Thursday, April 16, 2015

Realize the Dream

I look for the dream before I look at the merchandise. That’s where I start when I come into a store as a retail consultant.
     My Amazon.com bio sketch says I’m a “nosy shopper.” Yes, I do have limitless curiosity about why people buy and don’t. But my inquisitiveness extends to seeking what the retailer has in mind for their store and how they define success for themselves.
     Making money is up there at the top, as it should be. There must be adequate profitability if the business or professional practice is to survive. With the best of the retailers I’ve seen, also at the top is the drive to serve the community with competence. Central to the dream is pride in performance.
     Achieving the dream requires perseverance. In fact, the dream will probably never be fully achieved. The richest, most satisfying dreams evolve rather than end. The gossamer coalesces into concrete form, which soon gets gauzy again for a while.
     To muster and maintain that perseverance, psychologists at University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University advise us to avoid continuous monitoring of how far we need to go to achieve those long-term, somewhat fuzzy goals. The psychological research says that when a retailer carefully monitors results toward achieving long-term goals they’ve set, one consequence is that time seems to pass more slowly for the retailer. And that, in turn, makes the goal seem more distant. The best solution is to regularly monitor how far we’ve already progressed toward each clearly defined business objective.
     Realizing what the dream is can be tougher if you’re taking over the family business. It doesn’t work well to live out somebody else’s dream, especially when the somebody else drops by regularly. Investigators at Boston Consulting Group and Cambridge Advisors to Family Enterprise say that only about one out of every ten privately-held businesses makes it through to the third generation.
     The sentiment transcends languages and cultures, as evidenced in the English-language versions of these maxims:
  • “Father merchant, son gentleman, grandson beggar” (Mexico) 
  • “Rich father, noble son, poor grandson” (Brazil) 
  • “From the stables to the stars and back to the stables” (Italy) 
  • “Wealth never survives three generations” (China) 
     Family-founded business or not, every store comes with a history. Regularly check that if I come to visit your place, the dream I’ll see is yours. Recognize what it is and achieve it. Realize your dream.

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

Click below for more: 
Monitor Your Progress Toward Objectives
Prolong Opportunities for Family-Owned Stores
Honor Salesmanship

Monday, April 13, 2015

Look It Up: Abstract Benefits Above Shoppers

Features of products you sell can be concrete—such as the average time between repairs—or abstract—such as a general claim of high quality. According to researchers at Erasmus University, Loughborough School of Business and Economics, and Norwegian School of Management, shoppers are relatively more interested in concrete features when gazing down at the merchandise and relatively more interested in abstract claims when peering up.
     Consumers in the studies had been asked to state which of two printers they preferred. One printer was described as reliable and the other as being of high quality. Those consumers who needed to look down to see the printers favored the “reliable” printer on average. Those consumers who needed to look up tended to prefer the “high quality” printer.
     The researchers explain their findings by saying that we’re more attentive to details when our heads are facing downward because we’re accustomed to items below us being close, and therefore of potentially greater danger than items we look up to see.
     These remnants of body movements were also seen in an earlier set of experiments at the same three institutions. When a consumer pulls their arm toward themselves, the consumer becomes more likely to purchase short-term pleasure over longer-term benefits. Have the restaurant patron lift the water glass to mouth to quaff the contents instead of drinking through a straw, and the potential for ordering dessert climbs. When a shopper uses a basket instead of a cart in a grocery store, the shopper is almost seven times as likely to purchase candy bars rather than fruit as a snack.
     Over our lifetimes, our brains subconsciously associate pulling our arms toward ourselves with acquiring pleasurable objects. Pulling the arm toward the body activates subconscious expectations of short-term pleasure, and the arm pullers look to fulfill those expectations.
     It also works the other way around: Pushing an object away from ourselves, such as when navigating a large shopping cart through an aisle, subconsciously potentiates the brain traces of rejecting items which are not immediately pleasurable.
     Smart retailers have known for a while that when a prospective customer nods their head up and down—even if the nod comes from reading a brochure using narrow columns—the person becomes more likely to complete the purchase.
     The effects are subtle, Still, how a shopper moves not only projects their buying intentions, but also influences their buying intentions.

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

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Cement Positives by Spotting Concretes
Push Shopping Baskets’ Pull for Sweet Items
Start Your Shoppers Feeling Yes
Wash Your Hands of the Endowment Effect

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Get Strange to Ease Shopper Guilt

Want to ease your customers’ guilt about buying items they might otherwise deny themselves? Prominently display on the walls of your store photos of people engaging in unusual exciting activities. The reason this works, say researchers at University of Texas-Arlington and Quinnipiac University, is that such photos increase the flexibility of consumers’ thinking.
     In their studies, the researchers saw other tactics working in the same way:
  • Asking shoppers to talk about strange pleasant experiences they themselves have had 
  • Encouraging shoppers to consider similarities among items being considered for purchase rather than emphasizing the differences 
  • Describing to shoppers foods primarily associated with one meal during the day—such as sausages for breakfast—as also being able to fit well on menus for the other daily meals 
     The tactics made the most difference with shoppers concerned that what they were ready to purchase wouldn’t be good for them. They were the kinds of people who worry excessively about what might go wrong in the distant future.
     To be sure, things can go wrong in the future and there are items shoppers would be unwise to purchase. Sugary treats for diabetics and expensive construction for financially-strapped homeowners. The Texas/Quinnipac researchers remind you and me to use the cognitive flexibility enhancement tactics ethically.
     On my own, I’m also reminded of an experience in 2011 at Sterling’s, the white tablecloth establishment in Reno, Nevada’s Silver Legacy hotel. I was in the area to fulfill my periodic intensive-format course responsibilities on the teaching faculty at University of Nevada-Reno Extended Studies, as I’ll be doing again next week.
     During my 2011 visit, the Sterling’s waiter asked if he might tell me about “a very special special,” a Kobe beef hamburger. He leaned down to speak more softly into my ear. “It is priced at $39 tonight.”
     I was ready to reply, “Does the $39 include the pickles?” But what stopped me was the realization, popping out of my longer-term memory, that Kobe beef comes from only one country—Japan, and my more recently stored memory of all the nuclear trauma there. So I replied, “Does the Kobe beef hamburger shine in the dark?”
     Judging by the glance I received from the waiter, I concluded mine had not been a white tablecloth question.
     Consumer psychology research findings argue that my waiter should have shown me or asked me to visualize pleasant scenes of exciting adventures in Japan.

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

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Use Store D├ęcor to Create Shopper Excitement
Introduce Unfamiliar Products Like Old Friends
Ease Fears with Detail-Oriented Shoppers
Flood with Attractive Country-of-Origin Images
Cultivate Customers’ Hedonic Objectives

Monday, April 6, 2015

Spice Up Store Sales

Introduce a cinnamon fragrance and the drive to make purchases wafts through the air. That’s the conclusion from a set of studies in retail stores by Stevens Institute of Technology, City University of New York, and Temple University researchers.
     At last, consumer behavior science has pinned down the reason retail sales go up so sharply around Christmas. Cinnamon is a frequent olfactory accompaniment to the holiday shopping season, right?
     But, no, I guess the extra sales have more to do with the spirit of gifting and spirited promotions. So how do we explain why cinnamon odor boosted buying substantially more than did a peppermint fragrance?
     It has to do with power. Cinnamon as well as vanilla scents led consumers in store spaces to feel warmer and more crowded. This aroused in them a desire for dominance in order to prevail over any interpersonal friction, and that desire led, in turn, to an urge to buy items, especially luxury items which would distinguish the purchaser from others. Peppermint, on the other hand, is a cool fragrance which didn’t set off a sense of being crowded.
     Burning fragranced candles, spraying a scent from a can, or using a fragrance diffuser does influence shopper’s behavior. The right store fragrance causes more people to buy and builds your store’s brand identity.
     Smells certainly can pace shoppers. The odor from a dirty restroom, ripe garbage, or even an excessively intense dose of a favorite fragrance will rush the shopper right along toward the exit.
     On the positive side, researchers at Drake University in Iowa and Washington State University report that fragrances in a store distort the customer’s sense of time. People shopping in scented surroundings find that time passes more slowly. The result is that consumers generally stay longer in the store. When research subjects shopped in a no-scent environment, time tended to drag. If not able to check themselves against a clock, these shoppers estimated the duration spent shopping as being much longer than it actually was.
     Use pleasant fragrances which are already familiar to the shopper or which you make familiar through repetition. If a smell hasn’t been encountered before, with associations stored in the brain, it will be complicated for the shopper to decode, so the advantages of instant, subconscious influence are lost.
     Still, even the best olfactory plans can be sabotaged when the store browsers wearing their own fragrances circulate.

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

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Clean Up on Floors & Dollars with Scents
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Yield to Power Distance Belief

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Confide in Shoppers for Calibrated Confidence

We’d like our patrons to be both confident and what consumer psychologists call “well-calibrated.” In well-calibrated customers, there’s no more than a small discrepancy between self-perceptions of expertise about the purchase alternatives and objective measures of knowledge about the purchase alternatives. Any consumer confidence is deserved. At the other extreme, poorly calibrated customers don’t have an accurate appraisal of how much they know.
     Poorly calibrated shoppers could be either overconfident or underconfident. Researchers at Cranfield University in England collected data about the post-purchase problems with each type that could disrupt return visits to your store.
     Compared to customers who are well-calibrated, the overconfident and underconfident are especially likely to afterwards rate their purchases less favorably. With overconfident consumers, this is because the people purchase too quickly, paying inadequate attention to what will fit their needs, and they underestimate how much learning will be required to get the best from the item. This also can lead to them misusing the item and subsequently rating the performance of the item as lower quality. On the other hand, underconfident consumers put unnecessary time and energy into mastering the item, so they end up seeing the shopping, purchase, and usage as inefficient.
     With attention being drawn to effectiveness and efficiency assessments, overconfidence and underconfidence result in purchasers giving less credit to skilled product design and aesthetic appeal than is given by well-calibrated consumers.
     Playing around with a product or playing around with the idea of purchasing a product or service helps calibrate shoppers. Unfortunately, high levels of overconfidence and underconfidence disrupt a willingness to play around during the purchase process.
     Prior studies found that well-calibrated shoppers are more likely to seek out helpful information than are the overconfident and underconfident. People who believe they know lots about a product or service category or think they know only a little about it usually ask fewer questions than do the shoppers who figure they know a moderate amount. People perceiving little knowledge say they couldn't think of questions to ask. And those who believe they have lots of knowledge? One reason they limit their inquiries is that they fear looking like less than experts in front of others in the store.
     To improve shopper calibration, confide information about the challenges in getting the best from the item being considered for purchase. The Cranfield researchers point out how pre-purchase marketing often sets unrealistic expectations in shoppers.

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

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Respect Customers Who Claim Expertise
Calibrate Your Shoppers Well