Retail Therapy and Luxury Goods Buying in a Digital Age

Ever wondered why you get such an adrenaline rush when you go online shopping? Or why the excitement of purchasing something online is so much more when the item you’re purchasing is expensive? Well, there is a deeper, psychological reason for this.

A study by Ürkmez and Wagner (2016) found that “retail therapy unconsciously exists in customers’ behaviours and they use this to overcome some specific negative moods”. The study maintains that generally, people like the feeling they get when they reward themselves. Although acquisition is felt when one actually touches, smells or sees the item they wish to buy, there is a specific kind of satisfaction when there is a delay in acquisition. This is why online shopping has become so popular lately.

According to recent statistics for online shopping in 2021, 43% of global shoppers research products online via social networks

According to Ürkmez and Wagner (2016), the fact that there is a prolonged period of time between when someone buys an item and when they get to touch it makes the item even more desirable. This concept is especially advantageous in a digital world as it can be utilised in advertising and digital marketing strategies.

However, when it comes to luxury buying, there is a different psychological process that happens. Just as some purchase items online to improve their negative mood, the same goes for those who purchase luxury goods. The feeling of excitement and satisfaction is thought to be even greater considering there is both the anticipation of the arrival of the item and the luxuriousness of it.

In order to understand how to apply digital marketing to luxury buying, the question of why people buy luxury items needs to be asked. Here are four broad reasons why people buy luxury items:

1) The irrational perception that quantity ensures quality.

The simple fact is that we are only human, and this means we are inclined not to always make rational buying decisions. Based on this rationale, many assume that luxury items are more superior in quality than cheaper ones. Despite this belief, the thought process behind spending money is far more complex than just wanting a better quality product. Research has shown that buying expensive items increases one’s self-esteem, feelings of exclusivity, and creates a sense of accomplishment or success.

Take, for example, the Apple versus Samsung debate. There are many ways in which Samsung products are better in quality than Apple products. However, Apple has marketed their products to be associated with luxury, quality, and success. Therefore, many assume that Apple products are superior to Samsung products due to Samsung products being comparatively cheaper. As a result, Apple dominates the market because of customer brand loyalty, and not because they offer genuinely good quality products.

2) Self-esteem.

As mentioned earlier, people buy to improve their mood. If what they are buying is expensive and luxurious, their mood is likely to be significantly boosted as well as their sense of belonging and self-worth. However, not only is luxury buying for the purpose of improving one’s self-esteem, but also for the obvious reason of showing wealth and status. Based on these two factors, brands are able to take advantage of one’s desire to be perceived as successful by creating and publishing visual content that will make them seem stylish, smart, or sophisticated.

For example, the luxury retail brand Chanel. Chanel has some of the most pinned images on Pinterest, with an astonishing 1,244 pins per day. This is even more impressive considering Chanel doesn’t even have a Pinterest account. It is all because they have a loyal customer following due to their visually orientated marketing approach.

3) For the rush.

A large part of luxury buying is rewarding oneself with things they can’t afford. It’s a bit of flawed logic, but the excitement leading up to the purchase triggers a sort of adrenaline rush that many enjoy and continue to seek. Based on the knowledge that people like the rush and want to experience it again, a digital marketing strategy could use its social platforms to appeal to people’s needs for instant gratification and spontaneity.

For example, designing a website that combines style, user experience, and functionality. It’s no good having a visually appealing website if your customers struggle to find the checkout button.

Over 75% of people shop online at least once a month.

4) Authenticity.

Many purchase luxurious and expensive items because of their need for sentimentality and uniqueness. The idea that a copy or replica of an item does not have as much value as the original is deeply ingrained in our psyche. From a digital marketing perspective, this belief can be advantageous. Marketing strategies may be designed to be aimed at people’s desire to be different and valued. This may be done by including a story behind one’s brand in all digital content.

For example, Aston Martin includes a story behind their brand on all their product pages and digital content, which communicates and represents their brand values and adds to their brand advocacy.

Making the choice to buy a luxury item and to treat yourself is not necessarily a bad thing, except if doing so harms you or others. Humans are generally known for doing things that don’t make any rational sense. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t an unconscious and even uncontrollable desire behind making the decision to buy luxury goods.

We all need to love ourselves sometimes and often the best way to show it is to buy something that makes you feel good. This need is what businesses, luxury or not, should really consider incorporating into their campaigns so that both the seller and the buyer get what they want. A good digital marketing campaign convinces the customer's unconscious psyche that their product or service is what their customer desires, even if the customer doesn’t know it yet.

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