Monday, November 28, 2016

Space Out Large Assortment Displays

When a store display includes a large number of alternatives for the shopper to consider, items in a different category displayed just adjacent are less likely to be carefully considered for purchase. The University of California-San Diego, London Business School, and Bocconi University scientists who verified this say it happens because of shoppers’ limited attention. Selecting from among a large assortment consumes mental energy, and the customer who does choose will want a brief break for the brain afterwards. Using eye-tracking cameras, the scientists saw how customers look away from adjacent merchandise after picking an item from among many suitable alternatives.
     Arrange merchandise in your store so that product categories containing many different stock keeping units are buffered from each other. The buffer could be time. Items which are often purchased together, such as spaghetti and sauce or flashlights and batteries, are each stocked in different parts of the store. An advantage of this is how the shopper will cover more ground during the shopping trip, hopefully spotting more items to buy. However, the need to bounce all around your store could aggravate customers, particularly those in a hurry. Another way to maintain a buffer between large-alternative categories is with thick borders on shelves and empty areas on racks.
     Even the physical barrier method can be challenging when the available display space is constrained, such as on endcaps, in a freezer case, or at the checkout area. If you find it otherwise advantageous to have a large-assortment category display adjacent to another merchandise category in these settings, shelve categories appealing to different consumer target markets.
     Some years ago, researchers at University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University found that large product assortments attract shoppers to a store, but once there, many of the shoppers avoid making a purchase because they’re not sure what’s best. Because of indecision, they might leave the store.
     Then studies at Yale University, University of New South Wales, and Peking University indicated you can avoid this problem by encouraging the shopper to think in more abstract ways, such as about features the items have in common rather than considering each item in the choice as unique. Similarly, researchers at University of Delaware and University of Pennsylvania discovered that a way to keep shoppers engaged is to encourage them to focus on product features rather than item alternatives. With features in mind, shoppers rate alternatives until deciding.

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

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Lighten Up When Health Outweighs Taste

With food products, the color of packaging influences the opinion of what’s contained inside. Packages you carry on your shelves which include green in the label are more likely to be perceived as fresh. Show consumers from throughout the world green product packaging and you'll probably hear descriptions like new, organic, healthy, and refreshing. And pale package colors stimulate perceptions of lower calories with fewer additives, thereby also leading to consumer perceptions of healthfulness.
     But researchers at Kiel University and University of Dresden caution about going beyond the pale. Along with indicating a healthy choice, the lighter colors on a package can lead to expectations of weak flavor. This is more likely to happen when the shopper puts more importance on the taste of the food than on eating healthy.
     It’s also more likely when the shopper has not eaten that particular item before. Once they’ve tried it, the pale color of the package continues to imply healthfulness while the expectations of taste are influenced principally by the shopper’s past experiences having actually sampled the food.
     The tip for retailers: With food items where the appeal is to health, favor alternatives with light packaging colors. If such items don’t come to you from the supplier with light package colors, use pastels for your ads and store signage about the items.
     The shape of the package also plays into the perceptions. When purchasing a product associated with extra calories, there are shoppers who habitually prefer packages having an hourglass shape to those that are short and squat.
     And transparent versus opaque packing makes a difference. Researchers at Ohio State University and University of Texas-Austin found that for foods in large packages, opaque packaging with an illustration of the item resulted in higher sales. For foods with interesting colors or shapes sold in small packages, the likelihood of purchase and amount consumed increased with transparent packaging. However, an exception to this was with any vegetables which consumers thought of more for health benefits than for tastiness. Here, opaque packaging resulted in higher sales than did transparent packaging.
     A tradeoff between perceptions of healthiness and of tastiness is commonly seen with consumer research. In a set of University of Chicago studies, people assigned to eat a “healthy” food rated themselves as hungrier afterwards than did people assigned to eat a “tasty” food, yet all the samples were actually the same food item.

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

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Anticipate Black Friday Syndrome

Shoppers go crazy to varying degrees at Black Friday promotions, limited quantity sales, celebrity appearances, highly publicized releases of state-of-the-art merchandise, and other events which draw crowds to a store. Be ready for regression to more primitive behavior.
     Researchers at University of Nebraska-Lincoln observed adults shopping for fast fashion apparel which was in short supply. What the researchers saw was highly influenced by the shopper’s gender. The men were much more likely than the women to move along urgently, hunting for items that would be suitable, and then quickly retreating to the checkout station with their items in full view. Women were more likely to furtively gather the apparel they wanted, hoarding and even hiding their collected trove—behaviors more likely to lead to shoplifting.
     These gender differences between hunting and gathering resonate with humankind’s earliest history.
     Understand the psychology of crowds as part of preparing for having people fill your aisles at times your stock is in limited quantities:
  • If shoppers will be waiting in line to enter the store or department, have store staff wearing name tags talk to the shoppers. Invite those in line to fill out a sweepstakes form with their name and other identifying information. Because they lose some of their individual identity and therefore their sense of individual responsibility, people in crowds are driven to actions they would not take otherwise. Name-to-name contact can head this off. 
  • Distribute the special items throughout the shopping area. Your objective is to scatter out any crowding. When people are in crowds that they'd prefer to avoid, they get more likely to panic and strike out aggressively. 
     Scarcity does open opportunities for higher profit margins. In a classic consumer psychology study, participants were presented a set of Nabisco chocolate chip cookies and asked to answer questions like:
  • How attractive are the cookies? 
  • How much do you like the cookies? 
  • How much would you be willing to pay for one of these cookies? 
     For some participants, two cookies were presented, while for the others, ten cookies were there. Which group gave higher ratings to the attractiveness, liking, and price willingness? Yes, the group that saw only two cookies.
     Customers accept paying substantially more for items that are scarce, as long as the customers accept that the reason for the scarcity is genuine, such as when a state-of-the-art product is first introduced or with Black Friday deep price discounts.

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

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Release Those Pajamas from Purgatory

Studies at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro confirm what many of us suspect: People often consign certain possessions to a state between use and discard. The researchers refer to these collections, generally maintained either in the household or in storage lockers, as “purgatory.”
     Items in these collections are prime candidates for retailers to offer trade-ins or credits toward purchase of new items. Realize that if the consumer really didn’t want any item like that, they probably would have disposed of it. The fact that it’s in purgatory means it’s not quite right, but the consumer might very well be attracted to another item similar to it.
     The wrinkle, though, is that the researchers also found how consumers usually don’t think much about the particulars of the items in purgatory. When they consider them at all, it tends to be as “stuff I should decide someday what to do with” rather than “those pajamas with the Christmas tree designs, those earrings which are too large for my tastes, and….”
     To straighten out that wrinkle, be specific in your ad messages and with your face-to-face selling: “We’re having a great sale on pajamas, and we offer merchandise credit on gently used pajamas and other clothes you might have stored away.” Give prompts for different specific item categories at different store visits by shoppers and you’ll start them thinking what they can bring in to your store.
     But what to do with the used items? You might sell them or donate them.
     Successful resale takes planning. Unless your sole business is resale, reserve a section of your store for it. Auto dealers don’t mix new and used cars. For many consumers, used merchandise still holds a stigma. The stigma can rub off on new merchandise if it’s physically close to the used. There’s even evidence that having the same salesperson handle both the new and the used can decrease the willingness of the shopper to pay maximum price for unused items.
     Donating items adds a socially responsible angle which enhances temptation to release those pajamas from purgatory. You could donate directly to charities or to a retailer that sells used items and contributes a portion of the revenues to charity. Researchers at Georgia State University and Oklahoma State University say that, to maximize the effectiveness of an appeal to social responsibility, tell shoppers how even a single trade-in makes a difference.

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

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Break Bread to Curb Breaking Bad

When you and your customer eat sweet foods together, the potential for mutual persuasion can grow as fast as your waistlines, according to consumer researchers at University of Chicago. For it to work best in keeping sales negotiations from going wrong, the researchers add, you and the people you want to persuade should be eating the same sweet food.
     Many explanations for this effect come to mind: People are more open to being convinced when they’re feeling good, and sweet foods are pleasant. The act of eating slows down time, so there’s more opportunity for you to make your sales points. And psychologists working in fields called “embodied cognition” and “ideomotor action” might propose that the action of chewing food potentiates a desire to talk things over. After all, we think of family dinners as places to share experiences.
     It’s the shared experiences which form the core of the Chicago researchers’ explanation. In this case, it’s the shared experience of having eaten the same food. Shoppers are more likely to trust and then purchase products and services from providers who they believe are similar to them.
     Putting this into action when it comes to eating the same foods could take the form of you serving snacks to your shoppers and, when they partake, you taking a bit from the same serving dish and chomping down. But there are loads of situations and a number of reasons this won’t always work. Fortunately, the Chicago researchers found it to be nearly as effective for the salesperson to talk about having eaten the same sorts of foods a shopper says they eat.
     Or you could talk about other commonalities. Researchers at University of British Columbia and INSEAD Singapore set up a study in which a personal trainer offered a fitness program to prospective enrollees. Participants who believed the fitness instructor was born on the same day as them became more likely to rate a sample program highly and to sign up for a membership. And dental patients who believed they were born in the same place as their dentist were more likely to rate their care highly and to schedule future appointments at that clinic.
     Let shoppers know the birthdays and hometowns of your sales staff. Many hospitality retailers include hometown information on their employees' name badges, and some retailers announce the birthdays of floor employees loudly and proudly in the store.

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

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Feed All the Rage

As the 2016 campaign for U.S. president dragged on, concerns in certain quarters brewed about dramatic increases in the frequency and intensity of bullying and interpersonal rage between America’s children. An NPR inquiry concluded that the fears were based much more on scattered anecdotal reports than on statistical evidence of verifiable trends. Still, to the degree that Trump versus Clinton emboldened people to express verbal and physical aggression, we should expect increases in the times ahead of bullying and rage among our adults as well as our children. If rage becomes all the rage, prepare to deal with it in your business.
     Researchers at West Virginia University, University of Rhode Island, and East Carolina University verified the destructive effects of shoppers losing their tempers. The effects often extended beyond the immediate outburst. The research uncovered many instances in which a store visitor letting loose with rage was so ashamed afterwards that they didn’t want to return to shop there again. Future business was jeopardized.
     In addition, once the rage was unleashed, it wasn’t only a matter of customers bullying each other. In the studies, there were instances of customers joining forces around some real or fabricated slight and proceeding to bully the sales staff. It could be nice when your shoppers commiserate together, but you certainly don’t want your valued store employees enduring sarcasm, taunts, or worse.
     The research findings indicate a few unsurprising tips for you to avoid setting off the rage: Give store visitors ample space to move around if frustrated and don’t keep people waiting in line for assistance or to check out with their purchases. Then there was one tip you might not expect: Keep your shoppers from getting hungry. With food inside the belly, retail shoppers become more likely to keep anger inside, too.
     You might accomplish this by including a restaurant or deli in your store. This one works best when the food selections fit the personality of the merchandise and the store location. Or you could partner with a restaurant close by. Have them give coupons for a small discount from you, and you give coupons for an equivalent discount when dining at the restaurant and ordering an item you have flagged as reinforcing your store’s theme. At special events where crowding and waits are likely, offer theme-based foods in ways consistent with your local regulations for serving food to the public.

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

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Hand Off Intended Hands-Off Items

Most consumer behavior experts I’ve encountered are familiar with the tale of the fresh egg in the cake mix: In the 1940’s, when Pillsbury introduced cake mixes to which the cook needed to add only water, sales were disappointing. Only after the recipe was changed to require the cook to add a fresh egg were the products fully accepted. That was because women felt guilty not participating at all in the crafting of the cake. They didn’t want to be so hands-off.
     Now, of the consumer behavior experts I’ve encountered who know this tale, many of them realize it’s not completely true. First, sales of cake mixes requiring the addition of only water were not disappointing. Housewives in the years during and after World War II sought cooking simplicity. But it is true that sales climbed notably when instructions were changed to “Blend in a fresh egg.”
     And the explanation is incomplete. Chefs agree a cake mix with a fresh egg produces a tastier outcome than one with only dried egg which has been rehydrated. However, the explanation of resistances towards hands-off is not wrong either. It was a factor, research indicates. Consumers by and large enjoy adding their own ingredients when using purchases.
     Studies at University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria and at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands extrapolate those indications to our current era of The Internet of Everything in which our devices take over decision making and then, based on analyzing the results, get progressively better at it.
     The overall finding is that consumers are more likely to purchase smart products that enable them to easily intervene, even when they’ve no intention of intervening in the actions of the product. The motivation goes beyond a concern about safety, as with a self-driving car. The motivation is so deep, in fact, that it springs from a desire to preserve meaning in our lives. Consistent with this, the studies indicate that people are more willing to accept hands-off items when the item reveals its reasoning and intentions at the expense of the efficiency of the item’s functioning.
     As might be expected, the consumers in the studies who were most likely to trust the hands-off items were those most open to innovation. In you introducing such items at retail, look for the Respectable Early Adopters who say, “I want a taste of where the world is heading.”

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

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Delay Assumptions About Fast Shipping

A competitive advantage your bricks-and-mortar retail store can offer when compared to online ordering is that the purchaser can walk right out immediately with what you’re carrying in-store. Yet the small to midsize store retailer also benefits from taking special orders, even though this means a delivery delay to account for shipping time. It would seem you’d always want to assure your shopper this delay is as short as possible. However, a longer wait time is sometimes to the benefit of both the retailer and the customer.
     Researchers at Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Rice University say that offering ground shipping, as opposed to overnight shipping, increases the probability that consumers will decide to purchase a higher quality product rather than a counterpart at the middle price range. This effect is consistent with a broad range of studies showing how people think differently about buying when the purchase is for right now than for the future. They pay attention to different features depending upon when they plan to start using the purchase. If usage is planned for soon, ease of use is especially important. If usage is planned for the future, distinctive features are especially important. Moreover, savoring a purchase which won’t arrive for a while often gives the consumer pleasure in itself.
     Consumers who are gathering information for future use tend to process measurement information in terms of units rather than numbers. Let’s say you need to tell the purchaser about a delay. When is it better to say, “Your product will be arriving in three weeks, not one week,” and when should you use, “Your product will be arriving in 21 days instead of 7”?
     If the customer is anxiously awaiting the arrival in order to start using the item, favor the first wording. In this case, the customer is looking for small. If the customer’s focus is instead on, “I made the purchase then because it was a great price, but I won’t be using the item right away,” describe the delay in terms of days.
     Sexual cues lengthen the subjective time interval until an item is delivered, according to studies at University of Southern California and University of Pennsylvania. Waiting for your special shipment of lingerie to arrive will seem longer than waiting for your special shipment of cashews. That is, unless you’re one of those people who find cashews to be really sexy.

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

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