Psychology of Purchasing a Wallet
Always a Better Wallet
Wallets have been around in some form or another for several hundred years. Actually longer if you include the bags and cases which were used for carrying heavier coins or exchangeable items, prior to the broad acceptance of paper notes. To this end, as money has evolved, so have the means to carry it. The evolution is easy to see why. It’s not due to the incredible options one can create. No, mens wallets have been a very humble fashion item, but have been tinkered with incessantly over the centuries.
Primarily, as the mode of exchange of payment has evolved, so has the need to carry these items. In the most recent evolution, as plastic credit and debit cards have gained prominence, so too have the size of wallets…but inversely. With less to carry in order to represent the wealth in your pocket, the smaller the wallet has become the norm. Minimalism is the new trend in wallets.
Therein lies the cross-roads we’re at now. Digital payments have been slowly gaining traction over the years, but we as fashion creatures still feel a need to carry a wallet. Even though our credit cards are registered on our devices, we tend to still carry them in our pocket. Obviously, we know we can’t use our digital payments everywhere, so we MUST carry our cards. But will we ever completely dispense with the physical wallet in favor of digital variants? Personally, I doubt it.
Are Phones Replacing Wallets?
Are phones replacing wallets? In short, yes. But there are many “maybes” contained within that statement. With four out of five American’s now carrying smartphones and an anticipated one in four utilizing a wearable device, the advent of mobile payment schemes is prime for growth. The adoption will bear greater fruit as more digitally adept generations, like Millennials, charge the hill to try and do away with any physical payment method in the future. Nearly 25% of Millennials now make at least one weekly payment using a digital payment system with high income consumers now at 38%.
The shift seems underway as traditional payment systems have declined from 2014 to 2015 from 55% to 50%. It’s easy to see how this trend will continue as we witness more unified systems in Europe moving to the America’s and Asia which will accelerate digital payment systems. But will this replace men’s wallets? Considering wallet purchases are made across all demographic lines, there’s no slowing wallet adoption from Millennials as they continue to drive digital payment adoption. So what’s the psychology of purchasing a wallet? Why do we need or want them?
Wallets = Money = Comfort
Let’s look at what a wallet really means. Wallet’s carry the major source of our temporal well-being, money. When we carry a wallet, we’re carrying this security close to our person..in a physical form. We know that the world revolves and requires money to operate within, so money begins to identify our temporal security. When we want to be secure, whether it’s emotional, spiritual, physical or in this case temporal, we keep those things close to us. Thus, a wallet is our vehicle for security. Wallets mean money and money means comfort and security.
Wallets are a Personal Statement
Of all the accessories we keep with us everyday, wallets are a primary statement of who we are, our personality
and how we project our intelligence. Many believe and feel that smaller is better and I would agree. Only the essentials should be in your wallet, nothing more to hamper the imprint in your pants, or bulk to slow you down. If you have an oversized wallet now, do a wallet audit
, clean out what’s not critical and feel the freedom.
Narwhal’s line of wallets
are all one-of-a-kind, so the personal statement you can make is amazing. But in the end, fashion should come second to personality of what wallet you carry. What you carry is personal; driver’s license, business and credit cards and other information like insurance, small photos or keys, maybe even an access card, nicely concealed in a slim, unique wallet.
There are many wallets to choose from which really drives the idea that unique wallets help drive the desire for more options and why we keep looking for the next best wallet.
Spending Triggers and Low Cost Items
Unlike $70,000 Birkin bags (women’s purses for the under-educated), wallets can be relatively inexpensive and emotionally easy to justify. There are many expensive wallets which are brand driven (aren’t they all), but are still considered within reach of modest individuals. Thus, the psychological trigger of “saving” when we spend, which is much different than being a shopaholic
, provides the “reasonable” price when it competes with the idea of a $14,000 Ralph Lauren handbag. This new “ceiling” price comparison is used by luxury brands to make you feel like you’re getting a bargain when in fact you’re still overspending, but your brain is telling you it’s a bargain. So when we’re outpriced on something we want, but then find what we can afford, we emotionally soothe ourselves and gain that emotional high (more on where that happens in the brain coming up).
Buyology and Wallet Fashion
If we all could realize that 90% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously, we might have a better understanding of why we buy what we do, but specifically, why wallets are things we’re always willing to consider purchasing. It’s been proven in extensive fMRT brain scans that products that evoke emotions always win in the buying process. The economist and behavioral scientist George Lowenstein explains why we think our purchasing is conscious, but in fact is driven more by subconscious thinking. He says, “A major part of our brain is busy with automatic processes, not conscious thinking. A lot of emotions and less cognitive activities happen.” Thus, brands, features, smells, feel…those things that emotionally connect us, will always win.
The “mirror effect” in psychology helps explain why people want to buy the same thing others have through association. If a person sees a very nice wallet on a person who reflects their perception of success, fashion, or personal looks, that association flows to the wallets and we then feel the need to have it. But the same goes for very unique, hard to find or unusual wallet or accessories. We want to be different as much as we want to be the same. The quest for balance is what drives us to purchase the next up and coming phone, accessory, or shoes. All of these things increase our perceived social status, which is rooted in our basic instincts to be accepted and thus have a better chance to mate and procreate. We know through fMRT scans that when we think a product is really awesome, we light up a part of our brain that is linked with self-awareness and emotion. Even though we’d like to think there is logic in our purchase, likely there’s not. But is that wrong?
Does Familiarity Breed Obsoleteness?
If technology has taught us anything over the past 25 years, it’s that once we buy something, it’ll be obsolete in days or weeks. The real need to keep up with the latest features whether it be software or hardware has settled into our psyche as a cadence dance of purchasing. Where once we were divided on when to purchase a new upgrade to a device, manufacturers now provide us the interval. We can now make monthly payments on our cell phones so at the 50% payoff mark, we can upgrade to the newest model for just the tax difference. No longer are we left to decide how to get the latest tech gadgetry. I will posit that wallets are the same. Taken as a whole against all the other factors discussed, our obsession with moving toward the latest electronics has affected our view of the humble wallet.
New features, new designs and new ways of holding, presenting and carrying our most important items keeps our attention and drives the psychology of how we purchase wallets.