Sunday, September 30, 2012

Direct Shoppers Toward Needs Over Wants

The recently released “Psychology of Spending Report” from financial services retailer BMO concludes that Canadian consumers are spending money unwisely. This conclusion followed analysis of results from online interviews with a random sample of 1,000 Canadians 18 years of age and older.
  • About 60% of the respondents said they sometimes engage in retail therapy—shopping to cheer themselves up. 
  • More than four out of ten said they buy items they never use. 
  • About 23% said they were unable to buy items they needed because of impulsive spending on items they wanted, but didn’t need. For respondents with annual household incomes of at least $100,000, the figure was, at 19%, not much lower. 
     The report recommends consumers exercise better restraint so they can put more of their money into banking and investment accounts, such as those of the BMO Financial Group. So, even though the survey was conducted by Pollara, a firm specializing in public opinion and market research, the sponsor did have an interest in the outcome. I also believe that the sampling method may have produced results which are not representative of the full population of Canadian adult consumers.
     In fact, I’m thinking that the 60% figure is misleadingly low for the proportion of consumers who admit to sometimes shopping when sad in order to improve their mood. I suspect that almost all of us do that at least sometimes.
     Retail therapy is not necessarily bad. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University and HEC-Paris say that, with the exception of the 2% of adults who suffer from Compulsive Shopping Disorder, people seeking retail therapy are fully capable of exercising self-control. Their shopping is mindful, not mindless. They restrain themselves because the restraint itself helps lift their spirits.
     These consumers do make unplanned purchases, but unplanned only in the sense that they might not have decided in advance which specific treats they will buy for themselves. They prepare themselves to come across both needs they’d forgotten to include on their shopping list and items they wouldn’t realize they wanted until the items were in front of them or in their hands.
     Still, the BMO “Psychology of Spending Report” does remind us, as retail professionals, of the helpfulness in guiding our shoppers toward purchasing what they need over purchasing what they want, but don’t need and may never use. We do have an interest in keeping our target audience financially healthy.

Click below for more: 
Couch Retail Therapy for Chronic Conditions

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Select Celebrity Endorsers Who Fit

This month’s issue of the professional journal Psychology & Marketing is wholly devoted to research about celebrity endorsements. Here are tips for retailers based on the findings reported in the articles, along with my fine-tuning of the tips based on other research:
  • Researchers at Michigan State University and Korea University say that the closer the match between the celebrity image and the shopper’s ideal self-image, the more effective is the endorsement. In many cases, the ability of the celebrity to violate expectations is what shoppers consider to be attractive. The shopper’s ideal self would do that. This argues for using edgy celebrities and for featuring that edginess in ads. 
  • A match between the nature of the product or service and the acknowledged expertise of the celebrity is helpful. Researchers at University of Cergy-Pontoise, BEM Bordeaux Management School, and market research firm CSA, all in France, say the degree of this match is as important as the degree of likeability of the celebrity in influencing consumer behavior. Good business judgment suggests that you don’t want your celebrity endorser also pitching your competition’s items. But from the standpoint of believability, it doesn’t hurt, and if the celebrity endorser stops touting the competition and starts praising you, that equates to bonus points. 
  • University of Leeds, University of Kent, and University of Sheffield researchers explored what happens to the power of a celebrity endorsement when the celebrity misbehaves. An extramarital affair, a DUI, a lapse in “professional integrity.” Reports of each of these were presented to a sample of Millennials. As you’d expect, there was indeed a deterioration in the celebrity’s endorsement credibility. It didn’t make much difference if the news of the transgression came in the form of the celebrity confessing, a journalist’s report on the matter, or news of unconfirmed rumors. A couple of years ago, marketing agency Zeta Interactive said that the amount of positive internet buzz about both bicyclist Lance Armstrong and Radio Shack simultaneously dropped dramatically. RadioShack had retained Mr. Armstrong as a celebrity endorser. Zeta Interactive attributed the drop to suspicions Mr. Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs during races. 
  • Researchers at Augusta State University in Georgia and Murdoch University, Curtin University, and La Trobe University, in Australia, note how reality TV shows have elevated unknowns to celebrity status. This creates a pool of people who might fit more nicely into a retailer’s marketing budget than bigger name talents. 
Click below for more: 
Expect Non-Compete Endorsements 
Sweep Millennial Women Off Their Feet 
Select Celebrity Endorsers Who Have Credibility 
Update Keeping Up with the Joneses

Friday, September 28, 2012

Get Customers In Touch with Each Other

When health club retailer Planet Fitness launched a campaign to get members in touch, they meant it literally: “Welcome back the Pat on the Back with us! The sincerest form of atta-boy encouragement known to woman and mankind.” There was a video extolling the pat, a POTB Generator to produce text atta-boys to post on Facebook, and a POTB kit, which included foam fingers.
     The POTB campaign success was more likely because it supported the Planet Fitness Judgement Free Zone® approach, “which means members can relax, get in shape, and have fun without being subjected to the hard-core, look-at-me attitude….” The success was also more likely because it’s supported by research showing that touch is a sales motivator.
     Consider the results of a consumer behavior study done in the mid-1970’s at a university library. As the clerk returned the library card to some of the students, the clerk placed her hand directly over the student’s palm. Other student patrons of the library didn’t receive the brief touch. When the students were surveyed outside the library, those who had the touch rated the library significantly more favorably than did the non-touched students.
     Decades later, researchers at Tel Aviv University assessed the results of a retail employee touching customers in settings that included a supermarket, a restaurant, and a bookstore. There, a brief touch on the arm of a customer led to the customer feeling more positive about the retailer. And positive feelings toward a retailer increase the potential for financial profitability.
     Touch soothes and energizes at the same time. However, I want to point out that touch also can freak out a consumer. What worked in the mid-1970’s might not work now. What’s welcomed by university students or Israeli bookstore patrons might be offensive to the people frequenting your store. Keep the touching pleasant for the customer, but keep touching customers.
  • Shake hands, bump fists, place a hand on the arm—whatever is culturally and socially appropriate. 
  • Reach out toward customers with palms facing upward, or whatever else in the customer’s culture projects a welcoming attitude. 
  • Maintain the style of culturally appropriate eye contact to stay psychologically in touch. 
     Better yet, though, for avoiding the freak-out effect is the Planet Fitness angle of having acquaintances touch each other.
     Planet Fitness had another angle, distinctive for a gym: As soon as 20,000 POTB messages were generated, Planet Fitness handed out free cupcakes at all facilities.

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

Click below for more: 
Touch Customers

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Arouse Money Thoughts for Quicker Decisions

When shoppers have money on their minds, they buy faster:
  • They worry less about risks—financial, social, and so on—in making the purchase. 
  • They’re more independent in buying items for themselves, feeling less need to wait for the advice of experts. 
  • They’ll look at primary features and the brand name rather than getting bogged down in details. 
     Researchers at University of Salzburg, University of Heidelberg, and University of Mannheim give examples of this last one based on results of their set of studies:
  • A TV would be selected on the basis of the picture quality, without the shopper checking out the warranty. 
  • A Mercedes brand bicycle would be instantly rated favorably because of the prestige of the brand name, not because of an analysis of the bike’s features. 
  • In selecting a yogurt, money-thinking health-oriented consumers would look at nutrition claims and money-thinking pleasure-oriented consumers would think about the taste, but neither group would pay much notice to the design of the package. 
     This quick decision making may not be to the benefit of your shopper or of you.
  • People who ignore the risks of a purchase might endanger themselves and then hold the retailer responsible. 
  • Ignoring the advice of experts means your shopper won’t benefit from the knowledgeable counsel you have to offer them. 
  • Assessing an item by brand name alone means missing out on lesser-known offerings which would provide more value for the consumer and a higher profit margin for the retailer. 
     Still, there are circumstances where quicker decisions are beneficial all around, in which case you’ll want to arouse money thoughts. You could do this by showing cash or pictures of cash.
     To enhance the effect, give change for cash purchases using bills of varied denominations. Researchers at University of Iowa found that a shopper with a single $100 bill was less likely to make purchases than a shopper with five $20 bills.
     Why was this? Was it because one person had one bill and the other had five bills? Those questions led to the study design in which each person had five bills to start with. What the researchers called “a bias for the whole” still came through. The shoppers who had the bills of varying denominations were more willing to spend their money on a watch, a T-shirt, or a flash drive. Having smaller denomination bills eased the bias to keep the whole amount.

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

Click below for more: 
Separate Soft Money from Hard Advice 
Give Change in Varied Denominations

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Unknot Distortions from Using “Not”

“Never say never” is a fine inspirational motto because the self-contradiction in the phrasing reflects the incompleteness of most inspirational mottos. In that same spirit, I’ll say “Do not use not,” although the complete advice is the less pithy, “Be aware that using ‘not’ when communicating with consumers often leads to misunderstandings.”
     Here’s an illustration: Which toothpaste dispenser would receive higher ratings from your customers, the one you describe as “not easy to use” or the one you describe as “not difficult to use”?
     Researchers at University of Colorado-Boulder, Northwestern University, and INSEAD found that the “not easy to use” alternative receives higher ratings.
     Why? The answer has to do with how the two alternatives were presented:
  • All the study participants were given one of two versions of a list of characteristics of the toothpaste dispenser. 
  • The two versions were identical, except that one version included the “not easy to use” and the other, the “not difficult to use” phrase. 
  • The average ratings of liking were obtained for each separate group. 
     The participants had little trouble remembering what the phrasing said. It wasn’t as if they failed to see the “not.” Instead, it was that the “easy” or the “difficult” had much greater emphasis in the decision making than did the “not.” One group was evaluating the toothpaste dispenser with “easy” in mind, while the other had “difficult” in mind.
     The researchers found similar effects with a range of product categories. The use of “not” in product descriptions or usage instructions adds to the cognitive demands on the consumer, with the result that confusion is more likely. Consumers, especially older consumers, who were in a hurry when told that a product had “no added sugar” often remembered the product later as having added sugar.
     Sometimes the confusion operates to the advantage of the retailer. A tag line for DiGiorno frozen pizza reads “It’s not delivery. It’s DiGiorno.” The tag line makes us associate the frozen pizza with the quality of pizza delivered to our home. In fact, one of their ads reads, “If it looks like delivery, smells like delivery, and tastes like delivery, it’s DiGiorno.”
     To avoid confusion, omit “not.” Or to use “not” to emphasize a contrast, employ “not this, but instead that.” Employ with employees, for instance. When giving instructions to staff, if you say what not to do, add what the desired alternative behaviors are.

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

Click below for more: 
Avoid “Not” in Influencing Shoppers

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hollow Out Space to Serve Halloween Rebels

The National Retail Federation’s Retail’s BIG Blog is advising you to reserve space in your store for Halloween costumes, decorations, games, catering, or whatever else fits your business identity. It looks like a healthy Halloween season starting now.
     Yes, the pop-up Halloween stores opening all over could draw business away from what you’d offer. And Halloween is far from being the biggest consumer spending holiday time. It comes in behind Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Easter.
     Still, NRF predicts continuation in the upward trend for the number of consumers saying they’ll be celebrating Halloween and making that celebration last for all of October, not only the last day of the month of October. NRF notes that this is a presidential election season, and during the last one, in 2008, more than 570,000 Americans planned to dress up as a political hero or antihero.
     A consumer psychology analysis suggests 2012 will be bigger than the average past Halloween retailing season. That’s because, as St. Joseph’s University researchers conclude, Halloween is an “anti-festival,” with allowed and expected rebellion. And this is a time when the constraints of our Great Recession have nurtured a drive to rebel.
  • In contrast to holiday seasons which are bigger-ticket takes, Halloween for adults means spending more time with nonfamily rather than family. 
  • Unlike Easter, Halloween confronts death and decay, not rebirth and nourishment. 
  • Like New Year’s Eve celebrations, the spirits of Halloween encourage trying on new roles and acting in uncharacteristic ways. 
     The aura of rebellion surrounding Halloween might trigger broader marketing opportunities. How well are you selling to rebelling? This marketing appeal isn't new. I'd be only somewhat surprised to learn that vendors had set up shop in Boston around 1773 hawking T-shirts reading, "I was at the Big Tea Party."
     Shoppers seeking rebellion tend to be young, hold values strongly, and/or perceive themselves as experts in the product or service category. That means your opportunities for selling to rebelling extend well beyond costumes. Findings from research at University of Pittsburgh and University of South Carolina suggest that self-perceived experts are especially likely to shop at retailers who categorize foods in rebellious ways.
  • What products and services can you add to your current mix to welcome the rebellion-seeking market segment? 
  • Which items in your current mix of products and services might you advertise in ways that will show off their rebellious sides? 
Click below for more: 
Sell to People Who Want to Rebel

Monday, September 24, 2012

Brain It on Home with Senior Citizen Emotions

Progressive Grocer recently posted recommendations for selling to the growing number of consumers over the age of 60. The recommendations were derived from research on baby boomers conducted by Nielsen NeuroFocus, a Northern California firm which gathers brain data related to consumer behavior.
     The Nielsen NeuroFocus work takes account of the ongoing discoveries in neuroscience about what’s called the “plasticity” of the mature brain—the ability of the brain to continue changing throughout life, even if it changes more slowly than does the young brain.
     In my opinion, this research provides intriguing leads, but needs to be confirmed with other types of consumer research findings. Here, then, is my version of the Progressive Grocer recommendations supplemented with research findings from University of Pennsylvania, University of California-Los Angeles, and University of California-Irvine.
  • The older brain prefers nuanced over simplistic selling messages. However, while the message can be complex, the delivery should be easy to see and hear, and there should be memory aids for the seniors to take away with them.
  • Older consumers respond better than do younger consumers to advertising and face-to-face selling which includes multifaceted emotions. As a general rule, talk mostly about positive emotions (comfort, contentment, joy) and stay with an upbeat tone. However, combining the positive with the negative (fear, sorrow, envy) can also be powerful. Start out by talking about avoiding the negative and then segue into talking about achieving the positive. As people age, they get better at turning the negative into the positive (such as comfort from having control over fear).
  • Add to the effect of the emotional messages by tying into socializing (“What’s better than enjoying this game with grandchildren?” “Don’t let embarrassment keep you from lunching with friends.”) In many of today’s cultures, elderly people experience increasingly limited participation in social events. This can be because younger family members pull away, because physical problems make it more difficult or more fearsome to socialize freely, or for other reasons. Sales promises to ease loneliness enhance emotional appeals.
  • Then supercharge the emotional appeal by reminding the senior of time limits: “This offer is good for just the next three days.” “Why wait to start enjoying the benefits?” Researchers discovered that what’s behind the attractiveness of emotional appeals for seniors is the realization that the seniors’ time on earth is limited. Young consumers don’t think about this much. Older consumers recognize the realities better. 
Click below for more: 
Emphasize Emotions with Older Consumers

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bear with Care When Wanting Self-Control

University of Minnesota researchers asked study participants to spend six minutes writing down every little thought. Sounds simple enough, and it was. For half of the total group. But a complication was added for the other half: “Each time you think of a white bear, do not write that down. Instead, place a checkmark on the paper.”
     What better way to get people to start thinking about white bears than to bring up that they might do so? Not thinking about white bears after those instructions would require substantial self-control. It also would require self-control to remember not to document any breakthrough white bear thoughts except with a checkmark. 
     This all was part of what the researchers were looking at. The rest came when each of the study participants was given $10 to spend on items at a bookstore and told that any unspent money could be taken home. The experimental question: “Would consumers who had exerted the self-control be less able to limit their spending?”
     The answer turned out to be a clear yes. The participants not given the “white bear” instructions spent an average of $1.21 and took home the other $8.79. The “white bear” group spent $4.05.
     It seems that higher purchase totals will come at your store from people who aren’t exercising high self-control, such as being on a diet.
     However, what if your retailing consists of asking people to be on diet or otherwise exert self-control?
  • Weight-loss programs keep their customers by convincing the customers they can make sacrifices and then seeing to it that they do. 
  • Merchants who allow purchasers to pay off an item over time, such as on layaway, depend on the person disciplining themselves. 
  • When the retailer is selling to children who aren’t footing the bill, the retailer almost comes to expect the child to say, “I don’t want this one or that one. I want all of them, and I want all of them right now.” 
     In those sorts of situations, strengthen the relationship with the customer by providing outlets for frustration. Allowing the customers to ventilate their anger briefly helps. So can encouraging the shopper to socialize with others.
     Researchers at SUNY-Buffalo find that the socializing can be virtual. People who watch TV shows with characters familiar to them are better able to restore self-control. Similarly, family-themed photos could be effective in a retail outlet wanting customers’ self-control.

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

Click below for more: 
Ventilate Frustration When Promoting Self-Control

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Conserve Resources by Limiting Interactions

Corporate Executive Board analysts advise marketers, including retailers, to save resources by limiting the amount of interaction with consumers. The point of diminishing returns from e-mail and social media contacts arrives sooner than most retailers think.
     In a survey of more than 7,000 end-consumers, fully 77% said they’re not looking for a relationship at retail, and of those saying they do have a brand relationship, only 13% said frequent interactions were the reason. Low prices and impressions of mutual values were more likely to be motivators.
     Findings from other studies agree. Mae West, preeminent American sex symbol of the 1930s, might have been talking about matters other than retailer-customer interactions when she said, “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” For example, it’s possible to thank your customers too much, according to researchers at University of California-Riverside, Boston College, and Southern Methodist University.
     Let me say that as a consumer, I love being thanked by a retailer. And as a consumer psychologist, I recommend retailers thank their customers profusely and repeatedly. One of the many reasons for repeated thanks is to stay in touch with the customer.
     So what might go wrong with these initiatives? The Riverside/Boston/Southern Methodist study assessed the repurchase behavior over a three year period by customers who were thanked repeatedly by the retailer. The researchers found that when there were too many thanks, the recipient began to see it as more of a sales pitch than as genuine appreciation. There were fewer repurchases from customers who indicated to the researchers that this tipping point had been exceeded.
     How to avoid the risks?
  • Find out which channels each consumer prefers for messages. Repurchasing dropped faster when a customer liked a personal telephone call, but was getting thanked via e-mail. For most consumers, a grammatically correct handwritten note is a welcome break from text messages. However, some prefer quick and dirty. 
  • Add unpredictability. A surprise thanks comes across as more genuine than an obviously scheduled one. Researchers at Yale University and Carnegie Mellon University found that a surprise gift to commercial bank customers resulted in significantly higher deposit account balances. 
  • Thank valued customers using a range of channels. A redo of the Mae West quote to, “You’re less likely to have too much of a good thing when it comes in a variety of ways,” isn’t as snappy as the original, but is more accurate. 
Click below for more: 
Monitor Your Thanks to Customers 
Meter Your Customer Service

Friday, September 21, 2012

Demystify Mystery Shopper Review Oddities

Kevin Peters said he was thoroughly baffled. When he took on leadership of Office Depot’s U.S. stores, he saw sales were declining faster than those for the industry, but customer service scores from the mystery shopper service were top grade. What was going on?
    Part of the answer was that the mystery shoppers had been instructed to assess the wrong things. They were told to look at whether the shelves were well-stocked. But when a customer comes to the area of those shelves looking for a product, that customer would much rather have the store associate’s attention turn sharply toward them and away from stocking the shelves. And the mystery shoppers were scoring the cleanliness of the windows, floors, and rest rooms. Cleanliness does count with shoppers, but it's not a top driver of customer satisfaction. Mr. Peters asks, “How often do you go to the bathroom while shopping for office supplies?”
      Mr. Peters changed the metrics.
      Another, more fundamental, problem with mystery shopper reviews is that they frequently part company with reviews by a store’s target market members—the actual and potential customers. This doesn’t mean mystery shopper reviews are less accurate. In fact, they can be more accurate if they don’t suffer from a negative bias.
      To illustrate this point, here’s another mystery: Why did Howard Johnson’s Restaurants take a spiraling dive into failure starting in the mid-1970’s. The oil embargo of 1974 curtailing the road travel that fueled their business? The loss of a quality image when, in response to the rise of McDonald’s, Howard Johnson’s Restaurants cut back on both staffing and food quality?
      At the time, some industry experts posited another reason: Howard Johnson’s Restaurants were placing too much importance on customer review cards filled out by people at the cashier station. What the managers failed to acknowledge was that customer reviews have a negative bias. The anecdotal—perhaps overly cynical—rule of thumb is that a customer most likely to take the time to fill out a review card is somebody so upset that they’re one step short of suing the restaurant. The result is an unrepresentative sample of strong negative opinions.
      In a three-nation study, research findings from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Stanford University, and Korea University supported the anecdotal wisdom: Overall, there is indeed a negative bias in customer reviews of services.
      Take account of possible biases to interpret mystery shopper reviews.

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

Click below for more: 
Reduce Bias in Customer Reviews of Services 
Manage by Wandering Around Aimfully 
Define Customer Service for Your People

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Relax Guardedness with Gricean Norms

Retailers can manipulate consumers. No surprise, then, that consumers stay on guard. But this guardedness gets in the way of the retailer genuinely assisting the consumer. Therefore, there are advantages to both the consumer and the retailer in building trust.
     Researchers at University of Michigan used something called “Gricean Norms” to explore this. Let’s say you contract with me for a big project and I tell you the project will be completed in one year. Then the researchers swoop in and ask you two questions: “What’s the soonest date you think Bruce will complete the project” and “What’s the latest date you think Bruce will get it done?”
     In the actual study, the average span between soonest and latest was 140 days.
     Now, instead of giving you an estimate of one year, I say “fifty-two weeks.” In this case, the average span was 84 days. My using weeks as the unit of measurement increased your trust in my estimate. The researchers say that if I’d told you “366 days,” the trust would have been even greater.
     The implication for retailers is to use finely-grained units. But the researchers also say this works best when the entire conversation doesn’t lead the consumer to believe the retailer is violating Gricean Norms.
     These norms were stated by Herbert Paul Grice, a philosopher of language who, in his later years, taught at University of California-Berkeley. Here’s my version of the norms for retailers:
  • Relevance. The retailer gives information helpful to the consumer in making purchase decisions. 
  • Parsimony. The retailer limits the amount and pace of information to fit the needs of the consumer. 
  • Truthfulness. The retailer has good evidence for claims that are made. 
  • Clarity. The retailer uses unambiguous words and sequences the presentation for understanding. 
     Because sales transactions are easier for shoppers when the retailer is adhering to Gricean Norms, shoppers prefer to assume this is the case. But they’ll be alert for any evidence of violations. If they spot evidence, trust can evaporate.
     Again, this refers to the entire retailer-consumer conversation, and ads are a part of that conversation. This is where snags often occur. Some distrust comes from genuine misunderstanding. Researchers at University of Texas at Austin concluded that the average shopper has only about 65% accuracy when recalling what a printed ad actually says.
     So that your information is trusted, give the shopper evidence you’re adhering to Gricean Norms.

Click below for more: 
Number Costs and Benefits for Desired Effects 
Stand With Your Advertising

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Claim Effectiveness over Environmentalism

Cleaning effectiveness is more important to consumers than is their going green with cleaning products.
     That’s the conclusion of a Packaged Facts report titled “Green Cleaning Products in the U.S.,” according to a Marketing Daily posting.
     Total retail sales for these products more than doubled between 2007 and 2011, and while they were once sold principally in specialty health and natural products stores, green cleaners are now seen in general merchandise stores.
     However, skepticism has increased alongside sales. About one third of surveyed consumers say green household cleaning and laundry products are less effective than regular products, and this is a higher percentage than found a couple of years ago. Taken together this indicates that your sales of these products could be substantially greater if you convince shoppers they can both be environmentally friendly and get the floors scrubbed perfectly clean.
     The Marketing Daily posting suggests giving free samples so the shopper can try it out. Here’s a shopper psychology perspective on that idea: In consumer behavior studies conducted at University of California-Berkeley, University of Southern California, Stony Book University, and Indiana University, researchers found that if a product is offered for free, the shopper becomes less likely to buy the product at full price afterwards. What happens is that when getting it at no charge, consumers conclude consciously or subconsciously that the product must be low quality. This is a terrible first impression to leave with the consumer about a new product. It also makes you look bad for giving what appears to be a low-quality gift.
     The way to avoid this problem, some of the researchers discovered, was to be blatantly honest with the customer. Tell the shopper in signage, advertising, and salesperson-customer conversation that the free item is being offered as a sample because you believe the shopper will enjoy the product and want to buy it in the future.
     This much you can do yourself as a retailer. But there are two related tactics for which the manufacturer and/or supplier can help: The free product should be clearly labeled as a sample, and it's best if the free item is in a size smaller than any of the standard sizes offered for sale. Also, because developing habits of purchase requires making more than one buy in a row, attached to the free sample should be a coupon for a customer discount on the next purchase.

Click below for more: 
Hook Going Green to the Excitement of Nature 
Be Clear What You Mean by Going Green 
Sell Multi-Solution Products 
Give Free Samples of New Products

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Present High-Level Benefits to the Confident

Researchers at Northwestern University and University of Hong Kong find that the benefits statements to make to consumers who are confident differ from those best made to consumers low in confidence.
     With high-confidence shoppers, describe the overall and longer-term benefits of the product or service you’d like the shopper to buy. If it’s a health club membership, these high-level benefits could include the possibilities of a longer life and relief from physical pain. By contrast, with low-confidence shoppers, the benefits of interest could center on items like the ease of getting to the health club.
     With a product like an big screen TV, the high-level benefits could be the ability of the family to enjoy programs together, while the low-level benefits could be the ease of operation.
     From the opposite perspective, asking shoppers to think about the longer-term gives them more confidence in making purchases. Researchers from Princeton, University of Chicago, and Digitas-Boston surveyed people entering a grocery store. One set were asked, among other things, questions about the contents of their wallets. This nudged their thoughts towards the money they had to spend in the short term. Another set of shoppers were asked instead about the different types of financial accounts they had in their investment portfolio, such as checking and savings accounts. This got those shoppers thinking long-range.
     What difference did it make? The second group spent 36% more than the first group when checking out with what they ended up purchasing.
     Notice how undemanding it was to set those customers thinking in ways that resulted in them spending, let's say, $136 instead of $100. A question about financial accounts instead of about wallet contents was enough to do it.
     How can you use this? Customers coming into your store won't welcome being stopped to answer a survey before you let them make their purchases. And if your sales staff start out by asking, "How much do you have in your bank accounts?," the shopper might very quickly gallop out your store's front door tightly holding any checkbook, wallet, and credit cards.
     So what are ways you can bring the customer's mind towards a longer-term perspective on spending their money? How about stating prices not just as the total, but also as the cost per month over the expected useful life of the product? How about offering extended payment terms?
     What else will work for you?

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

Click below for more: 
Heal Shattered Confidence with Playthings 
Assess Shoppers’ Cloaks of Confidence 
Give Customers Long-Range Perspectives 
Profit from Shoppers’ Positive Moods

Monday, September 17, 2012

Finesse Precision to Fit the Premise

On a tour at the big city museum, a guest points to the reconstructed skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex. She asks, “How old is the skeleton?”
     “Oh, roughly sixty-five million, five years, six months,” answers the guide.
     “Roughly? That’s a pretty precise “roughly.” How can you come up with such an exact figure?
     “When I trained to be a guide here, they told me those bones are sixty-five million years old. That was roughly five and a half years ago.”
     I think most retailers would agree the guide was guilty of unnecessary exactness. He forget to fit the precision to the premise, as you’d have done.
  • Is it better to say “73% of our 70 products meet all applicable standards” or “51 of our 70 products meet all applicable standards”? A classic finding in consumer research is that percentages are easier than raw frequencies to understand and remember. Therefore, if ease of comprehension is important, present the percentage format. Then, unless close precision is required to earn shopper credibility, ease the cognitive load by rounding off. “About 60%....” is easier for the prospect to work with in their head than “Between 58% and 59%.” 
  • A rating scale ranging from 1 to 100 risks conveying a misleading precision. Is there really that much difference between a rating of 35 and 38? A one-star to five-star rating system is usually more accurate and meaningful for the shopper. 
  • Researchers at University of Southern California and University of Virginia defined “goal specificity” as how precise a consumer’s savings goal is. “I want to save $3,000 this year” has high goal specificity because it’s so precise. “Over the next few years, I want to save as much as possible” has low goal specificity. The researchers found that when a savings goal is long-term, the financial advisor should encourage more precision. 
  • Dropping prices dramatically can attract new customers. But it also has a clear potential to irritate current customers. Economists use the term “rockets and feathers” to describe how prices on many item rise quickly, but drop slowly. Consumer behavior research at Northwestern University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds that lowering prices gently and with precision is a good way to ensure customers who visit your store often will continue to trust your pricing. The economists can still credibly use the word “feathers”, since one meaning of “feather” is to hit softly and precisely. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Choose Between Percentages & Frequencies 
Inform Consumers, But Don’t Intrude 
Enrich Clients’ Savings Deposits 
Feather Pricing Changes with Precision

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ease Into Changes with Store Ambassadors

Barnes & Noble just released their “2012 College Marketing Report,” based on surveys of a panel of more than 7,500 college students from campuses throughout America. The report includes findings you might not expect:
  • TV ads communicate your message more effectively than social media. About 55% of the panel said Facebook is not a good place for businesses to advertise to them. About 42% said TV ads are the most effective conduit for advertising to college students. 
  • Text messages can irritate. About 61% don’t like brands to contact them via text messages, and around 58% are more likely to look at retailers’ e-mail on a laptop than on a smartphone. 
  • About 63% never scan Quick Response codes located on ads. 
     The report also includes at least one hint for marketing you might not have thought about:
  • About 68% of the respondents expressed interest in being an on-campus brand ambassador, and about 50% said they’d welcome help from brand ambassadors while settling into the college. 
     Think how you might use “store ambassadors” to introduce all sorts of consumers—not only college students—to your products and services during times of change. Welcome Wagon has been carrying out that function with new homeowners for eighty years. Ambassadors can also be helpful if the change is in your business. When AT&T introduced a new local service in California and New Jersey a while back, the retailer sent ambassadors to high-traffic areas in the two states to do hand out small gifts.
     Use store ambassadors when people are moving from one role in life to another. This happens with events like college graduation, getting married or getting divorced, having a first child, changing careers, and locating in a new country or culture.
     We might assume that when people are already feeling highly uncertain about what's happening in their lives because of significant changes, they'd actually be less likely to switch store loyalties. Since moving from one role in life to another is a time of high uncertainty, it would seem that you trying to change commitments then would only end up being a big waste.
     But when it comes to role switching, University of Minnesota research indicates that the truth is the opposite of what we might commonly assume. For example, recent immigrants seek out stores and brands to give themselves acceptable status in their new culture.
     Have store ambassadors there to help.

Click below for more: 
Keep Technology in Its Place 
Use Customer Life Changes to Switch Brands

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Discourage Shoppers from Gobbling

I’ll give you thirty delicious M&M chocolates to eat, but they come with instructions complicated enough to possibly leave a bad taste in your mouth:
  • You can eat the M&Ms as quickly or slowly as you want 
  • ...at any interval ranging from five candies every 80 seconds to five candies every 100 seconds 
  • …and you must announce to me in advance what interval you select. 
     The Carnegie Mellon University and New York University researchers who designed this experiment later asked the participants how much they enjoyed the candies and how happy they were with the rate at which they ate the candies. The researchers compared the answers of this group with those from two other groups:
  • Consumers in a second group chose from intervals that ranged between 10 seconds and 100 seconds instead of 80 to 100 seconds. More freedom. 
  • Consumers in a third group were instructed to eat five candies every 100 seconds. No freedom. 
     The results:
  • Group 2 participants ate their candies twice as quickly as those in Group 3. Left to their own resources, consumers tend to gobble. 
  • Participants in Groups 1 and 3 enjoyed the last five candies about as much as the first five candies, but the Group 2 participants enjoyed the last set less than the first set. Gobbling results in decreasing enjoyment. 
  • Those in Group 2 who chose a longer interval enjoyed the candies more. Self-control of gobbling adds to enjoyment. 
  • Groups 1 and 2 reported higher rates of enjoyment of the experience than did Group 3. Consumers don’t like being told what to do, even if what they’re being told would lead to higher enjoyment of their consumption experience. 
     The researchers obtained the same sorts of results when the item offered was a new, exciting video game rather than M&Ms.
     The lesson for retailers: Discourage shoppers from gobbling up their purchases. Encourage them to patiently enjoy the items. However, resist any temptation to be overly directive in your encouragement.
     The consumer psychology concept here is “habituation.” Interruptions increase enjoyment. In another set of studies, University of California-San Diego, New York University, and Carnegie Mellon University researchers discovered that people give higher average ratings to TV programs when the programs include advertising breaks than when the programs don’t.
     The nature of habituation is related to age. These researchers found that commercial breaks improved the enjoyment more for younger than for older people.

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

Click below for more: 
Give Your Sales Pitches Changeups 
Take a Break, Make the Sale 
Anchor Frequency Estimates to Individuals

Friday, September 14, 2012

Expand Horizons in Small Retail Spaces

A while back, an Entrepreneur.com posting gave a number of design ideas for shops and store-within-stores limited in space. From a shopper psychology perspective, those ideas fall into two groups:
  • Trick the brain into believing the area is larger. A boldly-colored wall creates an illusion of receding into infinity. (I’ll add that the effect is greater when the wall is illuminated with an accent light.) Or show an actual receding into space with even a small window. 
  • Reduce the clutter by allowing ample room in merchandising and using wall shelving in place of shelving units. (Shelves that are not fully faced can help, too. But limiting clutter should not mean sacrificing a treasure hunt appeal.) 
     Here are other research-based ways to expand shopper horizons in small retail spaces:
  • Have assortments. Researchers at Columbia University and University of British Columbia found that when shoppers from Western cultures are in tight spaces, they want greater variety among products. 
  • Describe product differences to shoppers. University of Pennsylvania studies discovered that consumers who initially see a limited variety in the breadth and width of merchandise become much happier, and therefore stay around longer to buy, when the retail store helps them recognize the differences among the products. The consumers don’t feel so trapped by restrictions on their freedom to choose. In signage and in customer-salesperson conversations, you’ll want to categorize products because customers seek categories. But especially in the more cramped store, also highlight the differences among the product offerings. 
  • If the products are somewhat substitutable—such as earrings or soups—arrange the stock randomly. University of Pennsylvania and University of Illinois researchers found that this gives the shopper a feeling of there being more to choose from. It takes some time for the shopper to scan the choices. The increased time translates in the shopper’s mind to the impression of a larger assortment. 
  • Remind the customer of the variety of experiences they’ve had when shopping in your store. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, University of Minnesota, and New York University say the reason this works is that we often forget all of the variety we’ve actually had in our lives and instead focus on how repetitive our experiences have been. By reminding the customer of prior buying trips—or asking the customer if there have been prior buying trips—we generate a sense of variety, which, in turn, produces feelings of being in control. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Add Apparent Assortment in Tight Quarters

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Manage Employee & Customer Turnover

At age 92, Rose Syracuse ended her 73-year career at the flagship Macy’s. Although there may be broad differences between operations in your retail store and what Macy’s puffery calls the “World’s Largest Department Store,” note of Ms. Syracuse’s retirement is an opportunity to appreciate the importance of employee turnover and its relationship to customer turnover.
     Retailing has higher employee turnover than most other types of business. Some turnover in any organization is good. By bringing in new ideas, turnover heads off inbreeding and stagnation. High employee turnover raises customer turnover, though, via its effect on what is called Customer Need Knowledge (CNK).
     CNK is defined by researchers at Germany’s University of Mannheim and University of Bochum as the extent to which a frontline employee in a store—the one who serves customers face-to-face—accurately and promptly identifies each customer’s needs and desires. The researchers found that when the CNK of employees in a store is higher, customers tend to be more satisfied and to say they’ve gotten better value from their purchases. An employee with high CNK pays close attention to each customer they’re with and is concerned with the problems of that customer. The result is lower customer turnover.
     Now here is where the tale of Rose Syracuse may be less instructive. According to the New York Daily News, Ms. Syracuse spent her career at back-office jobs, not the salesperson-to-shopper interactions CNK is about. Therefore, I’ll coin the term Store Need Knowledge (SNK) to refer to the advantages long-term employees can offer in knowing how things operate. For the last three years of her employment, Ms. Syracuse helped organize the Macy’s parades and other special events, using her knowledge of many previous occasions. Whether in back office or front, longer-term employees have more opportunity to learn what a store’s target markets are like and will like.
     Use the talents of your senior staff. Otherwise, they will burn out. Organizational psychologists see the hallmarks of burnout as feelings of exhaustion, suspiciousness about the intentions of others, and doubts about the effectiveness of one’s own efforts on the job. Conscientious employees are at especially high risk for burnout. They end up resigning themselves to doing lower quality work than they believe they’re capable of doing. They’ll perhaps resign from their employment.
     You don’t want to lose the contributions of your hard-working employees. Protect your business by heading off burnout in your staff.

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

Click below for more: 
Staff Your Store for Customer Need Knowledge 
Burn Out Resignation of Skilled Staff

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Think Through Layaway Implications

Layaway—a staple of Christmas shopping—is already off and away right after Labor Day in what USA Today calls “a layaway war.”
  • Walmart lowered its layaway fee from $15 to $5, and the shopper will get the $5 back as a gift card when paying off the layaway merchandise. 
  • Kmart is dropping both layaway fees and limits on what items can be placed on layaway. Kmart’s parent company, Sears, is expected to do the same at Sears stores. 
  • Best Buy, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls are offering layaway, although with limits on store locations and eligible items. 
     For many small to midsize retailers, layaway is an important part of the year-round customer service initiatives. The three Ritzy Ragz & Thingz stores in Northern California are among those laying away reservations about the technique.
     When considering whether to have a layaway program, keep business fundamentals in mind.
  • How will you hold onto the reserved items? Storage costs money. 
  • What if a customer places an item on layaway and then doesn’t make the payments? Does it work for you to charge an upfront layaway fee that is forfeited or turned into a store credit if the customer doesn’t keep to the layaway agreement? 
  • What will be your policy and procedures if you place on sale an item the customer previously put on layaway? At Kmart, the consumer gets the discounted price if the item is marked down within one week of the layaway agreement. Otherwise, they don’t. 
     What are the odds your arrangements will end up alienating valued customers?
     If you choose not to offer layaway but your shoppers ask for it, analyze what they are seeking and offer alternative ways to fulfill the shoppers’ desires.
  • It might be the absence of a good credit rating, so a desire to pay cash. Last spring, Walmart.com launched their “Pay with Cash” program. “Pay with Cash” is designed for customers who lack a checking account and credit card, but want to take advantage of the broad item selection and ease of shopping online. The customer places an order via Walmart.com and pays with cash at a Walmart store within 48 hours, at which point the order is shipped. 
  • It might be that the shopper wants to ensure availability of certain gift items, but doesn’t have good hiding places at home. You could set up special order arrangements with delayed delivery from your supplier. 
Click below for more: 
Lay Away Reservations with Layaway 
Credit the Appeal of Cash

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Influence Consumption with Shape & Size

The consumption of the contents is affected by the depth of the popcorn tub, the size of the pasta fork, and the shape of the beer glass.
     Researchers at University of Bristol watched male and female adults drink from either a fluted glass—wide at the top, gently tapering to a more narrow bottom—or a straight cylinder-shaped glass. The glass was filled with twelve ounces of lager, which is the equivalent of a standard bottle or can in America.
     There was about a 60% difference in the consumption time between the two glass types. Calling upon both your knowledge of consumers and your experience in swallowing the suds, which shaped full glass do you think resulted in faster consumption?
     The correct answer: It took about twelve minutes for a drinker from the straight glass to finish it. With the fluted glass, the consumption time was about seven minutes.
     Why would people drink more quickly from the fluted glass? To answer this question, the researchers asked all the participants to indicate on each shaped glass what they estimated to be the half-empty point. The results: First, it’s harder to estimate this point on a fluted glass. Second, those who were least accurate in judgments were most likely to show a big difference in consumption time between the two different glass shapes.
     It’s a matter of perception of progress, and that provides ideas for how you can influence the speed and amount of consumption at retail.
  • When the beer study protocol was done with 6 ounces of beer instead of 12—the halfway point for each glass—there were not significant differences between the down-it time between the shapes. 
  • Researchers at University of Utah-Salt Lake City watched what people ate in a popular Italian restaurant. They were keeping their eyes on how much the diner consumed and the size of the fork the diner had been given with which to eat it. A larger fork caused the diners to eat less. Using a larger fork, you take more with each bite, so you perceive that you’re making more progress toward satisfying your hunger. 
  • Researchers at Cornell University and University of Central Florida found that study participants given a 8.4 oz. tub of fresh popcorn ate about 45% more than those given a 4.2 oz. tub. Larger servings subconsciously suggest to the brain we must eat more to show expected progress. 
Click below for more: 
Fork Over Those Smaller Plates

Monday, September 10, 2012

Solo the Pitch, So High the Sales Potential

Single-person households are becoming more popular. The statistics do differ widely across country. The Economist cites these trends and predictions:
  • In the U.S., 15% of U.S. adults live by themselves, up from 4% in 1950. Half of U.S. adults are unmarried, up from 22% in 1950. 
  • In 2020, almost half of Swedish households will be solos. 
  • In the United Arab Emirates, 60% of women over age 30 are unmarried, compared to 20% in 1995. 
  • Worldwide, the total number of solos will increase by 20% over the next eight years. 
     Consider, then, that the shopper walking into your store, even if accompanied by others, might be living alone. How you use this consideration depends on what you’re selling, why the shopper’s solo, and how this affects the shopper’s lifestyle:
  • Women are marrying later than in the past because they have more professional development opportunities. And with more single woman, there are more single men. These consumers will pay for convenience. In Brazil, whose current president is herself unmarried, sales of ready-made meals have more than doubled over the last five years. 
  • With improvements in health care, there are more aged widows and widowers. Important to these shoppers are aisles and websites which are easy to navigate plus signage and online text which omit small fonts and subtle color differences. 
  • Social attitudes have moved in the direction of friends with benefits, in which sexual relations don’t depend on enduring relationships. Products and services that claim to perpetuate, or least refresh, physical attractiveness are marketable when one is continuing to seek hookups. 
     Some singles satisfy any needs for companionship by socializing with friends or by volunteering. Others suffer from loneliness. Even with the current abundance of internet-based social media, and perhaps because of internet-based social media, more American consumers say they’re socially isolated than the percentage of consumers saying this twenty years ago.
     That’s the report from researchers at University of Iowa, Stanford University, and University of British Columbia. Their research also provides guidance for selling to the lonely: These shoppers are drawn to products which, like the shopper, are yearning to belong. More specifically, consumers who are lonely are highly interested in products endorsed by a vocal minority of other consumers. At the start of the purchase process, they’ll want to look at the product choice praised by 20% of consumers before looking at the choice praised by 80% of consumers.

Click below for more: 
Get Small with Big Convenience 
Help Seniors to Shop Early 
Peek Into Bathroom Rituals 
Let Lonely Consumers Know They Belong

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Use Ideas Designed by Users

Invite your target consumers to participate in the design of products they buy from you, the delivery of services, and the layout of environments in which they shop. The product or service will then be more likely to reflect the characteristics of the consumers. In addition, the invitation to coproduce prepares for the “endowment effect.” The endowment effect refers to people placing a higher value on objects they feel is their own than on equivalent objects that they do not. Participation in the design endows a sense of ownership.
     Research at University of British Columbia, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, and Erasmus University indicates that inviting users to submit design ideas won’t give the impression that the retailer lacks innovativeness, as might be feared. In fact, the invitations led overall to higher purchase intentions, a willingness to pay more for the product, and interest in making recommendations to other shoppers.
     Based on findings from that research and other studies, here are tactics for you getting the best from user-generated design:
  • Clearly state your objectives for the ideas you’ll choose. Specifications phrased like, “We want to package items we carry or could carry which together would be a great kit for families to take on hikes,” or, “We want to make it as easy as possible for shoppers to place special orders with us.” However, minimize the specifications on how the objective is to be accomplished. The fewer the constraints, the more likely you’ll get ideas with big payoffs. 
  • Encourage as many people as possible to participate. Success is more likely when there’s diversity. A twist, however: Success is also more likely when designs come from people who are familiar with your store and when people have made a noticeable effort to submit their ideas. Therefore, encourage participants to come to your store to get the materials for submission. 
  • Conduct the project as a contest. If your acceptance of ideas is ongoing, declare winners regularly. After a competition, even the multitudes who didn't win are likely to build a kinship with the business, feeling they’re part of a community. But if you reject all the ideas, members of your target markets—both those who submitted ideas and those who did not submit ideas—will be irritated at you. 
  • Business professionals have issued legal cautions about non-disclosure agreements and rights to subsequent use of the ideas. Attend to these. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Effect Endowment via Customer Coproduction 
Incorporate Crowdsourcing When Designing

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Trumpet Endorsements from Your Store Staff

Get on the bandwagon. Make your store staff celebrity endorsers. Reality shows are all the rage on TV. The success of “Undercover Boss” is evidence that consumers want to know the human interest stories behind the businesses providing them products and services.
     Marketing Daily reports that Ford Motor Company is going beyond the recent use of Ford customers in advertising. An ad campaign for the 2013 Escape compact crossover features a powertrain engineer, a supervisor of exterior and interior design, and a driver-interface engineer.
     Last year, Red Lobster kicked off their “Sea food differently” campaign with ads, Facebook postings, YouTube videos, and website content featuring a crab fisherman, a chef, a server, and the woman who designed artwork for Red Lobster menus.
     Video game retailer GameStop cultivates their employees to make endorsements. This works so well because GameStop employees are selected and coached to be gaming enthusiasts. Among other things, GameStop has rental programs to allow their staff to master the games. Serious gamers come to store employees to learn the tips, traps, and tricks. When a GameStop staff member praises a game, the endorsement is coming with expertise worthy of celebrity.
  • What opportunities do you provide your sales staff to thoroughly learn about each of the products and services they're selling? 
  • Aside from sales personnel, what are the roles played by others in your store operations, and what interesting tales might they have to share with shoppers? 
  • To what degree do you take the recommendations of your staff—those who purchase the merchandise, those who sell to individual consumers, those responsible for business-to-business accounts, those who handle returns, and the rest—as to what items should be pruned out of your merchandise mix because the staff feel uncomfortable endorsing them? 
  • How do you make your expert staff members into celebrities, such as by featuring their photos in ads, introducing them in social media materials, or even announcing their birthdays over the store speaker system? 
     For success of store staff endorsements, you’ll want to ensure that authenticity comes across. From the initial episodes, the format of “Undercover Boss” has been criticized as contrived and the stories, therefore, as fake. The reality of reality shows is that many people who are obviously genuine in face-to-face interactions become stiffly unappealing when on camera. Carefully choose those you’ll invite to be in ads and encourage the rest to give their endorsements in-store.

Click below for more: 
Make Your Sales Staff Celebrity Endorsers

Friday, September 7, 2012

Present Commodity Products to Distinguish

Ostensibly to honor the fiftieth anniversary of American artist Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans” paintings, U.S. Target stores sold special editions of the cans in hues Marketing Daily characterized them as “Warhol-like color combinations.”
     Ironically, Mr. Warhol depicted the cans in the thirty-two canvases not in bright hues, but in the red, white, and black of the traditional Campbell’s label. However, putting out a special edition in those familiar colors would fail to adequately set cans apart for shoppers.
     Tomato soup is a commodity product, like oranges or milk. University of South Africa researchers had 312 consumers assess the quality of milk poured from brand-labeled and from unlabeled packages. The researchers found that without branding, all milk tastes pretty much identical, but when there’s a label, distinctive taste perceptions result.
  • Pay particular attention to how you present commodity items. Even if the manufacturer’s packaging is the same from one brand to another, something as small as the way the boxes are angled on the shelves can make one product look more attractive than a competitor’s. 
  • Be aware of what the label is actually selling. The early California Fruit Growers Exchange orange crate labels portrayed snow-capped mountains and beaches dotted with sun umbrellas. Then around 1922, the packer realized the labels were establishing a distinctive image, all right, but were selling California more than selling the fruit. In fact, the labels didn’t even include a picture of an orange. A redesign changed that. Then around 1935, the labels were again redesigned, this time to give greater highlighting to the brand name, which itself has changed from California Fruit Growers Exchange to the single emotion-packed word “Sunkist.” 
  • Use shelf tags with comments to add to what the manufacturer’s label portrays. The orange packinghouses created particular names and labels for fruit that was small or off-color. One objective was to distinguish these from the top-grade premium-priced citrus. These lower-grade offerings had labels with names like Mutt and Camouflage. However, another objective was still to sell the fruit. So taglines were developed like “The Quality is Inside” and “Not much for looks, but ripe, sweet, & juicy.” You can do the same sort of thing on your store shelves to add the appeal of personality to each offering. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Punch Up Offerings with Distinctive Labeling

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Be Alert for the Effects of Shopper Attention!

Let’s say you run a café where a joyful gaggle of customers, celebrating a birthday, has right this minute had a scrumptious dessert delivered to the table. You want them all to dig in and make the memories which will impel them to come back to your café again.
     One of the party holds out a camera phone and asks you to take a shot. Ah, another opportunity to create memories of indulgent abandon as reflected in a photo the diners can pass around to look at right away.
     Oh, one thing, though. Take care to include only the people and omit the delicious dessert from the picture. Otherwise, you risk spoiling their appetites.
     It’s not that the dessert is ugly. It’s that attention to the indulgence can produce guilt about indulging.
     Some years ago, researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison asked study participants to keep a diary of what they ate. They were to take a photograph of each meal beforehand and then, after the meal, write down what they consumed. Interviews with the participants gave evidence that the photos put a damper on deviating from a healthy diet. The effect was greater than from the written diary.
     Was this because pictures speak louder than words? Could be, but an equally likely possibility is that the effect of the photos was stronger because it came before the eating commenced.
     In a more recent study, researchers at University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University asked college students to eat. No problem getting volunteers, I imagine. Among the available snacks were the relatively healthful—nuts, raisins, granola bars—and the relatively indulgent—M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s chocolate.
     A set of the study participants were asked to count the number of times they swallowed, using a clicker. Others were not asked to click. The result of clicking was that the indulgent snacks were enjoyed less, and the students felt less need to eat those snacks.
     So it seems the lesson for restaurateurs and other retailers is to realize that bringing close attention to consuming or using an indulgence makes it less attractive to the consumer. Be alert for the effects of shopper attention.
     But wait, there’s more! The clicker effect held for those with low self-control more than for those with high self-control. How to tell if your shoppers have high or low self-control? Watch and listen for the signs.

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

Click below for more: 
Balance Healthy and Indulgent in Merchandise 
Lean Away from Big Fat Shopper Decisions
Ventilate Frustration When Promoting Self-Control

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Showcase the Appeal of Sentimental Souvenirs

A Wall Street Journal feature described how luxury hotels are upgrading that portion of the premises formerly known as the gift shop. An example is the Waldorf Astoria Park City Utah shop, which still sells you a Kit Kat candy bar, Gillette razor, or 3 oz. bottle of Scope mouthwash. But you have to ask for it. The salesperson extracts it from a cabinet. You won’t see toiletry and snack items taking up the shelf space now devoted to designer dresses, shoes, and sunglasses.
     I point this out not because it’s an industry-wide trend. Hilton Hotels & Resorts largely replaced their gift shops with toiletry and snack racks or vending machines by the front desk. My intent, instead, is to have you thinking about showcasing the appeal of sentimental souvenirs in your place of retail business.
     When you’re able to add sentimental value to items you’re selling, this value-added makes the items more attractive to consumers. You can set higher prices for the items.
     Two keys to sentimental value are occasion and location. This is not a new notion. For decades, cruise ships have maintained high-end boutiques on the assumption that souvenirs with memory-jogging force include items beyond postcards and “All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt” T-shirts. A successful tactic for Swatch Group in the mid-1980’s was to sell different wristwatch models in different locations. As a result, many women would go Swatch watch shopping at retailers while traveling on vacation. Special location and special occasion.
     Beyond store settings, the special location could be a street fair. A distinctive item sold there by a part-time retailer can carry with it all the memories of a fun day. Or it could be at a home shopping party, pairing the warmth of companionship with the purchase. The shopper realizes that each time they’ll use the item or even look at it, fond recollections will come.
     Still, location and occasion aren’t enough. A third key to sentimental value is salesperson patience. If the vacation visit to the hotel shop, day at the street fair, or evening at the home of an acquaintance feels pressured, it’s not sentimental value which is added. Consumers don’t get at all sentimental when in a hurry to buy or when they feel they’re being rushed. Cultivate conversation and encourage browsing. Because you’re setting a price premium for sentiment, you can afford the extra time.

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

Click below for more: 
Sell Patiently for Sentimental Value 
Give Your Retailing Local Quality

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Take Consumer Feedback for What It’s Worth

Articles in the latest Harvard Business Review gives pause to retailers who think it wise to structure their businesses around what customers say they want:
  • A case study has as a central theme the impossibility of innovative businesses asking consumers to evaluate offerings they haven’t fully experienced yet. 
  • Researchers at Cranfield University in the UK and Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands point out how quickly shoppers forget vital details about their store encounters. 
  • Richard A. D’Aveni at Dartmouth College says that it’s dangerous to economies to do what’s best for consumers. He concludes with, “…the customer is not always right.” 
     And in an article titled, “Who Gave That Hotel Five Stars? The Concierge...,” professors at University of Southern California, Dartmouth College, and Yale University describe the ways in which online reviews of businesses are falsified. They used a database of 2,931 U.S. hotels.
     Fortunately, they also suggest research-based ways to filter for fraud. Here is my adaptation of the advice, using findings from their analyses and other research:
  • When it comes to comparing ratings of your business to those of others, recognize that small, independently-owned places are more likely to have the owners or employees plant positive reviews and criticize competitors. The USC/Dartmouth/Yale researchers found less of this with larger hotels than with small-management properties. 
  • Compared to faked reviews of hotels, the genuine ones use more concrete words, such as “bathroom” and “check-in,” and fewer context-setting phrases, like, “it was our vacation,” and “my husband asked why.” 
  • The review sites that require people to register as customers are more likely to have accurate reviews. A related point is that, according to Stanford University researchers, a review is more effective when the reviewer identifies herself, qualifies herself as an expert and then presents the conclusions with a bit of uncertainty. One way for a reviewer to qualify herself as an expert is to give specific points of comparison of the product with alternatives which would fulfill an equivalent function. 
  • With hotels, check the details against your records, such as to see if a party of the size mentioned in the review did stay with you. Other types of retailers will have different types of details to check. If the reviewer is identified, contact them to get details. If there’s no identification, and if the review site allows you to do so, leave a posting asking for details. 
Click below for more: 
Make Your Product Reviews Credible 
Encourage Reviewers to Identify Themselves

Monday, September 3, 2012

Honor Your Brand’s Promises

Las Vegas got lots of mileage from their “What happens here, stays here” campaign. I’m referring now to the mileage that visitors have logged as they bring their money to leave in Sin City.
     “What happens here, stays here” was the Las Vegas brand’s promise, and it was blatantly violated with the sale and subsequent publication of photos of U.K. Prince Harry and a female partner close to the climax of their game of strip billiards. The balls, as well as the billiard cues, were not visible in the photos, but a naked prince and lady were.
     When a brand promise is violated, you’ll want to acknowledge this and declare corrective action. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority did it with an ad, in the format of a World War II propaganda poster, reading, “Keep Calm and Carry On Harry,” and a full-page ad in USA Today reading, “We are asking for a shun on these exploiters…. We will not play with them anymore.”
     Another integral part of the Las Vegas brand is to keep it fun, so the campaign adhered to the spirit. By contrast, a few years previously, the LVCVA launched a “What Happens in Blank” TV spot. It was delivered with a satirical edge, apparently aiming to point out how inserting your own town’s name into the slogan will only highlight how your own town falls far short of Las Vegas by comparison. The ad may have produced hearty chuckles in some viewers, but it left a bitter aftertaste for many. The ad was too heavy-handed.
     In your case, any apology for violating a guarantee and any announcement of corrective action might need to be somber instead of amusing. The Las Vegas tag line is unlikely to be interpreted by anyone as a guarantee. When you make a guarantee, recognize it as a serious multi-part promise:
  • What you are promising you will do
  • The rules for deciding if you’ve kept that promise
  • The remedies available to the customer if you fail to keep your promise
  • How you will answer the customer’s questions about each of those three parts of the promise. The guarantee is one tool for projecting your marketing identity to your target customers. Use your explanation of the guarantee to project clearly.
     Stay aware of what you’re promising and make updates as necessary. When it comes to a guarantee, your promises are the crown jewels.

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

Click below for more: 
Keep Up On Your Promises 
Avoid Satire in Comparatives 
Guarantee with Care 
Bet on Consumers Wanting Turnkey Experiences