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The Anatomy of Irresistibility

Arc’s mission is to help make brands ‘irresistible,’ which first means understanding the dynamics that drive an irresistible shopping experience. See what we’ve learned.

We live in an era of constant disruption, where shoppers have never been harder to reach, win over or retain—which makes it easier than ever for people to resist relationships with brands and retailers. The ones that win are those that offer shoppers something truly “irresistible.”

With this new shopping reality at play, Arc and EnsembleIQ joined forces to conduct a research study focused on dissecting ‘irresistibility’ and understanding which factors have the greatest impact on driving an irresistible shopping experience. Through three robust study phases—comprised of online discussions boards, mobile missions and a quantitative online survey—here’s what we found.

The Definition of Irresistibility
The first thing we looked to do was uncover the universal language shoppers use to describe ‘irresistibility.’ When asked to describe their general ‘shopping style,’ not surprisingly, pragmatism reigned. Terms like ‘fast’ ‘focused’ ‘practical’ were cited most often.

But when shoppers talked about an experience that felt highly irresistible, the rules went out the window, focusing instead on feelings and emotions. Some passionate verbatims we heard included “not being able to control an urge,” “can’t get it out of my mind” and the “inability to walk away.” The quantitative survey revealed the same, with responses like ‘inescapable attraction,’ ‘filling a perceived void’ and ‘self-actualization,’ with the notion of an ‘inescapable pull’ rising to the top.

Which led us to the following definition: Irresistibility is an uncontrollable attraction to a product or service in which an emotional pull supersedes rational barriers. When a purchase is irresistible it feels like fate—meant to be and little effort is required. Kind of like falling in love.

Making an Experience Irresistible
If you ask shoppers directly about what makes an experience irresistible, they will often ascribe it to product attributes, or maybe even the retail environment. But anyone who’s ever been in love knows there’s a deeper sensation at play. We needed to tap into shoppers’ subconscious.

Using a propriety research method, we learned that truly irresistible shopping experiences offer shoppers a clear picture of who they can be and how they will feel as a result—for example, more present, confident, proud or youthful. This is true even of the most routine purchases. What matters is that shoppers’ desired feelings equate to actual feelings throughout the entire experience.

When the Experience Loses its Irresistibility Not to take the romance out of it, but at its simplest, shopping can be broken out into four basic steps. It starts with looking for love, or 1) Pre-shop planning and research. Then progresses to dating, that phase of 2) Consideration. If things go well, shoppers will jump into the relationship and 3) Purchase. And then there’s the relationship itself, 4) Usage.

In ‘normal’ shopping experiences, things are at their least irresistible (70% of low/neutral irresistible ratings) before purchase. Not surprising given these stages often require a lot of time, effort and work to feel like you’re making the right decision. These low scores are even more exaggerated for shopping experiences that bring no chemistry, where irresistibility ratings trend negative throughout the entire process as shoppers feel ‘overwhelmed,’ ‘annoyed’ and ‘conflicted’—even after all the work has been done and the decision has been made.

However, shopping experiences that are irresistible reverse the trend with positive sentiments permeating each stage of the process when brands and retailers are able to anticipate, meet and even exceed shoppers’ desired feelings.

The challenge for brands then becomes making their early courtship as easy as possible on shoppers—eliminating barriers in those more arduous stages to increase their irresistible appeal. For an experience to be ‘irresistible,’ a shopper has to have (or feel that they have) the innate sense that the purchase is a good one. For brands, a smart approach may be to get the good feelings going early—when shoppers are researching, comparing and vetting purchases—by finding ways to let shoppers feel like they can give up control, and let irresistibility in.

Keeping Irresistibility High
To learn even more, we took people’s feelings to 20 different product categories with shopping processes ranging from highly routine to incredibly complex. The goal was to create category proxies along with scores and recommendations that could be used to understand products more broadly.

Shoppers were asked to sort emotions into Wanted to Feel / Didn’t Want to Feel and Actually Felt / Didn’t Feel to reflect their desired and actual shopping experiences, respectively, within their assigned product category. The strength of actual and desired associations was measured by the speed and direction of people’s swipes—the passion with which they responded, you might say.

We won’t give away all the relationship secrets, but needless to say the study was revealing. The difference between actual and desired associations revealed both barriers to and opportunities for irresistibility in shopping experiences, as well as tactics that could increase irresistibility within each product category.

How to Make Irresistibility Work for You
No matter how irresistible an experience is, the changing nature of consumer engagement and shifting retail landscape mean there are always ways to make it better. If you’re looking to keep your shoppers satisfied, and would like to learn where and how irresistibility can be increased along the path to purchase for your product category(s), consider us your relationship counselor. Learn more by contacting us at or visit

February 14, 2020