Why We Buy | Paco Underhill

Summary of: Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping–Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond
By: Paco Underhill

Final Recap

After an enlightening journey through various aspects of shopper behavior, store design, and the influence of the internet, the summary of ‘Why We Buy’ offers valuable insights for retailers. To optimize the conversion rate, understanding and adapting to human tendencies, accommodating the needs of different groups, and offering a seamless integration of online and offline aspects is crucial. In conclusion, maximizing the potential of your store requires an in-depth awareness of buyer behaviors and an unwavering focus on enhancing their shopping experience.


In the rapidly evolving world of shopping, the book ‘Why We Buy’ by Paco Underhill delivers an insightful look into the science behind consumer behavior and decision-making. The summary delves into topics ranging from creating an enticing in-store environment and understanding shared human traits to catering to different gender and age groups and harnessing the power of the internet. Mastering these aspects will help retailers optimize their conversion rate and stay ahead in the competitive industry.

Converting Casual Shoppers into Buyers

Shoppers today make buying decisions in stores, where they can be enticed to make impulse purchases. The challenge for shop owners is to convert casual shoppers into buyers. Factors such as the store environment and layout play a crucial role in this conversion process. Observing shopper behavior can reveal important insights. For example, store owners can take advantage of the demographics of their customers, such as the languages they speak or the products they prefer. Retailers need to focus on optimizing the conversion rate from shoppers to customers by improving store design, product arrangement, and employee tasks.

Designing A Customer-Oriented Store

Stores should be designed with customers in mind to make shopping a pleasant and comfortable experience. The physical limitations and habits of shoppers should be considered when designing a store. Shopping baskets, bags, or similar containers should be placed throughout the store for easy access, in stacks high enough for shoppers to take one without bending. In addition to this, bigger shopping carts actually increase the chances of people buying more items. The placement of products is also crucial; shoppers tend to move forward in stores and prefer walking towards the right side. Thus, products that the store wishes to sell or even showcase should be displayed on the right side. By keeping these human tendencies and simple needs in mind, stores can be designed to make the shopping experience comfortable and effortless for shoppers. This, in turn, will likely increase sales as shoppers tend to purchase more when they shop for an extended period.

The Science of Store Layout

Shoppers require a “decompression zone” when entering a store to transition from outside to inside. Special offers near the entrance may be lost on shoppers, and sales clerks at the entrance scare shoppers away. Posting signs within the store, interrupting shoppers’ natural line of sight is recommended. Signs that remind shoppers to buy related items when they are near a specific shelf are also helpful. The amount of information that can be put on a sign depends largely on the context. At fast-food restaurants, people probably won’t read the menu very thoroughly while standing in line, but while waiting for their meal, people often study the menu board carefully.

Understanding the Shopping Behavior of Men and Women

Retailers must consider the behavioral differences between men and women while catering to their shared traits. Women tend to spend more time shopping and buy more items, while men are more likely to make impulsive purchases. The display of products must also consider the gender of the potential buyers. The social roles of men and women are changing, and retailers must be willing to adapt. For instance, retailers can hire female sales clerks to sell traditionally male products like computers. The differences between groups of shoppers are constantly changing, and savvy retailers will monitor them closely and adapt accordingly.

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