What We Touch While Shopping Affects What We Buy, Study Shows


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We were hunter-gatherers for the vast majority of human history. The ancient practice of weighing game or foraged goodies in the hand, may be having a lasting impression on us, today. Though we’re unaware of it, what we touch influences what we buy.

Whether it’s running your fingers over fabrics or weighing a coffee mug in your hand, touching a product ensures future recognition of it, according to a study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology. For instance, those who want to purchase a candy bar are more likely to buy a KitKat over a Snickers, if they’re holding their smartphone in their hand. That’s because the candy bar and the phone are more or less the same in size and shape. Nestlé lucked out.

Other startling findings were uncovered during a series of studies conducted by Zachary Estes and a colleague. Estes is an assistant professor of marketing at Bocconi University in Italy. He collaborated with Mathias Streicher at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. The two ran a series of studies on touch and how it affects purchasing decisions.

KitKat bar.

Those wanting a candy bar while holding a smartphone are more likely to choose a KitKat. Flickr.

Just holding a product in your hand increases your likelihood of buying it, the researchers found. That and we’re liable to purchase whatever item we are looking at, if it’s similar to what we’re currently holding. This could have tremendous ramifications not only in marketing but psychology, sociology, neurology, and our understanding of human evolution.

Estes and Streicher performed a number of experiments. In each, they blindfolded participants and had them grasp familiar objects, such as a Coke bottle. They had participants touch these items under the guise of a weight test. Subjects were asked to weigh them in their hand. What researchers were really looking at was whether tactile sensation lead to brand recognition. Estes said what they found was that, “Distinctive product shapes like Coca-Cola’s iconic bottle design can provide a powerful source of brand identity and recognition.”

Next, participants were asked to identify…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

As content editor, I get to do what I love everyday. Tweet, share and promote the best content our tools find on a daily basis.

I have a crazy passion for #music, #celebrity #news & #fashion! I'm always out and about on Twitter.
Sasha Harriet

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