What Target Teaches Us About Tripwire Products


Oct 3, 2018

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First, let’s start with the question: “What are tripwire products?”

A tripwire product is a low priced product or offer that gives people the opportunity to buy without forking over large sums of money. Usually under $50, tripwire products start the customer relationship journey (and sets them on the road for future potential purchasing). Tripwires are best used to convert audience members who either A. aren’t prepared to financially invest in a larger priced product quite yet or B. have not been exposed to your bigger ticket items yet & need a bit of introduction to what exactly you can offer before making a bigger purchase.

A tripwire isn’t intimidating… because it’s less than $50 – even sometimes as little as a few bucks. However, tripwires do something powerful in the brain. They give a sense of commitment… where the audience member now says: “I believe in the value of this product enough to pay for it.” And based on psychology: commitment breeds consistent commitment.

You may remember all the details about Commitment and Consistency in my blog post about “6 Powerful Psychological Tactics to Influence Customers & Sell.” As a refresher: Consistency means that people will do anything in their power (even when it may not be rational) to stick to what they say they will do. Consistency means we don’t have to expend the mental energy to weigh the pros & cons… instead, when we commit to something, we know exactly what we need to believe, say, or do when asked to move forward.

Tripwires do just that. They allow people to commit with a low barrier to entry, and then give you the chance to connect with them on a deeper level as a customer instead of just an audience member.

Your tripwire product is valuable & exceeds expectations? Then you’ve just won a customer for life.

Because we know it’s easier to get a repeat customer than gain a new customer…

Because Commitment & Consistency are on your side.

That means… once you’ve continued to nurture this new tripwire purchasing customer and make the offer for a bigger ticket item, they are more likely to purchase, racking up their bill down the road.

how Target's Dollar Spot section teaches business owners about tripwire products and selling

Now, what does this have to do with Target and tripwire products, you ask?

Oh Target, everyone’s favorite store to roam “just to look”… yet you always seem to leave spending in the triple digits… and on what even?!

Here’s typically how it goes:

You walk in, skip the carts because you know you won’t need one… start your way into the ladies clothing section to just see what the latest styles are these days. You know… just to see.

… but wait what is that tiny cute holiday themed notepad in the Dollar Spot?! Ok… I’ll just take a quick peek… but I don’t need anything so, I’m just looking.

Ok maybe I’ll get this one thing because it’s just too perfect and I mean it’s only a dollar so it would basically be a crime not to buy it, right? Right. Ok actually I’m going to buy two: one for me and one for my friend who needs a little boost this week. But that’s it.

You turn the corner toward, throw your innocent $2 worth of notepads into a basket, and go along your merry way.

BOOM. right there, Target has won.

Sure, you haven’t paid yet.

But you’ve snagged a few items – tripwire products if you will – that cost you next to nothing, but have great value to you. They filled a need for you AND for your friend. And suddenly, Target is the master of psychological principles in consumer purchasing patterns.

You’ve bought in with Commitment & Consistency… and you’ve opened the door for potential future purchasing.

Not just because you’re walking through the store.

But because you already bought in with the inexpensive product that put you in a posture of purchasing… and got a basket to boot.

A basket I previously didn’t have… but now that nearly is begging to be filled!

And when you’ve already become a customer of the tripwire instead of just an audience member, you’re more likely to buy in the future. When you’ve already invested your $2, what’s $10 more when you get to the Hearth & Hand section and see the limited time only release of JoJo’s newest fall candle? And there are only 2 left in stock… decisions, decisions. Easy ones actually. Now we’re talking Tripwire success, Commitment & Consistency, and even a bit of Scarcity & Social Proof coming into play!

And it all began with that trusty little Dollar Spot & Target’s genius method of using a “tripwire” to get our trust that yes, indeed, Target today (like every other day we quickly realize!) has products that we need & get us in the posture of purchasing.

Have you ever been spurred on to buy because of the amazing (yet dangerous) Dollar Spot? What other ways have you seen a tripwire win you over as a customer?

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