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The Gruen Effect: The Psychology of Shopping

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Don’t you just hate it when you go to the store expecting to buy a few items, and walk out with more things than you need? It’s not uncommon for this to happen. But have you ever stopped to think as to why this happens? Do you get easily enticed by sales and can’t control yourself from buying items just because it is 20 percent off?

It is true that it can be hard to pass on a great sale, but you need to control yourself, especially if you are on a strict budget. One way to curb the impulse of buying is to understand how the psychology of shopping works. Here is a quick insight:

Victor Gruen and the Gruen Transfer

If you’ve watched the popular television series, you can see how it revolves around the concept of selling a specific item to an audience. The show is based on the Gruen Effect, named after the Vienna born psychologist, Victor Gruen.

Victor Gruen

Victor Gruen made a living and a name for himself by designing retail spaces and shops in the 1930s in New York. At the time, the challenge was to get people into shops as most did not have the money to spend because of the Great Depression.

Gruen devised a clever way to entice people to check out shops: with large signs and appealing window displays. According to Gruen, a good design meant better profits.

His theory worked, and soon he was designing storefronts all over the country. Gruen is also credited for having developed Southdale Center, the world’s first enclosed shopping mall in 1956.

His goal for the mall was to offer people, particularly those living in the suburbs, a space to leave their cars and spend time walking around.

The way Gruen designed shops and the shopping mall proved fruitful, as it was successful in getting people to spend money in shops.

How it works

The Gruen Effect

The Gruen Effect is simple in its operation: surround the shopper with a layout reminiscent of a maze, whose aim is to make them forget their original intention and encourage them to buy more items than they need.

This is where the obnoxious advertising comes into play. The bigger, the louder these advertisements are, the more likely the shopper will check out the items on display and make a purchase.

It is said to be most effective for shoppers who are unfamiliar with the mall or shopping centre’s layout, as they will walk around looking for the item they need and will be exposed to the ads even more as they actively seek out what they came to the centre for until they are distracted.

In 1978, Victor Gruen revealed in a speech in London that he was disavowing shopping mall developments for “bastardising” his ideas.

Stay focused

There is no one exact way to escape this effect. However, shopping in a regular grocery store or mall will lessen the effects on you, as you will be more focused on what you need to purchase, and will be more familiar with the layout, thus avoiding any danger.

Another way to avoid it is to leave your credit and debit cards at home, and only bring the cash you need to purchase the item you need. This will prevent you from making any unnecessary purchases.

Lastly, you can take a friend or a family with you so they can help you not buy anything you don’t need.

Now that you are armed with a better understanding of how the psychology of shopping works, you can better avoid impulse buying and stay focused on your goal.

The same can be said about certain types of services. Luckily, there are companies like Alpha Finance who will guide you towards the right path and even allow flexible repayments on your vehicle to fit better with your current income.

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