12 Seconds to Success

When shoppers walk into Disneyland, a Las Vegas casino, a CVS or any retail giant’s store what they don’t know is that their entire customer experience has been carefully scripted by neuroscientists, marketers, psychologists, and geographers to optimize how much a shopper spends. Shoppers have no idea they are manipulated. But just as importantly, they don’t care because they are having a good time.

These scientists and marketing experts don’t leave the customer experience up to chance because they know the most important marketing any business can do is the marketing that takes place when their customers are in their place of business.

YOU - the local business owner

Let me tell you something you most likely don’t know about Disneyland.

Disneyland has been set up to guide you from one spending event to another. Disney’s shopper experts use neuroscience to capture your attention and then to direct you from one spending event to the next spending event. Disney scientists have set up the experience so that you “feel good” when you spend money

When any spending event becomes too crowded with people, the Disney experts react in real-time and begin diverting park visitors to a less crowded spending event. Disney is focused on optimizing spending of every customer

Las Vegas casinos are much smaller than Disneyland and yet much more aggressive in controlling the attention of gamblers. They are so good at controlling the visitor/shopper experience they have mastered the process of getting rational people to irrationally lose billions of dollars a year gambling and to feel good about it.

How do they do it?

Disney, Las Vegas casinos, and all the retail giants use neuroscience to influence their customers to spend more. Neuroscience researchers have found that with the right stimuli they can trigger dopamine in their customers’ brains. When dopamine is released the customer experiences a sudden, unexpected and powerful burst of pleasure.

Disney, Las Vegas casinos, CVS and retail giants’ marketers and scientists have mastered associating spending more in their stores with pleasure. The frenzy and six-billion-dollar three- day spending spree of Black Friday is NOT an accident. Black Friday was created by experts to trigger massive amounts of dopamine in crowds. Think about the crazy crowds on Black Fridays where customers fight each other to spend their money. Shoppers are having a good time. The reason – dopamine. Here’s a quick side note. Crowds, given a great experience all release dopamine at the same time. It's what makes people go to concerts, fights, sporting events, Disney and casinos – it is a cultural dopamine release.

So how do these retail giants get the brains of shoppers to release dopamine?

They use In-Store Signs. Impossible you say! Think again. Disneyland, Vegas casinos, CVS and the other retail giants are filled with strategically placed signs that guide their customers all along an optimized spending path. All those items at the checkout stand and the signs that promote them are there because scientists and marketers put those exact items and the signs there. They are some of the highest profit items in the retail giants’ stores. Amazon does the same thing online.

I was in a Home Depot the other day shopping for light bulbs. I had my bulbs and was standing in the checkout line. Right in front of me was a fantastic display of batteries. My brain was triggered. I started thinking about my flashlights and right in front of me were batteries to power them. I did NOT need any batteries and was able to fight off the impulse to buy a 48 pack of AAA batteries. Home Depot knows what it is doing.

Now let’s take a minute to think about most local businesses.

Owners and managers spend time arranging products in the store, stacking boxes of shoes, arranging dresses, shirts, and sweaters, the décor of restaurants or the goods in the local deli or bakery. But not one of those common actions is based on the neuroscience of buying. There are no GUIDED buying paths in local businesses.

My Local Bee is 100% focused on giving local businesses the same tools as Disneyland, Las Vegas Casinos, CVS and the retail giants.

Here is how you put neuroscience to work in your local business.

The research of Dr. Marci ,, a leading neuroscience researcher, uses special cameras to track shopper eye movements. His research found that shoppers see, evaluate and decide what to buy all within 12-seconds. Dr. Marci and other neuroscientists want to trigger a burst of dopamine every 12-seconds.

Let’s step back and think about the importance of those 12-seconds. In 12-seconds marketers shift the shopper from buying what the shopper needs to the shopper filling up a basket with what the In-Store Signs tell the shopper he wants. CVS and the retail giants use neuroscience findings to strategically place IN-STORE signs that actively “guide” shoppers along an in-store path. The shopper sees a sign and then within the next 12-second timespan, a second sign catches the shopper’s eyes. Shoppers are like rats frantically pressing levers to get a hit of brain stimulation.

To put neuroscience to work for your local business starts with the commitment that every customer that you interact with is going to have dopamine-triggering experience every time.

This is not only logical but obvious. Just think of the effort every customer makes to walk into your store, brings your company in for an estimate, calls your office or visits your website.

I want to state it directly and clearly – EVERY local business has the power to guarantee greater success. The only thing standing in the way of that success is the will and effort to make it happen.


Now think about how casually you and other local businesses deal with customers. Local businesses need to step up their game if they intend to fight back and win against the retail giants and Amazon.


It could be as simple as offering a customer a “taste” of a special potato salad in the local deli or an exclusive discount offered by a clerk who says, “tomorrow this dress goes on sale but if you like it you can have the sale price today.” The key is a real person interacting with the customer. The biggest advantage of local businesses is PEOPLE.

There is no amount of money a local business can spend on advertising or marketing that produces a greater return. Give your customers a dopamine-triggering experience every time they interact with you and you will guarantee your success.

How quickly would you take your dentist up on his offer to give you a complimentary teeth cleaning in appreciation for being such a faithful customer? Amazon and the retail giants cannot replicate the experience with your customers.

Here’s another practical example – if the local boutique has a selection of great jewelry and had a single well written and visually pleasing sign next to it that says, “With a purchase of $50 or more other items in the store, the exclusive jewelry, in this case, is 75% off."

Now let’s analyze. The items in the case are already marked up but when the shopper sees the In-Store Sign and what she has to do to get a 75% discount her DOPAMINE is released. The shopper was already in the store to buy something but now she can get that fabulous jewelry for 75% off when she spends $50. In her mind, she is saving money by spending. I know it doesn't sound logical but whoever said people are logical. With one outstanding sign, the jewelry store is selling its products and simultaneously building its brand in the mind of its customers by triggering their dopamine. Shoppers come back more often to a local business when their brain associates visiting that store with pleasure. Pleasure means “my dopamine gets triggered every time I visit this store.”

It is SIMPLE to put neuroscience to work in the next five minutes:
  1. Pick one product or item in your store or service that your local business provides
  2. Feature that product or service with in-store signs that trigger your customers’ dopamine. For your In-Store Sign to trigger your customers’ dopamine it must get your customers to say, “Wow! That’s a great deal.” If the customer doesn’t say, “Wow!” you are wasting your time.
  3. Use your My Local Bee sign creator to print the sign, and then tape it just below the product.

Breaking Research. Research from eMarketer Retailer found that 66% of shoppers report that “Best Value” is why they shop at a particular business.

Here’s another example. If the local deli has a sign that says brownie’s 50% off with purchase of $10 or more it gets each shopper begins calculating, “A sandwich costs $8.50 and that brownie is tasty. I want that brownie so what do I have to buy something more for $1.50 to get it.” Boom the customer buys a drink, chips, or a pint of potato salad.

What's important is that the sign changes EVERY DAY. To trigger dopamine the deli owner needs to make sure his customers are “looking” for the dopamine triggers in his store. CHANGE triggers dopamine.

CHANGE is one of the most powerful tools that Amazon and the retail giants use to trigger dopamine in their customers. The opposite of change is HABITUATION. One of the big problems local businesses have is that shoppers have HABITUATED to them. Shoppers DO NOT expect change. They don’t expect PLEASURE.

Here’s a neuroscience bonus – when your customers find that one sign that triggers their dopamine, they will automatically begin looking for more signs. Trigger your shoppers’ dopamine and they will spend more each visit and come back more often because shopping in your store or eating in your restaurant makes them feel good.

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