Monday, April 14, 2014

Realize the Implications of Reality Shows

Reality television programming has exploded in popularity, and this has implications for selling in your store. Product placement on a show, for instance. If an episode includes a reality star expressing favor toward an item or a brand consumers might expect to see you carry, stock up in anticipation of an increased demand.
     Researchers at Florida Gulf Coast University and University of North Texas found that characters projecting the greatest amount of authenticity in a reality show lead viewers to feel connected, and this, in turn, cultivates purchase intentions. Yet the reality of reality shows is that many people who are obviously genuine in face-to-face interactions become stiffly unappealing when on camera.
     The favorable attitude shown by the reality star can come from more than product or service usage on the show. “Undercover Boss” features owners of companies in a way that gives viewers human interest stories about each owner, each company, and the employees. This builds good will toward the company’s output. The show has versions in nine countries and reported plans for versions in seven others.
     Research findings from Eastern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, and Illinois Institute of Technology suggest that all this works best when shoppers have seen the product placement in a high-involvement story line while sitting with friends.
     The Illinois researchers instructed study participants to silently watch a situation comedy while beside either a friend or someone the participant didn’t know. Woven into the situation comedy plot line were products with brand names the viewer would remember. After watching the episode, each study participant was asked individually about opinions toward the product.
     In cases where the plot line was of limited interest to the participant, opinions of the product were not affected by whether the co-viewer was a friend or stranger. But when the participant got involved in the plot, attitudes toward the product were more favorable when the silent co-viewer was a friend than when a stranger.
     You might want to encourage your shoppers to watch their reality TV shows with friends who are likely to get involved in the plot. Then stay aware of the product placements in those shows.
     Still, there are always the twists. A few years ago, retailer Abercrombie & Fitch offered “substantial payment” to Mike “the Situation” Sorrentino and other members of the cast of “The Jersey Shore” not to wear A&F clothing on that reality show.

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Involve Friends in Product Placement Plots 
Trumpet Endorsements from Your Store Staff 
Disassociate from the Undesirable

Monday, April 7, 2014

Feel for the Female In Us

Even mild sexual stimulation prompts consumers to part with their money. But the sexual orientation of the consumer influences which sensory channels retailers should depend on.
     Female and male heterosexual participants in a study at KU Leuven in Belgium were told that a clothing store wanted their quality ratings of an item the store might want to stock. For some of the participants, the item to be rated was a T-shirt, while for the others, it was either a bra or boxer shorts. To compare the effects of touch versus sight, some of the participants were given the item to feel, while for the rest, the item was placed behind translucent Plexiglas, allowing the study participant to only look at it.
     After doing the rating, each participant was asked how willing they’d be to purchase a variety of consumer items. Some of the items, like a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates, were considered by the researchers to be pleasure-oriented. Other of the items, like a computer mouse and a chair, were considered to be utilitarian. The experimental question was whether being exposed to underwear used by the opposite sex would potentiate urges to buy.
     It turned out that the women who had spent time running their hands over the boxer shorts expressed a higher interest in purchasing the wine and the chocolates than did the other women afterwards. Feeling the bra or T-shirt or just seeing the boxer shorts had no noticeable effect. And the effect was not there for the utilitarian items.
     The results for the men indicated that either feeling or visually inspecting a bra, but not boxer shorts or a T-shirt, increased the willingness to buy any of the other items offered, not only the wine or the chocolates.
     So for both men and women, fondling underwear of the type used by the opposite gender increases the likelihood of purchases of other items. But for the women, touching the merchandise is more important. Seeing it is not nearly as powerful. And for the men, the rising willingness to buy is more generalized than with women.
     Additional research indicates that for gay men, the importance of touch is greater than in straight men, but that gay men have a greater concern than straight men about contamination from touching. One solution is to have staff frequently refold, repackage, and re-shelve to remove cues of contamination.

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Reach Out for What Will Touch Your Shoppers 
Head Off Concerns About Touching Products 
Go Over the Rainbow for LGBT Retailing

Monday, March 31, 2014

Blank Out to Increase Consumption

Researchers at University of Georgia and University of Pennsylvania asked consumers to evaluate packages designed to look incomplete. The result of this was a belief among the consumers that the package held a lower quantity compared to packages of equivalent size and weight, but without blanks in the design. It’s as if the missing portion generated feelings in the consumer that part of the contents had leaked out, leaving less behind.
     A byproduct of this perception was how people in the study desired a larger quantity of the contents from an incomplete package than from a complete package. The blank stimulated demand.
     Results from other studies indicate that the effect isn’t due only to the unusual shape of the incomplete container. At University of Southern California, shoppers presented with two unfamiliar products in a category—one of the products in an usually-shaped container and the other one not—said, on average, that they’d get more for their money if they were to buy the product in the unusual container. The researchers concluded it’s because the unusual shape draws more attention, and the consumer’s brain subconsciously translates the extra attention into higher value.
     The blank presents a bit of a mystery, and mysteries intrigue us. Research findings from Indiana University and University of Colorado-Boulder show the value of a mystery ad format, in which you wait until the end to announce the retailer’s name. Start off with an unusual story or absurd humor which dramatizes the category of retailer and hooks the ad’s viewer or listener into thinking “Who’s this commercial for, anyway?”
     Mystery ads were significantly more effective than traditional ads in strengthening the name-category link. If you use mystery ads, people who afterwards start to yearn for categories the ads say your store carries will think about your store as the place to get those categories.
     However, don’t forget to boldly announce your store name at the end. Advertising pioneer David Ogilvy said, “Use the name within the first ten seconds.” Mystery ads respect that advice, then modify it to become, “Drill in the name within the last five seconds.”
     Similarly, don’t push too far the effect of the incomplete package design. We usually want the packages we stock on our store shelves to project an unambiguous sales message. For instance, when purchasing a product associated with extra calories, shoppers prefer an hourglass shape to short and squat.

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Sustain Mystery, But Not for Too Long 
Recommend Items that Look Like Purchases

Monday, March 24, 2014

Emphasize the Price to Spotlight Functionality

When consumers shop for items to be used some time from now, they'll pay special attention to the number and distinctiveness of the features. But when consumers plan to put the item to work soon, they're especially interested in ease of use. Ask shoppers how soon they plan to start using what they’re considering. Knowing this allows you to present the most compelling balance between desirability and feasibility benefits.
     In some instances, though, you’d like the shopper to pay more attention to the value of the functions even when the purchase is intended for imminent use. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and University of Toronto find that one way to accomplish this is to emphasize the price of the item. When consumers encounter a price for an item to which they’re attracted, their brains will start seeking ways to justify the expenditure, and so they’ll spotlight the number, distinctiveness, and value of the features.
     Because this tactic increases the consistency between shorter-term and longer-term choice strategies, it works best with people who carry a self-image of stability regarding how they assess products and services for purchase. They view themselves as using similar criteria and as probably making the same choices again in the future if the circumstances are similar. Compared to shoppers with a self-image of low stability, the shoppers with high-stability self-images appreciate customized recommendations more and are more receptive to learning from the salesperson.
     How do we change self-images of low stability into self-images of high stability in order to increase our influence? Using questions that include the word “you” help the shopper describe the criteria they use and recall the instances in which they’ve used those criteria:
     “In the past, what standards have you used in selecting a floral arrangement? How did those standards work out for you?”
     Also, emphasizing price doesn’t necessarily mean putting price before quantity: Which of these two is more attractive to shoppers?
  • $29.99 for 70 rolls 
  • 70 rolls for $29.99 
     Researchers at Virginia Tech say to put the even quantity before the odd price. A quantity of 70 seems like a lot for whatever you’re paying. But a price of $29.99 is high enough to justify a second thought. So the appeal of “70 units” outweighs concern about a $29.99 price, making the “70 rolls for $29.99” the more attractive phrasing. The second of the two above is better.

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Accent the Emotions when Imminent Usage 
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Put Large Quantity Before Odd Price

Monday, March 17, 2014

Yoke Low or High Happiness to Life Stage

YOLO—you only live once—is the ethos of the movie “Dead Poet’s Society,” in which the youthful students are urged to “Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary” in order to find happiness. A contrasting movie counterpart is “The Bucket List,” whose protagonists nearing the end of their days discover that they seize the best happiness via calm time with family.
     Researchers at Dartmouth College and University of Pennsylvania used those two examples to dramatize their findings that retailers should connect happiness appeals with the shopper’s life stage. As people progress though life, they seek distinctive adventures to define themselves at landmark steps. But those consumers who perceive themselves as closer to the end of life—perhaps because they are old, perhaps because they are seriously ill—are less likely to define themselves by new experiences and are more likely to find contentment in the tested routines of daily life.
     Travel agents, for example, would do best to advertise journeys to younger customers as opportunities to mark milestones, where the appeal to older folks would be sharing familiar journeys with family and long-time friends.
     In another set of studies, the University of Pennsylvania research team, plus teams at Stanford University and MIT, found that two ways in which consumers define happiness are related to age: Younger consumers seek the excitement of novelty, while older consumers seek the calmness of familiarity.
     Participants were offered choices in tea, bottled water, and music. The future-focused participants were more likely to select “a refreshing peppermint blend” over “a relaxing blend of chamomile and mint,” the bottle of “Pure Excitement” water labeled in bright orange over the “Pure Calm” one labeled in green, and the more upbeat version of the song “Such Great Heights.” The younger consumers were more future-focused and the older ones more present-focused.
     In the marketplace, many experience offerings are retailed to include a range of consumer ages. Researchers at University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Virginia, Duke University, and University of Bologna report that consumers are often operating on the assumption that they'll have more time in the future, but not necessarily more money. This doesn't mean at all that the consumers are satisfied to be wasting time. On the contrary, they want to feel in control of their time. An essential part of you offering family-oriented experiences is to advertise the benefits the experiences offer for shared happiness.

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Meditate on Happiness 
Offer Family-Oriented Experiences