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Bridging the Psychic Pain Gap
Posted By Jeff Sexton On November 11, 2008 @ 9:15 am In Buying Process,Customer Insight,Improving Conversion,e-commerce,psychology | 12 Comments
When people are confident of their next paycheck, they have a predisposition to buy most of their “because I want it” items that are within financial reach (and maybe even just out of reach as well – hence the credit card). That’s because their psychic pain threshold for buying is just above their actual expendable income level.
Here’s how to visualize it: there are usually, say, 5-7 “extra-budgetary” purchases a person might have in mind for the next two months or so: nicer sunglasses, or an expensive wireless mouse, or shoes or some type of clothing, etc. And most of those things will actually get purchased within a rolling 2-3 month time frame, without the buyer feeling that any of them represent a considered purchase – even if the sunglasses or shoes might be in or above the $150 range.
But that’s only in a prosperous and sunny economy, which we ain’t in right now .
Right now, people’s psychic pain threshold has dipped below their real level of expendable cash – they can still afford some extra-budgetary purchases, but parting with the cash feels a lot more painful.
More plainly, these discretionary items have just transformed into considered purchases.
Rather than buying these “I’d like to have” items in fairly quick succession, people will window-shop the hell out of them, mentally comparing the emotional pay-off to the price, trying to bridge the psychic pain gap. And then they’ll buy just one of them – or maybe two by going with, say, less expensive sunglasses and slightly cheaper shoes.
What this shopping behavior looks like in the aggregate is that people are still buying, but:
But wait, why would traffic go down if people are doing MORE window-shopping?
Because there’s only so much space in our mental queue of “gee I’d like one of those.” There are thousands of things I want, but I can only actively ruminate on – and really feel the want of – a handful of them at any one time.
So if actual purchases slow down, then the rolling 2-3 month want list gets backlogged and it becomes “survival of the fittest” for items to stay active in my mental buying queue. I’m window-shopping more, but for less things in any given span longer than 3 months. And that means an aggregate dip in traffic for most Websites.
So what can you do about it?
How can you fight these trends and stay flat (aka “the new up”) instead of trending down?
Start acting like you’re selling a considered purchase; consciously aim to overcome the psychic pain threshold, instead of assuming the buyer has a green light for purchasing. Here are some tips on how to do that:
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URL to article: http://www.grokdotcom.com/2008/11/11/bridging-the-psychic-pain-gap/
URLs in this post:
 Image: http://www.grokdotcom.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/psychic-pain.jpg
 which we ain’t in right now: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/07/business/07retail.html?_r=2&oref=login&oref=slogin
 Image: http://www.grokdotcom.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/2008-11-05_2214.png
 superior product photos: http://www.grokdotcom.com/2007/02/07/how-changing-your-product-image-can-boost-sales-by-147/
 descriptions: http://www.grokdotcom.com/2008/03/07/perceived-value/
 objection-handling sales copy: http://www.grokdotcom.com/topics/buysellhyperlinking.htm
 Customer reviews are often far better at this than copy: http://www.grokdotcom.com/2008/09/22/why-youd-be-smart-to-let-a-stranger-select-your-baby-stroller/
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