Monday, August 31, 2015

Beware the Rushin’ Language

Store visitors who feel rushed find the shopping experience to be less pleasant. Researchers at Stanford University, Duke University, and Erasmus University noted that those feelings could be turned to a retailer’s advantage. The visitors might pay a higher price to have the time pressure reduced, such as by the retailer assuming responsibility for making decisions and taking actions. However, in many other cases, rushed shoppers will put off completing the purchase and, instead, scurry out the door.
     To address that issue, the researchers investigated what leads store visitors to feel under tight time pressure even when time is not, in fact, tight. They discovered it has to do with goal conflict. Shoppers who perceive they’re in a rush often are having trouble balancing tradeoffs among item alternatives or between buying and not buying anything at all.
     Other research finds that shoppers who feel in a rush make unwise decisions. In a study at University of Memphis, Wayne State University, and India’s IFHE, participants were presented with a deal that was clearly phony on close examination. Those who felt under time pressure gave the phony deal twice as much credibility as those not feeling under time pressure.
     When words and body language indicate your prospective customer is rushing, choose from these research-based remedial actions:
  • Simplify those decisions the shopper needs to make on their own. A pressure cooker shopper may be accompanied by children or a spouse. They respond best to methodically considering one purchase choice at a time. 
  • Assess whether the shopper is in a positive mood or negative mood. The parent shopping for children’s medicine is probably feeling bad. The Valentine’s Day bouquet bon vivant is likely to be in a positive mood. When a shopper is in a positive mood, their decision making is more flexible than when they’re in a negative mood, and they’re more likely to persevere in the shopping process. Decide on your recommended purchase alternative and talk about how the positives outweigh the negatives. But when the shopper is in a negative mood, quickly decide on your recommended purchase and then talk about how it is the least bad alternative. Be ready to answer questions about the negatives of each alternative. 
  • Have the shopper take one or two deep breaths. How to accomplish that? Take a deep breath yourself and smile gently. Like a yawn, deep breathing and gentle smiling are both contagious. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Stomp Discount Scams from High Time Pressure
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Let Customers Take Their Time
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Forget About Letting Shoppers Forget to Buy

One of the more puzzling findings in the history of consumer behavior research came from Duke University, UCLA, and University of Florida: People who carry around the store shopping lists they created in advance—the consumer trying to remember what they need and what the store carries—end up more likely to make purchases they will later regret than do people who don’t make a shopping list in advance.
     Probably for as long as retailing has existed, shoppers have been advised to compose a list before entering the store. The shopping list protects against unwise impulsive purchases, it’s said. With list in hand, the shopper can relax enough to have fun, knowing they’ll get what they need, but not much more.
     How could it be that making a shopping list wouldn’t be a good idea? The most common explanation has been that creating a shopping list from memory uses mental energy. Every shopper has a limited pool of mental energy, and when a great deal of it is consumed in making the list, there is less mental energy remaining to resist the foolish, unhealthy, even sinful items.
     But a good shopping list has an important function beyond protecting against impulsive purchases. It also checks that the consumer won’t forget to buy the items they came for. Recent studies at Cornell University, University of Sydney, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, and Erasmus University took this perspective with studies that culminated in recommendations for retailers how to help ensure shoppers remember to buy what is needed and wanted while the shopper is still in the retailer’s store.
     The studies found that the items most likely to be forgotten are the ones purchased infrequently. The retailer can help by placing reminders of these items in store areas generally visited by shoppers. Because good business advice is to stock best sellers in higher traffic areas, the reminders to be used for the less popular items probably shouldn’t be the items themselves. Instead, remind via a picture along with a note of the item’s location in the store. Signage for these relatively infrequently bought items should take priority over signage for frequently bought items, since the shopper is more likely to remember they’ve forgotten with habitual purchases.
     All this decreases dependence on the shopping list. That’s fine, for surveys conclude most people, and especially the increasingly common time-stressed consumers, don’t prepare a shopping list in advance anyway.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Influence Shopping List Behavior
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Monday, August 24, 2015

Orchestrate Purchase Intentions

Want your diners to accept relatively unconventional, higher-priced Indian food at the restaurant? Play relatively unconventional Indian music, but melodies easily identifiable as Indian in nature. Want to overcome reluctance in your store shoppers to buy personal hygiene products? You’ll do better playing country music instead of classical music in the background. But if it’s appearance enhancement items you’re aiming to sell today, the classical music is the orchestration of choice.
     The Australian researchers, at Curtin University and Macquarie University, whose studies are behind these recommendations view the music as providing a nudge more than a shove. The desire to purchase the product or service must already be there. The melodies reduce the resistances. But once having done that, the effect is to increase not only the probability of choosing the item, but also the willingness to pay a higher price for it.
     When it’s items with an ethnic identity you want to sell, the corresponding ethnic music sets the right mood. For all selling, say the researchers, a major distinction is between what music will work with pragmatic items like tools, appliances, and personal hygiene products and what will work with sophisticated items like jewelry, wine, formal attire, and luxury cars.
     Other studies find that an additional distinction when using music in retail is the degree of intrusiveness. If you want the shopper to carefully analyze the purchase decision, use music that is barely noticeable. Researchers at Columbia University and Northwestern University determined that when a customer listens to the music in the store, attention is diverted from analyzing the purchase decision. If you’re wanting shoppers to try new brands or new products, minimize intrusive music.
     Based on those same research findings, use noticeable music—such as music with lyrics—if you both expect and want the shopper to select items from habit without much thought. Noticeable music helps head off arguments the shopper might make to themselves about the purchase.
     A while back, a business professor from University of Virginia and the executive director of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra found that frequent changes in the harmonies, texture, or tempo amplify the intrusiveness of music both in-store and in ads. As part of an ancient survival mechanism, our human brains are wired to put top importance on processing unanticipated background sound changes. Our prehistoric ancestors found this skill valuable for sensing danger and homing in on high-protein meals.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Space Out for the Hoity-Toity

People are attracted by the sight of a crowd, yet consumers aren’t necessarily more likely to select items from crowded locations in a store. Researchers at University of Pennsylvania who tracked the paths and purchases of grocery store shoppers found that social density exerted a pull, but once the shoppers arrived, the speed of market basket expenditure additions slowed considerably. It might be because items are more difficult to get to when there’s a crowd around or because the fascination of the crowd draws attention away from the shopping task.
     Researchers at University of Kansas, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and University of Toronto have also explored the effects of social density on consumer decision making. One major effect they uncovered was a retreat to safety. Shoppers who encountered crowds of unfamiliar bodies preferred to shop for their headache relievers at a pharmacy than at a convenience store. In casinos, crowding moved typical gamblers toward less risky wagers. Lower risk taking cuts into enthusiasm about making big purchases.
     Another reason for lower market basket totals in crowded areas is that sparse social densities lead consumers to higher estimates of prices and increased willingness to pay those prices. In verifying this, researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Kansas discovered how one motivation was the assumption of consumers that if there are fewer shoppers in a store, those shoppers are more likely to be hoity-toity—people with money, prestige, and selectivity. Hobnobbing with the hoity-toity away from the hoi polloi—the common people--carries value.
     If you intend your store or areas of your store to appeal to those with money, prestige, and selectivity, give shoppers enough space to stretch out. Similarly, space out the merchandise so that no shopper must touch any other, or even ask for permission to pass, when reaching out to lift an item.
     It might seem that allowing all this room for merchandising the high-profit-margin items isn’t wise, since you’ll be able to show only a limited number of them. However, a whole stream of consumer research has found that scarcity also leads to higher estimates of prices and increased willingness to pay those prices. In addition, researchers at Columbia University and University of British Columbia find that shoppers in less spatially dense surroundings are less demanding of variety in the types of items and in the brands of items offered to them.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Form Crowds Into In-Groups
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Monday, August 17, 2015

Say Thanks, Keep the Change

When thanking a customer, you could be better off not adding a monetary reward.
     Researchers at Duke University, University of Pittsburgh, and Vanderbilt University found that consumers reacted positively to an expression of gratitude, but negatively when a trivial amount of money was added. The researchers’ explanation is that the smallness of the financial reward made the thanks seem small. I agree, but I see another explanation as well: When a salesperson gives money as an expression of gratitude, there’s a risk the salesperson will figure the money does the trick, and they’ll neglect the importance of a genuine face-to-face or handwritten thank you. They can forget that the customer’s purchase is itself a thanks, which helps the store owner and the sales employees pay their bills. And a thank you from the customer deserves a heartfelt thanks in return.
     Still, it’s possible to thank customers too much. Researchers at University of California-Riverside, Boston College, and Southern Methodist University assessed the repurchase behavior over a three year period of customers who were thanked repeatedly by the retailer. The researchers found that when there were too many thanks, the recipient began to see it as more of a sales pitch than as genuine appreciation. There were fewer repurchases from customers who indicated to the researchers that this tipping point had been exceeded.
     How to avoid the risks?
  • Find out which channels each consumer prefers for messages. Repurchasing dropped faster when a customer liked a personal telephone call, but was getting thanked via e-mail. For most customers, a grammatically correct handwritten note is a welcome break from text messages.
  • Add unpredictability. A surprise thanks comes across as more genuine than an obviously scheduled one. Researchers at Yale University and Carnegie Mellon University found that a surprise gift to commercial bank customers resulted in significantly higher deposit account balances.
     If you do want to augment the thanks with a little monetary reward, here are two tips:
  • If it’s a modest amount, like a real estate agent giving a $25 gift certificate as a thanks for a sale, describe it as a high point on a range: “We like to give $10 to $30 gift certificates as thanks.” 
  • If the amount is truly trivial, explain that it will be pooled with rewards given to others and contributed to charity.
In the Duke/Pittsburgh/Vanderbilt study, both these eliminated the negative pull from the monetary thanks.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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