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Many of us have been subject to the powers of beauty product salespeople and their irresistible techniques. Some tricks are obvious; some less so. I have been just as susceptible. Last year whilst shopping in a department store, a particularly attractive sales assistant said to me, in a deep, flirty and sultry tone: “Would you like to try a piece of me?”, while standing closer to me than passengers would on a rush-hour tube train. His cheeky smile was englufing--after all, this is something that can only be said with a twinkle in the eye. Naturally I agreed. I was pleased with myself that I had not only got myself a new fragrance but also a date. After he presented me with a fragrance bottle I realised A Piece of Me was actually a fragrance by Maison Francis Kurkdjian (shortened on the packaging to APOM, which is probably wise). It caught my attention and I couldn’t help but laugh with him, which I am sure was his intention. I left slightly embarrassed and amused and swinging my shopping bag as I went. Harmless, really, and fun. But what of salespeople that do use psychological tricks in order to make sales--what techniques do they apply? In this editorial I will reveal the three most common sales techniques used in department stores.
1. The ‘Most Expensive First’ Approach
Common sense might state that if someone wanted to sell us something, they’d try to sell us the cheapest item first. Surely we’d be more likely to buy the most affordable product? Not necessarily. Some salespeople will present the most expensive product initially so that in comparison the second, cheaper product will seem like a bargain. While buying a £100.00 face cream might be out of the question, wouldn’t the £40.00 alternative allow us to buy into the efficacy and luxury of the brand? Absolutely, we might think, on the spur of the moment.
To avoid this trick, don’t impulse buy. Allow the salesperson to do his or her thing and then take a walk, looking at other comparable products. Only spend your money when you are sure the product you are buying is a genuinely good buy and value for money.
2. The ‘Premium Pricing’ Approach
Sometimes premium pricing is justified due to the product manufacturer’s extensive research, good-quality ingredients, attractive packaging and desirability. Other times, it isn’t. But beauty product manufacturers and their salespeople know that charging a premium price brings with it what psychologists call ‘the halo effect’: that is, if a product is sold under a premium price tag we will automatically assume that it carries with it the qualities we’d expect from premium products; luxury, refined ingredients and efficacy. Occasionally this can't be further from the truth.
To avoid this trick, research the product before you buy it. Look at the ingredients, verify the claims using product review sites, ask frank questions and remember that ‘expensive’ doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘effective’. Only then should you buy the product.
3. The ‘Return the Favour’ Approach
As polite adults most of us have learned to return favours paid to us. However, there is a pitfall to this--it means that salespeople can take advantage of our good nature. Some salespeople furnish us with subtle gifts; cups of tea; complimentary facials; a seemingly over-generous amount of samples. In reality, they realise that subconsciously we’ll feel compelled to return their favour by buying their products. While most of us won’t feel an obligation to a skincare company, we might to its people! When a favourite salesperson gives us three sample boxes of the same moisturiser we may assume it is an extravagant kindness meant only for us, but this isn’t necessarily the case: they are probably trained to give generously and do so to everyone.
When we are offered tea whilst we browse we are not only tied into spending longer at the counter but we may feel like we must repay the kindness--it took their time and effort, after all, to make the tea for us! To leave without purchasing something would display bad manners, wouldn't it?
Avoiding this trick is done merely by being aware of it. Beauty product salespeople will lavish you with gifts, but you mustn’t feel that you should repay them for this. Take their samples; it is undoubtedly beneficial to try before you buy. Try a cup of their tea if you're considering buying some. But beware of the psychological power involved when accepting gifts. If you feel you aren’t strong enough to say no to a product purchase after accepting their gifts, then politely refuse them.