Ask any Singaporean what their favourite pastime is and you'll likely get 'Shopping' as an answer. Shopping malls provide free air conditioning in the frequent Singapore heat, and most online shopping websites offer free shipping so you can even get your shopping done from the comfort of your couch. 

But do you know that most retailers have cultivated a myriad of psychological tactics to get you to part with your hard-earned cash without you even realising? We are going to shed light on 3 ways we get manipulated into buying stuff we don't need. Remember them the next time you set foot in a shopping mall, or click to add that additional item to your shopping cart.

Buying something because it's on sale.

One of the best ways you get someone to spend money on a product is to proclaim that it's on sale! If you have ever been to one of those IT fairs at Suntec Convention Centre or, worse, an H&M sale, you would understand that feeling of fighting the crowd and queuing for ages. If you end up not buying anything, it can feel like you're losing money if you don't make a purchase from the discounted goods. Those Beats by Dr. Dre earphones which used to cost $299 is now selling for $189! That means you save $110 by buying it, and if you don't buy it, you are LOSING $110! Right? Right? 

Worse still, it can feel like you've wasted your entire day. So you end up desperately searching for something (anything!) to buy so as to take full advantage of the sale. But the ones who are really benefitting are the retailers. They do this by tapping into the 'kiasu' mentality of most Singaporeans who are afraid of losing out on something worthwhile. 

Buying something just because you have a voucher

It's quite common to receive vouchers as gifts during birthdays and Christmas. Personally, I find vouchers a much better gift to receive than another lame novelty mug. Unfortunately, vouchers force us to spend more on stuff we do not really need. Simply because we do not want the vouchers to go to waste.

Most retailers will use the marketing tactic of offering a small voucher that can only be redeemed after a minimum spend is made, or offer a discount off a place where the products are generally expensive. 

Falling for pricing tricks

You may think that all the purchase you make are a conscious decision on your part. Sure, you busted your allowance for the month, but it was you, and entirely you, who decided that pair of shoes was totally worth it! 

Well, think again, it is the retailers who employ numerous pricing tricks to fool you into believing you have made an objective buying decision when in fact they have employed years of marketing research into leading you to that final decision. From pricing something at $19 instead of $20, to employing buy-2-get-1-free offers, to even giving you a loyalty card offering free perks on your birthday month. All these are tactics designed to push you closer to tipping over the edge. 

Paying more for something you can touch

What is the first thing you notice when you enter an Apple store? Their products, from phones to laptops, are placed out in the open for you to touch and to try out. 

Caltech researchers conducted a study to compare what customers would pay for the same item when it was presented as a word description, a photograph, and in real life. Test subjects said they would pay about the same price for the first two, but were willing to pay 50% more money when the item was placed in front of them and they were able to touch it! This means you should be aware that you will be prone to overspending when you can touch, smell, and see an item up close. It's just the way your brain works!

Keeping you inside as long as possible

If you've ever been to IKEA, you would have experienced the maze-like layout of the store. Time seems to slow down, and you emerge hours later with stuff you didn't even come in for. You only came for the meatballs! What happened? 

This is a classic retail maneuver that keeps shoppers in a store for as long as possible so as to tap into the impulse buying mentality. The longer you walk past other items, to higher the chances you will toss some into your shopping basket.

To prevent this from happening, it helps to write down a list of items you came to shop for and stick to the list once you enter the store. Cutting past all the other distractions to head straight for the aisle that contains what you are looking for.  

Hopefully, by understanding a little bit more about retailer tactics, it may help to keep your shopping experience (and wallets) more intact.