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Why We Buy - Book Review


I have to say that I don't read books much and like any non-reader my excuse is that nothing interest me enough to commit and not be daunted by the world that is contained in the book's hundred-something pages. When I do read, it's something I strongly commit to and  get completely lost in. The last book I read was Never Let Me Go and that did all kinds of emotional things to me. Just thinking about it gets me sucked in that world again. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that when I recommend books here on my blog its something I feel passionately about even more so than say music. I'll gladly write about music but books not so much. So if a piece of literature gives me the urge to write it probably means because I ridiculously like it.



"Successful organisms are the ones that best adapt to environment. In stores, its the environment that must adapt to the organism."

The book review I'm writing about is Paco Underhill's Why We Buy. The book pulls the big curtains to reveal tricks and strategies of the retail world. The author Underhill, is the CEO and founder of Envirosell, an innovative company who proves the science of shopping is real. The company specializes in studying retail and service environments and finding out how to improve them. His clients include Microsoft, Walmart, and Starbucks.



In the book, Underhill discusses how his company conducts its data gathering. His methods include trackers who stands next to you discretely and recording every move you make. He also discusses the thousands of video footage his company reviews and studies to see how we behave in a retail environment. It's quite an eye opener on how labor intensive and intricate the science of shopping takes. The book is heavy on information but Underhill approaches the content casually to avoid being too dry. This way, business people can benefit from this as well as the regular shopper can benefit reading this book.


Paco Underhill. via igcshow

Underhill talks about store structures and how it can make or break them. He discusses how a simple change like moving an item one shelf up can increase its sales exponentially. He mentions how a poor signage placed in the right area of the store is better than a pretty signage placed in an inappropriate area. If you notice in grocery stores, the clerks don't always put the food on the shelf but rather the deliverers of the items who work for the company who does that job. The book discusses the general and individual problems each retail stores have and the solutions that can fix this. A pristine sketch design of a store doesn't take into consideration how human beings will interact with it and its Underhill who shows how to make it all work.

Underhill also takes on the science of shopping from a human's point of view. He talks about how men are hunters who comes in with a purpose and that is to buy what they need and quickly get out of there. Women are gatherers who find pleasure in window shopping and doesn't necessarily need to buy something to see it as a succesful trip.  The book also discusses the changing role of both genders. Women make more money now more than ever and single moms need to deal with task a husband would be responsible for. Men too are taking on women roles. Hardware stores had to become more women-friendly and washing machines needed to sell to guys too. Social behavior is also tackled and shows the difference between a person shopping along versus a group. In general stores had to respond to each individual's need or else they lose that person's business. Like Underhill sums up, "Successful organisms are the ones that best adapt to environment. In stores, its the environment that must adapt to the organism".

This book takes on more interesting concepts like these and like I said before it is information heavy. If you are a shopper, which most of us are, it's definitely an interesting read since it pertains to you. You will learn how stores are designed to sell to you. This book will make you an aware consumer because when you known better you do better. If you have an interest in business this is a fantastic read as well. Unlike marketing and advertising that generalizes people by turning them to demographics Why We Buy discusses people and product individually. Underhill offers a fresh perspective on the retail industry and its one worth reading.

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