Friday, May 29, 2020

Influence Orders by Stating Ordered Details

When selling to or taking orders from a group of shoppers who know each other, you might want to influence the degree to which members of the group match each other’s choices. This could be because you have a large amount or a short supply of a certain item, for instance. Researchers at University of Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt University, and Simon Fraser University find that the way in which you acknowledge each order in turn can tweak this influence. When the gal behind the ice cream store counter says, “Here’s your large cone,” when handing the chocolate cone to Morty, the others who came along with Morty and order afterwards become more likely to also select a large chocolate cone than if the gal said, “Here’s your chocolate cone.”
     The reason has to do with social discomfort and with the distinction between nominal and ordinal descriptions. Nominal labels, such as “chocolate,” “Republican,” and “disaster relief,” aren’t members of a ranked list. “Chocolate” is not more than “vanilla.” A Republican might think differently than a Democrat, but Republican is not itself less. On the other hand, ordinal labels, such as cost and size, are members of an ordered sequence.
     Consumers are more likely to order or accept what members of a group previously ordered or accepted when the choice is described to them as ordinal rather than only nominal. This is because people feel ordinal labels signal social comparisons, so contradicting this choice in the presence of friends is socially uncomfortable.
     We’ll want to recognize that the effect is subtle and that there are other influences on group choices. In my example, Morty’s girlfriend Suzie could conclude, in the face of Morty ordering a large cone, that a small cone better fits her appetite or that peppermint fits her preferences much better than does chocolate. She might decide that she’ll impress Morty as attractive if she consumes less ice cream or as an independent thinker if she orders something other than what Morty chose.
     Still, even subtle effects make a difference. In the studies exploring how one consumer’s choice affected the choices of that consumer’s friends, the friends were more strongly influenced by descriptions of pasta brand prestige than pasta shape and donation amount than donation cause. In applying this, though, use both the ordinal and nominal: “Here’s your large chocolate cone,” if you want to sell more large chocolate cones.

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Offer Variations to Ease Fear of Conformity
Change Up with Entitled Customers

Monday, May 25, 2020

Offer Poor Items to Low Self-Esteem Shoppers

When serving customers who are feeling crummy about themselves, start out by showing inferior alternatives within a product category. Tilburg University, York University, and Cornell University researchers gave study participants choices such as between Budweiser lager versus Tesco lager, a BOSS suit versus a Primark suit, and Reyka vodka in a glass bottle versus Skol vodka in a plastic bottle. Participants also completed a self-esteem scale asking for degree-of-agreement with items like “On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.”
     Those reporting low self-esteem were more likely to choose for their own use the inferior alternative. This was seen in selection of a retail establishment as well. Study participants reporting low self-esteem were more likely to feel comfortable with a sparsely furnished hair salon over a lavishly furnished salon and a restaurant with a dingy interior located across from a secondhand office furniture store over a restaurant with an attractive interior located across from an art school.
     Maybe the reason that shoppers with low self-esteem turn toward inferior items is that these shoppers have less money. Chronic pessimism can disqualify a candidate for top job positions, and encountering economic setbacks can generate pessimism. To assess this as an alternative explanation for the findings, the researchers asked study participants their degree of agreement with “I believe in being careful in how I spend my money.” When the data were analyzed, this measure of frugality, plus measures of income and deservingness, did not add any explanatory power beyond what was provided by the self-esteem measure.
     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.
     Still, starting out by showing inferior alternatives does not mean you won’t show the better choices later. After you’ve gained the shopper's interest, they might very well consider an upgrade.  Help your shoppers reach for the stars. To achieve more than they thought realistic before they saw the products and services your store makes it possible for them to possess. To go beyond what is in their grasp to realize what is within their reach.

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Tempt the Frugal to Spend
Prosper from Shopper Pessimism
Convince Shoppers to Reach for the Stars
Upgrade Your Upselling

Friday, May 22, 2020

Step Up to Discover Senior Motivators

Woody Allen expressed it well: “I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.” Actually, for even before they die, about three of every four adults age 50+ say they prefer to remain in their current residence as they age.
     Researchers at Virginia Tech point out that for many seniors, this means making structural modifications to the home. In a multistory house, it can mean installing a stair assistive device. Such devices range from half-height blocks applied on existing stairs to the Stairlift foldable chair which attaches to the side of the staircase.
     Discovering what affects seniors’ intentions to buy stair assistive devices reveals general insights about the consumer psychology of the elderly. The researchers explored this with a blend of questionnaire and focus group data collected from community dwelling adults age 50+. The project was supported by the American Society of Interior Designers Foundation.
     Of top importance to seniors, as we’d expect, are usability and affordability. Simplicity and fiscal responsibility count for more as we progress through advancing age. This helps explain what could be seen as a puzzling finding: The older the study participant, the less interest in contemplating use of a stair assistive device. This is likely because the oldest old figure they’ve less time to recoup the benefits of the structural modification before needing to leave their multistory house.
     Positive attitude toward a device did not always mean intention to buy, or even use, that device. The senior must see a need. Sometimes the need strikes suddenly, as when the senior takes a fall on the stairs. Sometimes it builds over time as when the senior acknowledges getting up the stairs is becoming tougher. For this latter case, marketers can recommend to older adults and to the families of older adults that they compare difficulties between today and, say, one year ago.
     Devices which are unobtrusive receive better ratings. One reason is that seniors like to live in aesthetically pleasing environments. Another reason is that seniors prefer others not see them as disabled. Consistent with this, living with others in a household dampened study participants’ interest in stair assistive devices.
     There was also degree of customizability. Seniors want to be in control of any technology in their lives. They attend to protecting against errors and losses more than on taking chances and gaining more.

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Brighten Up Seniors with Smart Home Thinking
Subtract from the Senior Digital Divide

Monday, May 18, 2020

Profit Your Nonprofit by Arousing Gratitude

Gratitude for what one possesses surpasses pride in what one has done as a resilient motivator of charitable donations. Pride influences the decision to donate only if the donation will be formally recognized, and pride does not influence the donation amount. Gratitude influences both the decision to donate and the likelihood of donating more, whether or not the donation is formally acknowledged.
     In the studies at University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, and Gadjah Mada University supporting these conclusions, gratitude was aroused by using advertising copy which always included the tagline “Be grateful for what you have” or by instructing the prospective donor to read about someone who was grateful for receiving an unexpected kindness. You could do something similar for your charity campaigns. A caution: Evidence is that repeated use of the gratitude appeal will yield diminishing returns.
     Pride was activated with the tag line “Be proud of what you can do” or by having the prospect read about someone who was proud of an accomplishment for which they’d worked hard. If you use pride, the study results indicate you’ll receive larger donation amounts by assuring prospective donors their contributions will be formally recognized. This was done by saying the donation would be announced and that they’d receive a thank you card.
     Prior research finds other determinants of the likelihood and likely amount of charitable contributions. In a study 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, for instance.
     Moreover, gratitude of another sort can increase the likelihood of donating. Under certain circumstances, the customers of a retail business build gratitude toward a charity when they discover the business has made a donation to the charity. This gratitude leads to the customers wanting to make their own contributions. The circumstances are when the customers believe that the business is socially responsible and the contribution is more than a token amount.
     It is a vicarious gratitude, experienced by the customers at that point not because of their own actions, but instead because of the actions of the store, which signal gratitude toward the charity.

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Enhance Variety in Nonprofit Donations
Contribute Vicarious Gratitude to Customers
Celebrate Shoppers Who Celebrate

Friday, May 15, 2020

Found Influence with Founders’ Stories

Facts embedded in stories are remembered better than facts presented bare. That’s why stories are more powerful than bare facts in making the sale. Researchers at East Carolina University and Hansei University find that stories told by the founder of an organization are especially persuasive.
     Two versions of a story in an ad for a fictitious luggage company differed only in these sentences:
  • I needed something different—and that's why I started a luggage company…. Dura. 
  • I needed something different—and that's when I found out about Dura. 
     Study participants exposed to the first version, compared to those exposed to the second version, had more positive emotional responses. Both versions produced better emotional responses than did a version which gave just facts about the luggage without telling a story.
     The process by which stories persuade is called “narrative transportation.” Good stories transport the consumer’s thoughts with compelling details and generate emotional reasons to buy. In the luggage tale, the details included, in both versions, “I learned the importance of good luggage on my honeymoon trip to Hawaii. I had to pack for 2 weeks and could barely fit everything in my suitcase. The zipper broke in the airport and my stuff fell all over the floor. Then, I almost fell down an escalator because a wheel jammed.”
     Narrative transportation requires the marketer to involve the shopper in the story. Allow your audience ample opportunity for retrospective reflection, in which they can think and maybe talk about how their own experiences resemble those they’re being told about. Don’t rush the narrative. Still, do keep the story concise. Otherwise, you’ll irritate busy shoppers and lose the attention of others.
     The advantages of a founder story are that you’re hearing it from the top and the transaction gets a memorable backstory. For shopper involvement, be sure to portray the founder as similar to the shopper in at least a few ways. It can be fun to read about people who are dramatically different from us, such as being much richer or much more successful. However, tales about those people can fail to transport the audience.
     For the founder perceived as extraordinarily wealthy, and therefore unlike most consumers, consider a bookend ad format. The first ad in the campaign portrays a problem which led to the humble beginnings of the company. Each subsequent ad shows how the problem was addressed by the founder’s toils.

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Back the Appeal with a Backstory
Involve the Shopper in Your Story
Use Both Repetition and Progression in Ads
Envision How Envy Affects Shoppers

Monday, May 11, 2020

Converge on Consensus Words with Weak Ties

Recommendations your shoppers receive from family and close friends are more persuasive than those received from new acquaintances. But you’d like to encourage your customers to tell their newly found acquaintances and friends of friends about the benefits of what you’re marketing. Researchers at American University and University of Massachusetts find that a particular twist of phrasing which they call “consensus language” works well with word-of-mouth among these weak connections. It fits online recommendations to be read by strangers more than it does face-to-face recommendations to people the customer knows well.
     Consensus language includes phrases such as “everyone likes that store” and “the entire community supports this charity.” The researchers find this does better with distant than with close links because the “everybody” seems to the recommendation recipient to be representing a larger group. “When I think of a larger group making the recommendation, I’ll figure there’s a higher probability at least one of those group members has the same pattern of preferences I do.”
     Another explanation, coming from other consumer behavior labs, is that the extreme language of “everybody” feels less phony when tempered by the psychological distance of a weak tie. Shoppers are on the alert for puffery—lavish, exaggerated claims.
     At the same time, as a recipient of the recommendation, I can be less concerned about the struggle between conformity and independence if the comparison group is a bunch of people I don’t know well. We want to belong. Research from San Francisco State University indicates that in store settings, this influences whether shoppers buy items similar to what others with them are buying. If a shopper feels accepted by people in a close group, they’re more likely to aim for distinctiveness. Shoppers who are unsure of their status with the group tend to choose what leaders in the group are selecting.
     On top of all this, recommendations from close friends are frequently misguided, according to University of Michigan and McGill University studies. People often mistakenly assume what they love is what friends will love. Meaningful friendships aren’t mainly about getting good product recommendations. Still, finding a good source for recommendations could develop weak links into meaningful relationships. C. S. Lewis, well-known to many as the author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, wrote, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

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Grab On with Weak Connections
Expose Puffery for All It’s Worth
Sell More by Being Less Certain
Expect Shopper Conformity & Variety Seeking
Accept Shopper Concerns About Acceptance
Reflect Carefully on Marketing to the Mirror

Friday, May 8, 2020

Affect Seniors’ Rehabilitation Intentions

Older adults who have been hospitalized often are referred for rehabilitation services at discharge. Many of them don’t follow through. Researchers at Multimedia University Malaysia investigated why, dissecting the subsequent answer with the sophisticated statistical tweezers of structural equation modeling. What they found out about service credibility contradicts prior conclusions, which were stated about younger adults.
     Believing claims made by the rehabilitation provider and considering rehabilitation facility staff as competent contribute to service credibility. It seems service credibility would directly persuade the senior to follow rehabilitation instructions. This might be true for younger adults, but for older adults, the path is less direct. Here service credibility leads to trust and an emotional attachment to the rehabilitation facility, these two lead to the senior’s intention to recover, and a clear intention to recover leads to conscientious participation in the rehabilitation.
     The extra link regarding older adults is the intention to recover. We could assume that younger adults are always interested in recovering. But for older adults, there’s more of a tradeoff in benefits and costs. Rehabilitation activities like physical therapy and occupational therapy are taxing. Elderly clients might conclude the juice isn’t worth the squeeze in the face of the limited time they have left to live.
     This MMU Malaysia study indicates the most direct way to generate an intention to recover is to cultivate trust and an emotional attachment. The researchers inquired of their 400 seniors about the attractiveness of the facility, the ease of navigation within the facility, and other aspects of the servicescape. They asked about the level of cleanliness of the facility. These all had some impact on the intention to recover, but only indirectly through enhancing trust and an emotional attachment. The researchers suggest putting time into building personalized relationships with elderly rehabilitation clients.
     The researchers, along with others, say this doesn’t need to be limited to face-to-face visits. It could be schmoozing via social media. Still, as researchers at Indian Institute of Management state in a comprehensive review of the literature on persuading seniors, any such schmoozing should be more than idle chatter. It should be addressed toward understanding problems presented by the shopper and then helping to resolve those problems. Some problems are strictly logistical, such as trouble reading rehabilitation instructions or devising a way to document progress. Other problems might require sustained effort and referrals to other professionals in order to remedy.

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Call On Structural Equation Modeling
Media-Chat with Seniors
Schmooze Away Problems for Seniors

Monday, May 4, 2020

Bring Flaws to Life Before Living with Them

The more serious is a malfunction in a product you sell a customer, the more likely it is that the customer will end up satisfied. That University of Alberta and University of Calgary finding does seem odd until you consider the study’s explanation: People are starved for time and pleased with their new acquisitions. If a minor flaw in the item shows up, there’s a tendency to just live with it for a while. Once this happens, inaction inertia sets in. The intention to take care of the problem fades. The irritation with the flaw continues, though.
     In contrast, if there’s a major malfunction, the customer will want to return to the sales outlet promptly. In fact, with the most serious of flaws, the product is unusable. When the retailer solves the problem, the customer is relieved and grateful to the merchant. There might be a residue of irritation about the time and effort to resolve the problem, but that residue is less than what comes from living with the minor problem. In summary, the more serious is a malfunction in a product you sell a customer, the more likely it is that the customer will end up satisfied. The researchers found this to true overall whether the malfunction is continuous, intermittent, or escalating.
     Whatever the severity of the problem, you’d like to know about it so you preserve good relationships with your customers and prune out suppliers of flawed merchandise. So it’s a good practice to go beyond welcoming complaints. Solicit complaints. Assertively ask your customers to let you know about any problems, and check in with them after the sale. The researchers suggest that merchants include periodic maintenance appointments as part of the purchase so you can check for even minor malfunctions.
     Sometimes the flaw is a feature of the product rather than a malfunction. Once the flaw has been brought to your attention, should you encourage the customer to learn to live with it? Some flaws are resolvable. The noise filtering characteristics of hearing aids could be corrected with an adjustment by the audiologist. A broken heater in a car often can be repaired. Other flaws are irresolvable. The size of hearing aids and a car’s acceleration power probably can’t be changed. Researchers at Indiana University and University of Pittsburg find that consumers teach themselves to live with irresolvable attributes until they’re prepared to purchase replacement items.

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Estimate Participative Consumption Durations
Acknowledge Inertia in Consumer Behavior
Analyze Patterns of Complaints
Follow Your Customers Home
Resolve to Investigate by Attribute Type

Friday, May 1, 2020

Loosen Daily Deal Use Restrictions

About 30% of daily deal vouchers end up unredeemed by purchasers. Researchers at Clemson University, The University of Texas at Austin, and University of Richmond asked what this means for marketers’ use of daily deal promotions.
     The top-level reason for nonuse, according to the data, is regret about buying the voucher. This means purchasers come away from the transaction feeling they’ve lost money. Although the merchant and the daily deal aggregator have received payment, the consumer is left with a sour taste toward both parties, and therefore negative longer-term intentions. In the shorter term, the merchant has missed the opportunity to show off their offerings in order to gain a new regular customer.
     Purchaser regret arises because of the drive and then frustration of restrictions. Consumers who buy daily deal vouchers are especially impulsive and price-sensitive. When they see restrictions on purchase such as, “Must be bought within the next three hours,” they give up resistances. But then when they discover restrictions on use, such as, “Must be used within the next three weeks on a meal for you and two friends,” they often feel the price in time or money of satisfying the restrictions is excessive.
     Voucher use restrictions might be rigidly enforced. Benjamin’s story from the study: “We bought it for a restaurant out of town and by the time we got to the restaurant, it was 30 min after the hours stated on the Groupon that it was effective, and the restaurant wouldn't accept it.” Benjamin and his companion had never dined at this place before and were excited about trying it. Ideal prospects for a daily deal promotion. But because they were new, they had trouble finding the place, so were late. Ideal prospects for feeling furious toward the restrictions on use.
     Toil at ensuring your voucher purchasers fully appreciate all restrictions on use. Then show toward voucher users the gracious flexibility associated with welcoming every valued customer. In return, expect gratitude. With all customers, including your regulars, who come to you with a daily deal coupon, build an emotional connection. Go for gratitude over happy. Studies at Universit√† Commerciale Luigi Bocconi conclude it’s more profitable to have customers grateful to us for what we're doing for them than happy about the consumption experiences. When the deed being done is a substantial discount on quality products or services, working the relationship for gratitude is a natural.

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Judge Coupon Campaigns by Objectives
Work Daily Deal Customers to Return
Cuddle Up to Fuzzy Requests