I recently bought new glasses. If you've ever gone through this process, you know that it can be agonizing.
First, you try on every single pair that remotely piques your interest. You hold onto the 'maybes' and try them again. Then you switch and check, switch and check, until you've narrowed it down to one pair. Even then, when you've chosen your candidate, you still have to scrutinize your face from every possible angle, look in every mirror in the store, and double-check against all the other pairs AGAIN in order to be absolutely sure you've found the best glasses for your face.
The process reminds me of the phenomenon that happens when you say a particular word too many times. Eventually, that word sounds funny. Any word can sound funny, if you say it enough times. (Try it!) Likewise, after checking my own face in the mirror six hundred times, it started to look funny. I began scrutinizing my features. God, my nose is long. God, my eyes are close together. Am I normal? Or am I funny-looking? Just like with the word, the familiar becomes strange.
So I finally found my pair, but I wasn't completely sold. They were the best pair in the store for me, but they didn't look Fabulous. They just looked Good. I realized this might be because I still thought my own face looked weird. So I tried something else.
I took my hair out of its ponytail, rumpled it a bit, put on lip gloss, and smiled. This time, I thought the glasses looked great. My decision was made.
This leads me to a very basic insight: People buy things when they look good. But it's not just the new item that has to look good. It's everything. When I looked better overall, the glasses looked better too.
This insight can be quite useful for shoppers. If your goal is to buy a new pair of jeans, go shopping on a "thin day." If you feel good about your body, the jeans will practically buy themselves. If you want a new bathing suit, go shopping when you are tan. If you want new shoes, get a pedicure, and wear the clothes that you'll wear with the shoes. Et cetera.
Likewise, don't shop for clothing after a night of alcohol and fried food. Don't shop for makeup when your skin is terrible. Unless, of course, you don't actually want to buy anything.
This insight is also useful for retailers. If you want girls to buy your prom dresses, don't make them try them on in their white gym socks. Give them heels, for god's sake. They will look ten times better, and will be more likely to buy the dress. Who knows - they might even buy the shoes too.
So my appeal is this: Stores should find ways to make their shoppers look better. Easy touches like flattering lighting, color in the dressing rooms, and relevant accessories will help someone like the way they look.
Or better yet, why don't stores combine shopping with beauty? You enter the store, get a facial and your hair blow-dried, then look at outfits. Man. I would end up buying so much more this way. Because I get my hair done what, four times a year? But after walking out of the salon, I feel that I am at my absolute best. The top of my game, if you will. If I were to shop right then, who knows how much I would spend. I'd probably love everything I tried, because in the mirror was this fabulous me with perfect hair. The glasses would look better, the dress would look better, I bet even the purse or shoes (or lamp or car) would look better.
Now the downside, of course, is that this can become a distortion of reality. And that's where the line begins to blur. Stores that use "slimming mirrors" face ethical controversy. And there's always the risk that someone loves the dress, gets it home, and hates it. "This looked so much better in the store" is a complaint I've definitely heard. But on the other hand, let's face it - consumers today are still seeking a suspension of reality. Permission to forget who they really are, and become someone better.
Here's my stance. If the retailer helps you to simply perceive yourself as looking better, then that's pretty close to lying and I feel it's a disservice. But if the retailer helps you to actually look better, with substantive beauty services or advice, then I think that would be great. Oh, and profitable too.
I bought the glasses. They were perfect. And as I wore them each day, a funny thing happened. I would almost subconsciously recall the feeling I had about them in the store. It was a very private, personal feeling, something along the lines of "I look so smart and sophisticated." And you know, that feeling lives on, somewhere deep inside my brain. So even if the store had only made me look better during that brief "first impression," I've decided the first impression is critical. Not only for swaying me to buy the product, but for actually shaping my attitude towards the product during its lifetime of use.
So retailers, help us look good. We will like how we look inside your walls, buy more products, AND feel better about those products long after we've paid our credit card bills.