16 Things You Should Know About Shopping at an Electronics Store, Part 1: 6 Things You Should Know Before You Go To the Electronics Store

16 Things You Should Know About Shopping at an Electronics Store, Part 1: 6 Things You Should Know Before You Go To the Electronics Store post image

Electronics are big business.  There is always the bigger (or smaller), the better, the shinier, the gotta-have-it component (pun intended).  There are a lot of online tips about buying electronics (what to look for, when to buy, yes/no to extended warranties, and the skinny on accessories).  With all this information at our fingertips, we can decide exactly what we want, compare prices, and just stop by a store during a sale to get it.

So why do people still walk out of an electronics store with their head spinning at how much they’ve spent? 

My mission?  Go through the tips.  Shop for electronics.  Go through books on persuasion, marketing and buying.  And walk through the stores again, testing tips, looking for the tactics that salespeople and stores use. 

Mission accomplished, and with some enlightenment from a few gurus of marketing ploys and persuasion, I’ve put together a list that hopefully will help you out a little when you go shopping for those new, shiny toys.  You still need to do your research – I’m not a tech wizard.  But I am a sceptical, detail-oriented person who likes to be prepared.

This article is divided into 3 parts:

Part 1: 6 Things You Should Know Before You Go To the Electronics Store
Part 2: 5 Things You Should Know About the Sales Pitch
Part 3: 5 Things You Should Know After You’ve Decided to Buy the Big Item

Apparently we would freeze, not be able to function, if we didn’t use some shortcuts or rules of thumb when facing the decisions we make all day.  Twenty kinds of toothpaste on the shelf?  Ah, there’s the one recommended by most dentists.  Phew. Decision made (and apparently made in less than 3 seconds – pretty amazing!).  According to Robert Cialdini in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, marketers can take advantage of these rules of thumb.  An example?  We feel that expensive products=good products, evolved from the concept that you get what you pay for (I’ll buy it; it must be good!).  But marketers can exploit this by making products more expensive than they ought to be.

How does this apply to the electronics store?  Read on.

6 Things You Should Know Before You Go To the Electronics Store

1. Advertising Works – Stores use advertising to get you in the store.  Of course you know that.  Many also have policies like “We’ll match competitors’ advertised prices,” and they’ll use them in their flyer to help get you in the store. Relating this to Cialdini’s rules of thumb, if a store offers to match prices, then to us that’s a quick indicator that we will get the best deals at that store.  So, a tip for you? Take advantage of it.  Not just with flyers, but with online prices.  Print them out, and take them with you.  It’ll pay off (and you’ll need the ad for price matching).

2. Don’t Be Fooled By Pricing – We can’t do math.  $999.99? Sorry folks, it’s $1000.  You need to be aware of this when browsing through ads before you go to the store.  In a time when words and phrases are shortened to a minimum for communication purposes, it’s amazing how ingrained this awkward pricing is, and how willing we are to repeat it to the penny.

There is speculation that stores price things at ‘just under the dollar’ because a) we read from left to right, and the impact that $999.99 has vs $1000 is far greater than one penny, and b) the image of 99 makes us feel like we’re getting a bargain.  We don’t rationalize it, it’s just a shortcut our brain makes.  I think there’s a third benefit, however, to retailers.  How many consumers really keep track of the accumulating price of their items in a store, when they all end with .99?  Before we know it, we’ve spent far more than we meant to. 

So round up to the nearest dollar.  You know you can do it.  Try to think in terms of the dollar, and you’ll benefit from having a better awareness of how much your items add up to, as well as being a little more sceptical about whether it’s a great deal or not.  It also has the benefit of making you feel a little more shielded from marketing ploys.

3. The Salesperson is Not an Authority (Do Your Research!) – That’s right.  If you do your research, you may end up knowing more about the product than the salesperson.  It’s not always the case; you may end up talking to someone very knowledgeable, but you may also end up talking to a high school senior who is selling high end products in his spare time.  Go prepared with as much information as you can (pricing, reviews, specs).  Know what questions to ask.  There are websites that give you good, unbiased information and reviews about products.  For the product you’re interested in, you may also want to look up whether a warranty is a good idea (more on that coming in part 3).

4. Be Prepared to Leave the Store to do More Research – So you’ve done your research.  You know what item you want.  It’s on sale. You know the specs, and you feel good that you can talk the talk.  However, you get to the store and the salesperson tells you in a confiding tone, “we see a lot of returns with that product, I’d really recommend this one…” With those words, your research has been flushed away, and you’re at the whim of the salesperson.  But you don’t know anything about the one they’re recommending.  Are the reviews good?  Is the price good compared to other places?  Go prepared for this.  Bring a paper and pen.  Plan to write down the model and the price.  Make sure you’re not committed to buying on the spot.

5. Electronics Stores Make More Profit from Accessories than Big Electronics  – Because the price of big electronics items such as high definition televisions (HDTVs) have dropped so much, electronics stores do not make as much profit on them as they once did.  Conversely, they make high profits from accessories (such as cables and cleaners), service and warranties.  Be mentally prepared before you go.  The salesperson will pressure you to buy accessories.  I can almost guarantee it.  And it will all sound so easy (“Just let me get the cables you need, then you’ll be all set to plug it in and enjoy it”).  Isn’t that nice?  They’re taking care of you.  No, they’re in it for the profits.  Expect it and be prepared to say no, because you will save a ton of money buying them elsewhere.  Be in control by bringing a paper and pen if you want to note which cables you need.

6. The Store is Set Up To Make You Want to Buy – The sights! The sounds!  Here’s a fact for you: we like bright and shiny.  We’re attracted to bright and shiny.  And the store is laid out in a way to make you want to buy.  Bring your list of what you require in a product (remember, from your research that you did) and stay focused.

The displays may be larger than life and the televisions are showing programs that look amazing.  Sometimes the brightness settings are overdone to attract us (did I mention we like bright and shiny), and sometimes animated programs are showing because animated programs look good on many different screens.  All TVs will be showing HD, and movies playing will be Blu-Ray.  Try bringing in your own movie to see what it looks like on the screen.  In addition, size looks different in a huge store, so at the risk of sounding like a broken record – go prepared:  How much space do you have?  What do you need?  Make your list before you go.

Next: you’ve arrived at the electronics store, completely prepared.  But it may not be as easy as you think…

Part 2: 5 Things You Should Know About the Sales Pitch
Part 3: 5 Things You Should Know After You’ve Decided to Buy the Big Item

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