Thursday, January 13, 2011

React When Faced with Reactance

If you put a whole bunch of sales pressure on a customer, they might rebel, becoming determined not to do what you’re trying to convince them to do. They start debating each idea you present and physically distance themselves from you.
     Consumer psychologists call it “reactance.” It kicks in when shoppers sense that their freedom of choice is threatened. Reactance occurs across cultures. It’s found not only in places like the U.S., where individual initiative is treasured, but in collectivist cultures like South Korea. It’s found in all age groups.
     The phenomenon was named by psychology professor Jack W. Brehm, whose groundbreaking studies at Duke University discovered details about how reactance works. His findings were considered so significant that he ended up achieving a highly unusual distinction: At the time of his death in 2009, his 1966 article had been the only report ever accepted by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology without a requirement of citations of prior research.
     Although knowing about reactance is important for retailers, it’s even more important to know how to avoid, or at least delay, its onset. Doing this keeps your shoppers receptive to increasingly assertive sales appeals. Here’s what research findings suggest:
  • Your primary focus should always be on what helps your retail profitability, but as part of this, stay convinced that what you are saying to the customer is in the best interest of the customer. Then frame your sales pitch around these genuine benefits. Customer suspiciousness triggers reactance. On the other hand, research findings from UniversitĂ  Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Milan, Italy indicate that reactance will be delayed when the shopper feels they owe the retailer for being helpful.
  • When you see reactance developing, physically step back from the shopper for a brief time. Whenever possible, move to a less crowded shopping area or an area in which there is a large selection of products. Researchers at Columbia University and University of British Columbia found that crowded store spaces and limited product assortment heighten reactance, even when the shopper is seeking items of a different type.
  • Verbally step back by softening the rhetoric. Researchers at University of Illinois and University of Louisiana found more reactance when using phrasing like, “It’s impossible to deny all the evidence that the TMX-890 is the only choice for you,” than with, “Purchasing the TMX-890 makes the best sense for you.”
Click below for more:
Go for Customer Gratitude and Guilt
When Space is Tight, Show Product Differences
Space Out “Bad News” Products on Shelves

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