Why do we buy? The decision to purchase starts as an unconscious emotion, communicated to our conscious mind. In “Emotions and Decision Making” (Annual Review of Psychology 2015 66:1, 799-823), a paper by Jennifer S. Lerner, et al., the authors state the following: “Decisions serve as the conduit through which emotions guide everyday attempts at avoiding negative feelings (e.g., guilt, fear, regret) and increasing positive feelings (e.g., pride, happiness, love), even when we lack awareness of these processes. And once the outcomes of our decisions materialize, we often feel new emotions (e.g., elation, surprise and regret). Put succinctly, emotion and decision making go hand in hand.”

Individuals with damage to their brain’s prefrontal cortex, responsible for emotions, struggle with even simple decisions. Multiple studies since 1970 show the influence exerted by the unconscious emotional brain on the conscious logical brain relative to purchasing decisions.  

How do we elicit a positive emotional response from patients/customers? By painting a picture of the enhanced experience expectation when using or wearing a product. Will they have more fun, will they look fabulous and stylish, will they avoid wrinkles from sun exposure? Understand the emotional motivations that influence the eyewear and sunwear purchase decisions. Emotional purchase decision triggers vary; some customers seek the status of wearing a high-end couture brand? Some want to make a statement or express an artist’s vibe. Some want to alleviate pain and seek comfort from digital eyestrain or accommodative stress from long hours spent on their computer. Some are athletes who invest in gear to improve performance. Optical practices fill two roles, medical and retail. Tap into emotion to facilitate patient compliance (medical) and when selling products (retail).

My visit to an independent plant retailer illustrates the impact of emotion on buying. I shared my frustration with the proprietor about spending $16 apiece for Amaryllis bulbs every fall in hopes of having big beautiful red blooms by Christmas that never materialized. The proprietor smiled and shared how his tween granddaughters grew a beautiful Amaryllis from a crushed bulb he gave them. He showed me a picture of two proud and delighted young girls holding their gorgeous potted Amaryllis in full bloom. I bought the bulbs despite my original reticence, but why? I related to the joy and sense of accomplishment I saw in the little girls’ proud smiling faces. Eliciting an emotional response can translate into a purchase commitment and loyalty. Remember, the heart leads—the head follows.

Deborah Kotob
Pro to Pro Director
[email protected]