Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping--Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond
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Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping--Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  5,031 ratings  ·  358 reviews
Revolutionary retail guru Paco Underhill is back with a completely revised edition of his classic, witty bestselling book on our ever-evolving consumer culture—full of fresh observations and important lessons from the cutting edge of retail such as Internet behemoths Amazon and iTunes as well as the globalization of retail in the world’s emerging market...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published December 30th 2008 by Simon & Schuster (first published May 13th 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Wayne
Aug 06, 2007 Wayne rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beginning retailers
Rather disappointing -- it reads like a book length sales brochure for Envirosell, the company the author founded. Every page follows the same formula: A foolish retailer was doing this. I told him to do this. He did, and he is now more virile, has a better looking wife, has more money than he could imagine, and he thanks me daily.

This gets old. A few fun tricks of retailing are buried here and there, but the book should be subtitled: How to Get Rich Using Common Sense.
Danielle
Horrendous, for several reasons.
First, it is outdated, which is my own fault -- he has a newer book and I happened to pick up the wrong one at the library. There are references to dial-up modems and portable cassette players, among other things.
Second, it reads like a sales pitch. The guy is arrogant and self-serving, pitching his company (Envirosell) throughout. That's just plain annoying.
Third, and probably most offensive, it is sexist, making broad generalizations about female vs. male shop...more
Jen
Nov 30, 2007 Jen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
As a consumer, this book frightens me; every display, every sign, every detail in a store is designed to part me from my money. I'm pretty aware of that, but the details in this book will frighten you.

For librarians, this book has a vital message: marketing (and thinking about marketing) is everything. We have something to sell, even if we don't make a profit. The author, from a science-sales point of view, thinks that books should have age ranges; that's scary to me, but understandable from a s...more
Jessie Young
This book was recommended to me after I became absolutely obsessed with grocery shopping in Santiago, Chile. I think it was the hunt, or maybe just that I had a ton of time, but I went grocery shopping pretty much every day while I lived in Santiago. I found the assortment of foods fascinating and the way they were packaged (mayo in a bag!?) even more-so. I'm also, in general, a very tactile shopper so I was interested in what he'd have to say about that.

My expectation was that this book would b...more
Ryan
Don Draper would scoff and say "what?" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9DCaf...

I could barely finish this, and I'd say he ripped off Don Draper were it not for the fact that Mad Men was written after this book was. Is advertising really all about love? Hmph.

This book is written by Paco Underhill, who presents himself as an arrogant, simple-minded know-it-all who left (cue schlocky singsong playground bully voice) "academia" to go out in the Real World to actually apply all these "scientific" thi...more
Andrea
Here is a literary example of "good idea, bad execution." Underhill has lots of interesting little anecdotes, yet presents them in a disorganized, sometimes arrogant, sometimes wistful, and occasionally creepy style.
Some points I found interesting and profoundly true:
-You need to be slowed down when entering a store from a parking lot (caught myself speeding past the section I needed in Target just the other day).
-Despite my mom's vigilant hand-slapping when I was young, the adult consumer in...more
Michael
I will never be able to go into a business, especially a retail store, without an eye on traffic flow, product placement, the employee and purchaser environmental factors, along with signage, without thinking what I learned about the aforementioned topics. An enlightening read on "why we buy", and also an aid on possibly controlling why we buy. Great book.
Eh?Eh!
I guess his point is good, that we miss the obvious...but repeatedly stated in such a 'tada!' manner that makes you want to dislike him very much.
Tripleguess
This was an interesting book for the first couple chapters. I was fascinated by the premise: stores nowadays function as their own advertisement and can affect whether and how much shoppers buy through the judicious placement of signage, merchandise, and staff; however, it's hard to determine what ought to be moved without thorough study of current "traffic patterns" and even then adjustments don't always have their intended effect because "the obvious is not always apparent." Take the "butt-bru...more
Rebecca Radnor
Quick easy read that I would suggest to every adult who holds a job. Underhill is an anthropologist who studies what does and does not work in terms of increasing sales to your customers who have already walked into the store, but its stuff that could be applicable in classrooms to public spaces. He looks at what does or does not make people comfortable, where you should or should not put a sign to ensure it gets read, understanding who buys what and making it easier for them to buy it, etc. Its...more
Megan
Oct 18, 2008 Megan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Megan by: Caris
I learned about this book from a coworker at the library and am really glad I sat down to read it. This isn't a very long book, and it doesn't necessarily have to be read all the way through to glean the important points. Nevertheless, I really wish we could make every one of my coworkers read this book!

The author uses actual research he's done over years and years to glean new insights into the world of shopping and the people who shop. He researches everything from seat placement to aisle widt...more
Mark
Paco Underhill (with a name like that, how could you go wrong?) takes the tools that he learned as an anthropologist and in the 70's started applying them to the largest tribe in America: consumers and shoppers. It turns out that retailers are willing to pay a lot of money to find out how many towels shoppers will handle before they purchase a set, how many feet from the entrance of a store a display should be placed for maximum exposure, etc. Is Underhill a sell-out? Possibly, but the scales ar...more
Andrea Eckelman
A fascinating look at how we shop. I listened to the audio book, and found myself really considering how I move through a retail space. He's spot on about the things that will make me quickly leave and the things that will make me buy more than I came for!
Vanessa
A good read for those who work in retail or marketing with an interest in how we interact and behave in retail spaces.

However, this book didn't quite satisfy what I was looking for, which was insight into our actual shopping behaviors and impulses. I wasn't actually that interested in how store layouts and design influence buying habits.

While the author has done a great deal of research to understand and quantify the general behaviors of different demographics, I still bristled when he made swe...more
Stacy
This book is a must have for retail managers or for those, like me, who would love to open my own business someday. Underhill is the CEO of a research company that specializes in helping companies, like McDonald’s and General Mills, attract more customers and bigger sales. He and his associates spend hours studying the psychology of the shopper in the shopping environment. They study the most mundane of decisions shoppers make to help the companies change things like product placement and the ad...more
Stephen
No book on marketing, Why We Buy is an introduction to the novel field of retail anthropology. Young Paco Underhill was once an urban studies student assigned to monitor traffic flow down a given street. Watching pedestrians interact with the shopping displays and vendors lining it, he had an idea; why not watch the shoppers, and figure out what about the goods and services on offer attracted them, and what didn’t? What made certain products fly off the shelf and others not? That idea was the ge...more
Kimberlie
A friend listened to the audio version and thought of me, so he bought me the book. (Hmmm... me and shopping? I don't see the connection.) I loved it! The author has a subtle sense of humor (doesn't try too hard) and the otherwise dull material was really quite interesting. I'll read it again sometime. Very interesting!
Susana
Lectura obligada para todos aquellos que quieran conocer las nuevas tendencias en estudios de mercado, la aplicación de técnicas de la antropología al entendimiento de los motivadores detrás de la compra. EXCELENTE.
Emily
A must-read for anyone in a selling profession. And, really, isn't that all of us?
Paul Bard
This book gives practical advice on retail product positioning. It's not about the psychology of selling, although it attempts to be.

It gives retailers many hints to increase sales over short and long periods of time.

Suggestion for reading: the first third of the book is the most helpful for retailers. The opening chapters are more factual, middle more opinion. Skip the last two chapters.

It is unusual to have a business book deliver definite benefits directly to retailer's bottom line, but for...more
Martha
Mostly interesting, though I was skimming towards the end--especially the chapter where the author was just talking about jobs his company had done in different countries, which didn't really add anything to the book except a bit of boasting. He was most entertaining when he talked about the common-sense mistakes businesses make while trying to sell goods. Even though this edition was "updated and revised for the Internet," it's already outdated--especially the comments about how internet shoppi...more
Vanessa
The author comes across as an utter cock. There are insights scattered in here, sure, but they're sandwiched between promotion for his company and I told you sos and snobby, disparaging comments about everyone from Wharton business grads (they think they know things but they don't!) to mall cleaning crews (they don't even move the marketing displays before mopping the floor!).

The (newly-added, I think) chapter on internet in particular makes the author sound like a befuddled old guy as he tries...more
Rachel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paul Pessolano
This is an updated and revised edition of Paco's original book that was released in 1997.

Paco Underhill is the owner of Envirosell; a company that studies the buying habits of consumers and advises companies how to take advantage of these buying habits.

I was interested in the book as a consumer because it gave me insight into why certain items catch my eye, why some items do not, and what I may base my decision on buying an item.

It is also interesting from the standpoint of the company. How do y...more
Celine
Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping
By Paco Underhill
256pp. US
Simon & Schuster $16.00
ISBN: 978-0684849140

Who can honestly say that s/he is not materialistic? Not me, and I bet not many others. No one dares to buy a pair of sneakers from an unpopular brand. No one dares to walk into a store to buy non-branded clothes. No one dares to wear an unheard of bag. All because branded items have become mainstream. Who can admit that s/he does not like to shop? Once again, not me. Buying and shopping...more
David E McClendon, Sr
Paco Underhill has hit the nail on the head with Why We Buy. It was assigned to me in an Anderson College marketing class and since then I purchased a copy for my own and given away copies to some merchant friends of mine.

If you are in retail you must read this book before you put together your next display. The book might be a little bit "Self Promoting" but overall it reminds retailers of the different little things that must be done to make the shopping experience more comfortable for the sho...more
Frank Stein


Despite its pop-sciency title, this book is written by the world's premier "retail anthropologist," a term the author is happy to admit he more or less invented. He also admits that he remains pretty much the only practitioner. Still, he knows his stuff.

The book doesn't deal with things like advertising, general consumer psychology, or why we purchase, say, cars instead of life insurance. It deals with what shoppers do when they walk into a retail store.

First, they turn right. Almost always. Se...more
Marya
Do you know what the butt brush is? Women, it seems, hate to be brushed by passing strangers from behind. They dislike it so much, they will practically hug the shelves in stores or immediately leave to avoid such an occurrence. The author of this book's company is the one that discovered this practice, and I was hoping the book would provide more of such enlightening information.
Alas, that is not the case. True, Underhill gives countless anecdotes of how real shoppers behave that he has tracked...more
TeacherMrLoria
A fairly interesting, albeit a bit dated book. As part of my current quest to understand business, why not read this book after a day of skiing before cuddling up in front of a fireplace right? Tough life.

The book is simply put, a scientific (very data based) approach to how people function within stores. The book was written in 1999, and my how time flies. There is a section regarding online shopping, but it takes up about 7 pages out of 248 pages. The book primarily discusses retail shopping,...more
Kayt
It would be a lie to say that after reading this book, I sometimes don't examine completely whackdoodle items at the store on the off chance that I'm being followed by a shopping-social-scientist who is recording my every move, in order to throw off any data they might get.

Anyway.

Interesting book, but it shows its age (14 years as of this review). Like other older nonfiction books, a good chunk of the writing is obsolete due to technology. However, also like older books, this also makes those pa...more
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Underhill has spent more than 25 years conducting research on the different aspects of shopping behavior, earning his status as a leading expert and pioneer in the field. Paco helps companies understand what motivates the behaviors of today’s consumer. His research shows how today’s retail world is ruled by factors such as gender, “trial and touch” and human anatomy. He is an insightful and captiv...more
More about Paco Underhill...
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