5 Theories of Influence Every Retail RDN Should Know

5 Theories of Influence Every Retail RDN Should Know

August 19, 2015

Can you picture in your mind one person you know who is great at convincing or influencing others? This exercise might conjure up images of a used car salesman or someone perceived to be sneaky and sly in business, but the truth of the matter is whether it comes naturally or was learned having influence and persuasion skills is key to being successful in business. As a retail RDN you have important messages to get across, both with your shoppers and within your organization, making these skills absolutely critical.  

Consider the following five psychological theories of influence and persuasion and how you might leverage them to be most successful in gaining internal support for new programs or headcount or convincing shoppers to adopt healthier lifestyle behaviors.    

1. Amplification Hypothesis 
When you express with certainty a particular attitude, that attitude hardens. The opposite is true as well: Expressing uncertainty softens the attitude. How can you  use this to your benefit? If you come across someone in the supermarket who is skeptical about a certain healthier product, express a similar but vague hesitation, but then gently explain why something similar might be worth trying.

2. Priming 
You can be influenced by stimuli that affect how you perceive short-term thoughts and actions. The way we introduce ideas or even name products or events can have a priming effect. Calling something successful or even using the word healthy in the marketing messaging can have a huge effect on the outcome of the pitch or the program.  

3. Reciprocity Norm 
A very common social norm, reciprocity involves the obligation to return favors done by others. Use this to your benefit by handing out free samples of better-for-you products, partnering with prepared foods on menu labeling or helping a customer in the aisles! This action creates an open door for you to ask for something in return, whether it’s collaborating on healthier items to include in the deli assortment, to join you in a store tour, or even help you get a new program approved. Reciprocity holds a huge weight.  

4. Scarcity Principle 
Everyone wants choice in their decisions. If something becomes scarce (or it’s perceived to be scarce), people feel regret that they did not acquire it, and then desire it more. In short, consumers want what is in short supply. Make this work for you by limiting the number of spots in a class, creating a deadline to sign up, or giving “prizes” for the first X to enroll. These ideas create a greater desire to participate as nobody wants to miss out!

5. Social Influence
People are influenced strongly by others based on how they perceive their relationship to them. The more people like or respect them, the more they are susceptible to the same beliefs – intentional or unintentional. For example, social proof on web copy is persuasive if the testimonials and recommendations are from authoritative trusted sources or respected peers. If you are trying to reach a new group, find the thought leader or influencer and get their buy in first as this will help you penetrate the group and get your message heard.

For more information on any of these persuasion principles, visit Dave Straker’s Changing Minds. (LINK http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/a_alphabetic.htm )