along with great discounts and offers. The members feel privileged and connected to Costco.

Amazon India’s campaign ‘Apki Apni Dukaan’ (Your own store), aims at creating an emotional bond with their shoppers.

3. Sport: Adventure, hunt, competition


Shoppers love the thrill of acquiring stuff at a great bargain. This gives them a sense of adventure where they need to outsmart others. It is like a metaphorical hunt.

The big-ticket end of season sales by apparel retailers and e-commerce marketplaces like FlipKart ‘Big Billion Sale’ and Amazon ‘Great Indian Shopping Festival’ target the predatory instinct of the shopper.

4. Security: Preparedness, replenishment, nesting


As a shopper, one always likes to be well prepared for things in life. Be it caring for the baby, combating minor ailments, or being stocked up with essentials.

At the beginning of the flu season, Walmart runs a shopper marketing program called the ‘Flu Preparedness Month’, where it sets up special displays and offers on brands that are remedies for coughs and colds.

Bath & Beyond has a ‘Ready for College’ program targeted at college goers to stock up on essentials required for college life.

Also read: More people are buying ultra luxury homes in India. Here's why

5. Mastery: Learning, performance, sharing


Keeping abreast with the latest trends and learning about new things is a big reason for visiting stores.

Diageo has set up ‘Virtual Bartenders’ at liquor outlets. This touch-screen kiosk provides shoppers with tips on bartending, cocktail mixing and everything to do with drinking and enjoying spirits. This in turn stimulates purchase of Diageo’s brands at the store.

Apple stores also are designed around this emotion.

6. Dreaming: Inspiration, ambition, hope


Inspiring shoppers and firing their imagination is a tried & tested recipe for increasing purchase.

Ikea stores are a classic example of making shoppers explore and imagine how Ikea can make their homes and workplaces more inspiring. Ikea’s augmented reality catalogues enable the shopper to dream and fulfil their hopes and desires of furnishing their homes.

7. Self-Creation: Self-reflection, status, bragging rights


Shopping is also about ‘badge value’ and self-indulgence.

Luxury brand stores create a shopping experience which people love to flaunt. It also appeals to their inner self as discerning buyers who value pedigree and craftsmanship.

Also read: Simply Speaking: Buy or bye bye?

8. Play: Entertainment, creativity, stimulation


For many categories shopping is a fun filled activity. Shoppers love to play around with childlike curiosity. The phrase ‘kid in a candy bar’ aptly describes this emotion.

Dylan Candy Bar in the US display and present their candies like toys, where not just kids, but even adults start interacting and literally playing with the products.

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlours encourage visitors to explore and play around with creative ice cream flavours.

How to apply the emotional drivers


Let’s take an example of the ‘Make-Up and Cosmetics’ category in a physical store or on an e-commerce site.

The category is driven by three emotions for the woman shopper:

Dreaming: Imagining possibilities and how they might contribute to her lifestyle and relationships.

Sanctuary: Positive diversion by providing an escape from the demands of day-to-day life.

Mastery: Staying on top of new trends, seeing what’s out there, and learning what’s new.

If the design, presentation and merchandising of the category is woven around these three themes, it will create greater shopper engagement and conversion.

Whether you are a retailer, e-tailer or a brand marketer, turbo charge your shopping experience with emotions. As Neuroscience has concluded, “Reasons lead to conclusions. Emotion leads to action.”

Note to readers: Our latest column Marketing Mocktail breaks down and explains the big ideas, new disruptions and old concepts and marketing practices that matter in the modern age.

Anand Narasimha is a corporate turned academician with over three decades of experience spanning Brand Marketing, Advertising, Consulting, and Teaching. He writes the column Marketing Mocktail for Storyboard18. Views expressed are personal.