Shoptimism

Lee Eisenberg’s Shoptimism is a journey into the psychology of shopping from two sides of the cash register, the buy side and the sell side. It could easily be the upbeat textbook for Retail 101, exploring in its first half the buy side—why we consumers shop—and in its second half the sell side, how different retailers target different demographic groups.

To gain insight into the sell side, for example, Eisenberg visits a professional “snoop” company that works with retailers to spy on shoppers and observe their behavior patterns. The company uses the data to keep track of what customers like, what store layouts work best to promote buying, and what repels customers from buying. The snoopers notice, for example, that customers pick up store fliers more often when they’re placed ten feet from the entrance than when they’re directly at the entrance. To better understand the buy side, the psychology behind shopping, Eisenberg talks with a Carnegie Mellon professor about a research study that monitors brain functions during shopping. Turning the relationship between the two sides over and over, as one might a snow globe, Eisenberg delves into the intricacies, drive, and effects of each.

Like a huge department store, this content-rich book has the potential to be dense and overwhelming. But Eisenberg’s infusions of humor from his own personal shopping jaunts as well as his capacity to present a great deal of information in an everyday, shopper-friendly way keep it buoyant and interesting. Information from economics, psychology, and sociology gurus offers us a rare, multi-dimensional perspective on the shopping world—where there’s lots more going on than meets either the eye or the credit card.

Shoptimism is definitely worth shopping for, even if you’re a compulsive buyer. By helping you understand what’s triggering your behavior—and how those triggers have been constructed—the book makes it more likely that you’ll think twice the next time you see that silky new blouse or flatscreen TV that you’ve been programmed to believe is an absolute must.

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