Monday, July 16, 2018

Go Intense with Threatened Shoppers

If your shoppers seem unsure of themselves, up the intensity in what you present them. Bolder claims of purchase benefits, more expressive gestures, larger samples, item alternatives with brighter colors, areas of the store with stronger fragrances.
     Researchers at Indian School of Business exposed participants to messages which produced either high or low self-doubt about the participants’ intellectual abilities. Afterwards, those participants with self-doubt tended to prefer brighter colors and louder music than those without self-doubt.
     Going big helps make the sale. Except when it doesn’t. Researchers at HEC-Paris and Northwestern University concluded that when the large size of a product or package implies power, consumers craving more power go for the large. A set of study participants were offered a choice of different-sized bagel pieces. Those participants who felt powerless in the face of threats chose bigger pieces.
     But when small size implies status, consumers who feel relatively powerless will forgo the large. In another study, participants were offered four sizes of hor d’oeuvres. Some of the people were told that the largest ones had recently been served at a White House event. The rest were told that the White House event featured the small hor d’oeuvres. In this case, the status of being a White House appetizer outflanked the importance of size. The participants preferred the smaller items.
     Other studies have identified ways a retailer can influence a shopper’s sense of power. In a Northwestern University project, it didn’t take much: Some of the study participants were asked to imagine an actual episode in the past when they possessed high power in a situation. You could adapt that to discussions you have with a regular customer.
     Show advertisements and store signage which emphasize the power possessed by the shopper (“At our store, you’re the boss”) rather than those which deemphasize the power (“At our store, we take care of you”). And treat the shopper with deference more than with authority.
     When the salesperson takes on the role of Coach or Playmate, this builds the sense of power of the shopper.
  • The Coach reassures us. The customer expects the Coach to be available until the problem is solved and to encourage the customer to buy whatever is needed to solve it. 
  • The Playmate loves fun. The customer expects the Playmate to be more interested in how the shopping experience feels than in how the product or service works. 
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Saturate Hungry Shoppers with Vibrant Colors
Slice Off Consumers’ Small-Penis Syndrome
Manipulate the Shopper’s Sense of Power
Position the Logo Like a Handshake

Monday, July 9, 2018

State That Status Shouldn’t Affect Service

Effective salespeople adjust their approach to each customer’s characteristics, and highly skilled salespeople use observations of each customer’s appearance to assess those characteristics. Still, none of this means your store’s salespeople should treat low-status shoppers shabbily.
     Researchers at Catholic University of Eichstaett–Ingolstadt and National University of Singapore analyzed how frontline employees handled angry complaints from female customers about flawed service. The researchers defined high status customers as those wearing business dress and having professionally styled makeup and hair. Those wearing the equivalent of jeans and a T-shirt and not appearing to have professionally styled makeup or hair were defined as low status. The researchers found that, compared to the treatment of the high status customers, the low-status angry complainers were less likely to be offered restitution to compensate for the dissatisfaction and were more likely to be yelled at by the employee.
     But this difference reliably occurred only in businesses judged to have an overall poor service climate. In the businesses with a high service climate, customers with angry complaints were handled adequately regardless of apparent status.
     You should not tolerate mistreatment of your employees by angry customers, no matter how bad the service transgression. However, yelling at the customer is not a proper response, and the response should be based on respect, concern, and empathy regardless of the social status of the customer.
     It is important for everyone on staff to be clear in words and actions that all shoppers are to be treated fairly. Discrimination in retailing is often subconscious.
     Some frontline retail staff carrying biases against minorities operate on the assumption that it’s only the minorities who are disturbed by discriminatory behavior. Since the prejudiced staff member decides consciously or subconsciously that they’d prefer not to do business with minorities anyway, they resist changing their behavior. But studies out of Clemson University and University of North Carolina-Wilmington saw how discriminatory behavior has more widespread effects on customer goodwill than those prejudiced frontline staff acknowledge. Many white shoppers became as outraged as blacks when the white shoppers observed a black customer being treated in a discriminatory way. All the customers are watching.
     Discrimination on the basis of race is illegal. Subtler forms of discrimination may not be against the law, but they’re still bad business. Michigan State University and University of Notre Dame researchers found that physically unattractive shoppers are frequently targets of rudeness and exploitation.

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Compare Notes on Body Language
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Cool Down Customer Temper Tantrums
Watch Out for Discrimination
Look Out for Ugly Shoppers!
Confirm the Status Lift from Nonconformity

Monday, July 2, 2018

Disentangle Religiosity Effects on Shopping

For some time, consumer behavior researchers have noticed that patrons adhering to an organized religion will shop in distinctive ways. Identifying those distinctions could be valuable for retailers because many religious patrons frequently witness their faith in readily observable ways.
     But researchers at University of Wyoming caution the effects depend on whether the shopper is affectively or cognitively religious. People whose faith is primarily affective would strongly agree with statements like, “God is an important influence in my life.” The affectively religious take comfort in a personal relationship with a divine being. On the other hand, those whose faith is primarily cognitive would strongly agree with statements like, “The scripture of my religious affiliation is the word of God.” These consumers take comfort in adhering to a firm set of required and forbidden behaviors integral to the religion.
     Religiosity is associated with shopper conservatism and self-control. Research based at University of North Florida found that consumers who are more religious are more likely to be repeat store customers. This was true whether the religious folks were Protestants, Catholics, or Buddhists—the three faiths represented in the study sample. Consumers showing lower levels of religiosity or declaring themselves to be non-religious were more likely to switch stores from one shopping trip to the next.
     In addition, religious shoppers are more likely to be consistent tightwads than are non-religious shoppers. But other research evidence has defined tightwads as believing they should be spending more. Loosening up the self-control a bit could profitably serve both the shopper and your bottom line.
     The inquiry about differences between the affectively and cognitively religious discovered that with the affectively religious, commenting on religious beliefs in the purchase situation led to a strengthening of the self-control. With the cognitively religious, it relaxed self-control. Listening to how your shoppers evidence their religious beliefs helps you select a proper sales approach.
     Also disentangle the effects of religiosity, spirituality, and ethicality. Researchers at Appalachian State University and University of Nevada-Reno administered a Human Spirituality Scale asking how strongly one agrees with items reflecting a reverent compassion for the welfare of others, a larger context or structure in which to view one's life, and an awareness of life itself and other living things The participants were also presented with a set of situations measuring business ethics. Overall, those scoring highest on the HSS showed the lowest adherence to business ethics.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Tool Up for Word-of-Mouth

What stimulates your customers to spread good news about your store? Researchers at Aston University and University of Surrey set out to answer this and related questions by analyzing results from prior studies conducted on a grand total of 239,000 shoppers from 41 countries regarding 24 tools.
     The tools—also called instruments or factors—that made the biggest difference for word-of-mouth (WOM), according to the meta-analysis:
  • Excellent customer service 
  • A coordinated blend of attractive visual décor, appealing music, and tempting scents 
  • Easy maneuverability around the store 
  • A useful mix of other types of retailers in the vicinity of the store 
     These four have outsized importance because they lend themselves well to brief reminiscences shoppers can relate to family and friends about their shopping experiences.
     The researchers were initially surprised that low prices didn’t make the cut as a top tool. Their explanation is that people enjoy getting a good deal, but fear that bragging about it to others will make them look cheap, threatening their social standing. It also could be that even those figuring they got a good price think others would consider it not good enough. Studies at University of Alberta, University of Calgary, and University of British Columbia found that when people believe they might have been able to wrangle a better deal on a product or service, this conclusion leads to them feeling a threat to their self-esteem and their self-image. They fear not only that others will see them as being suckers, but also that they’ll see themselves that way.
     Because of WOM’s value, are you now tempted to repeatedly point out to your shoppers how you’re doing well on those top four factors identified by the meta-analysis? Curb that urge. Researchers at University of Miami and University of Pennsylvania say you’d do better by hinting at it and allowing your shoppers to discover the rest for themselves. Customers are substantially more likely to share WOM with others if they have found at least some of the information on their own. In addition to the thrill of discovery, a major reason for this is that we associate discovered information with our self-image. We are less likely to criticize the information as unfounded or uninteresting.
     The advice for retailers wanting more WOM is to build shoppers’ knowledge about what is offered, then encourage shoppers to uncover for themselves the full extent of the four tools.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Indulge in Group Nostalgia

When you stimulate within your shoppers fond memories of the past, they’ll yearn to eat candies and cakes with close friends. The explanation for this strange specific finding by researchers at Monash University, East China Normal University, and Chongqing Technology and Business University leads to broader lessons about how to employ nostalgia in retail sales.
     That explanation has to do with nostalgia emphasizing positive beliefs and feelings, with flashes of the indulgences and family support from consumers’ childhoods even if the fond memories are not primarily of childhood. As a result, nostalgic shoppers become less concerned about how others will judge their consumption decisions. This effect is stronger when the nostalgic shopper is actually accompanied by supportive family or friends. In the research, the relationship between a nostalgic frame of mind and consumption of indulgent foods was weakened when the consumer was told they’d be eating with strangers or eating alone.
     For these studies, nostalgia was generated by showing participants photos from the 1970s. Fragrances have also been used. But which stimuli will work does depend on when the target audience was born. The odor of hot chocolate and cinnamon has stronger effects on shoppers born in the 1940s than on those born in the 1970s.
     Item scarcity boosts existing feelings of nostalgia. And general social trends are a force. Among consumer psychologists, there’s a sense that nostalgia appeal grows during periods of uncertainty, such as from economic downturns or cultural isolation. Researchers from Arizona State University and Erasmus University in the Netherlands concluded that if people are feeling lonely, they get interested in nostalgia. When made to feel socially uncertain by the experimental manipulation, consumers became more likely to prefer automobile makes, food brands, TV shows, movies, and even shower soaps which reminded them of their personal history.
     In another example of the relationship between nostalgia and indulgence, nostalgia appeals have been found to loosen a consumer’s purse strings. Researchers at University of Minnesota, University of Southampton, and Grenoble École de Management asked each study participant in one group, selected at random, to think about their past. The remaining study participants were asked to think about recent or future events. Then each study participant was asked how much they’d pay for a set of items which were described by the researchers. The group who’d been asked to think about their personal past came in with higher bids overall.

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Appeal to Nostalgia
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Monday, June 11, 2018

Time Your Talk to Facilitate Transactions

Imagine that, while you are talking with the front desk clerk at a hotel, he tells you a story:
You know, some weeks ago one of our guests asked me when our bar opens. I was here in the reception when he called – at 3 a.m. I said that the bar opens at noon. About one hour later, the guest called again and asked when the bar opens. Now he sounded a bit drunk. Again, I said it opens at noon. After another hour, he called again and asked when the bar opens. I think he was more drunk this time. I said that the bar opens at noon, and that I could have room service send something up to the guest if needed. Then the guest said ‘No, I don’t want to get in…I want to get out! 
     Was that joke good enough to draw a chuckle from you? Would the joke give you more positive feelings about the desk clerk and the hotel?
     Now I’ll add some details. Let’s say the desk clerk starts telling you this story late in the evening when you’re checking in to the hotel and are anxious to get to your room. Researchers at Stockholm School of Economics and University of Oulu found in that situation, the joke facilitated perceptions of the desk clerk as a fun person, but lowered customer satisfaction with the hotel.
     The ready explanation is that hotel guests in this situation aren’t purchasing the services of a fun person. They’re paying for smooth hotel check-in, not a standup comedy routine. The astute front desk clerk—or retail store salesperson or professional practitioner—will time their talk to facilitate transactions. Further, even when the consumer isn’t in a hurry, humor can be a promotional vampire. The audience starts paying more attention to the joke than to the sales message.
     This doesn’t argue against ever joking around with a consumer. There are many situations in which a light touch eases a shopper’s decision making or dissolves a customer’s post-purchase doubts. Humor draws attention and generates word-of-mouth about the sales conversation. Humor heads off mental counterarguments. The shopper is too busy chuckling to challenge the sales pitch of the ad. And when happy, customers are more likely to make a decision to buy.
     Just remember that excellent timing counts when telling a joke, and also in when to tell a joke.

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Top Off Preferences for More or Less

Some product attributes are MIB and others are LIB. For most shoppers, More Is Better applies to characteristics such as the number of pockets in a backpack or the abrasion resistance of paint. The quintessential Less Is Better attribute for all items usually is price. Sometimes, though, what is LIB for one shopper is MIB for another. Price level signals financial sacrifice, but also signals the extent of quality. A low caloric count tends to be perceived as both more healthfulness and less pleasant taste.
     This MIB / LIB typology was used by researchers at University of South Carolina, Wayne State University, Babson College, Indiana State University, and Stockholm School of Economics to develop recommendations for how to display and advertising offerings. To improve sales, arrange MIB alternatives within a product category so that the ones with a higher rating on that attribute are shelved above the others. With LIB alternatives, place those with a lower rating below the other choices. Follow the parallel logic in comparative advertising and with in-store signage which lists the alternatives.
     Often, a particular item will have a mix of MIB and LIB attributes. With a robotic vacuum, battery life is MIB while battery recharge time is LIB. In these circumstances, configure the options based on which of the attributes you want to feature, considering what shoppers come to you seeking in that product category.
     You’ll also want to consider other factors in the arrangements of merchandise on the shelves and item listings in ads and signs. For instance, researchers at Erasmus University, Loughborough School of Business and Economics, and Norwegian School of Management say that shoppers are relatively more interested in concrete features when gazing down at the merchandise and relatively more interested in abstract claims when peering up. Features of products you sell can be concrete—such as the average time between repairs—or abstract—such as a general claim of high quality.
     And placing heavier items on lower shelves makes it easier for customers to lift them and helps stabilize the shelves. Moreover, that configuration feels more natural to people’s brains, and what feels more natural is more likely to be purchased. The preference is so strong that it spreads to color considerations. Lighter-colored packages sell better when placed above rather than below darker-colored packages on the shelves.
     With all these considerations, experiment to discover what tops off profits for you.

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Look It Up: Abstract Benefits Above Shoppers
Orient Shoppers to Appreciate Discounts

Monday, June 4, 2018

Cure Feelings of Retailer Betrayal

A customer’s feelings of betrayal are substantially stronger than a customer’s feelings of disappointment, and the consequences can be substantially more serious. The dominant motives of most dissatisfied customers are to restore a sense of fairness and vent negative emotions. But researchers at University of Bern and University of Texas-Austin found that a customer who feels betrayed by a marketer will frequently devote substantial efforts to harming the marketer’s reputation.
     Based on a subsequent set of studies, another team of researchers—from University of Texas-El Paso, University of Leeds, University of Cyprus, and Dokuz Eylül University—describe the characteristics of the betrayal feelings and, more importantly, ways to cure these destructive emotions.
     Betrayal occurs when the trustworthiness norms of a close relationship are violated. With marketer-customer relationships, the closeness is based on a series of sales transactions. Business relationships aren’t the same as personal relationships, although an advantage available to smaller organizations is the enhanced opportunity to create friendships with customers and clients. Such friendships might ease feelings of betrayal as long as expectations in the relationship are clear to all parties. When expectations are unclear, the hybrid business-personal transactions can instead aggravate a sense of betrayal.
     So clarifying expectations is a potent preventative and cure. The studies find this to be especially important around issues of what information will be disclosed. Customers don’t want to be overwhelmed with details, but they want to be informed. Marketers too often have a different view than do shoppers about what to share. Failure to disclose conflicts of interest were one trigger for feelings of betrayal, according to the studies. Another trigger was a failure to notify the customer that a promise made previously was at risk of not being kept. A retailer may well have thought, “I’ll be able to straighten things out before the promise is due,” while the customer ends up thinking, “If the retailer had told me early on that the promise might not be honored, I would have been disappointed when it wasn’t, but I wouldn’t have felt betrayed.”
     Catalyzing the consumer’s outrage is a sense of powerlessness. Restore the customer’s sense of influence by asking, “What can I do to make things right?” Just being asked and listened to can prevent the active sabotage. If the answer you get involves actions you’re not able or willing to take, you can come back with a reasonable alternative.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Maximize Surveillance of Maximizers

When you’ve a shopper who is intent on buying the very best, stay aware that this shopper becomes more likely to cheat and lie to get it. Researchers at Vanderbilt University, Concordia University, and Peking University attribute this phenomenon to the relationship between maximizing and a sense of scarcity.
     Consumer psychologists distinguish between maximizers, who want to choose the best possible alternative, and satisficers, who are pleased to settle for what’s good enough. Wise retailers also make this distinction, since it determines how to make the sale. Moreover, wise retailers realize the distinction isn’t always straightforward. Maximizers are usually willing to pay more money than satisficers and to spend more time deciding. But some maximizers are bargain hunters, searching for a deal on the very best. Other maximizers are happy to pay top dollar if they can depend on a trusted salesperson to quickly point them toward perfection.
     When people have a maximizing mindset, they experience a sense of scarcity. For one thing, they believe there is only one best option, while there are probably a number of fully suitable alternatives. In addition, because maximizers spend so much time expanding the choice set and evaluating each alternative, a feeling of time scarcity arises, and research finds that this feeling spreads through the mind to become a general concern about scarcity.
     But why does a general concern about scarcity potentiate immoral behavior? The explanation is evolution. We are evolutionarily structured to become more willing to cut corners in order to protect ourselves and those close to us at times when essentials are in short supply.
     It’s not that maximizers are comfortable with their lying and cheating. They justify it, but they realize others would consider it wrong. In fact, maximizers are more likely than satisficers to regret almost everything about the transaction, including doubts about the quality of the items purchased.
     This then becomes the key to decreasing the immoral actions. Recognize that maximizing is often as much a situational mindset as a chronic personality characteristic. People can change. Help ease the maximizing so your shoppers will come away feeling better about themselves and their purchases. Rather than say, “Let’s find the very best one for you,” say, “Let’s find a few excellent alternatives which you can select from.”
     Still, however, it’s probably best that you stay on full alert for shady shenanigans whenever you’re dealing with an inveterate maximizer.

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

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Excuse Me with an Interruption

When selling prospects on purchasing an item or an idea, it would seem you wouldn’t want to be interrupted or to interrupt yourself. Shoppers in a flow state buy more. With their highly focused attention, they are less likely to go back-and-forth about making purchases.
     Still, researchers at Boston University and University of California-San Diego find that a well-timed interruption improves the purchase potential with decisions the shopper considers to be risky. That conclusion is actually old news. Prior studies have found value in interruptions. For instance, researchers at Cornell University and University of Toronto suggest that when a shopper is feeling overwhelmed by a difficult decision, you encourage the shopper to go on to another item on their shopping list and then come back in a short while to make the purchase decision. The interruption instantly relieves the sales pressure as the decision is temporarily suspended.
     But this later research reveals another explanation for the value of an interruption with risky decisions: When the person comes back to the decision situation after the interruption, they’ll probably reorient themselves by briefly reviewing what was covered before the recess, they’ll consequently go over material they’d processed before, this repetition adds familiarity, and what is more familiar engenders less apprehension.
     For this to work, you must bring the shopper back to the decision following the interruption. This means staying with them or tracking them down. Most consumers are more open to interruptions early in the purchase process and less open later. However, researchers at New Mexico State University and Sacred Heart University suggest that the retailer look out for the potential customer who seems pressed for time and is evaluating choices almost from the start. Minimize interruptions of these people early on and never interrupt early on with content not directly related to the purchase selection, such as with an extended greeting or casual conversation. With the shopper who is in this frame of mind, later interruptions are okay, and can actually create good will, as long as the interruptions are pleasant, such as reassurance or gratitude, and they’re not frequent.
     Another set of researchers, at Stanford University, note how in-store shopping can be subject to a plethora of interruptions from sources other than the retailer—phone calls, texts, impatient children. To the degree that the retailer can control additional ones, the sale of the item or idea is more likely.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Whack Price-Beating Policies

Consumer behavior research identifies payoffs for retailers in advertising price-match guarantees. “Find a better price on the same item, and we’ll honor that difference,” the store promises, and shoppers’ purchase intentions increase. This is because consumers interpret the promise to mean the store has low prices, so the shoppers’ motivation to search elsewhere fades.
     But does this mean you’ll increase revenues even more by advertising a price-beating policy? “If you purchase an item from us and then find the identical item at another store or online for less, we’ll give you double the difference in store credit.”
     Notice how the conditions of such a price-beating promise tilt in favor of the retailer. The consumer needs to purchase the item from the store in order to take advantage of the offer, and the refund is in credit, not cash, meaning that the consumer will need to spend the refund at the store.
     Even with this, though, researchers at Ghent University and University of Cambridge find that a price-beating guarantee is inferior to a price-match guarantee at increasing profits. One reason is that shoppers are less likely to trust the overall pricing policies of retailers who offer price-beating claims. Another reason is that compared to price-match claims, the price-beating claims attract a higher percentage of bargain hunters with little store loyalty. They’ll always be looking for even better offers and have little hesitation in switching suppliers.
     Price-beating also can come back to bite the retailer. The researchers recount the tale of a 2011 Tesco offer to double the difference if customers found purchased items at a lower price at an Asda store. One shopper took up Tesco on the deal by carefully selecting items which cost £38.46 at Tesco and £17.48 at Asda. Keeping the promise, Tesco issued a voucher equivalent to £41.96 to the customer, who walked away with free products plus also a little extra to spend.
     Sometimes the price matching itself might be unnecessary. When asked if you can meet a competitor’s price or the internet price, avoid saying no. That word irritates shoppers. Instead, say “Here is what I can do.” Then talk about items like:
  • Discounts for quantity purchases or purchase as part of a combo pack 
  • Delivery at times demand is slow for you 
  • Extras you offer, such as gift wrapping, training, or installation 
  • A discount on subsequent purchases, such as through a loyalty program 
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Monday, May 21, 2018

Endorse Policy, Not Character, Political Attacks

In political campaigning more than in any other arena of consumer persuasion, the saying “Be careful what you wish for, since you may receive it” often applies. A provision in the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, introduced by Republican U.S. Senator John McCain and Democrat U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, requires candidates to include in their ads a statement like, “Here is my name, and I approve this message.” The objective of the provision was to reduce political attack ads on the assumption that a candidate would be ashamed to personally and publically claim responsibility for such poisonous words. Ironically, though, the outcome of the provision, according to studies conducted at New York University and University of California, Berkeley has been to bolster voters’ belief of negative political advertising.
     The ads for which the personal endorsement most clearly increased credibility were those attacking a political opponent’s policies. The effect was not seen as clearly for attacks on an opponent’s personality. With these personal attacks, the degree to which the voter accepted them as justified did not depend on whether the “I approve this message” language was included.
     The researchers found three mechanisms of the negative policy attacks effect:
  • The candidate’s name attached to the ad gave it truth value. Other research suggests that if, in a printed ad, the candidate’s signature appeared, the truth value would be even higher. 
  • The use of the words “I approve” reduces the aggressive tone of the message itself and therefore relaxes the message recipient’s suspicious reaction to the vitriol. 
  • The formal structure of the notice with phrasing the voter has seen in other ads indicates that the ad is conforming to regulations, and this perception of conformity enhances its credibility. Other research suggests that some sort of official seal on the ad would increase the credibility further. 
     The general principle of consumer psychology here is that when you take personal responsibility and follow a well-recognized set of rules, whatever negative statements you make will have extra credibility. Regarding the retail store arena, researchers at European University Viadrina found that when a salesperson volunteered negative information about a product being considered by the shopper, the shopper became more likely to trust everything the salesperson said. But keep your words and logic simple. The researchers also found that with complexity, shoppers often won’t hook the talk of negative information to the salesperson’s credibility.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Keep Calm to Carry On Seniors’ Fraud Evasion

Consumer behavior researchers disagree about whether elderly adults are more susceptible overall to financial scams than are younger consumers. But the researchers do agree that the nature of the susceptibility and the dangers of succumbing to the fraud are more serious for senior citizens. Regarding the seriousness, seniors are more likely than young adults to be living on a limited income and to have fewer years to make up for large financial losses.
     Regarding the nature of susceptibility to fraud, researchers at Stanford University, Duke University, Humboldt University Berlin, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and AARP prefaced their studies by noting two risk factors for fraud are more common in the elderly—decreasing ability to accurately recall information from ads and to detect lying in face-to-face interactions.
     The researchers then went on to explore another risk factor which has been less well recognized—how emotional arousal, such as that famously used by successful con artists, interferes with critical thinking skills. This happens in adults of all ages, but the effects grow worse as we age.
     Older consumers respond to emotion-laden sales messages (“The aroma of our coffee brings waves of contentment”) more strongly than to purely rational sales messages (“Award-winning taste at a lower price”). Emotional appeals also result in senior shoppers remembering details about sources of sales messages more accurately. The seniors are especially receptive to positive emotions, so in a fraudulent sales pitch, they will pay more attention to the touted benefits than to signs of danger and will remember those benefits more clearly.
     The upshot of all this is that we can help older adults evade fraud by encouraging them to enter the consumer situation calmly, maintain calmness during the transactions, and insist on enough time to calmly consider tradeoffs prior to finalizing a purchase decision.
     Seniors will probably embrace this advice. They don’t want to be defrauded. Plus, unlike their young counterparts, seniors generally find happiness more in calmness than in excitement. They’re the type of consumers who in studies at Stanford University, MIT, and University of Pennsylvania would select “a relaxing blend of chamomile and mint” over “a refreshing peppermint blend” and a bottle of “Pure Calm” water labeled in green over “Pure Excitement” labeled in bright orange. In other research, older adults preferred calm TV advertisements with few camera changes, slower speech, and relaxing or no music over more arousing advertisements.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Build Up Bawl Outs When Telling Complainers

A customer who encounters flawed merchandise or service from your business often yearns for the person who is responsible to be bawled out. That’s according to researchers at Florida State University. In fact, the researchers found that a promise the employee will be reprimanded is among the most effective ways to keep from losing a snubbed customer.
     However, the researchers also found that the customers want reprimands delivered out of their presence. They want harshness, yet don’t want to witness the harshness. They also want the employee to be granted the respect of privacy.
     These findings are in accord with others, from University of Southern California, which concluded that about 40% of retail consumers report how at least once each month, they see a store employee treat another store employee so rudely that the customer gets less interested in shopping at that store. A supervisor reprimanding in front of a complaining customer the employee responsible for the shortfall may be intending to demonstrate respect for the customer. But this message is severely undercut by the failure of the manager to show respect to the salesperson in front of the customer.
     Moreover, it’s best that you not be harsh even in private. You’ll get better results when you fix the problem instead of fixing the blame. Holding people responsible is different from fixing blame. Estimates by psychologists at New York University and University of Tulsa suggest that about 70% of retail employees will do less well in a store like yours if you put more emphasis on fixing the blame for the problem than on fixing the problem that caused the setback.
     When serious problems arise in your retail business, hammer out the difficulties in supportive ways. Use your hammer to repair the shortfalls, not to pound your valuable staff—and consequently, their staff morale—into the ground. Stop at embarrassment, short of guilt or shame.
     Still, amplify the degree of intensity when telling the complaining customer what action you’ll be taking. Your words, voice tone, posture, and gestures should all convey that you consider the complaint to be consequential, and thus there will be consequences. With a loyal customer who feels highly scorned, telling them afterwards that a serious reprimand was delivered is useful. Actually, it’s possible the customer will say, “Oh, it wasn’t really that serious,” a mindset which further counteracts any desire to take their business elsewhere.

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Shepherd Profit-Potential Defectors
Show Respect in Front of Customers
Fix the Problem, Not the Blame
Criticize Employees with Care
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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Generate Seniors’ Generativity Now

People donate higher amounts if asked to pledge a charitable donation in the future than if asked to give right now. As a result, charities can find it advisable to put off the collection date. However, this temporal discounting of donation amounts applies from the perspective of the charity, too. Getting money sooner is better than getting money later, everything else being equal.
     Good news, then, from Ryerson University researchers which finds that this temporal discounting among donors fades markedly as the donors get older. Senior citizens show fewer differences between donation-now and donation-later amounts than do younger adults. The researchers’ explanation is that as we age, our generativity—concern about future generations—grows, resulting in greater altruism and willingness to donate now.
     Seniors like to give their business to retailers who are compassionate, and they like to view themselves as generous. One dynamic behind this is a desire to leave behind a legacy of love. Maybe behind this, in turn, is a calculation of what will be required on the résumé submitted at the Pearly Gates.
     The increased generosity does not appear to be due to greater net worth or lower cognitive abilities as people age. And the fading of the temporal discounting applies only to charitable donations. As it comes to spending money in other ways, older adults still show a willingness to devote larger amounts when the due date is in the future than when approaching soon.
     When soliciting older potential donors, the advice to charities is to ask for the money to be contributed now, not later.
     The range of the request counts, too. In a field study based at France's ESSEC Business School, a request for a small amount increased the willingness of the person to make a donation at all, and the larger the greatest amount in the same request, the higher the eventual donation. In a solicitation containing a scale of suggested contributions, a range of $5 to $1,000 would serve better than one of $20 to $500.
     Still, there is a boundary condition to the change in temporal discounting with charitable donations: The degree of altruism levels off at about age 75 and decreases somewhat thereafter. With the older old, then, the size of donations is likely to be highest with planned giving, in which the donation is made via a trust or will which will be activated in the future.

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Help Older Customers to Help Others
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Monday, May 7, 2018

Charge for Online Trustworthiness

Researchers at Brandon University, University of Alberta, and Conestoga College began with curiosity about differences in retail price spreads. Specifically, why do prices for comparable items usually differ more among ecommerce than among brick-and-mortar (B&M) channels? It would seem that because of the greater ease of price comparisons online, there would be less dispersion. But from three months of data collection, the researchers verified greater price spread for the ecommerce vendors on product categories such as batteries, flash drives, toys, espresso makers, vacuum cleaners, and TVs.
     The data collection also provided two explanations: First, because there are more online than offline sites available to the shopper, there are simply more opportunities for different mixes of prices, quality, and services. Second, consumers pay more attention to the reputation of the retailer when purchasing online than when purchasing at a shop. Ecommerce is considered to be riskier, principally because of the increased chances of consumer fraud and data security breaches. Retailers differ in a perceived reputation for trustworthiness. This opens opportunities to reputable ecommerce retailers who can charge because of their online trustworthiness.
     Such trustworthiness is enhanced when an ecommerce retailer has a B&M presence. Researchers from Florida State University, Saint Mary’s College of California, York University, and Lieberman Research Worldwide have shown how differences between ecommerce sales with or without a B&M partner are especially high for unknown retailers. Sales are higher even when the B&M store is physically distant from the shopper rather than across town. If consumers know you have an actual store, not just a virtual one, they trust you more.
     Although your earned trustworthiness enables you to set higher prices, remember how sales increase with promotional discounts. But do you maintain the same everyday pricing and same special pricing in both the online and offline channels?
     Researchers at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven analyzed retail situations in which a promotional discount was offered in one of the channels, but not the other. As common sense predicts, shoppers who were aware of the difference in pricing moved their purchases away from the channel which maintained the regular price and toward the one offering the discount.
     What these research findings did add to our common sense notions was the finding that the cross-channel cannibalization effect was stronger when the discount was online. Internet specials ate away at storefront sales revenues more than storefront specials ate away at internet sales revenues.

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Show Online What’s in Store
Explain Channel Pricing Differences

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Vaccinate to Encourage Seniors’ Vaccinating

A technique, both highly influential and broadly underused, to encourage elderly adults to protect themselves against vaccination preventable diseases (VPDs) is for those working with the elderly adults to stay current on their own vaccinations. This is according to a review of the status of vaccinations among seniors which was led by researchers at GSK in Belgium and included collaborators from Austria, Canada, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the U.S.
     Keeping current with vaccinations is especially important for seniors because as we age, our immune system becomes less effective at generating the antibodies afterwards. Using a vaccine with higher doses of the antigen does not overcome the problem. A regimen of more frequent vaccinations can.
     But seniors themselves and the health care professionals serving seniors are not sufficiently conscientious about following the regimen. As a consequence, in the U.S. for instance, about 99% of deaths from VPDs are among adults aged 60 years and above.
     The researchers found that one significant reason health care professionals are not monitoring the adherence is the health care professionals aren’t convinced of the value of vaccinations among the elderly. Contributing to this might be those reports that the immune system response of seniors is compromised.
     However, studies have also discovered that if public health programs place a special emphasis on seniors getting vaccinated, this has the ironic side effect of indicating to the health care professionals, who are generally younger adults, that vaccinations are relatively less important for them. Yet modeling is an influential tool for persuasion agents. Our customers, clients, and patients will place more trust in what we recommend when we ourselves are following those recommendations which apply to us.
     As in other realms of selling to the consumer, expertise is earned. Patients might not expect you to know everything, but they do expect you to get the answer when you don't know and to do a personal handoff to another expert as necessary.
     A touch of humility actually makes it more likely you’ll be accepted as an expert. Avoid coming across to the customer as absolutely certain in the recommendations you're making. A bit of uncertainty makes the patient more comfortable asking questions. For instance, concerns about the safety of vaccinations are common. Those questions are highly valuable when you’re facilitating the sale. You can present counterarguments or steer the consumer toward alternatives which will better fit their preferences.

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Sell Seniors on Future Plans
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Monday, April 30, 2018

Suck In Rather Than Blow Off Trust

Unless you know your shopper well, take care not to reach out too strongly or suddenly. A gentle smile works wonders, but a giant smile, even if genuine, can look creepy to the person who’s never met you before. Touching the customer projects warmth. However, the nature of that touch should be appropriate to the culture. An offer of a handshake or a fist bump usually ends up better than hugs. Maybe thrust your arms out toward shoppers with palms rotated upward as a welcome.
     Or maybe not. A research team at University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin says that people often lose trust when unfamiliar others move toward them decisively.
     One way to overcome the effect is to approach gently and to enlarge the interpersonal distance if you sense discomfort. In a related finding, researchers at Cornell University and University of Toronto suggest that when a consumer is feeling overwhelmed by a difficult decision, and you want to make the sale, you encourage the shopper to back off briefly and then come back.
     The researchers presented consumers with two equally attractive products and invited the consumers to either choose one of the products right then or defer the decision. Next, some of the consumers were asked to lean in toward the computer screen where the products were displayed. The remaining group of consumers was asked to lean away from the computer screen.
     Those leaning in toward the screen reported the choice to be more difficult and were more likely to ask to come back later.
     Another way to overcome shoppers’ discomfort is to beckon them to approach you, leaving them in control. Tools for accomplishing this include scooping your hand toward yourself and asking, “If you come over here, may show you what I’d pick?”
     The effect of that last word—a weirder effect, I think you’ll agree—is what University of Cologne researchers call “inward” pronunciation. The researchers found that words such as “pick” which begin with a sound in the front of the mouth and finish with a sound in the back of the mouth earn a bit higher trust than do outward pronunciations like “open” which begin in the back and finish in the front.
     The meaning of the words you use to earn trust count for a great deal. It turns out that the pronunciation of certain words also beckons shoppers toward you.

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Get Down with Seniors’ Medical Records

On one side of the desk sat the physician, on the other side sat the patient, and on the desk between them was the computer displaying results of a full panel of blood tests, urine tests, wellness exam, and other measures of the patient’s medical situation. After scrolling the screen back and forth, the physician pursed her lips and gently shook her head. “Well, you’re doing okay overall,” she said, “but I would like to get that age down a bit.”
     A statistic about the patient that health care professionals are powerless to influence is the chronological age. However, those professionals might stimulate the senior citizen patient to maintain and improve health by having them carefully look through their medical records. A number of studies conclude that people who learn about their lab results become more engaged in preventive care and are more satisfied with the care they receive. A chief result is reductions in health delivery costs.
     Researchers at Åbo Akademi University in Finland and Örebro University in Sweden explored what leads seniors to be interested in doing this. They found that motivations significantly more likely to occur in older adults than in younger adults were:
  • “To get an overview of my health condition” 
  • “To check some details” 
  • “To follow up what was said during my last visit.” 
  • “To involve my family members in my care.” 
     These, then, can be used by the health care professionals as benefits statements to persuade the patient to seek information from their medical records.
     An especially good time for the senior to review the records is prior to a scheduled appointment with healthcare staff. This is because the older adults, compared with younger adults, say that if they don’t understand something in the record, they’ll ask during the next scheduled visit. The seniors were also more likely than the younger adults to say that reading the medical record improves communication with the healthcare professionals and helps them better understand their condition.
     The older adults were less likely than younger adults to search the internet for medical information. Related to this, they were more likely to say they’d expect an online medical record review to be difficult. Still, results from studies such as those at University of Cincinnati indicate that senior citizens are sufficiently computer-savvy to get medical information online. So in the future, preferences for online access of medical records might change.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Mask Those Gorgeous Mannequins

In-store shoppers for appearance-oriented products compare themselves to how others in the store look. If the comparison comes across with the shopper thinking they end up on the short end, the chance of you making a sale drops.
     It makes no sense to ban beautiful shoppers from your store. But there’s something else, since others who act as comparison models are not only the human beings. When a female mannequin is looking unattainably gorgeous, women who have doubts about their attractiveness feel threatened, with the result that they criticize the product the mannequin displays. The researchers at University of Alberta and University of British Columbia who saw this happen also observed a similar effect in men. In this case, one explanation is that the fellows felt disturbed that they’d not be able to hold the attention of a real woman who was so attractive. Another explanation is that an attractive female mannequin stimulates in men the general idea of how society casts judgments based on physical appearance.
     The researchers suggest making the mannequin look less attractive by omitting the hair or masking the face. A Stockholm School of Economics study proposes a more drastic measure—decapitation. Female shoppers gave higher ratings to fashion items on models whose heads weren’t shown. So in your ads and on your mannequins, you could leave off what’s above the neck.
     The damper on item evaluations from gorgeous dummies was found only with the display of appearance-oriented products, such as fashion and accessories. When the item in the research was an umbrella, the use of a mannequin had no effect.
     Do recognize how standards of beauty differ among social groups and change over time. Where suntans currently imply an attractive life of leisure, there were times when a darker skin tone implied the need to work in the fields. While mannequins and models incorporating size 6 torsos from the neck down are considered especially attractive now, this wasn’t true during the Great Depression. With food being scarce, the typical retail store female mannequin intended to get mouths watering wore a size 18 dress.
     Also, selling aspirational products is good marketing. Shoppers who consider themselves to be highly attractive won’t be threatened by good looking mannequins, and shoppers who consider themselves to be somewhat attractive will be drawn toward mannequins that they consider looking a bit better than they themselves do before purchasing the product.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Brighten Up Seniors with Smart Home Thinking

In what ways can personal technologies improve the quality of life for elderly adults? What features should designers prioritize to incorporate in consumer technologies for seniors? How should marketers best overcome resistances among older adults to embracing these features?
     Researchers at King Mongkut’s University of Technology in Thailand considered these questions as they reviewed dozens of studies about smart home design for the elderly. They identified major benefits smart home technologies could deliver:
  • Health monitoring. Devices can issue reminders to take medicines, do exercises, brush teeth, and carry out other activities on schedule. Sensors could monitor water usage, movement through the residence, and time spent in the kitchen, for instance, and automatically send out warnings over the internet to family or health care personnel when daily routines are disrupted. Motion sensors could be designed to detect a senior falling down. Knowing their welfare is being monitored can reduce seniors’ anxieties, enhancing emotional health. 
  • Environmental monitoring. The smoke and carbon monoxide detectors which help protect the safety of residents regardless of age can alert public safety personnel to dangers that seniors may not be able to handle when living alone. Electronic door openers and sensors which keep the senior informed what’s happening throughout the home might ease muscle fatigue. 
  • Companionship & social interaction. Although robots which move about, use human-like voices, and respond to spoken directions are much less common in the homes of seniors than in the research studies exploring use with seniors, there’s evidence of robots’ value providing a form of companionship. Smart homes wired for video communications throughout have been found to reduce loneliness when age takes a toll on mobility. Systems can monitor the number of daily visitors. 
  • Stimulation and recreation. Rigging home lighting systems to change color and brightness at different times of day are sufficient to ease senior boredom by breaking up the routine. Interactive games can be wired into the whole house design rather than being restricted just to the desktop computer and mobile devices. 
     These capabilities do carry high potential for improving quality of life, but the studies found major concerns among the elderly center around perceived threats to privacy, the financial budget, and self-confidence. This third one has to do with the senior citizen fearing they won’t know how to control the technology. Ease of use, including ease of turning off the technology, are integral to adoption of smart home thinking.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Illustrate Your Brand Extensions

When adding a product to your offerings, it helps if the product carries a familiar brand name associated with high quality. But if the characteristics of the new product conflict with those of other items carrying that brand name, you could end up confounding shoppers instead of selling to them. Researchers at New York University, Northwestern University, and Yale University present the hypothetical example of Nike introducing a deodorant in a CVS drug store. “A shoe brand has no business making deodorant!” might be the consumer reaction, the researchers found.
     But those researchers then went on to identify a way to increase acceptance of the brand extension: Show a picture. This nudges the shopper toward thinking about the quality of the brand instead of the fit of the product. When shown a picture of a deodorant stick while making a choice, study participants selected the Nike stick over the CVS stick about 80% of the time, while a different set of participants not shown the picture selected the Nike stick over the CVS stick at only the chance level of 50%.
     It’s useful to understand how generalized this effect is. The picture shown to the consumers was of a generic deodorant stick, not a Nike or a CVS stick. And the effect worked across a broad swatch of product categories where a well-known brand with a quality reputation went up against a higher-fit item. Suitcases branded by JanSport or by Apple. Barbecue sauce branded by Mrs. Field’s or by McDonald’s. Camping gear branded by Speedo or by Kmart.
     The reason for the effect is that a picture moves consumers to think more concretely rather than abstractly, so they focus on the characteristics of the particular alternatives at hand, including the characteristic of brand quality. Product fit is a more abstract concept.
     For this to work, the new product must be associated with a high quality brand. And the outcome is a tendency, not a certainty. About 20% of the consumers still selected the CVS choice over the Nike choice after being shown the picture of the deodorant stick.
     Also remember that there are times you’d prefer the customer to select the house brand over the national brand and that plenty of high quality store brands exist. House brands offer your shoppers a price advantage and also usually offer you higher profit margins than do the corresponding national label brands.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Forget Stereotypes of Seniors’ Memory Deficits

As a group, senior citizens remember facts less well than do younger adults. Conscientious retailers will take care to check that important information is understood well at the time the elderly consumer is making a purchase decision.
     The causes of the poor memory include deterioration in hearing and vision, less effective functioning of the brain at encoding and filtering information, reduced storage capacity in working memory, and slower retrieval. Although there are broad variations in the extent and nature of the memory impairments, all of them tend to grow as age progresses.
     However, researchers at Springfield College and University of Missouri say there’s another cause of poor memory performance which is quite reversible: The senior citizen’s belief that senior citizens have poor memory. Society’s prevailing view of the elderly as highly forgetful itself leads to their poorer performance in recall. The stereotype becomes the reality.
     An irony is that the effect shows up more as false memories than as the experience of forgetting. More often than saying they’ve forgotten a fact or where they learned a fact, seniors exposed to the stereotypes are mistaken in what they say they remember or where they learned it. This misplaced sense of certainty makes the effect even more treacherous.
     To reverse the effect when working with seniors:
  • At the same time that you are alert to the possibility of memory impairment in your customer or client, place more emphasis on the objective of the task than on it having to do with memory. 
  • Acknowledge correct memories by the consumer and give praise without being patronizing. 
  • When your shopper experiences a senior moment, where the experience is of a temporary mental lapse rather than a false memory, be patient, avoid embarrassment, and then move on. 
     Stereotypes about aging go beyond assumptions about memory, and they can influence the behavior of shoppers who are far from being elderly. Consider the classic study by John A. Bargh, Mark Chen, and Lara Burrows at New York University in which undergraduates exposed to terms like “old,” “retired,” and “wrinkle” as part of an assigned task walked more slowly when leaving the lab than did students not exposed to the words.
     The truth is that your senior citizen customers and clients do walk, think, and decide more slowly, on average, than their younger counterparts. The problem arises when a retailer stretches that to assume the senior is inept.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Chart Your Numbers’ Compelling Backstory

In your sales presentations, a chart with information of potential high importance to the consumer will come across as no more than trivial if that chart lacks a backstory. All good stories create tension and then propose a way to resolve it. Determine the tale you want your data to tell and then design a graphic to complete the job.
  • What do you want the chart’s audience to do about the issue? Not only know about the issue, but also do about the issue. Contribute to a cause? Select a particular item among alternatives? Vote for the candidate or issue you favor? 
  • What do the data say about the particular issue? Most data sets can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and many data sets are rich with possible directions for action. Because your audiences will probably spend only a limited time looking at the chart, focus the visual on what counts most when it comes to your issue. 
  • What will the viewers want to believe and feel about the issue? The evidence counts for a lot, but the truth is that people are more persuaded by what they want to conclude. In designing the chart, also keep in mind that beliefs are more influenced by shapes than hues, while feelings are more influenced by hues than shapes. Bold, solid, angular, and sharp shapes appeal to those who favor independent action. Airy delicate, round, and smooth shapes appeal to those who favor collaboration. Warm colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—stimulate consumers to make decisions more quickly. Cool colors—greens, blues, violets, and whites—increase consumers’ satisfaction with their current consumer decisions. 
     Data visualization expert Bill Shander, CEO of Beehive Media, describes various questions effectively answered by persuasive charts he’s encountered in his career. Here’s my version of his list from which you can select one or more to answer your own audiences’ questions:
  • Comparison. How do a set of alternatives stand against each other? 
  • Trends & deviation. How is an important consideration changing over time? 
  • Proportions. How influential a role is your recommendation playing in the audience’s whole picture? 
  • Relationships. What are the connections among causes and effects? 
  • Distribution & geography. Where and how broadly is the issue showing itself? 
     Mr. Shander also verified that the most effective storytelling is interactive. Encourage interactivity with rhetorical questions on the chart, such as, “Which cleaning wipe looks best for you?”

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Consider Contagious Magic Low Among Seniors

Contagious magic refers to the belief that two inanimate objects which are close exert a strong influence on each other.
  • Researchers at Yale University and Bar-Ilan University found that people place a higher value on items if they had been used by a well-regarded celebrity like George Clooney than if by someone with an evil reputation like Saddam Hussein. The difference faded if people were told the item had been thoroughly cleaned. 
  • Researchers at Arizona State University and New Zealand’s University of Aukland saw how a guitar purchaser said having a respected rock star sign the guitar caused the guitar to produce better music. This was especially true when the guitar was a replica of the instrument used by the rock star. 
     Because contagious magic is common among consumers and often operates below the level of conscious awareness, wise retailers take it into account when influencing shoppers to make objectively valid purchase decisions. However, a set of studies at Duke University and Davidson College indicates you need not be so concerned about contagious magic when selling to seniors. The assessment questionnaire included items like “You’re better off avoiding fruit and vegetables that were touched by a bad person” and “The chances of a recipe going wrong increase when an unlucky cook helps to assemble the ingredients.” Those over 70 years old were less likely to agree with the items than were young adults.
     Two factors help explain these results. One, which seems obvious when you think about it, is that seniors have had more life experiences. Black cats crossed their paths many times without dire consequences and countless tasty meals have been assembled with the help of people largely unsuccessful in life and including produce having been touched by God knows who. The other factor which appeared in the studies is less obvious: Contagious magic depends on a consumer aiming for control in uncertain purchasing circumstances, and the psychology of senior citizens is to be less concerned with negative consequences than are younger adults.
     There are circumstances in which older adults fail to objectively evaluate probabilities. They’re more likely than younger adults to believe in the basketball hot hand—that a player is more likely to get the ball through the hoop after making several successful shots than after missing one. The hot hand belief has been debunked by research. But so has the assumption of prevalent senior superstitions.

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