Monday, October 20, 2014

Flex Shoppers with the Complex

Consumers often seek simplicity, but the right level of complexity can engage them in ways which move them toward becoming purchasers. Researchers at University of London, University of Groningen, and Università della Calabria found this to be true with logos. When a store or brand logo was easier to perceive, people liked it better at first. However, with repeated exposures to the logo, the attraction turned to dislike. The simplicity became boring.
     On the other hand, when the meaning of the logo was challenging to discern, people didn’t like it as much at the start, but grew to especially like it with repeated exposures.
     In the documentary “Milton Glaser: Inform & Delight,” Mr. Glaser attributes the success of his “I ♥ NY” logo to what he calls “sustained mystery,” whereby a consumer absorbs the design message better because of needing to figure out what the design means.
     Research findings from Indiana University and University of Colorado-Boulder indicate 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 that dramatizes the category of retailer, but hooks the ad’s viewer or listener into thinking “Who’s this commercial for, anyway?”
     Consumers tolerate perceptual complexity if they consider the task important. University of Florida and University of Pennsylvania researchers assigned study participants to select among airline flights. Some were told the decision was important. The others were told the decision was relatively unimportant. And some members of each group were given the information in a way that was hard to read, while the remainder were given easy-to-read information. The hard-to-read text used a small font and little contrast between the text and the background. The easy-to-read text used a larger font and clear contrast.
     Those in the first group presented the hard-to-read text made more careful decisions.
     Researchers at University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University found circumstances in which retailers do well to actually complicate choice. Among these are purchase decisions the consumer considers as having potentially life-changing consequences. Some of these situations, such as buying a house, extend over time. Others, such as selecting funeral arrangements, could last no more than a day or two.
     Because of the significance of such choices, the consumer believes they should devote time and mental effort even if the process seems at first to constitute a straightforward selection.

Click below for more: 
Sustain Mystery, But Not for Too Long 
Mire Customers as Calamity Prevention 
Look Simple, But Offer Complexity 
Let Go of the Unprofitable Logo

Monday, October 13, 2014

Retire Hopes for Unitary Retirement Marketing

Many retailers have recognized the lucrative opportunities in marketing to older shoppers. The largest single age cohort among American consumers is those age 65 and over. But determining the sales hooks for these consumers has proven to be tougher than anticipated. Where a limited set of approaches can work well for younger cohorts, such as Millennials, one size is far from fitting all when it comes to seniors.
      Researchers at Germany’s Technische Universität München set out to discover why. The answers had to do with cognitive age and item categories. “Cognitive age” refers to how old the shopper feels rather than how old the shopper is by calendar measure. Unlike younger consumers, who tend to identify themselves by calendar age, the seniors in a specific age cohort can differ widely in how old they feel.
     Retailers can benefit from noticing who accompanies the older shopper and how the older shopper interacts with the companions. If the senior citizen is accompanied by those who are clearly younger and the senior citizen defers to their judgment, this shopper likely has a higher cognitive age. As another example, if the older shopper is accompanied by those who appear to be of similar age and is participating actively in purchase decisions, the cognitive age is probably lower, and the shopper may be more interested in item categories targeted to somewhat younger customers.
      A lower cognitive age doesn’t mean rejection of retirement labels, though. In fact, there is likely to be greater acceptance. In the TUM research, retirees who were close friends with other retirees and had changed their buying habits when retiring were especially likely to respond to offers of senior discounts and the use of “senior” in item descriptions, such as “educational classes for seniors.”
     Researchers at Ghent University and Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School had consumers, all at least age 40, evaluate the attractiveness of various labels for older shoppers. The research participants were quite comfortable with “50+,” “senior,” and “retired.” Any of these three would usually be good for you to feature in advertising, signage, product packaging, and personal selling addressed to this important older target market.
     However, there was an important exception: Respondents approaching age 50 or retirement didn't like the labels as much as did people who had been in the group for a while. We hate surrendering thoughts of youth, even if the youth is middle age.

Click below for more: 
Store Goodwill with Seniors 
Market to Seniors, not to Elderly 
Offer the Time of Their Lives to Senior Citizens 
Brain It on Home with Senior Citizen Emotions 
Supply Quality Time to Senior Shoppers

Monday, October 6, 2014

Reserve Control in Intimate Outsourcing

Consumer interest in contracting with merchants to handle intimate responsibilities isn’t new. Matchmakers were around for millennia before eHarmony. Nannies and au pairs are simply older forms of child care centers and Merry Maids. Hiring a business to plan your child’s birthday party may seem novel, but hiring a bunch of businesses to plan a wedding is old hat.
     What is newer is the growth in opportunities for merchants to sell such services because consumers feel more time pressures.
     Researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison considered the example of parents outsourcing planning of their child’s birthday party. In structured interviews with study samples, the researchers identified pivotal shopper questions the parents will probably ask. Here’s my version of those questions along with my suggestions for profitable retailer responses:
  • “Will I feel I’ve carried out my parental responsibilities?” Reserve control for the parent. Because they have come to you to save time, take care not to overload with details. Have a set of three to five overall party packages to consider, and allow for customization of each package. 
  • “Will my family and friends give me credit for carrying out my responsibilities as a parent?” This question is similar to the first one, but it’s different. It’s the difference between psychological risk—“What will I think of myself?”—and social risk—“What will others think of me?” Go beyond reserving control for the parent in the party planning. Also reserve ample opportunities for the parent to be the focus of attention during the celebration itself. 
     In a classic study published in 1950, psychologist Mason Haire presented either of two versions of a shopping list to groups of consumers. The lists were identical except that one included “Nescafé instant coffee” and the other, “1 lb Maxwell House Coffee (Drip Ground).” Among the people shown the first list, 48% described a woman who would write such a list as lazy. The figure was 4% for those shown the second list. Outsourcing the brewing of the coffee had social risks.
     When Prof. Haire did a second study, adding “Blueberry Fill Pie Mix” to each list, the “instant coffee” shopper was much less likely to be seen as lazy.
     And in a replication of the first study eighteen years later, there were no statistically significant differences between the two groups. Outsourcing that family responsibility became more acceptable. The psychology of the consumer does change over time.

Click below for more: 
Shelve Self-Control with Risk Mates 
Limit Design Support for Personalized Gifts

Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Tours of Your Esteemed Merchandise

When offering high-end merchandise at healthy margins, you’d like to broaden your market, but not jeopardize the merchandise’s prestige image. A demonstration of the risk and a way to avoid it are offered by a Harvard University experiment.
     The researchers used as their study sample owners of Prada handbags. All the participants were asked to consider a situation where every visitor to a boutique shop was offered, at no charge, a luxury-quality shopping bag graced with the Prada logo. Then one group of the study participants were also told that accepting the shopping bag led to the consumer admiring the Prada brand. The other group of study participants were told, instead, that accepting the shopping bag led to the consumer feeling like a part of the Prada community.
     Next, the study participants were asked what effect they thought the distribution of the shopping bags had on the Prada brand image. The group who’d been told the recipients admired the brand said the gifting had raised the image. These Prada handbag owners said they now had even more pride in their ownership.
     This finding would be expected. However, the other group said they thought the gifting cheapened the image of the brand. Having people consider themselves part of the luxury community without making a luxury purchase had that effect.
     The researchers called the first group “brand tourists” and the second group “brand immigrants.” Other studies found similar results. When potential purchasers of an esteemed item are invited to accept what is clearly understood by all to be a sample given to an outsider who’s just looking, the esteem of the item remains undisturbed and might be enhanced. But if you drop the border restrictions on immigrants, there’s a danger.
     Another study, this one at University of London and Harvard University, analyzed the effects of opening the gates to Ironman. The Ironman events are esteemed for their rigorous physical challenges. When a private equity firm purchased the rights to the Ironman name, they decided that registrants who completed a half-Ironman race also could claim the designation “Ironman.” In addition, permission to use the Ironman branding was awarded to providers of a jogging stroller, a mattress, and a cologne.
     Warning of a dire decay in the brand image, a coalition of Ironmen quickly and successfully pressured for a reversal. A similar sequence occurred when luxury fashion house Burberry started carrying dog leashes.

Click below for more: 
Stay Ready to Sell Luxury 
Limit Social Media for Prestige Appeal 
Label Freebies as Samples

Monday, September 22, 2014

Intercept Shoppers Fruitfully

Business researchers define the “interception rate” as the percentage of consumers entering a shop who are spoken to by a salesperson working for that shop. “Interception” makes it sound like the salesperson is blocking the shopper’s path, which is a pretty bad way to earn good will. However, the idea of attending to fruitful contact with each shopper is an important one. Such contact enhances the probability of closing a sale and convincing the customer to return to the store.
     Researchers at Justus Liebig University and Zeppelin University, in Germany, set out to find what leads shoppers to initiate consultation with a salesperson. They began by verifying that, in fact, salesperson contact is positively related to the amount of money the shopper ends up spending on that store visit.
     The researchers then identified major motivators for consultation:
  • Some of the motivators are just what you’d expect. For instance, the shopper knows what they want, but isn’t sure which of the available alternatives to select. Check that you and your staff are easily available on the sales floor and that the available staff either have the knowledge to answer shopper questions or know where to fetch the answers. But even here, the research findings provide a twist: To raise the interception rate, be able to sense how much time and mental energy the shopper wants to spend considering the shopping decision. If a shopper fears that you’ll be giving too much information, they’ll avoid asking you. 
  • Other of the motivators make sense when you think about them, but you might not have been thinking about them. For instance, the shopper is finding the store visit enjoyable, and so is open to visiting with the store staff. Create within the minds of your shoppers an image of what consumer researchers call “a third place.” This is an environment in addition to home and work which is appealing because it feels comfortable. Give an authentic sense of family to your customers. Some retail consultants say, “Make our customers feel like family.” I prefer, “Give a sense of family,” because research findings seem clear that for maximum profitability, you want to be sure to keep the interactions as a business relationship. Don’t promise more than you’ll deliver. That wouldn’t be authentic. Related to this, the store doesn’t need to be fancy. Actually, a fancy ambiance can cause the whole experience to seem inauthentic. 
Click below for more: 
Show Up Before the Right Eyes & Minds 
Give a Sense of Family for Emotional Attachment 
Win First Place As a Secure Third Place