Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gild the Lily with Guilt

A perfectly good sales pitch for a pleasure-oriented item can be made even better by adding guilt, according to studies at Northwestern University, Pennsylvania State University, and Yale University. The researchers aren’t talking about inducing guilt in the shopper at the prospect of failing to make the purchase, although that can work, too: “If you pass up this opportunity, your family may not be adequately protected.”
     Instead, these researchers are talking about guilty pleasures—the added kick in enjoyment that comes from the consumer saying, “I really shouldn’t be doing this, but it feels oh so good.”
     Psychologists generally classify guilt as a negative emotion and consider that a negative emotion, like sadness, can potentiate a positive emotion, like enjoyment, only through contrast: “This massage feels especially wonderful because I’ve been down in the dumps all week.”
     Guilt is a different kind of catalyst, the research concludes. Where it would make little sense for a retailer to induce sadness in the shopper in order to increase enjoyment, inducing a little guilt can work out fine: “Go ahead and do it. You can’t always be perfect.”
     This is subtly different from saying, “Go ahead and do it. You’ve plenty of time to feel guilty afterwards.” This is a matter of arousing guilt during the consumption itself.
     Other research finds that the relief from guilt can also gild the lily of a good sales pitch. When a customer successfully resists the temptation to buy an item, offer one more opportunity to make a purchase in that product category. According to studies at Columbia University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, your chances of making a sale through the second offer are substantially greater than if the customer had not resisted the temptation.
     The technique is useful only when the customer gives clear evidence of having struggled with the purchase decision. The reason the selling technique works has to do with pride and guilt. When a shopper resists the temptation to buy, she has a sense of pride, and any feelings of guilt fade away. The shopper's will power is weaker because it's just been used, and the shopper thinks she deserves a reward for enduring the stress of having to exercise her will power.
     Analyze why the shopper resisted the temptation, then propose another item she’s likely to be interested in which does not naturally arouse the same temptations.

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