Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nurture Healthy Retailing Using Human Nature

In last month’s Harvard Business Review, Nava Ashraf described her experiences convincing economically disadvantaged residents of Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa to engage in good public health practices. Prof. Ashraf noted how even when the tools for those practices are available at little or no monetary cost, people too often don’t use them. Her insights as to why and how to overcome the problem center around the importance of attending to human nature. Those insights apply to encouraging healthy item acquisitions at retail by the economically disadvantaged in North America, Europe, and elsewhere, too.
     Here’s my adaptation of the list of hints, informed by other consumer behavior research findings:
  • Get customer commitment for the longer-term. Consumers who are chronically short on funds become accustomed to thinking about what’s coming tomorrow and avoiding thoughts of what’s happening further along in time. Retailers can encourage healthy purchases by offering incentives for longer-term agreements. “Sign up now for the six-month program, and when you pick up and pay for your purchase of fruits and vegetables each week, you’ll be getting a 15% discount off the regular price.” 
  • Offer surprise gifts which give immediate pleasure. The benefits from switching to healthy foods may not be seen for months. The illnesses in children who play with toxic toys acquired in the underground economy at low cost won’t show up for years. Whenever the retailer accompanies the purchase of a good item with a small shot of instant fun, the human nature of bias for the present has been accommodated. This shot of fun doesn’t need to be merchandise. The economically disadvantaged lack the extra for amusement. The parents frequently feel they’re letting down their children. Entertain the kids of purchasers of health items, and you’ll get repeat business. 
  • Model healthy habits. When the store staff show high interest in healthy items, the result is the right type of contagion—fitness, not disease. Prof. Ashraf’s literature research indicates that a powerful motivator for retail staff to do this is to remind them how it’s socially responsible. Practitioners in a North Carolina hospital were more likely to wash their hands conscientiously when reminded how it helped the patients than when reminded how it helped the practitioners themselves. In selling to the economically disadvantaged, recruit staff and shape your own thinking by promoting the opportunities to serve the community. Also, reward staff who sell healthy items.
Click below for more: 
Convince Kids that Healthy Has Authority 
Quench a Thirst for Health in Food Deserts

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