Understanding Shoppers – can a smile or a smell affect what you buy?

Over the past six months, Bangor’s School of Psychology has been working with one of the world’s leading shopping research groups, Shopping Behaviour Explained (SBXL), to find out how people shop as part of the pan Wales Strategic Insight programme (SIP).

So next time you are shopping and notice a lovely smile on some packaging or perhaps an enticing smell in the air then you may well be experiencing sales techniques which are based on research that was pioneered at Bangor.

Senior members of SBXL, including Phillip Adcock, visited Bangor to learn more about how current psychological and neuroscience research can help companies understand consumer decision making. Experts at Bangor shared their cutting edge research on face perception, aroma-marketing, and smiles.

During their visit SBXL met experts in various fields including Dr Erin Heerey, an expert on social psychology and the value of smiles, Professor Rob Ward, an expert of face perception and how information present in faces can change people's attitudes and behaviours, Dr Paul Mullins, an expert of fMRI brain imaging and understanding how different parts of the brain contribute to decision making and Dr Gareth Harvey,an expert in aromas/workplace.

Although the partnership is still in its early days some of the work has already led to in-field testing with large brand owners, the results of which could lead to significant changes in the way their products are packaged or displayed.  Over the coming weeks shoppers might see some of the fruits of this partnership on supermarket shelves.

Dr James Intriligator, Senior Lecturer and Director of Commercialisation for the School of Psychology, said: “The SIP programme has clearly helped both the academics and the industrial partners gain a greater understanding of everyone’s challenges and capabilities.”

SIP is a pioneering, fully-funded pan Wales project involving all 11 Welsh Higher Education Institutes. It aims to develop collaborative partnerships by funding short term placements of university staff in public, private and third sector organisations and vice versa.

Publication date: 20 December 2012