The Linger Effect - And How It Shapes Consumer Behavior
A candle made me buy a pair of jeans for $150.
If you’re a female in your 20s to 40s, you might have fallen into the same trap at Anthropologie, a store that boasts being “a one-of-a-kind destination for women seeking a curated mix of clothing, accessories, gifts, and home décor.”
In reality, Anthropologie specializes in spellbinding.
It’s one of the only stores where I lose my mind and buy something for triple what I would normally.
They concoct a multi-sensory retail potion that you unwittingly imbibe the moment you cross the store’s threshold. In the air hangs heavy the scent of their signature Capri Blue Volcano candle, so tropically sweet you feel transported to a far-off land.
Fantastical art installations, handcrafted by artisans (often from recycled materials) are mesmerizing and take more than a few minutes to fully take in. Clothing artfully arranged on European antique fixtures — also for sale, also very expensive— causes the suburban mall walker to break out into wanderlust. (I’m not a traveler, but admittedly I’ve dreamt of where those overpriced sundresses and handknit sweaters might take me — a Paris flea market? A tropical beach? A cabin in the Alps?)
Audio speakers cast tunes that are “feminine, sophisticated, upbeat, and maybe a little nostalgic” — the icing on the retail cake, according to Anthro’s resident music expert.
That’s when the spell takes over, and you take a pile of clothes to the fitting room, where Anthro has managed to create lighting so beguilingly soft and slimming even stay-at-home moms feel like supermodels. Before you know it, you’re at the register swiping your Visa for a $150 pair of jeans, and maybe a t-shirt from the sale rack for $39.
(Because what Anthro jeans look good with a $16 Target tee?)
The “Linger Effect”Anthropologie has mastered what I call the “linger effect”: an experience so captivating that a customer will stick around—even without intention of purchasing. Seems I’m not alone in my lingering. On average, Anthro’s visits last an hour and fifteen minutes, while some visits surpass four hours, and the average sale is around $80. A person might go “just to look around,” but after looking for a good hour, there’s something so convincingly necessary — a $20 kitchen towel, for instance — that she purchases it. (See this Fast Company Article.)
Anthropologie President Glen Senk has said, “In my experience, retailers spend most of their time looking at things from the company’s perspective or the marketer’s perspective. They talk about trends and brand but rarely about the customer in a meaningful way. We’re customer experts. Our focus is on always doing what’s right for a specific customer we know very well.”
It’s Always about the CustomerIn many ways, Anthro modeled what I attempt to do when I sell my vintage wares at weekend markets—my “jobby” (definitely more hobby than job. CZ keeps me busy Monday through Friday). I envision my customer: what they wear, what their homes look like, where they eat, what captures their imagination, and how much they’re willing to spend. I know my customer. And that customer drives every decision of my merchandising — both what I buy, how I price it, and how I display it.
I’ve often been glared at by neighboring dealers at markets. They wonder, on especially sparse customer-turnout weekends, why my booth is full of people and empty of merchandise, and theirs is full of merchandise but empty of people.
Sometimes I feel guilty. But my son reminds me, “Mom, you think about your customer. You don’t buy just anything—you buy what they want. And you don’t just put up a tent—you create a visual experience for them. Every effort is about your customer.”
The Lesson Beyond RetailThe “linger effect” isn’t just for retailers. It can be applied to digital marketing efforts by the service industry. In marketing, we talk about having a “sticky” website. Meaning, you create a site with content so rich and engaging that prospects linger. They might even down the road turn into a lead.
Imagine a stranger to your brand googling a topic that takes them to an article on your site speaking to the exact problem they’re seeking to solve. They snoop around the site some more, reading more articles on topics relevant to them, and end by sending an email inquiry about your services. That happened to one of our clients; and the inquiry turned into a sizable deal
Social media, a companion to the website, is another place to create a “linger effect.”
- Are you creating content that is visually captivating and arrests the attention of scrollers?
- Are you writing posts that engage conversation?
- Are your posts anticipated by your followers so much so that they don’t wait for your posts to show up in their feed, but instead they go to your profile to look for what content they might have missed?
- Are you posting content regularly enough to create an archive of posts for people to get lost in?
The definition of “linger” is this: to stay in a place longer than necessary because of a reluctance to leave.
Its etymology can be traced back to the middle-English word for “dwell.” Which got me thinking: What if our marketing efforts were to make prospects feel like friends, welcomed into a space where they’re not only known but also served well.
Let’s linger on that for a while.