Monday, January 21, 2019

Crush Close Ones with Schadenfreude

There are consumer motivations which consumers might be ashamed to acknowledge to others. Among those motivations is what is called schadenfreude, which means deriving delight from seeing others’ ambitions being crushed. Among researchers, schadenfreude has been attributed to envy, to raw hostility, and to the sort of emotion tunnel vision which keeps us from acknowledging the pain caused to the others.
     Still, there are times when schadenfreude is considered acceptable, such as with sporting events. Researchers at University of Georgia point out how viewers of NCAA football, ATP men’s tennis, and WTA women’s tennis games can feel fine about cheering wildly when the fan’s favored team or player crushes the competition. The researchers also note that those three leagues employ instant replay video as a tool for officiating calls and that when those IRVs are shown during televised sporting events, there is often a small ad accompanying each. The researchers wondered if the experience of schadenfreude improves the impression of the brand being advertised.
     It seems that it does. In a laboratory setting, people who viewed a favorable call made in a suspenseful game based on the IRV formed a more favorable view toward the advertised item. In other situations, too, we’d expect that a feeling of prevailing in a suspenseful situation would reduce resistances to favoring and then purchasing merchandise, services, and suppliers associated with the domination. People like to be associated with a winner, and the joy with that is greater when the chance of winning is not a shoo-in. People also enjoy rooting for the underdog who aims to overachieve. So maintain some suspense.
     That’s true with your retailing team, too. Researchers from University of Pennsylvania recommend that you keep your retailing team a little bit behind the competition. The payoff is that your team will exert a greater effort. These researchers analyzed 60,000 basketball games, including 18,000 National Basketball Association matches. They found that teams which were behind by one point at halftime were more likely to end up winning the game than were teams ahead by one point at halftime. Note that this held only when the team was a little bit behind. Overall, for every two points a team was ahead at halftime, the chances of winning the game increased by about 7%.
     For both you and your customers, winning a close one gives joy, and part of that joy may be the questionable variety called schadenfreude.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Chill Out Emotions to Look Cool

If your target audiences say they’re aiming for cool brands and stores, this might mean they want to conform with their social peers, they want to go beyond conforming with their social peers, or they just want the latest gadget. Among young people, “cool” might signify nothing more than a favorable evaluation.
     But what does it mean when consumers say they prefer to deal with salespeople who are cool? Researchers at University of Arizona, Texas A&M University, and University of Chile found retailers often think it means consumers want the salespeople to show minimal emotional expression. Such is in the tradition of fashion models who look as indifferent as possible and celebrities who earn coolness by masking any feelings.
     The researchers say this generalization is an oversimplification. When facilitating cooperation—as is true in most sales situations—you’re better off with a gentle smile than with a somber countenance. A smile facilitates interpersonal trust. Sure, excessive emotion easily appears to be insincere or as sales pressure. But in these circumstances, looking cold isn’t cool.
     On the other hand, in status-oriented or competitive situations centered around dominance, you do best to chill out your emotions, say the researchers. This is useful when selling to teens, who expend considerable energy dominating their adolescent insecurities and who consider effusive shows of emotion to be decidedly uncool. Or in any negotiations where establishing authority takes precedence over cultivating trust.
     Curbing emotions in order to look cool also is useful when selling luxury items to consumers who aspire to achieve higher status. In a study of female shoppers in an economically emerging Asian city, researchers at National Chengchi University and Shih Hsin University found evidence that interest in impulse purchases of luxury items increased if the salesperson was snobbish and the shopper was with a companion.
     From a different perspective, emotional coolness, even if not to the extreme of inattentive snobbishness, might serve to model valuable skills with overenthusiastic shoppers. For example, researchers from University of Zurich contend that what distinguishes consumers who live happily into their advanced years is a habit of being cool. Senior coolness, they say, is composure and poise which reduces problems of daily living to manageable levels. Plus we can help older adults evade fraud by encouraging them to enter the consumer situation calmly and maintain calmness during the transactions. That’s more likely when the salespeople are themselves cool.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, January 7, 2019

See the Handwriting at the Mall

Brands managing to consistently distinguish themselves amidst the maelstrom of surrounding suction on shoppers’ attention must humanize relationships with consumers. You have been warned!
     Researchers at Babson College and University of Innsbruck, recognizing this handwriting on the wall, propose a novel method to accomplish the humanization—use fonts which resemble hand printing, incorporating the slight imperfections and inconsistencies absent from machine-written typefaces generally found on labels, ads, and signage. The handwriting-style fonts used in the studies included Moon Flower and All Things Pink.
     Indeed, the researchers did find that the use of these fonts enhanced the perception of a human connection with the shopper, resulting in more favorable brand evaluations and actions. However, this was true only for entities in which emotional attachment sells. For strictly utilitarian store and product brands, handwriting-style fonts can come across as unprofessional. In one of the research studies, a handwriting-style font in place of a machine-written font enhanced impressions of a decorative candle, but worsened perceptions of an insect repellent candle.
     There are other ways beyond use of type font to develop the human connection, and the researchers found that when a strong emotional bond with the item already existed, use of one font or another made little difference. Among these other methods is anthropomorphizing. Anthropomorphized products have human-like characteristics. This might come from how the item looks, in a picture or name of a person on the packaging, or in the way an advertisement or the salesperson describes the item. Anthropomorphism makes the item more like a friend.
     Researchers at Northwestern University, University of Cologne, and South Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University find that a properly anthropomorphized item gains the persuasiveness of a human salesperson. This decreases the shopper’s feelings of responsibility for purchasing the item. The shopper can blame the item for them giving in, just as they would blame a compelling sales pitch. “I couldn’t help myself.
     Beware the risks, though. Research at Drexel University, Lehigh University, and Monmouth University indicates that humanization of the store increases sensitivity to price changes. Shoppers are more likely to see price increases as efforts by the store owner and the item supplier to profiteer. And do stop short of making the humanization so precious it impedes consumption. A striking example of anthropomorphism given by one group of researchers was for Crunchy Cheetos snacks: “Schedule a break with some crunchy orange friends. Then eat your friends.”

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, December 31, 2018

Transform Loyalty with Store Workshops

Many retailers have offered workshops for their prospective customers. Some of these are in-store and free, such as the do-it-yourself sessions of The Home Depot. Some are online, such as the “Healthy Eating Education” programs from Whole Foods Market. Some include a modest fee, such as “Women’s Trails and Ales” hikes organized by REI.
     Researchers at Germany’s WHU cite those three among examples in their exploration of the advantages to retailers of “transformative retail services.” TRS are characterized by contributing toward consumers’ well-being. The researchers find that when the participants appreciate the improvements in their physical or mental wellness and haven’t paid for the program, the participants’ gratitude leads to significant increases in store loyalty and modest increases in both expertise about brands carried by the store and positive feelings about purchasing those brands at the store.
     Fee-based TRS do not produce these advantages for the sponsoring retailer nearly as well. This is expected because paying money negates the gratitude which led to the loyalty. What is less expected is that charging a fee also decreases improvements in the participants’ feelings of well-being, even when the nature of the program is the same as with the free. This appears to be because an attitude of appreciation in itself nourishes the psyche.
     As a result, the researchers argue for offering TRS at no cost, designing the curriculum around improving well-being, and checking that those benefits are recognized by those who complete the program.
     Researchers at University of North Carolina and Winthrop University find that when members of a community feel gratitude toward a particular store, the loyalty they build results in a greater likelihood of repeat patronage, and also more. They begin to share news of the store with each other, develop rituals and traditions associated with the store, and help the retail business serve its customers. The help might include assisting other customers who happen to be shopping in the store at the same time; giving suggestions to the store owner for improvements; and enforcing store standards, such as tipping off staff about a shoplifter.
     However, what the sense of store community did not produce was a willingness to pay more for store items. The revenue gains come from more frequent purchases associated with store loyalty and from the operating expense savings attributable to the good citizenship behavior of those considering themselves to be members of the store community.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Modify Dislike of the Genetically Modified

Years ago when grocery stores began putting onto produce those tiny labels the cashier or scanner would use to identify the item, there were shoppers who strongly objected. The strength with which these people expressed their dislike led me to think they were labeling the labels as downright immoral.
     They very well might have, according to the reasoning of researchers at Canada’s Western University and York University. The researchers’ studies were concerned with genetically modified (GM) foods, not labels on produce, but the argument is that both these are considered pollution of nature’s bounty and this pollution is morally wrong. The objections to GM items were strongest among those who believe in general that human intervention unethically deprives nature of its virtues.
     About 70% of processed foods in the U.S. contain GM organisms, substituting non-GM ingredients would increase food prices 10% to 50%, and there is no compelling evidence that use of GM organisms in itself compromises health, safety, taste, or quality. With all this in mind, it can be to the advantage of both consumers and retailers to ease any shoppers’ dislike which has arisen on moral grounds.
     If you choose to do this, a strategy is to baldly present GM items as manufactured. In the studies, this was successfully accomplished by indicating on the packaging that the item has been processed, depicting the item in a color not generally found in nature for that item, and stocking the item in an aisle featuring processed foods rather than among non-GM produce. These were all done in addition to labeling the item as GM. Just using such a label without also cuing the fact that the item is manufactured elicited negative responses from the consumers in the study. Worse yet was if there were cues that the item was equivalent to natural. When that happened, consumers felt the marketer was trying to mislead them, and this predictably exaggerated the moral objections to the whole situation.
     Sometimes people fool themselves into thinking a food item is different from what it truly is. Researchers at University of South Carolina and Loyola University found that dieters ate more of a mix of vegetables, pasta, salami, and cheese if it was called a salad than if it was called a pasta dish, and the dieters didn’t question the salad name. But it seems that when it comes to GM, willful ignorance isn’t operative.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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