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  • Writer's pictureIvaylo Yorgov

To increase store sales, mimic customers' expressions and behavior


  • When sales people mimic customers' expressions and nonverbal behavior, the evaluation of the store is higher.

  • This higher evaluation leads to higher sales rate and more "compliance to the sales clerk’s suggestion during the selling process" *

Now what:

  • Often the subtlest cues make the biggest impact. Mimicry is one such cue that sales people can put to better use. It creates a win-win situation, in which the customer is happier, and the store sales more.

  • Consider adding the topic of mimicry to your customer experience trainings.


It is oftentimes the smallest things that can make or break customer experience. In other posts we examined the impact of scents on buyers' behavior, how the shape of your logo affects brand perception, and how the choice of language influences customer satisfaction.

Besides these sensory cues, the burgeoning field of social psychology has examined a number of other subtle but powerful cues that affect people's behavior. Think about the fact that low self-esteem customers gravitate towards inferior products, for example, or how the simple act of touching another person can profoundly impact our behavior.

This week, we will have a look at another subtle yet powerful cue that can considerably change customers' behavior - mimicry.


Over 20 years ago two psychologists, Tanya Chartrand and John Bargh discovered what became popularly know as the 'chameleon effect': the "nonconscious mimicry of the postures, mannerisms, facial expressions, and other behaviors of one's interaction partners, such that one's behavior passively and unintentionally changes to match that of others..." *

We are all, more or less, chameleons; this unconscious mimicking of others is not a territory reserved for a special type of people. Quite the contrary, we all do it to a certain extent and/or in some situations or with some people. Studies show that we mimic things like speech rate, accent, laughter, gestures like face touching, and yawning.

The fact that we mimic others is actually a beneficial feature. A number of studies show that people like the person who mimics them more and also tend to agree with messages delivered by someone who mimics their head movements more; mimicry has also been found to increase rapport and the feeling of affiliation.

In two carefully controlled experiments, a group of psychologists set off to explore whether the Chameleon effect exists in consumption context as well, and what are its behavioral effects. Read on.


Both of these experiments followed a similar procedure. They asked several salespeople in a store to mimic the behavior of some customers, or to just behave like they always do with others. They mimicked both the language customers used and their nonverbal behavior. So, for example,

if a customer said,

""Hello! Could you help me to choose aMP3player?"

  • in the non-mimicry condition, the seller was instructed to say "Yes of course",

  • whereas in the mimicry condition, he said: "Hello! Of course I can help you to choose a MP3 player".

If the customer said: "I want to buy a MP3 player for my grandson", then

  • in the nonmimicry condition the seller was instructed to say "Yes. How old is he?",

  • whereas in the mimicry condition, he said "A MP3 player for you grandson. How old is he?""

After the interaction, a confederate of the researchers approached the customer asking him/her to take part in a survey.

The results are very clear: mimicking works!

First, customers who were mimicked showed much more positive attitudes towards the seller - they considered the salesperson to be more competent, more agreeable, and friendlier when he/she mimicked the customer's behavior.

Second, the customers evaluated the store more favorably when the seller was mimicking them. The average evaluation increased from 6.4 without mimicking, to 7.1 with mimicking, which is a considerable boost given the simplicity of the technique!

And third, not only were the attitudes more positive; the behavior of customers promptly followed suit. In the mimicry condition 79% of the customers bought the MP3 players, while significantly less - 62% did so in the non-mimicry one. That's a full 17 percentage points increase in sales by doing such a simple thing as acting as a mirror!


This study offers another confirmation for two very fundamental points that we often seem to forget. The first one is that before being consumers, we are humans. What applies in the non-consumption world applies in the consumer one as well - after all, the mechanisms that guide our behavior are the same in both spheres.

The second point is that there are many subtle ways in which we can impact customer behavior or make a customer feel better. What leading companies do better is not that different from what others do. They just do 1% more in all areas every day. In time, this leads to a huge cumulative advantage.

And here also lies the good news - becoming 1% better every day is something you and I can do as well, right?

My best wishes for a great day ahead!

CX Inspirations - card 41
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