Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fly in the Ointment

I’ve been a retailing consultant for enough years to have given out lots of flawed advice:
  • I recommended to a drug store that sales staff stay just a little bit more upbeat than the customer. But the retailer learned that when a customer is highly distraught, it works best if the salesperson’s highly optimistic. This reassures the customer, earning gratitude.
  • Based on research findings from Adelphi University, University of Alabama-Huntsville, and University of Dayton, I advised a general merchandise retailer to use bundled pricing—one all-inclusive price without any separate surcharges—for routine items, but partitioned pricing—presenting an item’s cost as a main price plus one or more surcharges—for luxury items. Later, I realized that I’d forgotten to add, “The research also says that if you ever go into ecommerce, you should use bundled pricing for the luxury items, too.”
  • I advise retailers to make delivery promptly after an order is placed. But there are exceptions. Researchers at University of Michigan find that when it comes to products with a custom or artistic component, purchasers tend to consider a longer delivery time—within reasonable limits—as a signal of higher quality. Researchers at University of Singapore and University of Toronto say the same sort of thing holds for many retail services. Consumers evaluated the price of a locksmith service as a better value when the service took longer than when the lock was picked faster.
     As I’m fishing around for the best advice to give retailers, I can find myself getting hooked on the assumption that what works most of the time will work all of the time. It’s the sort of thing “The Phrase Finder” calls “a fly in the ointment.” If you overhear statisticians using terms like “moderator variable,” “moderating variable,” and “interaction effects,” they’re talking about that same sort of thing. Certain groups of consumers or certain sorts of shopping conditions can cancel out or even reverse the effectiveness of selling techniques which are based on shopper psychology.
     When a retailer says to me, “I tried that once. Never again,” it sounds like superstition. You tried out this technique, which is based on solid research and broad retailing experience, only once, and you’re giving up on it? But I avoid the hook by flying directly into the ointment to identify the reason for the exception.
     I suggest you do the same.

Click below for more:
Be Just a Little More Upbeat Than Your Customer
Use Partitioned Pricing to Highlight Benefits
Slow Down the Sales Process Sometimes

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