Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Calibrate Your Shoppers Well

Ask camera shoppers easy-to-answer questions about photography, and they’ll end up selecting more complex equipment than if they’d been asked difficult questions. Having successfully answered the easy questions leads shoppers to overestimate their expertise.
     If you encourage shoppers for golf clubs to practice putting from a distance of three feet rather than ten feet, they’ll sink more shots and, as a result, choose, on average, the more expensive golf balls marketed to expert players. Our impression of what we know—our subjective knowledge—is often more important in consumer decision making than is our actual, objective level of knowledge.
     Researchers at University of California-Los Angeles found that interest in enrolling in a retirement savings program involving some risk was increased by asking the consumer an easy instead of a difficult question about finance. Further, when people were given an abundance of technical information about a particular mutual fund, the people reported a drop—not a climb—in their subjective knowledge, and thereby became less willing to invest in that fund.
     Being flooded with information made people less confident and more wary. Caution was also stimulated, in another of the UCLA studies, when investment prospects were reminded of what they did not know about the mutual fund, again decreasing the self-reported subjective knowledge.
     We’d like our customers to feel confident about their purchases. Still, we don't want customers making misinformed investment decisions or misusing what they buy. They could hurt themselves. When it comes to the cameras and golf equipment, they also could damage the merchandise. If they wreck the equipment and then come to return it to you, you'll either accept the return and take a loss on the item or worse, one of your staff will refuse to take the return, thereby losing that shopper as a customer.
     So we’d prefer our patrons to be not only confident, but also what consumer psychologists call “well-calibrated.” In well-calibrated customers, the discrepancy between subjective knowledge and objective knowledge is small. Their shopping confidence is deserved.
     Allowing shoppers to play around with the possibilities has been found to improve the calibration. The distortion in the golf putting study, completed at University of Michigan, was produced by having participants try out just the three-foot challenge rather than both the three-foot and ten-foot challenge. With financial decisions, calibrate consumers by providing them tools to play around with various scenarios at their own pace.

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