Thursday, April 28, 2016

Infect Unsealed Packages with Positivity

A rotten apple spoils the barrel, says the proverb. It’s a truth not just for the food biologist, but also for the insightful consumer psychologist. Even if the spoiled item hasn’t physically injured its neighbors, shoppers considering a purchase from the barrel will sense contamination and consequently hesitate buying items anywhere near the rot.
     Researchers at National Central University in Taiwan verified that, as we’d expect, the perceptual contagion effects aren’t seen if the food items are shelved in sealed packages. A rotten apple has much less physical or psychological influence on the perceptions of its neighbors in the barrel or on the shelf when isolated by wrapping.
     But the researchers then proceeded to explore other influences on perceptual contagion with unsealed versus sealed food items. For instance, does a perfectly gorgeous apple seen in the barrel influence the purchase potential of its less attractive neighbors? Yes, concluded the researchers. Positivity is infectious, too.
     And that extends to positivity of the shoppers themselves. Happy people experience stronger contagion effects in the positive direction than do people in a sad or neutral mood. People in a negative mood still do show contagion, especially when faced with one rotten apple or other evidence of item defects.
     These findings have implications beyond food retailing. With produce, pluck out the rotten ones and plant in their places beauties. With other merchandise, you might actually choose to introduce flawed items. For instance, when your customer is unhappy with a product of any sort that came in a package, you’ll want to accept—even encourage—a return, since dissatisfaction sabotages future sales. So what to do when the returned item is now in an unsealed package? If the merchandise itself is in good condition, you could decide to put the opened package back on the shelf, offering the item at a discounted price. Your suppliers, pleased at not having to take the items back, might very well be happy to reimburse you for all or part of that discount.
     An opened package, compared to a factory-sealed box, implies a product defect. But if the surrounding packages are sealed, any negative impressions become less likely to spread. University of Utah research suggests that to isolate contagion even further, you should space out the items on the shelves or racks.
     Plus, when unsealed packages are your presentation method of choice, retailer, infect the entire shopping situation with positivity.

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

Click below for more: 
Show Shoppers Selective Transparency
Punch Up Offerings with Distinctive Labeling
Return to Reconsider Your Return Policy
Space Out “Bad News” Products on Shelves

Monday, April 25, 2016

Figure How Figurative Language Bubbles

How purchasers use a product influences what they tell others about the purchase. This extends beyond whether or not they praise the item. Researchers at Michigan State University and Tel Aviv University asked a group of consumers to use liquid soap to blow bubbles and an equivalent group to use the soap to wash a dirty dish. Those asked to blow the bubbles were more likely to go on to bloviate poetic as well, using more figurative language and metaphors.
     Correspondingly, figurative language, such as, “As you enter your room, you’ll be tempted to take off your shoes immediately so your feet can sink into the plush carpeting,” has greater power in convincing others when it comes to hedonic—pleasure-oriented—items than with utilitarian—highly practical items. This also applies to hedonic uses over utilitarian uses. For example, playing on the pleasurable sensations from assurance those plush carpets are really clean, the line, “Deep down, you want a Hoover,” sold lots of vacuums.
     Among the most effective devices for introducing ideas and items to consumers are metaphors and similes. “This new item will be a jet pack for your success” is a metaphor. “This new item will be like a jet pack for your success” is a simile. Because of the stronger thrust of the metaphor wording, it’s usually more persuasive.
     As long as the meaning is clear to consumers, a visual metaphor—a picture or photo that symbolizes the retailer’s points—is more persuasive yet. Images are remembered better than words. Keep adding incidental details to verbal descriptions and soon some of the important elements are forgotten. Keep adding incidental details to images, and those extras actually enhance memory for the important elements.
     A second reason visual metaphors are more persuasive than verbal metaphors is that visual information usually enters the consumer’s brain below the level of conscious awareness, avoiding mobilization of the consumer’s resistances.
     Metaphors allow the new idea or item to feel like an old friend. Consumers seek novelty and variety. Still, most consumers also find a special comfort in being with the familiar.
     Shoppers tend to have more favorable attitudes toward something they’ve seen before. Southern Methodist University researchers lied to study participants in telling them the participants had seen brands previously. The people who were convinced they had seen the brands before showed the same sorts of favorable attitudes as if they actually had.

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

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Stimulate Consumption Visions with Ads
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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Talk About Social Consciousness Early

If you want socially responsible manufacturing practices to be a marketing point in sale of certain of your products, feature that information prominently in ads the shopper will see before coming to your store, and then again in your store signage and early in your face-to-face selling. Otherwise, shoppers will do worse than overlook the information during that transaction. They’ll also become less likely to value information about social consciousness in future transactions.
     That’s the conclusion from research findings at Ohio State University and University of Texas-Austin. The studies concerned the use of child labor in the manufacture of jeans and the failure to use sustainable materials in the manufacture of backpacks. It turned out that study participants who didn’t place a priority on knowing this information were critical of those who they saw did pay attention, calling these socially conscious shoppers terms like “odd,” “boring,” and “not fashionable.” Further, after seeing others act in socially conscious ways, those who didn’t became less likely to pledge themselves to do so in the future.
     But there was a way around this: If consumers were invited to make a donation to a charity using the researcher’s funds, those who did were much less likely to look down on consumers who acted in socially conscious ways. The researchers say a similar cancellation of the devaluing can be achieved if information about the social consciousness in item manufacture is presented early in the purchase decision process.
     Your customer loves the design of a shirt on your store shelf, but despises the labor practices of the manufacturer. So they don’t look at the label before putting the shirt into their shopping cart.
     Your customer instantly realizes the mahogany table now on your showroom floor would look perfect in their dining room, but they could never look themselves in the eye if they thought the mahogany came from an endangered rain forest. So they don’t give it a thought.
     Shoppers who care the most about an issue are the ones most likely to hide from the reality. The furniture shopper who would feel the deepest amount of grief at having in their home any wood from an endangered rainforest turns out to be the shopper most likely to avoid asking about the origin of the material after they’ve decided they deeply love the item for sale.
     So don’t depend on them asking. Tell them first.

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

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Acknowledge Customers’ Willful Ignorance

Monday, April 18, 2016

Maintain Conceptual Comfort of Copycats

A “copycat brand” in a store aims to imitate the appearance of the prototype brand—the brand name and label design best known by your target market consumers for that product or service category. Copycat brands can sell well, often because you are able to offer them at lower prices than the prototype brands.
     Shoppers find comfort in being with brands they’ve known well for a long time. Consumer psychologists talk about “the mere exposure effect.” Shoppers tend to have more favorable attitudes toward something they’ve seen before. Copycats work nicely due to the mere exposure effect, and as long as product or service performance meets customers’ expectations, the copycat can become their personal prototype.
     However, according to a number of research studies, a danger with stocking copycat brands is that shoppers will feel you’re trying to trick them. This is especially likely if you have charts in ads or on store signs which compare characteristics, features, or benefits of the copycat and the prototype.
     Researchers at Macau University of Science and Technology and University of Hong Kong considered instances in which a supplier uses a copycat brand name meant to resemble the name of the prototype brand. They found a way to avoid the danger of trickery perception while preserving the selling advantages: Stock copycats with names that imply the same concepts as the prototypes, but appear on packages, signage, and ads in a way easy to distinguish from the conceptually similar name on the packages of the prototype items. For Scope mouthwash, a good copycat match might be Range, while for Ruffles chips, it might be Flourishes.
     Researchers at University of Cologne and Tilburg University suggest that the type of copycat you carry should be based on the physical proximity of the prototype brand in your store layout. The researchers distinguished among low-, moderate-, and high-similarity copycats, depending on how much the package design and brand name resembled the prototype’s.
     If you don’t carry the prototype brand in your store, you’ll do best having high-similarity copycats. But by stocking both the prototype and copycat, you offer variety, and variety attracts shoppers. If you do have both and you stock the prototype brand adjacent to the copycats, you’ll do best carrying moderate-similarity copycats. The moderate-similarity copycat doesn’t arouse consumer suspiciousness. The person realizes they can easily tell the difference in package design, so they don’t fear being tricked.

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

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Give Odds Estimates from Both Directions

You’re deciding whether to undergo a complicated medical procedure. The physician tells you there’s a 70% probability the procedure will help your condition. How would your trust in that estimate compare to the trust if you’d been told there is a 30% probability the procedure will not result in an improvement?
     The two estimates are logically equivalent, but researchers at Virginia Tech and University of South Carolina say you’d trust the first estimate more than the second and that you’d consider a physician who gave you the 70% estimate as having done a more thorough analysis than one who gives you the 30% estimate.
     Other studies find you would understand the 70% estimate better, since our brains have trouble with the word “not.” Researchers at University of Colorado-Boulder, Northwestern University, and INSEAD discovered that a toothpaste dispenser described as “not easy to use” received higher ratings than one described as “not difficult to use.” And we might like the 70% estimate better because it’s positive. Researchers at Seattle University and University of San Diego point out how consumers prefer a cut of beef described as 75% lean to one described as 25% fat.
     But the Virginia/South Carolina studies addressed the issue of trust in the estimates. When giving an estimate to a shopper, earn more trust by using the larger percentage if possible. This effect extends beyond numbers. “Very likely” results in more trust than “very unlikely.” It remains even when the estimate is given in the form of a chart.
     Lower trust isn’t all bad. In the studies, those given the lower-probability estimate evaluated all available information more thoroughly, on average. But the lower trust in the physician, salesperson, or presumed expert does mean the consumer is less likely to give that person repeat business.
     If the decision is highly important to the consumer—such as with an invasive medical procedure—giving actual frequencies rather than percentages helps. People will generally work harder to analyze the data, according to research at Bentley University, University of Kansas, and Columbia University. University of Florida and National University of Singapore researchers recommend you round numbers in frequency estimates. Rounded numbers, like 10 or 200, are encountered more often than non-rounded numbers, like 9 or 203, and familiarity builds trust in this case.
     But the best route is to give the shopper both the odds of succeeding and the odds of not.

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

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Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me

Monday, April 11, 2016

Scare Up Creativity with Scarcity

There are circumstances in which a retailer prefers to offer dedicated products—items devoted to each fulfilling a specific purpose. Why make a case for the shopper purchasing a combination frying pan and slow cooker when you could increase the basket total by selling the same shopper a frying pan and also a slow cooker?
     Still, if you apply that reasoning to the notion of selling a phone and then a camera, you’ll see the need for refinement. Consumers like multifunction items. This preference could be attributed to the technological advances which have allowed progressively more functions to be packed into the same size product. Research findings from University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign and Johns Hopkins University suggest an additional explanation: The Great Recession caused consumers to become more creative in thinking of uses for the items they purchase. It was a matter of getting by with less. In the research studies, feelings of scarcity about a particular item activated flexibility about item functionality. This mindset persisted and generalized to a broad range of items.
     A classic exercise to develop individual creativity is to give someone a few objects—like a paper clip, a facial tissue, and a scrub brush—and ask the person to list all the different ways the objects could be used together. The assumption is that this task—using all the objects together—would be more difficult with, let’s say, six objects than with, let’s say, three. But does this mean that the six-objects task develops more creativity than the three-objects task? 
     Research at New York University-Stern and University of British Columbia says that it does not when it comes to consumers behaving creatively. Their conclusion is that if shoppers have fewer options available—a smaller number of paint options for a decorating project or a smaller number of alternatives for preparing a dinner—creativity increases. This was true even though the shoppers don’t feel more creative.
     It operates the other way around, too. When consumers feel a need to be creative because they are financially deprived, they tend to seek out scarce goods and then use them in ways that are distinctive, according to findings from research at New York University. It’s an example of what consumer behavior researchers call the “get ready mindset.” When we expect tough going ahead, we prepare ourselves for it by starting to act as if the going is already tough.

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

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Stretch the Good Food Coverage Elasticity

People will say they want healthy foods for their families and themselves, but then, once in the store, they’ll often end up purchasing the unhealthy offerings. Consequently, grocers who reallocate shelf space from low-nutrition to high-nutrition items can find sales revenues dropping. Acknowledging this, organizations aiming to eliminate food deserts—communities with such limitations on access to healthy foods that the residents suffer from poor nutrition—pitch to food retailers how media coverage about their healthy food initiatives will bring in additional foot traffic. Even if the people don’t buy the nutritious stuff, they’re likely to buy something.
     But could such publicity be done in a way that increases a desire for the healthy choices? Research findings from University of Manchester and Newcastle University, both in the UK, suggest the answer is yes. The measure in the research is called “elasticity,” defined here as the percentage change in healthy food purchases for a given percentage change in number of newspaper articles about healthy food consumption.
     Analyzing press coverage and grocery store purchases in a specific geographical area over two years, the researchers found:
  • For general food categories, the positive elasticity was insignificant. A higher number of newspaper articles had little effect on the amount of subsequent healthy food purchases. However, when the articles were specifically about organic, wholegrain, and low-salt products, there was good elasticity. The more articles, the more healthy food purchases resulted. 
  • The articles having the greatest impact were full of praise for healthy eating, sidestepping any of the negatives. Press coverage that debated healthy food consumption actually had a negative elasticity: The more articles, the fewer were the subsequent purchases of healthy food. 
     You may have limited say in whether a media journalist or online content producer writes just about your healthy food items and does so uncritically. More control comes with your advertising budget. Advertise your healthy foods initiatives using unabashed enthusiasm.
     Still, there's a challenge with food advertising. Researchers at University of Southern California and Southern Methodist University find that advertising elasticity has decreased significantly over the years, and the elasticity is greater for durable goods—such as refrigerators—than for consumables—such as the food people keep in those refrigerators. That same research does indicate ad elasticity is higher at the time a grocer kicks off a healthy food initiative than later, when it’s been in operation for a while. So advertise early.

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

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Regulate Negotiating with Regular Customers

Health care professionals talk of the “itch-scratch-itch cycle.” A repetitive itch makes us repetitively scratch, which leads to skin irritation, which causes a repetitive itch. Remedies to regulate the cycle range from relaxation exercises to nutrition store herbs to prescription druggist corticosteroids.
     Consumer behavior researchers talk of the itch that repeat store customers have to negotiate with salespeople, those customers aiming to save themselves some scratch. A set of studies at European School of Management and Technology, Ruhr-University of Bochum, and Loughborough University identified the drivers of this cycle: Repeat customers expect special consideration from salespeople. Salespeople make negotiating concessions to regular customers for fear of losing their business otherwise. Repeat customers who receive concessions expect to receive more in subsequent negotiations.
     The researchers acknowledge that some special consideration of repeat customers is useful, but go on to caution that the concessions should be regulated to avoid unnecessary revenue losses. Here are a few ways to accomplish the regulation:
  • Fix prices. Most consumers prefer not to negotiate if they believe they’re getting a good deal. In 1846, Alexander Turney Stewart introduced price tags to American retailing. Mr. Stewart said that the hard negotiating over price—at the time, the prevailing practice—left enough bad feelings to interfere with customer loyalty. Most consumers viewed themselves as less skilled at haggling than were the retailers, who did it repeatedly each day. The customers often came away feeling they’d been exploited. The introduction of fixed pricing was largely responsible for the rapid growth of Mr. Stewart’s retail enterprises. Having Mr. Stewart’s successes in mind, negotiate with regular customers about other conditions of the purchase, aside from price. 
  • Slow down. Researchers at University of Maryland found that during the back and forth of negotiating a purchase price and conditions, the shopper will feel better about the final decision if the retailer waits a while before responding with an okay or a counteroffer during each round. The shopper interprets the hesitation to mean they’ve gotten the best possible deal. 
  • Gently joke. A used-car dealer showing his shopper a 2005 Chevrolet in excellent condition says, “The price is only $7,000.” The customer replies, “I’m willing to give you $3,500.” The salesman nods, then grins mischievously, before responding, “If at all possible, I’d prefer to sell you the whole car.” Do use humor with caution. We want to be laughing with the shopper, never at the shopper. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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