To get consumers back in malls, try neuroscience

 To get consumers back in malls, try neuroscience

Retailers that apply the principles of neuroscience to shopping can produce a better experience for consumers, according to an expert in the field that deals with the interplay of the brain and the human nervous system.  

“Shopping involves emotions, and that is something that you as players in the retail industry must capitalize on and do excellently,” said Ben U. Ampil, a neuroscience coach and managing director of Amplius NeuroManagement Consultancy, in a webinar for Araneta City retailers.  

Mr. Ampil advised the use of the SCARF (status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness) Model, developed by neuroleadership expert David Rock in 2008, to address the anxiety that accompanies the pandemic. 

The World Health Organization, in 2021, noted that the pandemic has caused more mass trauma than World War II.  

“SCARF represents the five behavioral drivers that trigger a stress response,” Mr. Ampil told BusinessWorld. Any missing SCARF element can generate a threat response, he said, which, in turn, shuts down the thinking brain (the prefrontal cortex), and prevents an individual from analyzing a situation.  

Mr. Rock defined a status threat as “potential or real reduction” of one’s relative importance; a certainty threat as “any kind of significant change”; an autonomy threat as “a lack of control, … agency, or an inability to influence outcomes”; a relatedness threat as feeling outside of a social group; and a fairness threat as perceived injustice.  

RESPECTED OR INTIMIDATED?A shopper in a local mall, for example, might be greeted, “Good afternoon,” as many as 20 times within a span of five minutes. “Would that make you feel respected, or so intimidated that you then avoid the mall employees and shorten your shopping [trip]?” asked Mr. Ampil in an e-mail.  

In contrast, he said, South Korean beauty store Innisfree offers the choice of being assisted or of being left alone through baskets that are labeled either “I need help” or “I can do [this] myself.”  

Regardless of the type of business, “each element is equally important” and helps consumers have a better experience, which may then translate to sales and continued patronage, he said: “The key is to identify which elements are present and dominant in any situation — [which is] not limited to shopping.”  

SCARF is about paying close attention to the needs of consumers, added Marjorie C. Go, Araneta City assistant vice-president for marketing, in a separate e-mail.  

“In times like these, it’s important that they feel assured… because little things like making sure the customer is comfortable and taken care of can have a huge impact on their psyche and will leave a positive impression on their mind,” she said. “This will be the impetus for the customer to share their experience of the store to their family and friends, thus expanding the brand’s reach.” — Patricia B. Mirasol