Monday, August 14, 2017

Pain a Stimulating Picture

Consumers endure pain if the upside payoff is sufficient. People go to the dentist knowing discomfort is often inevitable. They put up with sore muscles after working out at the gym to improve physical fitness or after skydiving for the thrill of an exotic experience. Customers can transform emotional pain into enjoyment when finding bonus pleasure in waiting for a concert following the purchase of the tickets—the process of savoring.
     But why would people pay for the opportunity to wallow in a ditch of cold mud, run among four-foot-high flames, and crawl through electric wires generating 10,000 volts? The appeal of these and about two dozen similar challenges offered by Tough Mudder intrigued Rebecca Scott, a graduate student at University of New South Wales who was herself a Tough Mudder participant.
     After systematically analyzing results from observing and interviewing Tough Mudder customers, Ms. Scott and her research partners say the pleasure from the pain is explained by a major factor beyond the challenge of endurance and the fun of doing it with teammates. The additional factor is how the pain sharpens sensitivity to one’s own body for people who are missing this.
     The researchers note that a major target market for Tough Mudder is knowledge workers, whose focus on intellectual activities stifles body awareness. Tough Mudder participants talked to the researchers about the mental stimulation when their arms and legs hurt too much to function properly and how the wounds they suffered prolonged the stimulation beyond the day of the event.
     The desire for bodily stimulation, even if painful, underpins the psychiatric disorder masochism. Consumers can even get off reading about the pleasure from pain, as they did with the E. L. James book Fifty Shades of Grey, which has sold more than 125 million copies. The psychiatric disorder, the erotic passages in the book, and the findings from the Tough Mudder analysis all have another common element—the ritualization of the discomfort. Recipients want to feel in control.
     Best not to assume your store customers are masochists who’d thrill at being greeted at the entrance with a zing from an electric cattle prod, let’s say. Instead, I suggest you assume that because so many people in current society are knowledge workers who spend much of their lives out of touch with their bodies, you use the Tough Mudder findings as a reminder of the sales appeal of physical experiences.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Mix or Match to Affect Perceived Duration
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Charge for Savoring
Challenge Smart Shoppers
Provide Group Support with Customer Discomfort

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tune Up by Varying the Store Music

Changing your store or restaurant during the business day to fit the preferences of the shoppers can build sales revenues. Retail consultant Paco Underhill talked about a bookstore he worked with that used rotating shelves to showcase retirement advice for early morning mall walkers, child care books for the young mothers shopping before noon, and business books later in the day.
     However, such daily configuration alterations could quickly prove impractical for most retailers. If you want to make changes, it would be easier to vary the music playing in the background, let’s say. Researchers at University of Hamburg, Macquarie University, and Seoul National University, after reviewing dozens of published inquiries into the effects of music in retail settings, provide suggestions:
  • Experiment with different playlists used at different times. Assiduously monitor the effects on purchase amounts and longer-term revisits. Getting it right usually takes time, but it’s worthwhile. In one of the studies, in-store music used properly increased average per customer purchase amounts by 68% compared to the no-music situation. Such results are due in large part to appealing music convincing shoppers to stay in the store longer. Further, a number of studies find that when the music is not appealing, customers leave and hesitate returning to shop again. 
  • In general, it’s best to keep the music volume low and use tunes with clear rhythm and moderate tempos. Switch to somewhat higher volumes and slightly faster tempos at times that there are lots of other ambient noises in your retail establishment, such as talking or equipment sounds. In these circumstances, the masking effect of music increases shoppers’ ability to consider making purchases. 
  • Model what you play on the ways in which other retailers like you are using music, then improve on it. Customers are more likely to accept whatever music you play when they’ve encountered similar play lists at stores or restaurants they consider to be of the same type as yours. To establish your distinctive advantages, though, don’t be almost identical. 
     Other research adds these tips:
  • At periods shoppers will be selecting items without much thought, play music including lyrics. At periods shoppers are likely to be looking at new brands or novel products, use music that is barely noticeable. 
  • Allow for the sounds of silence. To soothe the savage shopper, have intervals free of the music. A little peace and quiet also puts harried salespeople back in tune. 
For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Airbrush Away Shame in Your Shoppers

Salesmanship might be seen as showing shoppers what they can become, then convincing them to purchase from you what will help them become what they want and avoid becoming what they don’t want. The challenge is setting the right distance between the shopper’s self-image and self-aspiration. If the fear of negative consequences is too intense or if shoppers don’t see a way out, they get defensive and start thinking about why they really don’t need the item you’re wanting to sell them. If the gap between their current situation and the better situation you’re promising them is too great, they’ll get highly discouraged and highly ashamed, neither emotional state conducive to purchasing.
     Researchers at University of Texas-Austin, Louisiana State University, and University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign explored this issue by taking a closer look at a well-researched question: Among shoppers who are not thin, how does seeing thin models affect the interest in purchasing the modeled fashions? Past consumer behavior studies have found that women are motivated to purchase items modeled by people who are somewhat thinner than they themselves are, but not dramatically thinner. This is true whether those modeling the fashions are in ads or are salespeople and shoppers in the store.
     The Texas/Louisiana/Illinois research team wanted to see if parallel findings hold for male shoppers and also how to ease the discouragement and shame caused by large discrepancies between a model’s and shopper’s statures. They found that although men’s physical appearance self-image took a hit when seeing thin models, the men did not feel nearly as much shame as did the women when it came to fashion. Physical self-image is more central to self-esteem in women.
     As to how to ease in women the shame which impedes buying, one possibility is to stop using ad models who appear to be very thin. But since thin models attract interest, the researchers also suggest another tactic supported by research: When encountering shoppers who seem ashamed about themselves after seeing the ads, remind them of the frequent use of computerized photo manipulation techniques like airbrushing to eliminate people’s girth in photos. The models aren’t really that thin.
     The more general point is to persuade shoppers—both male and female—they are capable of achieving what you’re proposing. Psychologically airbrush away any shame. To do this, you’ll need to select the right items for each shopper. Indeed, that’s another way to view salesmanship.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Get A Head, Except for Ladies’ Clothing

Monday, July 24, 2017

Personalize for the Market Maven Personality

Researchers at University of Southern Mississippi and Florida State University set out to discover more about the personality of a type of consumer called the market maven. The importance to retailers like you of the researchers’ quest is that market mavens are powerful influence agents. Rather than considering themselves expert advisors on only certain retail products and services, market mavens counsel others about the whole shopping experience and go on to recommend specific stores.
     The personality profile these researchers describe, based on their review of prior studies and their own questioning of consumers, includes blends of divergent characteristics. Market mavens enjoy suggesting novel stores, brands, and item types to others, but they don’t want to propose ideas which conflict with the existing norms of their audiences. Although they enjoy spending more time and money at retail than the average shopper does, market mavens score high on assessments of frugality, since they continually strive to get maximum value for what they do spend. They grant more importance to the characteristics of products and services than to the characteristics of retail stores, but their recommendations of what to buy are almost always accompanied by recommendations of where to buy it.
     To maximize your appeal to the personality of the market maven, the researchers suggest emphasizing good value on pioneering items which have already shown some acceptance by a number of shoppers. An extra lift could come with you describing this to the market maven in a way which suggests they’re privy to exclusive information.
     Other research has documented relationships between face-to-face mavenism and web mavenism. Therefore, as you identify market mavens with favorable impressions of your store, encourage them to post their views on social media. Offer them materials and internet links they can take with them as conversation starters to share with family and friends. This is especially useful for newly introduced products and items for which the purchaser incurs monetary or self-concept risk.
     Generating suggestions for improvements is one trait distinguishing market mavens from customers who only ask questions, give praise, and give criticism. Offer these influence agents special gifts, including the gift of implementing at least some of these suggestions for improvements. A major reason for the value to you of market mavens is the stable self-confidence with which they make recommendations to all the people they know. That’s more likely when they recognize you’ve listened to them.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Dwarf Giant Smiles So You Won’t Look Dopey

Expressions of positive emotions spread from staff to shoppers and among staff. University of Queensland researchers observed positive and negative feelings displayed by shoppers in retail environments moment-to-moment. Not only did a general emotional tone spread, but if one shopper changed from negative to positive or in the opposite direction, other shoppers tracked along with their own behavioral evidence of emotions. All this, in turn, was found to affect intentions to purchase items at the store and intentions to return to the store for future purchases.
     Thus, moving a shopper from being disgruntled to being pleased increases your profitability from that customer and also from other shoppers in the store at the time who observe the interactions. So smile often when facing visitors to your store. And smile often when building teamwork with your employees.
     Yes, there are retailing situations in which a full-toothed, full minute smile is all wrong: If a customer is distraught, and a smile would make you look uncaring. If you’re delivering corrective discipline to a staff member, and a smile would make what you’re saying seem unimportant. Or when a real big, real prolonged smile threatens to make you look simply dopey.
     Researchers at Adelphi University, University of Central Florida, Iowa State University, and University of Kansas found after a series of studies that the bigger the salesperson’s smile, the greater the consumer’s impressions of both warmth and incompetence. The probability of that second impression, certainly a negative one for retail selling potential, is greater in situations with shoppers who consider the purchase to carry risks and with shoppers who are prevention-focused rather than promotion-focused. Promotion-focused people play to win, while prevention-focused people play not to lose. At the extreme, the promotion-focused think creatively, welcome risks, and plow through issues quickly. At the other end of the dimension, the prevention-focused anticipate problems and so work meticulously to dig into issues rather than plow through them.
     The upshot: When dealing with a shopper who is nervous about a purchase decision, dwarf those big smiles so you won’t come across as unqualified to give credible advice. The researchers verified that these impressions directly influence a consumer’s willingness to spend money and time with you.
     Yet always have in mind the depth of the smile’s power. Evolutionary psychologists say we are all genetically programmed to interpret a genuine smile as a desire to build a friendly relationship.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Relate Biases to Gift Registrants

Gift registries are a profitable tool for retailers. People celebrating special events like a graduation, wedding, or birth of a child identify items from your store they’d like to have and then the celebrant notifies friends and family the retailer maintains the list. Those wanting to give a present know where to go, people are directed to your store, and at least in theory, the celebrants are getting the items they most want.
     Alas, researchers at Emory University and University of Texas-Austin find that the theory is flawed. In reality, the people feeling closest to the intended gift recipient are quite likely to pick items different from what the celebrants have placed on the list. The reason is that close friends and family members want to personalize the gift by selecting something to signal the nature of the relationship. 
     Gift givers are generally unaware of this bias. In the study, participants said they’d, “choose something the recipient would like,” over, “choose something that acknowledges or expresses the relationship you have with the recipient.” But although 25% of the gift selections ended up being from outside the gift registry among distant friends, the corresponding choice share among close friends was 64%. That is, only about one-third of the gift selections were from what the intended recipient said they specifically wanted. Further inquiry revealed that the divergence from the registry was because of a desire to signal the relationship.
     Where relationship signaling is especially crucial, we’d expect even more divergence. What friends and family will think about the gift is highly important to adolescents, according to researchers at Temple University, Jerusalem College of Technology, and University of Haifa. Teens usually want the gift to strengthen the relationship by showing ways in which they are similar to the gift recipient. Still, in other cases, they select a gift to carry a neutral message about the relationship.
     To improve the match between what the gift registrant lists they want and what the people buying the gift end up selecting, coach gift registrants to include items which carry relational messages. Grandma might feel best selecting a wedding present which verifies her role as the family historian. The fiancĂ©e’s older sister scans the list to find a kitchen appliance in order to subliminally say she’ll always have the younger sister’s back. Aunt Ellen picks an expensive silver set so she’ll be seen as financially supportive.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Up Yours with “Up To” Discounts

Up your sales revenues from promotional discounts by using “Up to xx% off” formats. Consumers are, by and large, an optimistic lot. If you advertise “Up to 40% off regular prices,” they’ll think the item they’re seeking will be one of those tagged for close to the full discount. You’ll attract almost as many shoppers as you would have if you’d offered the 40% cut on all the merchandise.
     Want to attract even more shoppers? Instead of “Up to 40% off,” use “Up to 39% off.” That’s right. Researchers at Indian Institute of Management find that such “just-below tensile pricing claims” (JBTPC) impress shoppers more than do the corresponding rounded offers. Plus, you could make a little more money for your store by setting the maximum discount at 39% instead of 40%.
     The reason this works has to do with how our brains handle rounded versus precise numbers. Precise numbers lead to us assuming more restricted ranges, so the consumer thinks the variation from the 39% will be smaller than the variation from the 40%. The impression is of a discount closer to the stated number, which translates to a larger discount and increased attractiveness. This is different than with item prices themselves, where 99¢ seems noticeably less than $1.00 to the consumer’s brain.
     The researchers found boundaries to the advantage of JBTPC if offering large discounts or sequential discounts. You won’t attract more shopper interest with “Up to 69% off” than with “Up to 70% off,” nor with “Up to 39% off + additional 10%” than with “Up to 40% off + additional 10%.”
     Other studies indicate more conditions on the use of tensile pricing in general. If you’ve a limited number of products for which you’re offering promotional discounts, tensile pricing will draw more customers than would ads showing the specific discounts on the limited items, according to research at Yale University, Ohio University, and University of Toronto. But if a comprehensive range of products are on sale, you’re better off stating the actual discounts for a sampling of those products than in using tensile pricing claims.
     Researchers at University of North Texas and Texas Women’s University found that tensile pricing claims are substantially less useful when marketing services than when marketing products. This is probably because with services—compared to the case with products—consumers are more likely to believe that you get what you pay for.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Empower Indirectly Using Co-creation

You increase your persuasiveness when you incorporate into what you’re offering the ideas of those you aim to persuade. A chief example of this point is that if your shoppers are invited to participate in the customization of products or services they’re considering for purchase, they become more likely to purchase those items. They’ll also like the items better after they do purchase them.
     It makes sense that people buy into what reflects their preferences. But there’s more to it. Even when the consumer for a product, service, or idea doesn’t take you up on the invitation to co-create, they’ll be more open to considering the item. Researchers at Wageningen University and InSites Consulting find that the brand image of a store improves when it gains a reputation for collaborating with customers in the design of what they sell. People who hear about it from friends become indirectly more persuadable by the retailer. They consider the store staff to be more authentic and sincere than they otherwise would.
     The type of collaboration being considered here is different from the personalization of individual items for purchase only by the co-creating consumer. Instead, this collaboration has to do with the design of and selling strategies for products and services to be offered by the retailer to an entire target audience.
     Empowerment is included in the explanation of why an invitation to co-produce impresses those who do so plus those who have only learned about it but did not participate. Knowing we have the choice of being asked to be listened to gives us a sense of power, we enjoy the feeling, and we consequently like to continue interacting with those who help us feel that way.
     In exploring this same issue, researchers at Aarhus University and Bocconi University point out that two conditions are necessary for the consumers who do the co-creation to experience the empowerment which leads to increased purchase potential: First, the consumers must believe they have sufficient expertise to make good suggestions. Second, they must see clear evidence that their suggestions have been used.
     Invite your target consumers to participate in the design of products they buy from you, the delivery of services, and the layout of environments in which they shop. Invite those others you are wanting to persuade to collaborate with you in forming opinions and developing influential arguments to convince people those opinions are correct.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Salt Shoppers’ Truth with Conviction

One spring afternoon during my sixth year of life while I was playing outside my Uncle Jack’s house, I saw a strikingly attractive bird. My desire to have that bird as a pet so I could look at it whenever I chose appeared as quickly and strongly as if I’d just spotted a must-have toy at the store. At dinnertime, after I told my uncle about my wish, he said, “Well, you can capture the bird if you can put salt on its tail.”
     My Uncle Jack didn’t smile when he said that, so I wasn’t really sure whether he was kidding me. Still, I realized my Uncle Jack rarely smiled. He was a caring, yet gruff, lawyer who advocated aggressively for clients my uncle believed and felt had been wronged by society. Not that his beliefs and feelings were always in accord. My Uncle Jack loved to watch professional wrestling, vigorously cheering the matches on TV. He was especially taken with Gorgeous George, whose effeminate antics and credo of “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!” drew crowds who relished booing him.
     When I was older, I recognized how my uncle believed the professional wrestling matches were staged, but got joy from feeling they were genuine. It’s a phenomenon called kayfabe. Every theatrical production, World Wrestling Entertainment match and beyond, depends for success on presenting something the consumer would believe is fake if analyzing it, while signing on to the agreement to feel what’s seen and heard is genuine. Decades after Gorgeous George, comedian Stephen Colbert referred to this phenomenon in political discourse as truthiness.
     To the degree that retailing is theatre, let’s recognize how feelings can trump beliefs as a shopper is deciding whether and what to purchase. We’ve no interest in defrauding consumers, so it’s essential our conviction is justified when making recommendations. Actually, that conviction is also essential in maintaining a phenomenon like kayfabe. The wrestlers in the ring and the actors on the stage or screen must behave as though they really feel it themselves.
     So I figure my uncle was justified in not smiling when responding to my dinnertime wish. The suggestion he gave me was accurate, even if not in the way I initially understood. If you get close enough to a bird to put salt on its tail, you certainly can capture it. Simply grab the creature.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Undertake Underdog Appeals with Morals

For years, I’ve advised small to midsize retailers to develop niches in order to hold their own against Big Box stores. By specializing, you carry within a niche both an item selection and a level of expertise more comprehensive than large multi-category retailers usually do. However, the advantage of a niche has been fading as ecommerce blossoms in the marketplace. Online vendors frequently offer almost limitless selections because they can obtain the items from suppliers after a customer places the order. It’s still a valuable advantage to maintain high expertise about what you sell. But you might want to substitute another feature for the claim of comprehensive selection.
     How about saying you’re the underdog? It’s easier for you to claim that mantle than for a large retailer to do it. In our culture, underdog narratives draw empathy for those who in the face of resource shortages are determined to prevail. When researchers at Harvard University, Simmons College, and Boston College offered a choice of chocolate bar brands to study participants, the brand positioned as the underdog was selected about 70% of the time over the other brands.
     However, be careful when featuring your store as the underdog. People root for the underdog, yet associate with winners. Show that you’ve the makings for ultimate success. You’ll also want others to see you as a good sport. You could advertise with a negative frame (“The other store is bad, and our store is good”) or a positive frame (“The other store is good, and our store is even better”). Researchers at New York University and Vanderbilt University recommend accentuating the positive. Negatively framed comparatives draw more counterarguments from shoppers.
     Researchers at University of Maryland and Georgetown University say underdog positioning helps the most if your target markets see you as sincere, fair, principled, honest, trustworthy, and less than supremely competent.
     Yes, retailers who are viewed as highly competent don’t get as much added appeal from portraying themselves as underdogs. It’s when there are concerns about expertise that the combination of moral traits with underdog appeal makes a big difference.
     The researchers explain this by saying moral businesses are the kinds we like to reward. It’s not a matter of personal warmth, though. The underdog narrative didn’t help much with a retailer seen as sociable, playful, happy, and funny. After all, the shopper is usually seeking a buyer-seller relationship, not a friendship.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Motivate the Rushed Toward Motivated Reasoning

In making sales, you’d like to minimize the surprises, especially the unexpected item returns. How helpful, then, that researchers at University of Miami, University of California-Riverside, and Baruch College are alerting us to a circumstance where we could get blindsided: When a shopper in a hurry, thrilled with the item we’ve recommended, turns strongly against the purchase as they later encounter information about the alternatives. The surprise is the researcher’s finding that the stronger the customer’s enthusiasm about that initial alternative, the stronger the subsequent rejection.
     The explanation has to do with what social psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.” Consumer psychologists usually know it as “buyer’s remorse.” When someone chooses a product, they often later have doubts that they made the right decision. This is more likely when they later get information about the good features of the other possible choices.
     Still, why would the people who are most thrilled with the first alternative have the strongest doubts afterwards? It would seem that they’d be the ones most likely to defend their initial choice to themselves and others. In fact, this is what generally happens when a number of alternatives are considered all at once before the choice is made. In this situation, those who are most confident about their choice will have the least buyer’s remorse.
     But when a shopper in a rush finds relief in selecting the first alternative presented so they can move on, information they’ll encounter later about other alternatives produces the greatest amount of dissonance among those who were most convinced they made the right choice. These are the customers who, when the time pressure has passed, will come back to your store wanting a refund or exchange.
     How to avoid the problem? Well, at the start, do recommend to the shopper the alternative you believe will best serve them. If the customer’s in a rush, lead with that one. Still, encourage the rushed shopper to slow down enough for you to show more than one alternative and to give information about all the choices. But if needing to handle the issue later, the researchers suggest you engage the customer in a counterpart of cognitive dissonance which is called “motivated reasoning.” Discuss with the person why they made the choice they did and why you supported their decision at the time. Reignite the passion and relief your customer experienced at the time of original selection.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Face Resistance to Shopper-Facing Technology

Technological innovations can increase a retailer’s revenues and decrease a retailer’s costs. Those advantages must be weighed against the expenses of purchase, maintenance, and use of the technologies. Researchers at University of Pittsburgh and Boston College point out that another offset stems from shopper resistances to the technologies in the store.
     Among the shopper-facing technologies considered in the researchers’ studies were self-scanning of purchases at a checkout station or at the points where items are selected; monitoring via infrared sensors of checkout wait times; and facial recognition software to allow personalized purchase recommendations or discount offers. The results of a statistical analysis of shopper reactions to these and related technologies identified the two sorts of resistances we’d expect, but with some emotion components at a strength we might not anticipate:
  • Sufficient value. Consumers ask if the extra time and effort required of them to use the technology is balanced by their savings in time or money. An emotion component is the feeling of fairness. Are the procedures for use of the technology a fair request? Are the benefits from its use a fair return? If there are problems with the use, are shoppers treated equitably? 
  • Privacy concerns. Consumers ask if information gathered about them via the technologies is used to violate what they want to keep confidential. One emotion component is trust. Is the information gathered with the consent of the shopper, and is the shopper aware of how the information is used? Another emotion component is referred to by the researchers as “creepiness.” An infrared sensor watching you differs from a person watching you. 
     Acceptance of change comes with time. The early history of ATMs at banks included customer complaints that service quality was deteriorating and that tellers they’d grown to know and like would be losing jobs. It seemed unfair. Those complaints faded as customers experienced the advantages of transacting business when the bank lobby was closed and as use of the ATM became a familiar habit. Similarly, as consumers become experienced with other data-gathering methods intruding into their lives, the methods used with shopper-facing technologies in retailing won’t seem so disconcerting by comparison.
     Still, the time to acceptance will shorten when you face the emotions head on. The enthusiasm of the retailer with these technologies often isn’t shared by the customers unless the retailer takes steps to prove the fairness and eliminate the creepiness.

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

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Minimize Pricing Spoilage

“If you have to ask, you can’t afford it” is a motto of luxury purchasing exclusivity. An adaptation of the phrasing to become “If you choose to ask, you won’t enjoy it for as long” fits research findings about the relationship between price knowledge and consumption satisfaction. Researchers at Vanderbilt University, University of Minnesota, and Simon Fraser University find that a purchaser’s attention to the price of a product or service accelerates satiation. Their enjoyment decreases faster than if having used the identical item without attention to price. The reason, conclude the researchers, is that the usage experience becomes less of a pleasant break from monitoring needs and more of a motivator to monitor expenditures.
     To keep from being a killjoy, retailer, introduce the price gently. You’re less likely to spoil the subsequent consumption experience when you, for example, state the cost after the quantity: “70 rolls for $29.99” draws more buyers than “$29.99 for 70 rolls,” as well as prolonging the pleasure from eating all those rolls.
     Shoppers do engage in willful ignorance, where they prefer to delay getting information—in this case, price. If it looks as if the customer doesn't want to think about the price because it's painful, avoid mentioning it, and if asked, say the price slowly. Researchers at HEC School of Management-Paris and at University of Pennsylvania find that this makes the shopper less sensitive to the cost. So if the tariff is $148.29, instead of saying "one forty eight twenty nine," say, "the price of this item is one hundred forty eight dollars and twenty nine cents." Maybe this tactic works because you don't notice the sour taste of the medicine when it goes down slowly.
     Or facilitate acceptance using familiarity.
     Which of these fetches the most favor from folks seeking flapjack flavor?
  • 4 Pancakes: $3.87 
  • 4 Pancakes: $4.13 
  • 4 Flapjacks: $3.87 
  • 4 Flapjacks: $4.13 
     The correct answer is the last of the alternatives. Researchers at University of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Baruch College say the explanation lies in alliteration—the use of the same initial sound in words within the same group. The three “f” sounds in that fourth choice lead to positive evaluations because the similarity of the sounds makes the phrasing seem more familiar; what is familiar is easier for the brain to process; and what’s easier for the brain to process is liked longer, everything else being equal.

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

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Dim the Lights for Low Down Purchases

When consumers’ purchases would be starkly exposed to others and themselves, they’re less likely to purchase from you items they’re embarrassed about. In a study at four restaurant locations, researchers at University of South Florida, Portland State University, Cornell University, and Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group found that when the ambient lighting level was bright, 48% of the patrons selected a fried food, red meat, or other item considered relatively unhealthy, but the percentage was 65% for a different set of patrons ordering with dimly lit dining. In a follow-up inquiry, college students were more likely to select the 100-calorie Oreo over the chocolate-covered Oreo and raisins over M&Ms when the lights were bright.
     The researchers’ explanation has to do with mental alertness. Brighter lighting wakes us up, and fuller awareness leads to wiser choices. I see it as concerning social risk—what others will think of us—and psychological risk—what we’ll think of ourselves—following the consumer choices we make.
     With restaurant dining, a related explanation for the ambient lighting finding is the association between dim lighting and attention to the taste of the food. We associate fine dining with dim lighting. Beyond this, consider what happens if we dim the lights completely. At Dans Le Noir? restaurants, you dine in the dark, served by visually impaired staff. The chefs take care to keep the flavors distinct in the offerings because the patrons enjoy picking apart each taste, an endeavor made easier since each taste is more striking in the pitch black.
     Clearly, other factors contribute to people’s decisions whether to select healthy or unhealthy purchases. The ambient lighting researchers point out that places like Dairy Queen, with menus of indulgent, but relatively unhealthy offerings, are brightly lit.
     And there are plenty of other ways to ease embarrassment around choices. Position adjacent to potentially embarrassing items other items which give the opportunity for opposite impressions. Northwestern University study participants were asked how embarrassed they’d feel buying just a book titled The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Improving Your IQ. A parallel group of participants were asked how embarrassed they’d feel buying the book along with a purchase of the scholarly Scientific American magazine and the mind-challenging Rubik’s Cube. The add-ons evaporated the embarrassment.
     Still, even when you use these other ways, if it’s in both your and your shopper’s interest to indulge them, turning down the lights wouldn’t hurt.

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

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Feel Out a Fitting Emotional Attachment

A consumer’s emotional attachment to a retailer results in repeat business and a resistance to switching stores. Researchers at Neoma Business School in France and University of Gafsa in Tunisia measured emotional attachment at retail by asking consumers the degree to which they agreed with these four statements:
  • I am very attached to this store. 
  • I feel this store is a part of me. 
  • I feel like there is a bond between me and this store’s personnel. 
  • No other place can compare to this store. 
     The two settings in which the researchers explored determinants of emotional attachment were a hairdresser and a grocery store, to represent close and less close interpersonal transaction styles. The objective of the research was to provide guidance to retailers on how to cultivate emotional attachment.
     A major finding of the studies was that a store’s target audience is composed of people who have widely varying degrees of interest in forming an emotional attachment with a retail store. For those seeking such attachment, birthday cards and invitations to special events could satisfy the desire. But those same techniques are likely to alienate shoppers who are pleased to give a retailer business, yet fear the commitments associated with an emotional attachment. This caution is consistent with the finding from University of California-Riverside, Boston College, and Southern Methodist University researchers that there are fewer repurchases from customers who say they’ve been thanked too much by the retailer, and this tipping point is different for different customers.
     To cultivate and maintain emotional attachment, check that you’re not going too far in another sense as well: Researchers at University of Texas-Austin and Switzerland’s University of Bern looked at the emotional attachment of a total of more than 2,300 consumers to a total of 167 brands retailers carry. They found that consumers are more likely to form an emotional attachment to an item at retail if the consumer sees the item as fitting their image of their current self rather than of the person they aspire to be. Shoppers hesitate reaching out too far.
     Shoppers seeking emotional attachment responded differently in the grocery retailing than in the hairdressing service setting. Service quality and image congruency were especially important in the grocery setting, while feeling at ease and trusting what the retailer says were especially important in the hairdressing setting. For emotional attachment from your customers in close settings, project authenticity.

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

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Step Away from Calling Stephen Stephen

How bad is it to call a shopper by the wrong name? We know that using the right name enhances the sale. Calling a shopper by name underlines how you’re treating them as an individual rather than as a member of a herd. In fact, people’s self-esteem and their propensity to buy is heightened not only when their name is used, but also when they are shown or given products with brand names starting with the first letter in their own names. Our name is a set of sounds very familiar to us, and when we hear the set used in a pleasant way, our distrust dissolves.
     But is it better not to use the name at all rather than use the wrong name or mispronounce it? Yes, advise researchers from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Temple University, and University of Alabama. Interest in purchasing from a merchant dropped more sharply when the wrong name was used than when no name was used.
     How readily the good intentions can get mangled. If you see the name Stephan, and say “Steff uhn,” how deeply do you offend the “Stee vuhn” standing in front of you? If you hear the name “Chris” and then write that on the sales slip, will Kris be irritated? Or if you assume Chris is one gender, and it turns out you got it wrong, what’s the damage? More importantly, what can you do to avoid or repair the damage? Because of the power of using the name, I don’t advise you to give up the practice.
     The researchers say the damage comes from feelings of disrespect, so the remedy is to show respect. If you get the name wrong, apologize and ask the shopper’s help in getting it right. Then take care to be accurate next time.
     Another way to show respect, the researchers found, was to probe for personal values. I’ve seen success doing this by asking shoppers their reasons for selecting certain items over others. It’s best not to ask the questions in a “Why?” format. When asked, “Why did you make that choice?,” some consumers get defensive, as if their judgment is being ridiculed. Instead, use a phrasing that assumes the shopper is making a good decision: “What is important to you when choosing a product like this?” or “In what ways do you find this one to be better than the other possibilities?”

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

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Flush Out How Store Toilets Matter

Leave it to the Finns. University of Turku researchers in Finland noticed how few studies have been published on the role of restrooms in retail shopping experiences. The researchers decided to deposit their own contribution to this literature based on surveying 655 shoppers in a suburban Finnish department store over the course of one summer weekend.
     I present the results to you realizing that what’s true in Finland might be less true in other cultures, what matters in a department store might be a bit different than what matters in other retail settings, and what people tell researchers regarding their in-store toilet habits suffers a bias because of taboos regarding discussion of urination and defecation.
     Still, I think the findings serve to remind us how store amenities matter. The same bias that leads shoppers to avoid discussion of their use of restrooms can lead merchants to neglect adequate restroom maintenance. Moreover, many merchants consider restrooms as an invitation for store visitors who those merchants would prefer not come into the store.
     But even if your customers want to avoid proximity to riffraff, they want their own natural urges relieved. On a four-point scale of importance, study participants gave a 3.4 to the cleanliness, availability, and locational convenience of restrooms. Females placed higher importance than males. Among shoppers aged 60 and over, the importance of restrooms was rated above that for customer service. For those stores having a toilet easily available, those who used it spent about 25% more time in the store, opening opportunities for more browsing. Although in the study, the amount of money spent was not significantly higher among those using the toilet than among those not, the research findings suggest that stores with easy accessibility to clean restrooms do draw larger customer spends than those without.
     Toilets matter especially since they relate to avoiding disease and caring for family, two of the most basic sales pitches of all—the consumer motivations which lead to propagation of the human species. There are other ways these show themselves. When activated, the evolution-developed trigger for a fear of disease results in consumers becoming less interested in foreign products, ideas, and people. Have a hand sanitizer dispenser available in the area of merchandise from less-developed countries. Just the presence of the dispenser can ease the prejudice. And to help in family care, check that each restroom includes a diaper changing table.

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

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Add Risk Notices to Dilute Risk Opinion

Many consultants advise retailers to arouse enough fear to scare people into action, but not so much that people tune out the retailer. In my opinion, a better guideline is to raise enough fear of a real danger to win the customer's attention, but only to the degree that you've a guaranteed way to substantially reduce the risk. It’s unwise to oversell.
     However, you might be wise to overtell. Tell more risks than you need to, that is. Paradoxically, when you notify the shopper of more risks, this can reduce the shopper’s opinion of the total possibility of harm.
     Researchers at University of Miami and Boston University saw this effect using as an example the dangers of a new drug to treat hypertension. A group of study participants was told the drug could increase the likelihood of seizures. Another group was told the drug could increase the likelihood of seizures, congestion, and fatigue. Then, when all the participants were asked to state how threatening they judged the drug to be, the participants told there were three side effects gave lower threat ratings.
     This “more is less” is also seen on the positive side. The researchers note the finding that consumers were willing to pay more for ten high-value baseball cards than for the same cards plus three cards of modest value. But it’s not true that more of the more is always less. When the researchers told a third group of study participants about five possible side effects of the hypertension medication, the judgment of danger was about the same as with the group told there were three possible side effects.
     Laws, standards of professional practice, business insurance underwriters, and commitment to retailing ethics might all require you to provide customers warning about the risks in using certain products you sell. Beyond this, researchers at European University Viadrina found that when a salesperson volunteers negative information about a product that’s being considered by the shopper, the shopper becomes more likely to trust everything the salesperson says.
     Yet, when shoppers hear possible adverse consequences of using a product, they’ll overestimate the likelihood of the consequences. If the label says “it happens rarely,” they’ll be thinking, “it happens often enough to make a difference.” To dilute the perception of overall danger, start off informing consumers about the most serious risk, then add at least a few of the less serious risks.

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

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Gift with Purchase to Cut Item Returns

About 95% of items returned to retailers are in fine shape. The customers most commonly say that they’re bringing back the stuff because of second thoughts about the purchase when they got it home. Even though such items are usually suitable for resale, there are still the costs of checking each item for defects, damage, or usage and then restocking it and selling it again.
     Aware of the hit to profits that item returns can cause, researchers at Seoul National University, using samples of American and Korean consumers, identified a way to reduce item returns: Offer a free gift along with the item purchased.
     This is a method you probably wouldn’t use for every purchase. But it can work well with sales of items where processing returns is especially costly or bothersome. The researchers found it’s even more effective when you allow the purchaser to choose the free gift from a few alternatives you present. The method works for two main reasons. First, the shopper believes that if they return the item, they’ll need to return the free gift, and this makes the psychological cost of the return higher. Second, the acceptance of the gift, and especially of a gift the customer selected themselves, results in a more solid feeling of ownership, and so a hesitancy to surrender the merchandise-gift pair.
     Knowing that you accept returns eases shopper indecision at purchase time, so you want to make item returns as easy as possible while still protecting yourself from financial ruin. There’s research suggesting that a free gift helps at this point, too. Adding a gift to accompany one of the alternatives facilitates the purchase decision. Studies at University of Chicago and Columbia University found that with financial investment decisions, it even works to offer a small gift with both of two alternatives because this moves the decision toward the riskier choice, breaking the tie. Consumer behavior researchers call this the “mere token effect.”
     Use the “free gift” method to augment other ways to reduce item return rates. Consulting with the shopper prior to purchases helps. University of Texas-Arlington and University of Texas-Dallas researchers identified two more factors:
  • Policies that are offer exchanges rather than money or monetary credit reduce the rates of return. 
  • Return rates are greater for retailers who are lenient about the time by which a return must be made or about allowable reasons for the return. 

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

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Argue Strategically with Shoppers

In a 2011 Harvard Business Review essay, Kevin Peters wrote that one of his earliest experiences as head of Office Depot’s stores in North America involved an employee arguing with a shopper. The argument was about whether the store carried a calculator the shopper’s son needed for first grade. The shopper insisted that the store carried that model calculator, the employee insisted that the store did not carry the item. “An employee arguing with a customer—it was unbelievable,” Mr. Peters wrote.
     Not just unbelievable, but also wholly unnecessary. How should that employee have responded to the shopper’s insistence do you think, based on your experiences as a retailer? I’m thinking of something like, “Let me check with the store manager to be sure I’m correct,” and then, if necessary, “You know, we may have carried that item at one time, but my store manager tells me we do not carry that item now. May I help you find an item we do carry which will meet your son’s needs?”
     This fits the situation even if the store never ever carried the item and the shopper is completely wrong in saying the store did. Avoid direct contradiction when arguing against a shopper’s beliefs. Researchers at University of Melbourne verified the value of that advice for arguing against shopper’s negative views of an item or store. A pair of brands were identified that shoppers disliked mostly because they considered it to provide poor value for money or mostly because they considered it to provide inadequate customer service. Then some of the study participants were shown an ad that directly contradicted the reason for dislike. Those who said they got poor value were shown an ad claiming good value. Those who said there was poor service were shown an ad claiming good service. The rest of the participants were shown an ad that argued for the other issue. Those who said they got poor value were shown the ad claiming good service, and the “poor service” people were shown the “good value” ad.
     The second way of doing it was much more successful in changing negative opinions of the brand about both value and service. In fact, those exposed to the direct contradiction came to view the brand even more negatively. People don’t like to be proven wrong, but they don’t mind learning new facts when it’s to their advantage.

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

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Change Up with Entitled Customers

Store loyalty programs work best when the customer experiences joy at receiving a program reward. The emotion strengthens the basic relationship in the brain between shopping at the store and pleasure. Eliciting joy at reward redemption is less likely when the reward is the same each time. Researchers at Yale University and Carnegie Mellon University find that, in this situation, customers come to feel entitled to the reward. They experience joy only when the amount of the reward is increased, and only until they again become accustomed to the increased amount. This effect is so strong that when the amount of loyalty program reward granted was decreased, the disruption to store loyalty was greater than if the participant had been told the program was discontinued altogether.
     Customers’ favorite loyalty program reward is a discount on an item of the shopper’s choosing. Progressively increasing the amount of this discount could quickly jeopardize the retailer’s financial viability. A better alternative is to periodically change the nature of the reward. How about a gift of a confection?
     Northwestern University researchers rewarded some consumers with cash and others with a slice of cake. As you’d expect, those who received more cash expressed greater joy than did those who received less cash. However, the size of the cake slice didn’t matter. Because there’s no number easily attached to the slice size, the happiness was determined by the flavor of the treat. So let them eat cake.
     Well, okay, I admit a piece of cake might not work as a reward for every type of store, or maybe any type of store beyond a bakery. Still, the lesson is that you can neutralize the entitlements trap with the language of merchandise rather than money.
     Yet you’re still facing the fact that the favorite reward is a discount. The solution to this one is to add the merchandise to the discount and periodically alter which merchandise item you award as a surprise bonus. Studies of loyalty programs find that small rewards given unexpectedly build a desire to reciprocate by giving future business to the retailer. Change and surprise meet the well-documented desire of consumers for moderate variety.
     In a New Yorker cartoon, the devil himself stands behind the host station at the entrance to Hell, preparing to write on a clipboard as he asks the new arrival, “And lastly, for all eternity, French, blue cheese, or ranch?”

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

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Check Back for Complementary Add-Ons

An ad in the California Milk Processor Board’s highly successful “Got Milk?” campaign featured the protagonist eating a chocolate chip cookie and then afterwards yearning for some milk to go with it. Studies at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Italy’s Bocconi University verify that the delay built into the sequence makes sense: Our yearning for a complementary item grows after consumption of the partner item. Our thirst for milk is greater after eating the chocolate chip cookie than if the milk has been sitting there from the start.
     Is this only because the cookie is dry and sticky? No, the study results indicate. It’s because we associate the two items in our minds. Cookies go with milk, pizza goes with cola, crackers go with cheese. The partnering is to specific items. That this is true was shown in the studies when participants were asked to imagine consuming one of the items rather than actually consuming it. The imagining was enough to whet targeted appetite for a partner item. Other evidence was that, in this multinational study, the effect was found only for items considered to be partners in that consumer’s culture.
     So let’s use our own imagination to see ways to make use of these study findings. Imagine that a restaurant patron has ordered an item, but not the partner item. It could work well for the server to check back after the patron has started to consume the ordered item and suggest adding the partner item. The whetting effect would have increased interest in the second item.
     This works for a restaurant, where checking back with the diners is common. What about in a food truck, where the customer disappears after the order is delivered? In this situation, mobilize the customer’s imagination by suggesting a partner item at the time of order, using the format, “As you think about chomping down that pizza you just ordered, do you imagine you’ll want some cola to go with it?”
     The general principle of checking back for a partner item after a delay also applies to nonfood retailing. When there are optional add-ons to an item intended for imminent use, begin with the basic model and then build by suggesting the options, asking the shopper to think about the outcomes of using the purchase. And check in with customers after purchases to propose ways to enhance usage pleasure.

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

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Cut Out Trying Item Tryouts

Prune away for your shoppers any conditions which try their good will when they’re getting sample experiences with items they’re considering for purchase. Researchers at Iowa State University showed that doing this improves intentions for shopping with you during the present store visit and in anticipated future store visits.
     The particular issue those researchers explored was the frustrating experiences of older women while trying on clothes in dressing rooms. But the researchers’ suggestion applies more broadly to anyone with a physical challenge, such as the handicapped, to make it more likely they’ll persevere when shopping with you. Easing the sampling also improves satisfaction for every other visitor to your store.
     The methods assessed by the researchers constituted adherence to the Universal Design principles developed in a collaboration among interior designers, architects, product designers, and engineers. Here’s my version of highlights from that manifesto, some of which are also found in ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business:
  • Ease access. Position tryout areas in convenient locations. 
  • Ensure that shoppers feel free of vulnerability, such as by adequately protecting their privacy. Have adequate lighting. Point out places for shoppers to safely put aside packages and belongings so they can turn their attention to the prospective purchases. Some retailers use an ottoman and mirror arrangement for easy visibility. 
  • Provide choices in how the shopper can accomplish tasks, such as by having illumination dimmers within easy reach for people with a limited range of motion. 
  • Present important information in pictorial, verbal, and tactile formats. 
  • Allow space for companion help, service animals, and assistive devices like walkers. Keep the dressing room uncluttered. Make it easy for the shopper to have staff do any re-shelving. Perhaps place a “Not for me” container by the dressing room exit. 
     Parallel guidelines apply when the items being tried out are not just being tried on. Researchers at University at Buffalo-SUNY and Indiana University verify our common sense notion that people master novel products best when given the opportunity to experiment with the product repeatedly. The measures of mastery included attraction to the product, a willingness to pay a premium price for it, and an ability to use the product’s capabilities in a variety of situations. By allowing the shopper to try out the product, you’re more likely to make the sale and have a happy purchaser. That’s best done for all shoppers in circumstances where they feel safe.

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

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Commit to Ads that Guide the Committed

You might sometimes be tempted to say to shoppers something like, “The choice I’m recommending is the only alternative which makes sense for you.” What keeps you from actually saying this could very well be concern that the shopper’s freedom of control would be threated and they’d push back. 
     The pushback is called “reactance.” Classic consumer behavior research finds that if you tell a shopper what to do, they’ll move away from your persuasion. If you put a whole bunch of sales pressure on a customer, they’ll rebel, becoming determined not to do what you’re trying to convince them to do. They start debating each idea you present and physically distance themselves from you.
     Yet there are instances in which directive language can rope in a sale instead of whipping the shopper away. It works better in an ad than in face-to-face selling. An ad maintains greater psychological distance from the consumer than does face-to-face interaction so the person feels less trapped. Your shopper will tolerate more bossiness.
     Still, researchers at University of Central Florida, University of Alberta, and Duke University recommend caution when using highly assertive ad language with an audience committed to patronizing your store. For these consumers, the assertive language leads them to fear shame if they don’t comply, so even though they’ll feel pressured to go along with your recommendations, they’ll develop resentments toward you.
     Aim away from shaming your committed customers. Guilt’s okay, though. What’s the difference? With guilt, the people acknowledge they’ve done something wrong or failed to do something right. With shame, the added element is that the people believe others will hold them responsible.
     So how to explain the success of the “Just Do It” tag line for Nike, when so many consumers are committed to the brand? Researchers at Georgetown University and Ben-Gurion University find that highly directive language works best with items which bring happiness. The happiness might come from immediate sensual pleasure. The salesperson for the day spa says, “You belong on our massage table.” The candy shop advertises, “You must try our chocolates.” Or the happiness might come from an anticipated sense of accomplishment. Running the marathon in Nike shoes qualifies “Just Do It” under this prong.
     Unless what you want to sell your committed customers is clearly hedonic, be cautious using highly assertive language in ads and in face-to-face interactions. Guide instead of shaming.

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

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mess Around with Merchandise Arrangement

When your shelves, racks, and showcases contain inventory that’s been systematically arranged, shoppers can more quickly find what they’re looking for. This speeds up each sales transaction and allows for more shopper self-service. It also pleases those of your customers who are Mission Shoppers—people who enter your store wanting to go directly for a particular item and, if the value is right, buy the item as soon as possible.
     But there’s also an advantage to having those who enter your store browse for a while, treating them as Possibilities Shoppers, who even if they have a specific item in mind, enjoy considering the alternatives. This is more likely to occur when the items are not so strictly organized.
     Moreover, researchers at San Diego State University, Arizona State University, and Washington University advocate retailers moving further—toward quite disorganized merchandise arrangements—in certain circumstances. They found that disorganized shelves which are not fully stocked increase sales of nonfood items. The disorganization and lack of full facing imply that the items are in demand, drawing extra interest from shoppers. In addition, when the merchandise is not packed in closely, the spacing around each item makes it more readily noticed by prospective purchasers.
     This was not true, however, for foods and beverages, where a scarcity of packages can imply old stock and disorganization can imply spoilage or lack of sanitation. Still, lack of a strict organization here can increase browsing, which would elevate sales so long as it doesn’t irritate the shoppers. 
     Long ago, I’d hear grocery store operators claim that shoppers buy more varieties of soup when the varieties are shelved in random order rather than alphabetically. The explanation went like this: The shopper’s interested in finding a particular variety. They look for that particular variety, but because there’s no order, the shopper’s eyes run over many varieties. As they do so, they start thinking, “Gee, maybe I could use that variety, too.”
     Researchers at University of Pennsylvania and University of Illinois confirmed that random arrangement of a product set can lead to more buying, but with a different explanation. The reason the random arrangement works, they said, is it gives shoppers a feeling of there being more to choose from. It takes time for the shopper to run their eyes over what’s there, and the increased time translates in the shopper’s mind to the impression of a larger assortment.

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

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Shape Ads for Future Use Purchases

In your advertising, use relatively pale hues to depict what you’re selling for customers’ future or long-term use. The ultimate pale hues are black and white. Ohio State University researchers say that color scheme might be the best of all for the situation.
     The rationale actually has as much to do with shapes as with colors. People considering purchase of an item are influenced by the shape and the color of depictions of the item in ads. The shape and color of illustrations of the product or of the box containing the product, of before-and-after pictures showing the benefits of product use, of text boxes in which the benefits of the service are described. When the people are thinking about use of the item in the future, the influence of shape is greater than the influence of color. Here, vibrant colors can interfere with the brain’s processing of shape, so it’s best to keep down the vibrancy.
     Once you’ve muted the hues, recognize how different shapes deliver different messages. For example, researchers at University of Miami and University of St. Gallen report that bold, solid, angular, and sharp characteristics enhance brand masculinity while airy, delicate, round, and smooth characteristics enhance brand femininity.
     In the ad itself, shoppers like balance, with elements of matching size on the left and right. But there also should be a few contrasting asymmetries with ratios which intrigue the shopper. University of British Columbia studies found that consumers in a culture that reads from left to right evaluated an antique more favorably when pictured on the left side of an ad than on the right side. With a modern art item, placement on the right side of the ad garnered more favorable ratings.
     Top and bottom matter, too. Research at York University suggests that shoppers will prefer a brand or store they see as powerful in the marketplace when the logo is placed high rather than low in the ad, while a placement low in the ad is better received when the brand or store is seen as an underdog.
     The different shapes in the ad should be seen as fitting together to constitute a group. Shoppers find visual pleasure in the repetition of themes. And there’s bonus appeal when the group of shapes represent to the consumer a familiar story. The familiarity may come from a principle of design common in the consumers’ culture.

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

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