Perceptual Contrast

Perceptual Contrast

It never ceases to amaze me, that however much I know or understand about our buying behaviours and persuasive drivers, I am still as susceptible to them as a blissfully unaware shopper, Why?  Because they reside just below my consciousness. 

I have just completed a series of 42 retail talks across the UK.  During my talks I discuss perceptual contrast and price benchmarking amongst other things.  I decide to book a family holiday whilst these talks were fresh in my mind, in fact, it was these talks that created a need for a holiday.  So with this and other retail techniques rattling around my head, I popped into my local travel agents with my wife.  We decided we were going to Florida and we had a clear budget in mind.  This budget was the most we have ever spent on a holiday as a family.  In the interest of transparency, I shared my budget with the travel agent.  She starts to sift through the various windows on her computer screen, asking various questions about the type of family car we required when we got there, which location, how near to the Disney Parks, which parks we were likely to visit, whether we required the facility for self-catering and so on.   After approx 10 minutes of interrogation she finally presented to us our first holiday choice – at twice my budgeted price.


I was a little annoyed to say the least, actually my emotional response clouded my ability to recognise the technique she was using.  This travel agent, justifying her actions as simply following my requests for the type of holiday that we wanted, have realigned my price benchmark.  No longer was I comparing holidays to my budget, but I would be comparing to the first price that she had offered me.  Not only is there a new price on the table now, but in order to get closer to my budgeted price, I am going to need to sacrifice many of the amenities and features she went to great effort to present to me just before.  


What was the final result?  Well, despite the fact that I teach the principle of perceptual contrast, I still end up spending approximately 40% above my budget for our holiday to Florida.  Interestingly I didn’t leave feeling cheated.  I booked a fantastic holiday, which appeared to me, to be better value than her initial offer.

Written by

Corin Birchall is a Retail Sales & Marketing Consultant and founder of “Kerching Retail - helping to make your till ring”. His consultancy works throughout the UK and Europe. Corin is an active writer, coach and public speaker, helping to develop and grow a wide range of businesses & business leaders from Leisure and Retail sectors

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