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Kit Yarrow, Consumer Psycologist at the Summit

The new consumer psychology

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Technology isn’t just changing how we shop; it’s changing how our brains actually work. In a special members-only keynote at the Summit, Kelly Mooney, CEO of digital marketing agency Resource, chatted with consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow about what’s really going on inside the heads of consumers. Yarrow covered the topic in depth in her new book, Decoding the New Consumer Mind.

Granted, retailers probably don’t need a psychologist to tell them people are shopping differently, but understanding more about how consumers are thinking and feeling differently is essential for being able to change and grow as quickly as consumers themselves are. Yarrow’s research uncovered a few important themes that can help retailers better know their customers.

Lack of trust

“One of the most profound issues that we’re facing today is a consumer with abysmal levels of trust in everything — all the institutions designed to serve them … so they’ve become incredibly self-reliant,” Yarrow said.

Going online helps people trust a brand — it taps into a consumer's feeling that she's doing it herself. But when brands aren’t consistent across channels and what’s online doesn’t match up with what she experiences in stores, the consumer may feel tricked, compounding her feelings of mistrust.

Neurological changes

Finding a good deal or the perfect pair of shoes releases a bit of dopamine in our brains and makes us feel good. That hasn’t changed, but our thinking has. “Our brains are wired for speed,” Yarrow said.

Our brains are wired for speed.
Kit Yarrow
Consumer Psychologist and Author

Regardless of age, people are skimming more and reading less, requiring immediate rewards more than before and exhibiting lower tolerance for ambiguity and complexity. For retailers, this means the smallest barriers could become costly ones. Time to load web pages, traffic, parking — all are hassles that could prevent customers from coming back, and hassle-free shopping is more important than ever before.

Radical individualism

Yarrow said human connections are generally becoming more superficial, which creates feelings of loneliness. “People are feeling not just isolated, but invisible,” she said. She also found that we’re more emotional and more narcissistic than before. Consumers are looking for something that feels uniquely for them and brands that seem to authentically understand them. Consumers are looking to be seen and feel special.

“What you hear is the specialness — that I really want something just for me and I want the connectivity of having something unique so other people notice you. But it also fits into the boredom of our rewired brains, that if we’ve seen it before we don’t want to see it again.”

For more fascinating consumer insights, check out Yarrow’s book, Decoding the New Consumer Mind.