A few months ago I was looking around Topshop and an assistant came up to me to ask if I needed any help. I told her that I was fine and was thinking about buying the dress I was carrying, to which she responded something along the lines of “oh I have that dress and I think these (pointing gesture) shoes would go really well with it.” After trying them on out of curiosity I was hooked. Even though I did not need another pair of shoes I ended up leaving the shop with both them and the dress. This is similar to the foot-in-the-door technique used by salesman (Pratkanis, 2007). This is when a small request which most people are willing to perform is followed by a related larger request. I had gone shopping for a dress, so committing myself to purchase it was only a small request. As a result being persuaded to buy another item (a larger request) became easier. Research has found that this technique works extremely well. Freedman and Fraser (1966) found that 76% of homeowners in their study put up a sign in their yard saying “Drive carefully” (large commitment) if they had agreed to put up a 3-inch sign with a similar message in their home 2 weeks earlier (small request/commitment). This was over 59% more than the control group who were just asked the larger request.
Nowadays persuasion techniques such as the one above are not limited specifically to the clothes shop. On clothes websites phrases such as “top sellers” or “customers who bought this also bought…” are a regular occurrence. Showing these things increases social proof and as a result increases sales. People make decisions based on what people similar to them do.
Freedman, J. L., & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: the foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of personality and social psychology, 4(2), 195.
Pratkanis, A. R. (Ed.). (2007). The science of social influence. Psychology Press.