Monday, December 29, 2014

Color Me Scared Blue

Life insurance sales professionals regularly bring up to prospects the rather frightening possibility that the prospects could die at any time. In certain circumstances, there are many other sorts of retailers who can make a sale more likely by arousing in the customer a sense of fear—fear about the consequences of not making the purchase or buying into the course of action we’re proposing. Fear has also been identified by University of Pennsylvania researchers as one of the top emotions—outrage being the other—which motivate consumers to distribute shopping advice via social media.
     The words you use in the fear appeal make a difference. Raise enough fear of a real danger to win the customer’s attention and motivate action, but only to the degree that you’ve a guaranteed way to substantially reduce the risk. Don’t oversell. Researchers at Auburn University find that if the fear becomes too intense or if the shopper doesn’t see a way out, the shopper becomes defensive and starts thinking about why they don’t need the item you’re wanting to sell them. Or if they do end up making the purchase, chances are they’ll associate painful emotions with your store, making it less likely they’ll come back again.
     The colors you choose also have an effect. Studies at Vrije Universiteit Brussel found that a background of blue in ads, signage, and promotional materials employing fear appeals will work especially well in arousing in the viewer feelings that the threat can affect them personally and is worth attending to.
     When first learning of this research finding, I was surprised. In consumer research, blue is associated with leisurely, deliberative shopping. People prefer ads with a backdrop of blue to those with a backdrop of red. American Express named its credit card Blue because their market research showed the color was associated with positive feelings about the future.
     Upon further reflection, the finding does make sense to me. Blue provides that patina of optimism which keeps the fear in the sales pitch from overwhelming the prospective customer. Even then, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel color recommendation holds only for relatively low threats. With high-threat messages, people pay only limited attention to the background color.
     For high-threat pitches, have the shopper relax, without inducing big pressure to make the consumption decision, and complete the sale in steps rather than deciding it all has to happen at once.

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

Click below for more: 
Scare Customers into Buying 
Arouse Emotions to Drive Online Sharing 
Craft Fear Appeals 
Exercise Cultural Sensitivity in Color Use 
Call for Scrutiny of Groundless Fears 
Stop Threatening My Buds

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ascertain Motivations for Shopper Habits

Georgia State University researchers find that repeat purchasing is only one among a group of habits consumers can form in interactions with retailers. Others include the rituals a person follows when seeking low-margin items, buying an item offered at a discount, and returning products.
     Nourish the in-store habits which create purchase opportunities benefitting both the shopper and you. To maintain good will with your customers, tolerate the other habits and rituals which do little or no harm.
     Shopper habits may become rigid rituals. Some are deep-seated in the personality because they were introduced early in life as the child watched peers shop and was coached by parents and by merchants the child trusted. In other cases, the rituals came before the habits, having their origins pre-birth as they were hardwired during development inside the womb.
     At the other extreme are habits exercised consciously by the shopper in ways that could undercut your profitability. Ascertain motivations for the habits:
     As the shopkeeper spots the ten-year-old boy coming in the door, he says to a customer, “I know this is the first time you’ve been in my store. I want you to see probably the dumbest kid you will ever encounter in your life.”
     While the customer watches, the shopkeeper opens the cash register, takes out some money, places a dollar bill in one open palm and two quarters in the other, and says to the kid, “Okay, which do you want?”
     The boy hesitates for a moment before pointing to the hand with the two quarters. The shopkeeper shakes his head, chuckles, hands him the coins, and returns the dollar bill to the register. The boy picks up items from the shelves, comes to the counter, plunks down the two quarters, and pulls more coins out of his pocket to pay for the rest that’s due.
     This entire episode without the kid saying one word. Nothing.
     The customer who’d watched all this is intrigued. She quickly makes her purchase and follows the boy out the door. When they’re both outside, she asks, “I’m wondering, why’d you choose two quarters instead of the dollar bill?”
     “The day I take the dollar, that’s the day I stop getting fifty cents every time I come by.”
     That kid was far from dumb. The shopkeeper was on to something, too, even if not realizing it consciously. The boy had become a reliable repeat customer.

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

Click below for more: 
Nourish Good Shopper Rituals 
Nudge Shoppers Toward Profitable Habits 
Acknowledge Inertia in Consumer Behavior 
Lead Your Customers Through Changes Gradually 
Turn Customer Habits Into Rituals

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dimension Your Approach to Customer Culture


In 1980, social psychologist Geert Hofstede began publishing analyses of consumer cultures, based upon responses to more than 100,000 surveys he administered in dozens of countries. Over succeeding years, his conclusions have provided guidance for retailers wanting to sell to shoppers raised under different values systems.
     Prof. Hofstede said that four major dimensions distinguish cultures:
  • Power distance. “Power” refers to the degree of influence people have over others. “Distance belief” refers to the degree to which a consumer accepts there are wide differences in the amount of power possessed by people the consumer knows about. When a shopper believes that there are broad differences in the distribution of power, they become less likely to impulsively purchase products like candy bars. These are the sorts of products others might criticize, and the shoppers yield to the assumed power of others. This doesn’t hold true with impulsive purchases of granola bars, which could be viewed as healthy rather than indulgent. 
  • Uncertainty avoidance. Some cultures avoid ambiguity, while others embrace it, and most are somewhere in-between. Superstitions are especially likely to influence consumers who avoid uncertainty. Differentiate between consumers who do things like carry good luck charms and those who believe in the power of fate or karma regardless of what lucky charms they're packing. For those who respect karma, show extra perseverance in resolving service complaints. The other type of superstitious consumer will become a fan if you pair positive shopping experiences with a reminder tchotchke, like a small item carrying your store logo. 
  • Masculinity/femininity. For shoppers from cultures enforcing strict distinctions among sex roles, pay attention to who does what in the purchase. There are broad individual differences among male shoppers and among female shoppers, but overall, men shoppers are more purpose-driven, while women are more possibilities-driven. 
  • Individualism/collectivism. Consumers with backgrounds in collectivist cultures, like those in many Asian and Pacific Island areas, Greece, and Portugal, are more likely to embrace social responsibility than those who identify with individualist cultures such as America, Great Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands. People who identify with individualistic cultures welcome more rapid changes than do consumers who identify with collectivist cultures. 
     A recent statistically sophisticated study across 36 countries by researchers at California State University-Northridge, University of Cincinnati, and University of Washington concludes that the last of the four dimensions—individualism/collectivism—has an effect 71% greater on customer relationship marketing than the other three.

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

Click below for more: 
Yield to Power Distance Belief 
Ease On Through Election Uncertainty 
Trace Who Does What in the Purchase 
Cultivate Controversy Carefully 
Sell Product Families 
Change Up How You Do Business 
Reassure Stay-At-Home Dads 
Secret the Customer’s Confidences 
Cross Channels with Market Mavens

Monday, December 8, 2014

Absolve Maximizers of Solely Absolutes

Consumer psychologists distinguish between “maximizers,” who want to choose the best possible alternative, and “satisficers,” who are pleased to settle for what’s good enough. Wise retailers also make this distinction, since it determines how to make the sale. Moreover, wise retailers realize the distinction isn’t always straightforward. Maximizers are usually willing to pay more money than satisficers and to spend more time deciding. But some maximizers are bargain hunters, searching for a deal on the very best. Other maximizers are happy to pay top dollar if they can depend on a trusted salesperson to quickly point them toward perfection.
     Researchers at Virginia Tech and University of Michigan showed that another complication arises from how maximizers define “the very best.” One group of shoppers were asked to express their degree of preference for an item rated 60 on a 100-point scale when all the available alternatives are rated at no higher than 50. For another group of shoppers, the focus item was rated at 80 and the alternatives topped out at a rating of 95.
     It might seem that the maximizers in the “80 versus 95” group would express a stronger preference for their focus item than did the maximizers in the “60 versus 50” group. But it turned out the other way around. Maximizers pay attention to relative ratings in addition to absolute ratings.
     Maximizers are perfectionist shoppers, and perfectionist shoppers are a nuisance for retailers. They can consume an abundance of your time to conclude a sale and then might return an item or resist paying for a service because their unrealistic expectations were not fulfilled.
     There’s a large genetic component in perfectionism. A person’s environment—the strictness of a parent’s standards, the reactions of bosses to errors on the job—shape the personality trait. But a larger determination comes from what you’re born with. When considering a purchase, people will gather information until they reach a point where the effort to gather more information isn’t worth it to them because of the weight of evidence they’ve already gathered. For maximizers, this balance point is substantially higher than it is for satisficers. When you’re selling to a family of maximizers, be ready to keep feeding more information and to host a series of visits to the store.
     Because of the genetic component, perfectionism is challenging to change. Work around perfectionism by how you present comparison choices to maximizers.

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

Click below for more: 
Perfect Your Salesmanship for Perfectionists 
Attend to Genetic Influences in Selling 
De-Stress from the Distress of Perfectionism

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stimulate Innovation via Single Units Now

Want shoppers to try out a new brand? Offer single-unit instead of multiple-unit packages of all items in that product category. For instance, the customer who buys the double-pack of their favorite mouthwash is less likely to also buy a heavily-discounted new brand than the customer who buys the single pack.
     “Well, of course,” you might say. If you’ve bought two bottles, you’ve got yourself covered—and feel less need to keep your mouth covered—for a longer time into the future. Why spend money on an additional bottle?
     But that’s not the whole explanation. Researchers at Northwestern University, INSEAD-Singapore, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, and Fundação Getúlio Vargas offered study participants a choice of two cans of soda. For some, the participant was asked to select either a Coke or a Sprite, and then asked to choose an additional can of either Coke or Sprite. The other participants were invited to choose once from two-can packages—either a Coke/Coke, Sprite/Sprite, or Coke/Sprite. Those choosing one at a time were twice as likely to select one of each brand than those who selected the two-pack. They were more open to innovating, even among those participants who said they liked one of the two brands more than the other.
     When you base your store practices on consumer psychology findings, you’ve the advantage of knowing why it works instead of only what works. That allows you to sidestep misapplication of your successes. You see, when the choice of a set is spread over time, it’s the multiple-unit alternative which produces more variety-seeking..
     Carnegie Mellon University students were offered a bonus treat in their economics or history class: They could select snacks to be given to them at the end of three successive class sessions. The choices included Snickers bars, Oreo cookies, milk chocolate with almonds, tortilla chips, peanuts, and cheese-peanut butter crackers.
     Half the number of participants were invited to choose one item on each of the three weeks. At each session, they weren’t told if there would be additional opportunities to choose in future classes. The other participants were told that in the first class session they were to select the treat they wanted for each of three classes in advance.
     In the one-at-a-time, single-unit group, only 8% chose three different items. Among those selecting three items as a bundle, 45% went for three different items.
     These consumers feared boredom.

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

Click below for more: 
See Through Consumers’ Boredom Fears 
Bundle Expensive & Cheap Synergistically 
Increase Purchase Quantities with Discounts
Encourage Customers to Be Innovative
Limit Variety as Shoppers Approach Goals