Monday, August 3, 2015

Shape Customer Reviews to Your Advantage

You’ve limited influence over what your shoppers choose to post in reviews about your store. Hard sell pitches for positive comments risk irritating even those consumers who do have praise for you. However, knowing the ways in which prospective customers interpret the reviews they encounter does allow you influence over how you use whatever reviews which are posted. A few of the research findings point out exceptions to the general rules you might expect:
  • People who aren’t highly familiar with your store will look at summary ratings, such as the average number of stars you were given by raters. However, researchers at Germany’s University of Mainz found that a single or small set of positive comments carries substantial weight, even if potential customers don’t perceive it as representing the average opinion. This fits with the general consumer psychology finding that a good story is usually more influential than a set of statistics. The implication for you: In portraying your reviews to prospects, accentuate the positive stories. 
  • In general, consumers consider recent reviews to be more valuable than old reviews. But researchers at China’s Fudan University uncovered an exception to this: When shoppers are thinking of purchases for use in the somewhat distant future, their interest dramatically increases in older reviews. It has to do with both the past and the future being more abstract than the present, so the consumer’s brain perceives a better match. The implication here: If there’s a review from the past you want to highlight, talk about it in terms of the prospect’s purchase being for the long-term. 
  • It might seem that anonymity would be helpful when a review about you is negative. Readers would figure the reviewer with the criticism is hiding out to avoid responsibility for their statements. This would make the review less credible and therefore less influential. Yet this power of the identification doesn’t show as reliably as you might think. Researchers at Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, and University of South Carolina say that when a reader is unsure about the identity of a negative reviewer, they often assume the reviewer is like them, adding credibility to the review. But when a negative reviewer’s clearly identified and the shopper’s already developed positive feelings about the store or product, the shopper often emphasizes the ways in which they are different from the reviewer. They want to continue liking the item. 
Click below for more: 
Craft Powerful Stories
Motivate Shoppers Using Their Time Benchmarks
Encourage Reviewers to Identify Themselves

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Leapfrog Generations to Sell Experiences

The Experience Economy was published in 1999, long ago within the ever-changing world of retailing. But its subtitle, Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage, has inspired success for many merchants. And even though the authors used America Online as a chief example of its premise that consumers aim to buy entertaining encounters, the book has inspired many retail consultants to recommend their brick-and-mortar clients woo shoppers away from the internet by entertaining them live face-to-face.
     Now in a set of seven studies, researchers at New York University and UCLA point out that the experience economy does best when consumers feel financially confident. If the consumers instead feel highly financially constrained, their preferences shift to buying material goods that will last for a while. This is true even if the material items to be purchased are frivolous and indulgent. Emphasizing to prospects that fun experiences give enduring memories was not sufficient to overcome the effect.
     But other studies indicate that if you are in the business of selling experiences, you can continue to have success during economically challenging periods by leapfrogging the memories to the purchaser’s grandchildren. Psychological research at Cornell University and then later at San Francisco State University concluded that possessions used just by the purchaser bring less happiness than experiences shared with others. Many grandparents want to buy experiences their grandchildren will enjoy along with them and then remember as a legacy. 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. To sell family-oriented experiences, advertise the benefits for shared enjoyment.
     Build in anticipation. Tell shoppers where they and their grandchildren can go online to see photos and descriptions of family groups like theirs enjoying the activities. Be sure the variety of ages, ethnicities, and other demographics in the photos and text are broad enough to establish identification for the spectrum of family groups you’d like to attract. Keep in mind the value of showing older children, since this can start the mental wheels turning about “what we’ll do next year when we come back here again.”
     It’s best to offer all-inclusive packages. Use the ocean cruise business model. Grandparents will get irritated with you if you require them to say no too often to a grandchild’s requests.

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

Click below for more: 
Offer Family-Oriented Experiences
Assess Shoppers’ Cloaks of Confidence
Offer Grandparent/Grandchild Experiences

Monday, July 27, 2015

Trust Educated Intuition

Don’t think long or hard about how to make the sale when a shopper enters your store. Researchers at Texas Christian University, University of Houston, and Tulane University find that intuitive judgments work out better than deliberative judgments. There was a higher percentage of sales, and the selling time was less, helping out both the retailer and the customer. In fact, the salespeople in their study who began second-guessing their initial flash impressions destroyed the selling advantage of the intuition.
     The caveat is that the salesperson must have deliberated long and hard many times before the face-to-face exchange in order to educate their intuition. In the studies, salespeople who were skilled at both preparatory deliberation and on-the-spot intuition showed 130% better selling performance.
     Building three skills in advance proved to be especially helpful:
  • Product & service knowledge. Your on-the-spot ability to guide the shopper toward the right decision and your self-confidence in doing that allow you to devote your intuitive skills to sensing the customer’s needs and decision style. 
  • Empathy. Recognize that while you routinely sell the sorts of items in your store, the shopper makes such purchases much less often. It’s more stressful for them than for you. Empathy helps before, during, and even after the sale. Researchers from Chinese University of Hong Kong and Fudan University in China found that empathy toward customers influenced satisfaction to a greater extent than did service outcome factors, such how well the clothes dryer works after being repaired or if the cruise ship vacation met expectations. 
  • Recognizing similarities to the shopper. Empathizing is easier when you and the consumer recognize your similarities. Or you fake similarities: Researchers at University of Southern Brittany found transaction success if a salesperson subtly mimicked the shopper. And when a customer finds they have the same birthday or place of birth as a salesperson, the customer gets more interested in making a purchase and is more likely to be satisfied with their purchases. 
     Customers, too, benefit from intuitive reactions in the sales transaction, as long as the intuition has been educated. Research at University of British Columbia found that a substantial percentage of consumers said they’d chosen an item because they had the right feelings about it, not because the item came out best in any deliberative accounting. Those led by their emotions expressed more satisfaction with their purchase immediately afterwards and again three weeks later.

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

Click below for more: 
Show Complainers Respect, Concern, & Empathy
Empathize to Ease the Endowment Effect
Announce Commonalities with Shoppers
Appeal to the Heart

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Value Cultural Values

The values held by a consumer influence what that person will purchase. And the values are themselves influenced by what others in the consumer’s culture consider important.
     How do you determine the prevailing values of your target audiences? One way is to ask shoppers their reasons for selecting certain items over others. It’s best not to ask the questions in a “Why?” format. Many consumer decisions are made intuitively or based on emotion. When asked, “Why did you make that choice?,” some consumers get defensive, as if their judgment is being ridiculed. 
     You’re likely to get better results and avoid jeopardizing the sale if you use a phrasing that assumes the shopper is making a sound decision: “What is important to you when choosing a product like this?” or “In what ways do you find this one to be better than the other possibilities?”
     When you have the answers, you’ll want to analyze them in order to inform your inventory selection, merchandising, advertising, and marketing. One scheme, used in a study by researchers at Oklahoma State University and Duke University, identifies ten families of values relevant to consumers. Here’s my version, using the ten values names from the original list:
  • Power (wealth, social status, control, and dominance) 
  • Self-direction (independent thought and action) 
  • Achievement (demonstrations of skill) 
  • Hedonism (gratification via sensual pleasure) 
  • Stimulation (excitement and novelty) 
  • Tradition (respect and acceptance of long-standing customs) 
  • Conformity (avoidance of impulsive behavior) 
  • Security (safety and stability of society) 
  • Benevolence (attention to the welfare of one’s own group) 
  • Universalism (tolerance, protecting the welfare of everyone, equal rights) 
     Americans generally place higher importance on Power values than on Universalism values in retail purchase and product use decisions. The Oklahoma/Duke researchers emphasize that this should not be taken to mean Americans care little about tolerance, protecting the welfare of everyone, or equal rights. They do care about these. But they care more about wealth, social status, control, and dominance.
     I’ll add to this that there are probably broad variations in values systems within your store’s target audiences. In categorizing your shoppers based on their answers to “What is important to you when choosing a product like this?” or “In what ways do you find this one to be better than the other possibilities?,” recognize that the same decision can reflect more than one family of values. Also, people change their values systems somewhat over their life spans.

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

Click below for more: 
Sell to Values, Not Just Value
Spot Values by Asking Shoppers for Reasons
Dimension Your Approach to Customer Culture
Meditate on Happiness
Accent Values of Your Hispanic Target Markets

Monday, July 20, 2015

Blame Bill Cosby for Flabby Youth Morals?

Could flawed decision making by today’s children be attributed in part to the actions of iconic comedian Bill Cosby? I’m not referring to the multiple allegations that Mr. Cosby committed rape and covered it up. Instead, I’m referring to his creation years ago of the cartoon character Fat Albert. Were young children more likely to begin long-term habits of overeating because they watched media depictions of flabby kids?
     Researchers at University of Colorado-Boulder, Colorado State University, and Indiana University showed children ages 6 through 14 cartoon characters that were either overweight or of normal weight. Later, the children were offered low-nutrient food. Those who had been exposed to overweight cartoon characters consumed more.
     But don’t Fat Albert cartoons also feature kids of normal weight as supporting characters? Well, absent the preoccupation with Bill Cosby’s cartoon creation I’m taking here, the researchers presented another set of kids either only cartoon characters of normal weight or a mix of normal/overweight ones. Even with the supporting cast, those viewing the mix ate more unhealthy foods than did those not shown the mix.
     Consumers, especially young ones, are influenced what to eat by what they see other children, even cartoon depictions, eating. In the Colorado/Indiana studies, the attraction to the less healthy food was eased somewhat by talk about eating healthy. Researchers at Boston College similarly found that health education corrected a frightening backlash effect among kids: After information on a food package identified the contents as “healthy,” those foods were less likely to be selected by the children in the studies.
     When 225 children from across Canada were asked by University of Calgary researchers to describe “kids food,” they included sugary cereals and fatty entrees, while they classified raw fruits and vegetables as “adult food.” But this doesn’t mean adults aren’t tempted by kids food. Adults tend to stereotype healthy foods as less satisfying than nutritious foods.
     Cartoons are more insidious than package information because of the long-term effects. Researchers at Stony Book University and University of Arizona asked adults to assess the healthiness of a range of brands. Those less healthy products and the retailers featuring those products received much more positive evaluations if the brands had been heavily advertised to the study participants using cartoon figures when those consumers were children.
     Let’s realize our use of cartoon figures in selling can wrongly exploit the precious sensibilities of our youngest consumers.

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

Click below for more: 
Dump Purchase Ideas into the Subconscious
Unchain for Health
French Kiss Nutrition Notices Goodbye
Educate Children as Consumers