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Sound and color can impact purchasing patterns

Date posted:  5/20/14 08:15:00 AM Research shows classical music can spur consumers to make more expensive purchases.

From the color of an item's packaging to its placement on a display, there are a slew of factors that contribute to a consumer making a particular purchase. While some variables, such as upfront cost, have a more direct impact on sales, many smart business owners try to engage consumers with a few slick psychological tricks that are a bit more subtle.

Eugene Lee, CEO of Darden Restaurants, the proprietor of Olive Garden, told The Associated Press the amount of items on a menu can hurt or help sales. Lee said more choices on a menu can lead people to order more food.

"When you have eight appetizers on the menu versus six, you sell more appetizers with eight," Lee said while communicating problems with the complexity of Olive Garden's menu.

But the psychology behind consumer spending doesn't end with the number of options on a menu. Imagery can be a key ingredient in propelling the sales of food or physical items, according to Greg Rapp, consultant to restaurants in California. Rapp, who advises fast-food chains and sit-down restaurants on how to construct a menu, said detailed descriptions of a product or dish can spur a consumer to spend more while mitigating some of their concerns about the price.

"The more you talk about it, the less it costs in the customer's head," Rapp told the AP. "The more value you're giving them."

Do certain symbols hurt sales?
If there's one symbol business owners will want to avoid, it's the dollar sign, according to Rapp. He said businesses should avoid using dollar signs because they evoke feelings of cost. Instead, restaurant owners should list the numerals on a menu without the dollar sign.

"Dollar signs remind people of money," Rapp said. "When you use dollar signs, your food looks more expensive."

These findings that showed psychological factors influence sales were first reported by Cornell University in 2009. The university study revealed consumers who went out to eat spent significantly more if their menu did not contain a dollar sign compared to those who looked at menus with the symbol.

Improve retail sales with psychology
The science behind spending isn't limited to restaurants. Retail stores also look to grab additional profits through psychological tactics.

Many retail stores place high-margin products at the front of the store and more essential items near the back of the store, according to Business Insider. This plan of action looks to showcase items that a store can make big bucks on in the front of the house. Stores then place more essential, low-margin items in the rear, meaning customers will have to go through the entire store to get what they need.

The color of money
The color scheme of a retail shop can also pay dividends for business owners. Business Insider said certain colors lure pedestrians into a store, while other colors can keep consumers in the store for a longer period of time.

Warmer hues on a building's exterior - such as red, orange and yellow - tend to draw customers into a store. However, those warm shades don't work nearly as well on the interior. Business Insider reported cool colors such as blue and green encourage spending.

But the psychology of spending doesn't end with visuals. Auditory responses are also key in priming consumers to make purchases. Business Insider stated fast music often prompts consumers to leave a store quicker, while slower music encourages them to shop at their leisure and spend more. Classical music has a similar effect and spurs consumers to make more expensive purchases.