• No products in the cart.

Why We Buy – The science of shopping

In order to sell products to customers you need to understand what it is they want. Understanding your customer is one thing. Convincing & making them feel comfortable to buy from you is another!

Understanding what it is that makes customers buy products and services is of paramount importance. What is it that triggers their buy response and most importantly what is it that puts them off. These are the questions that Paco Underhill answers in this book

A vast majority of businesses are started with the aim of selling at least one product or service. Entrepreneurs will often have an idea for a product or service with hope of finding customers who will like the product or service enough in order to exchange money to buy it.

This exchange is what we have come to term as purchase or buy, which forms the backbone of our economy. No business can exist without people buying it’s product. Despite this fact, many businesses don’t really understand why customers buy!

Irrespective of your industry, but the sole purpose of your business is to create customers, by converting browsing visitors into cash paying customers. Regardless if you’re a brick & mortar store or an online e-tailer.

Successful businesses are the ones who figure out how to successfully sell their products to customers. First the go through the process of how to find their customers. Then they learn to understand their customers. Discovering what their customers needs, want and desires are and evolving their products to fulfill them.

In this book, an environmental psychologist and revolutionary retail guru Paco Underhill, has completely revised edition of his classic, witty bestselling book on our ever-evolving consumer culture—full of fresh observations and important lessons from the cutting edge of retail such as Internet behemoths Amazon and iTunes as well as the globalization of retail in the world’s emerging markets.

successful businesses focus on their customers

Two of my most favourite and inspiring business books on this subject are:

Tony Hsieh – the CEO of Zappos, an online shoe retailer – explains how he created a unique culture and commitment to service that aims to improve the lives of employees, customers, vendors, and backers.

A fascinating insight into Amazon, not just the Amazon we know today but right back to the start of the business.

The book also reveals how Jeff Bezos is absolutely obssesed with understanding what exactly his customers want and figuring out how amazon can fulfil those needs.

The thing that stuck me most about these books, is that if you take a step back and examine how these two very successful businesses came into being, both weren’t selling any truly innovative products, in fact both businesses started out selling two products that have been around for hundreds of years, namely shoes and books.

Even they way both these businesses chose to sell these products were rather unconventional,  and following conventional wisdom at the time both these businesses should have failed!  Yet, they both succeeded in selling products on-line. 

The commonality between both of them is that they focused on the customer. 

Learning and srudying customer behaviour and focusing on their customers needs, wants and desires were then finding a way to fulfil them

After reading both those books, it will come as no surprise why Amazon bought Zappos, and why both companies continue to go from strength to strength.

Why, Why We Buy ?

It’s one thing to say that all you need to do to pave the road to success for your business is to learn from and understand your customers. It’s another to know how to do exactly that. This is the gap that by reading will Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping–Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond  help you fill.

Helping you learn the subtle things you can do to actually help your customers buy your products. Understanding what the emotional triggers are to making a sale and not making a sale.

After reading the book the book, you’ll understand that there is very little difference between selling online or from your Bricks and Mortar store. Your target is the same, a Human being!

As Web Entrepreneurs we will often get side tracked by the new shiny new technology that will apparently help us sell more online, that we forget buying decisions are actually made by human beings. Human beings have emotions, needs and desires.

successfully navigating how to fulfil customer desires leads to business success.

I learned more in the few hours I spent reading this book, than I have reading any other text book. It’s a fascinating read which will undoubtedly trigger many epiphanies around your business, it certainly did for me!

In order to sell, you need to learn why customers buy

It seems to obvious to me now, but I can assure you it didn’t before I read this book.

I had spent years starting and building some successful businesses, but yet I say that I never truly understood what made my customers buy my products and services I provided.

I would flatter myself and believe it was all because I’d created good products and delivered fantastic customer service. Sadly, I now realise it really was neither of these two things but it was probably one of the hundreds of other subconscious things I done that actually did it.

Understanding customer behaviour is vital for the success of irrespective of channel or medium

Some may say and think that the book is out of dated, However I beleive are still can be adaptable in any era. After all, because the primary target hasn’t really evolved much, and gaining an understanding of the psychology and science of shopping is priceless.

This book will help you gain and understanding of and know what to expect of :

  • Conversion rate of customers
  • Rule of merchandising
  • Men vs Women shopping
  • The Dynamics of Shopping
  • The role of Merchandising

Although the book was initially released in 1999 it has been updated several times, and I would suggest obtaining the Updated and Revised edition, as that does include some updated views and observations which specifically related to on-line shopping, but as you’ll find out the basics are the same irrespective.

Does it Apply to Online ?

Before diving in and reading this book, I read a few reviews by people who claimed that the book had no relevance or was somewhat lacking to online business. However, after reading this book I feel those commenters were extremely short sighted and were failing to see the bigger picture and the context to which this book applies.

The Science of Shopping is mostly about the study of human beings and how they engage and behave within a shopping environment. These principles and insights apply to human beings regardless of channel. Certain situations, stimuli or interactions which apply to offline world, can and often are migrated to online world too.

Understanding them, monitoring and ensuring you don’t inadvertently introduce negative experiences to your online shop is key.

Another key point, is taking into consideration how, Paco and his staff collect all the data and what data they used to draw their conclusions can and do immediately translate to the online world. For instance, the heavy use of Video monitoring and analysing video footage completely and totally applies to the online world.

We now make use of several tools to record user behaviour on websites, one of which is Lucky Orange – All-in-One Conversion Optimization Suite which enables to understand visitor behaviors, create and diagnose conversion funnels, identify causes of abandonment on sites & then optimize for bigger results.

One of the things I have learned as a serial entrepreneur is the fact that success online largely relies in understanding your visitors. In my opinion the book helps provide context and focus.

Lucky Orange also provides the ability to initiate an online chat with your customers. Which can work well, but it can also put many people off, the same way as walking into a store and being pestered by an over eager sales clerk, puts people off. The trick to learn is how to do it, Paco provides detail and examples of both good and bad practice on how to do this offline, which with a bit of analytical thinking one can easily translate to online.

LuckyOrange - The Original All-in-One Conversion Optimization Suite


This book is highly recommended for all entrepreneurs and business owners, even if you think your business is only mainly web based, it is very illuminating to take some time and read through this book.

The whole premise of the book, is about the study of human nature and it’s application in the commerce environment.

Personally, I am not unable to visit a store or website without evaluating how effective it has placed signage, enables traffic flow and user experience.

When you classify how people shop, it falls under two categories, needs and wants. Shopping for needs is something that we all have to do. Shopping for wants is a social hobby. Both have the element of impulse buying, which drives our economy. Gaining an understanding is essential regardless of whehter your business is a B2B or B2C.


The book discusses prominent trends in online retail , highlighting what retailers are doing right and what they’re doing wrong and how nearly every Internet retailer from iTunes to Amazon can improve how it serves its customers.

It also provides a guided tour of the most innovative stores, malls and retail environments around the world, almost all of which are springing up in countries where prosperity is new.

It provides examples of how an enormous indoor ski slope attracts shoppers to a mall in Dubai; an uber-luxurious Sao Paolo department store provides its customers with personal shoppers; a mall in South Africa has a wave pool for surfing.

The new Why We Buy is an essential guide that offers advice on how to keep your changing customers and entice new and eager ones.