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Retail therapy

Ever wonder about what motivates us to buy and spend? These books explain the whys and hows of consumer behavior.
By Vincent Coscolluela |

Ever wonder about what motivates us to buy and spend? These books explain the whys and hows of consumer behavior.


Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping—Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer and Beyond by Paco Underhill (Simon and Schuster, P579)


For over two decades, Paco Underhill and his team of trackers have spent countless hours observing ordinary people go about their shopping routines. The data they acquired have been analyzed, applied, and presented in his book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. Page after page, Underhill shares how even small changes to a store—the repositioning of a rack, the presence of baskets, the angling of item labels—can affect consumer-buying habits, often in a substantial way.


Though mainly anecdotal and written in a conversational tone, the book is also packed with figures and real-world results based on Underhill’s work with his consulting firm. The “updated” Internet chapter seems lacking, but the rest of the book is still highly relevant and insightful, constantly offering its readers a different perspective on human behavior, regardless of which side of the store counter they’re on.



The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge by Doc Searls (Harvard Business Review Press, P1,245)


Since the arrival of the Internet, businesses have continuously created and adapted to new systems and models. Doc Searls takes a shot at predicting an upcoming shift in The Intention Economy, where “the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and the sellers compete for the buyer’s purchase. Simple as that.”


Cleverly researched and well-annotated, the book tackles digital commerce and how it affects businesses, and the vendor-customer relationship. Big players like Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter are analyzed, with Searls arguing that although these companies are still in their infancy relative to the evolving “intention” economy, it certainly is exciting to speculate on the big changes to come.


Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy by Martin Lindstrom (Crown Business, P695)

“Nowhere in the world are people more easily brandwashed than in Asia,” writes author Martin Lindstrom in Brandwashed, the follow-up book to his first groundbreaking bestseller, Buyology. It’s a small wonder that such is the case, as we are bombarded by ads practically every moment of our waking day. And this might just be from the ads that we notice.



Brandwashed explores the subtle and insidious psychological cues that marketers and advertisers use to make us captive to their whims. Lindstrom explains how fear factors in our buying decisions, why appeals to nostalgia work in advertising, and why data mining might very well spell the end of our privacy. He also touches on the most prominent preoccupations of our society—social media, video games, and Justin Bieber, among others. While the author explains how we’ve been unwittingly coerced by brands, he also shows us a more important thing: how to win back our buying freedom. 

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