What can merchants do to become better retail therapists?

The following is an excerpt from a recent conversation on RetailWire, reproduced here with kind permission.

Retail therapy is real. More than half of all Americans, 63.9 percent of women and 39.8 percent of men, go shopping to improve their moods, according to a survey conducted by TNS Global for Ebates.com.

According to the survey of 1,000 adults conducted last month, nearly 19 percent turn to retail therapy after a bad day at work, 14.6 percent go shopping after getting bad news and 12.2 percent following a fight with someone who is close to them.

Women rank clothes (57.9 percent), food (34.7 percent), shoes (32.4 percent), accessories (29.1 percent) and books/magazines (28.7 percent) as the top items they purchase when looking to lift their spirits.


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Men go for food (28.1 percent), electronics (27.4 percent), music/movies (26.6 percent), clothes (21.5 percent) and games/toys (17.6 percent) as the top items for their particular brand of retail therapy.

Interestingly, shoppers don't seem to need to go to a store for their retail therapy. Two out of three Americans said online shopping is preferable in looking to get over a case of the blues. Among their reasons: not having to leave the house (43.7 percent); broader selections from which to purchase (30.8 percent); and keeping their purchases private (13.1 percent).

"Our survey confirms that shopping truly is 'therapy' for many people, and can help raise one's spirits after a bad day. Online shopping makes this pick-me-up only a couple of clicks away," said Ebates.com CEO, Kevin Johnson, in a statement.

RetailWire BrainTrust comments:

Retail therapy is definitely real. More brands and retailers should tap into this reality. Shopping and its expectations are about being surprised and delighted.

Another aspect of the shopping journey is about the suspension of disbelief. The ideal shopping journey happens under a "spell." The gaming industry has known about this for years. Retailers and brands should take a lesson and translate this understanding into the shopping experience. — Adrian Weidmann, Principal, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

My sense of it is that shopping allows us to be "in control" (or have the illusion of control) after we have experienced something that has shaken us. It permits us to feel capable and competent (I chose this, I compared these, I made a decision, etc.).

To add to the prior points, shopping allows us to explore options, envision futures, master challenges, and not have to comply, coordinate, collaborate, etc. with anyone else. We get to decide and do not have to justify it (at least for a little while) to anyone else. — David Zahn, Owner, ZAHN Consulting, LLC

I surely believe in shopping therapy and it is a worldwide phenomenon. One feels good after picking up a great dress or shoes, or sometimes just window shopping and seeing what's out there or on a deal. Technology glitches, too many clicks to browse and unfriendly checkouts which don't allow you to change your mind easily — these all make the shopping experience frustrating and stressful. Focus on the user experience combined with relevant variety. — Shilpa Rao, Practice Head, Merchandising, Tata Consultancy Services

(Photo by Dave Proffer.)

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