Thursday, July 2, 2015

Present the Present as Full of Options

“The future is full of options because both dice are still in our hands. The present is highly constrained because the die has been cast.”
     That’s my description of the mindset used by marketing researcher Ji Hoon Jhang to explain a puzzling instance of consumer behavior he observed: On an overbooked Southwest Airlines flight, a pair of travelers declined an offer to leave on a flight one hour later. The reward would be two vouchers that could be used subsequently to fly anywhere in the Southwest network.
     Did the pair decline because they had a connecting flight or another commitment that couldn’t wait an hour? No. On the contrary, the pair still hadn’t decided how they’d spend their time immediately after arriving at their destination.
     For a study inspired by this episode Dr. Jhang collaborated with John G. Lynch Jr. to verify how and why consumers resist being interrupted when they perceive they are close to completion of a task. At an airport, people were asked to respond to a one-minute survey about how much spare time they believed they had prior to flight departure, after the arrival of their flight, and in the evening three weeks hence. Some were asked while at their gate waiting to board the plane. Others were asked while waiting to board the shuttle train to travel toward the gate.
     Those waiting for the train were less likely to agree to complete the one-minute survey, and those waiting for the train who did agree to do the survey reported themselves as having less spare time than did those who answered while waiting at the gate. This was in spite of the fact that those waiting for the train actually had more spare time until flight departure. For them, the proximal goal was getting onto the train, and they did not want to be interrupted.
     In the retail store setting, most consumers are more open to interruptions early in the purchase process and less open later, as they feel close to completion. Psychologists use the term “Zeigarnik Effect” to refer to the mental itch we feel when a task is in limbo.
     If it is to the benefit of your shopper, scratch that itch by helping the shopper see they still have options open. Convince the shopper that although the die may have been cast, there is probably one more die still in their hand.

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

Click below for more: 
Play Up Your Potential
Face Your Fate About Service Delays
Interrupt the Urge to Interrupt the Shopper
Give Customers a Clear Sense of Progress

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