Tricks Companies Use To Get You To Buy Stuff

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Most companies are primarily focused on their bottom lines and ways to enhance financial growth. But the sneaky ways businesses get you to spend money just might surprise you. Sale prices, promotions, and special offers are really only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, companies utilize psychological principles to influence customers.

The exact methods stores use to trick consumers vary slightly depending on the product or service in question. However, all businesses want you to think you need something; when they can create need, they can draw customers.

  • 1
    35 votes

    They Mark Down Prices But Let Customers See The Higher Dollar Amount

    Customers think they're getting a great deal when they can see an item's original price and sale price. Big box stores capitalize on this; their product displays show the cheaper dollar amount and the more expensive one. In reality, though, buyers may not be getting the greatest deals. This anchoring technique appeals directly to one's instinctual drive to "compare different offers against one another [and] make decisions based on comparative values."

  • 2
    29 votes

    They Make Items Seem Scarce

    When companies can make buyers believe that quantities are limited, sales automatically increase. This is why "while supplies last" and "act now this offer won't last long" approaches are extremely effective. Customers often see this illusion of scarcity employed on airline ticketing websites. Shoppers enter the search terms for a flight and receive a page of results matching the search criteria.

    Some results will claim that only two seats are still available or that a large number of people already bought tickets. In reality, though, the airline usually has plenty of seats.

  • They Advertise Additional Overpriced Options To Make It Seem Like You're Getting A Deal
    Photo: Memphis CVB / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND
    41 votes

    They Advertise Additional Overpriced Options To Make It Seem Like You're Getting A Deal

    Companies try to entice buyers by displaying higher price options for the same products; it's called a decoy effect. This gives the impression that customers are getting remarkable deals, when in reality they're probably buying things they don't particularly need. The Simple Dollar uses car shopping as an example of the decoy effect:

    Car A has a 100,000 mile full warranty and costs $20,000. Car B has a 70,000 mile warranty and costs $15,000.

    In that case, it’s easy to make a decision. You might pay more for the longer warranty, or you can save money and have a shorter warranty.

    Then, we look at Car C. Car C has an 85,000 mile full warranty but costs $22,500.

    When you compare Car C to Car B, it’s not too different than the other comparison. Car C has a longer warranty, but it costs more. However, if you compare Car C to Car A, it makes Car A really look like a winner because not only does it have a longer warranty, it’s also cheaper than Car C.

  • They Try To Make Potential Buyers Laugh
    Video: YouTube
    31 votes

    They Try To Make Potential Buyers Laugh

    The need to laugh is universal. Companies know that if consumers are laughing or in a good mood, they're more likely to spend money on the brands that entertain them. GEICO's piglet commercial and Betty White's Snickers commercial are prime examples of this. Potential buyers remember those advertisements because they are so hilarious.

  • They Offer Free Trials To Entice Potential Buyers
    Photo: Janella Hook / Flickr / Public Domain
    37 votes

    They Offer Free Trials To Entice Potential Buyers

    Companies entice potential customers by offering them chances to use a product or service with no upfront cost. When new viewers sign up for Netflix or Hulu, for instance, they get to watch a month of free streaming; participants experience the full range of options. Then, when the free trial is up and the company has created a need for their service, customers are willing to pay full price. This marketing trick appeals to people who love free stuff.

  • They Create Bonds With Customers
    Photo: charltonlidu / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0
    31 votes

    They Create Bonds With Customers

    Society places great emphasis on how many Facebook connections or Twitter followers you have. Creating bonds, whether online or in real life, can help a person feel validated and less alone. Companies and advertisers understand this; if they can forge bonds with consumers, products will sell much quicker. After all, who would snub a friend's products? 

    Social media platforms have made this more personal kind of marketing remarkably easy and effective. Businesses hire social media aficionados to interact with customers online. Also, 92% of people trust friends' recommendations, so businesses have a vested interest in developing personal relationships.