Holiday sales are tough to resist – ETSU asks why

Published 9:52 am Monday, December 11, 2023

Retailers – especially this time of year – excel at causing problems.
“By this,” said Dr. Kelly Price-Rhea, “I mean they present the consumer with a problem the consumer didn’t know they had.”
Price-Rhea, an associate professor and director of the online Digital Marketing Program at East Tennessee State University, has spent her professional career researching consumer behavior, the ethics of digital marketing and more.
And with the shopping season upon us, it is useful to understand why so many of the holiday sales you encounter are so difficult to resist.
“Retailers know how to pique our interest,” said Price-Rhea, who earned a Ph.D. in human ecology with a concentration in retail and consumers sciences at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. “They know consumers tend to make affective, or emotional, decisions when they shop in both the physical and online environments.
Marketers have an arsenal of research at their disposal.
Ever heard of atmospherics?
These are variables present in an environment, such as music or lighting, that are meant to impact consumer purchase behavior. In the digital world, think about the images, load time and navigation you encounter.
“Studies show if a retailer plays music with a quick tempo, it will cause consumers to literally move throughout the store faster. We also know blue will cause consumer brain waves to slow down and be calm,” she said. “This color is also used to motivate the consumer to stay longer in the space. Red is used on food packaging because this color is proven to increase appetite.”
In holiday seasons to come, Price-Rhea is interested in how augmented reality, virtual reality and the metaverse will change how consumers shop.
“Brands are already using these technologies to engage consumers in new and innovative ways. Retailers are experimenting with all kinds of exciting immersive experiences to not just promote their products, but to build long-lasting relationships with consumers,” she said. “In fact, a recent study showed how brands with stores in the metaverse are learning how consumers behave in this environment. Imagine the atmospherics we haven’t even discovered yet in the metaverse.”
Price-Rhea, who teaches in the Department of Management, Marketing and Supply Chain, is one of the many faculty and staff members making a real-world impact through impressive scholarship and fellowships.

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