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How many of your customers walk into your stores clutching their smartphones?

The vast majority probably. And how many businesses have fallen into the trap of trying to engage with their customers purely on that (digital) level? Although we live in a digital world and we embrace technology, above all we are humans, and by nature humans are curious beings that continuously want to explore, experience and make sense of the world around them.

Humans just happen to be consumers too

When it comes to consumer behaviour, there’s this eternal question: what drives our purchasing behaviour?

To understand this more clearly, we need to understand a little psychology.

Because motivation is one of the key components which influences and induces behavioural change within us as human beings; and therefore – us as consumers.

Needs, wants, desires… what motivates us?

First – a little theory.

We all have needs and wants that have to be fulfilled. From a psychological perspective, motivation occurs when a need is aroused that the consumer wishes to satisfy.

Human needs, both physiological and psychological, more often than not, are the underlying factor for purchasing products and services.

But we also differ in orientation of our motivation, so as the Cognitive Evaluation Theory suggests, there are two types of motivation – Intrinsic and Extrinsic.

When we are extrinsically motivated to do something, we aren’t concerned with whether or not the action is enjoyable. For example, although we may not enjoy exercising, we might still go to the gym in order to lose weight. We are motivated to exercise, not because we get pleasure from physical activity, but because we are focused on the external reward such as the weight loss.

On the other hand, we are employing our intrinsic motivation when performing an action or behaviour that becomes more meaningful, because we enjoy the activity itself. So, using the same example but in reverse, we would happily go to the gym because we enjoy the rush we get from working out regularly, regardless of whether we want to lose weight or not.

From Theory to Practice

So how do extrinsic and intrinsic motivating drivers relate to consumer behaviour?

Motivation is involved at every stage of the decision-making process whilst in a purchase situation. If you perceive your customer as an extrinsically motivated being, who responds best to extrinsic rewards, you would have adopted the traditional approach focusing on brand name, product and monetary value. Perhaps trapped in an endless cycle of sales.

Does this look familiar? Might be time to take an intrinsic approach

How is that working?

Does it represent a risk-proof investment against your customer leaving for what they perceive to be a more attractive brand? Probably not.

On the other hand, a human-centred approach offers customers intrinsic experiential rewards that can further enhance the customer’s motivation to make a purchasing decision.

OK, so what does that mean?

Wave goodbye to the old approach

Remember, we established that ‘intrinsic’ motivation comes from enjoyment of the activity itself.

Now consider your own business – is the proposition based on extrinsic or intrinsic drivers? Chances are it’s the former, because it’s on this that most retailers base their proposition.

But here’s the thing, whilst your customers still expect great product and prices (extrinsic) – they are additionally seeking something more on top of that (intrinsic).


Retail isn’t going to disappear but we have to throw out most of what we know
Sir Stuart Rose, November 2017


In other words – modern consumers have high expectations which are rapidly evolving towards brand experiences which can take them on an emotional journey. It follows that intrinsically oriented rewards will be a more powerful motivator for the modern consumer who also expects to have a relationship with your brand.

These rewards turn ‘ordinary’ into ‘hedonic’ experiences that can influence how we feel about brands, how trusting we are of them and even what we hope to gain from them.

Mercedes F1 Simulator creates a hedonic experience, building trust with the brand


In today’s retail world, consumers are often highly engaged with brands who gain their trust. And trust is the result of emotion. Consumers want to experience positive emotions such as joy for example, so they need to be offered an emotional journey, one that is meaningful and relevant.

So, if you’re wondering how to retain and attract new customers, it might be time to switch on the ‘motivation button’.


  • Creating a remarkable retail space that amplifies the brand is just the beginning. It is the marrying of the physical with the digital to create one seamless environment which holds the key to unlocking a memorable experience
  • In the headlong stampede to ‘digitise the store’ a basic fundamental has somehow been lost along the way: first and foremost, customers just happen to be human beings – surprise and delight them, inspire and excite them! In short, take them on a wonderful emotional journey
  • Ask yourself – do our stores ‘switch on the motivation button’? If the answer is no it is time to revisit the meaning of a truly immersive sensory and emotional experience

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