Psychology of shopping: useful guidelines

At MJD, we believe that joy is a powerful force that can transform our daily existence. Part of our mission is to infuse and amplify moments of joy into all of our work. We think about this from all aspects – from interactions with digital products to how those experiences fit into people’s broader lives.

In the context of retail, we’ve thought through the psychology of shopping (both generally and for specific situations) and have found the following to be useful guidelines.

Unexpected touches

A core aspect of joyful moments are their unpredictability. For the person experiencing them they cannot feel planned or contrived. Rather they must feel like they have organically risen from the situation at hand.

This presents a challenge for an organization in need of repeatable, reliable operations (e.g. retailers with complex services and multiple storefronts). In other words: how does one plan to be spontaneous?

Our solution for this leverages technology to provide a consistent, constantly updated view of the world (e.g. shopper behavior across physical and online channels). Combined with intelligent analysis that determines the right moments for acts of joy, the end result feels natural and not random.



Small things, big impacts

Joy comes not from the scale of the act, but from the the overall impact it has. The details really do matter. However, the effort to do these things adds up – especially if it means adding even more tasks to a retailer’s already busy workforce.

Our approach leverages technology and experience design to do some of this heavy lifting. For instance, we have have helped retailers ensure loyal customers are given warm, personalized greetings when entering their stores. In part we did this by using sensors to detect the presence of a loyalty app – requiring no additional labor by retail staff.

In addition to allowing the store to be a more welcoming environment for some of its most valued guests, this also provides critical traffic data to help retail staff further optimize operations – again all without further effort on their part.


Joy does not require giving away masses of free stuff. An appropriately timed action or additional bit of effort can cause an even stronger response. Figuring out which actions and efforts to undertake can be a gamble for retailers. It’s easy to get lost in seemingly good ideas that don’t pay off. Our experience has been to think through the bigger picture of what drives particular shopper behaviors and then ensuring that all elements connect back to those deeper understandings.

For instance, we helped a footwear retailer recast the children’s shoe buying experience from a necessary chore to an exciting life event. We did that in part by creating a mobile app to help parents size kids’ feet at home – cutting out one of the more tedious aspects of in-store visits. But we also used this data and app platform to create papercraft activities for kids that turned their footprints into characters. While seemingly non-critical functionality, this feature was actually essential for transforming the experience into something kids eagerly participated in – our moment of joy.



The benefits of this perspective for retailers are intertwined: improved customer loyalty and more effective use of loyalty marketing spend/systems. Joy helps strengthen the connection between brands and their their potentially strongest advocates – moving from functional needs to emotional bond.

Meaningful Connections

At MJD we are striving to give meaning to the digital connections between people. We aim to elicit emotion when someone uses a digital product, experience or platform that we’ve designed and built. It could be something simple like a beautifully designed user interface that makes working with a smartphone exceptionally easy. It could be something hard like creating a Store of the Future where little girls can fall in love with a doll and be inspired to create their own strong path in this big world.

Digital Innovation Agency

Digital innovation is disrupting entire industries, transforming consumer behavior and influencing the way people interact with brands and products. In our 24/7 world, companies are leveraging digital technologies to create tremendous value, efficiencies and new revenue models while their customers expect ever more personalized and engaging experiences.