This week, we get scientific to understand what motivates your customers’ spending habits.

Impulse buyer or careful eyer?

When and why your customers buy, according to their attachment style.

Alice Guo

Creative

4 minute read

We all have an impulse buy that we regret, from that pair of pants buried in your wardrobe to the dusty juicer in the cupboard – but it turns out some of us might be more prone to impulse purchases than others. While attachment theory is usually used to determine how you approach relationships with others, it can also be a good indicator of how you’re likely to spend your money.

Just like most habits, your attachment style stems from and is heavily determined by (you guessed it) your childhood. Depending on your background, your attachment style, and its effect on your relationship with money, is heavily influenced by your upbringing and experiences.5

The exciting part? Armed with some knowledge about attachment theory, businesses may be able to optimise their communication with a customer based on their particular attachment style.
In short
  • Attachment theory characterises how people approach relationships, but it’s also a window into their relationship with money.
  • People with the same attachment style are likely to exhibit similar spending behaviour.
  • Businesses can use this to understand and market to their customers more effectively.
The ins and outs of attachment theory
To help get you familiar with the different attachment styles, we’ve prepared a little experiment below. Have a read of these statements and pick the one that resonates with you most:

 

  1. I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don't often worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me.1
  2. I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like, and I often worry that people don’t want to be around me. My desire for close relationships sometimes scares people away.1
  3. I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, or to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close.1

If you identified with the first statement, your attachment style is secure, meaning that you become close to others with relative ease. You are able to trust others and can be trusted in return.1

If you found yourself relating to the second statement, you fall under the anxious attachment style. An anxiously attached person generally fears abandonment and needs validation from their relationships.1

If you connected with the third statement, you’re likely to have an avoidant attachment style. A person with an avoidant attachment style fears intimacy and may easily feel suffocated.1
Attachment styles in action
So, what does that mean for a business trying to understand their customers’ spending habits?

Securely attached people aren’t impulse buyers. Instead, these people have a healthy understanding of financial boundaries.3 They’re aware of their financial situation and understand how to work towards a better financial future.2

You might see securely attached people shopping around; they’re looking for the most suitable product for their needs, and they’re realistic about what that is. For these customers, make sure that you’re demonstrating the value of your product in their everyday lives.

Anxiously attached people want to buy attention. These people may be impulsive with their spending, splashing out on big purchases and using money as a tool to receive validation and attention from others.4

Given these qualities, people who are anxiously attached might shout a round of drinks or purchase a product on the advice of a friend. Cultivating an experience that leans on social features can leverage their desire to be ‘in’ and make them more motivated to buy.

Avoidantly attached people spend to accumulate power. People with an avoidant style are much more likely to spend money on individual needs.4 They can tend towards materialism, using goods as a way to assert independence or even replace intimacy. Because avoidant types would rather not rely on others, they’re generally better at saving.5

These customers will buy products that raise their status. They’re happy to spend more if they feel like they’re getting a uniquely different or valuable product in return. Clout, power and visibility are all important factors in convincing avoidant types to buy, which means they may only be a priority for the right kind of brand – think luxury or niche products.

“Armed with some knowledge about attachment theory, businesses may be able to optimise their communication with a customer based on their particular attachment style.”

Styling for success
How does attachment theory fit in amongst all of the other psychological models and theories in marketing? If you use it correctly, it can be the difference between a customer hitting ‘buy’ or walking away. But you can also use attachment styles to build out your knowledge of your customers’ motivations and triggers at any stage of the buying journey. From building personas to bucketing customers, it can be valuable for more than just driving sales – it’s another way to paint the picture of how to talk to your audience.

on being close with your customer
Do your customers want to be closer to you? While this question seems a bit personal for a survey, research suggests that people with secure or anxious attachment styles will expect a more meaningful relationship with your brand than others. Meanwhile, avoidant types would prefer to hear from you only when necessary.

Written by Alice Guo, 52 Words and editing by Abby Clark, key visual by Alice Guo, page built by Georgie Drinnan and Angelica Martin
References
  1. Kate Murphy, Love and Money - and How They’re Connected (21 Nov 2020), The Wall Street Journal.
  2. Kelly Gonsalves, What Is Your Attachment Style? Attachment Theory, Explained (29 September 2021), Mind Body Green.
  3. Mike Pumphrey, What’s Your Money Attachment Style? (24 May 2021), Emphatic Finance.
  4. Raven Ishak, Your Attachment Style Can Determine How You Manage Your Finances—Experts Explain How (6 November 2020), Hello Giggles.
  5. John Anderer, If you act this way in your relationships, you may be broke soon (4 March 2020), Ladders.

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