Monday, June 17, 2024

Accent Competence in Employees with Accents

A service provider achieves better results when the customer participates more fully in service provision, contributing knowledge and effort. Customer participation drives satisfaction and loyalty, generating higher customer retention, sales growth, and firm profitability.
     After noting such past findings, researchers at FHWien der WKW, Bern University of Applied Sciences, and University of Leeds go on to report how their studies show the effects on customer participation of foreign-culture accent detected in the provider by the customers. A customer becomes less interested in contributing to the service encounter when the provider has an accent the customer considers to be from an unfavorable culture. Unfavorable-culture accents discourage customer participation even in situations where the participation is required for successful completion of the service. The range of service settings explored by the researchers covered financial planning, air travel, and guided meditation.
     The researchers do fear that reports of these findings will be used to discriminate against employees by limiting those with certain accents to less favorable job assignments. They propose avoiding this by mixing unfavorable-culture accented employees with native speakers in service delivery posts. Another suggestion implicit in their findings is to overcome negative stereotypes associated with certain accents by ensuring that all employees deliver competent services in a caring manner.
     A quite different type of country-of-origin study suggests an additional remedy: Babson College researchers asked liquor store shoppers to sip a wine, then give their judgment of the quality. Some of the study participants were told the wine was from Italy, while others were told the wine was from India.
     The timing of the country-of-origin information determined how the stereotype operated: If the wine-taster was given the country-of-origin information before the sip, those tasting the “Italian” wine rated the product as having higher quality than those tasting the wine from “India.” If the information was given after the sip, the results were reversed: Those who had sipped the “Italian” wine gave lower ratings to the quality on average than those getting the wine from the same bottle, but told it was from India.
     It was as if the consumer who had enjoyed the experience went overboard in fighting against stereotypes about Italian and Indian wines.
     Applied to the foreign-accent problem, maybe starting provider-customer service contacts with text messages and then, after showing competence, revealing the foreign accent, could result in services delivered by those with the accent being rated as even better than by those without.

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Empower Indirectly Using Co-creation 

Monday, June 10, 2024

Post Brand Selfies in Highly Positive Reviews

It’s just common sense that online shoppers feel more comfortable with a prior customer’s product review when there’s a product image in the posting. But common sense often is less than universally true when describing consumer behavior. Studies at ESSEC Business School and University of Maastricht provide guidance for when product images are most helpful. In the studies, review helpfulness was defined as the shopper finding value in the review because it reduced purchase uncertainty.
     Based on their findings, the researchers recommend that online retailers especially encourage customers to include one or more images in a review when the item is one that promises value primarily from the pleasure of use rather than the practical utility of the outcome of use and when the review is otherwise extremely positive. These are circumstances where the review reader is most likely to consider the inclusion of the image to have made the review more helpful.
     The researchers also suggest the image show the product in use. This is consistent with findings from another study about product images: Researchers at University of Hamburg, Vienna University of Economics and Business, and Columbia University compared three formats: 
  • Pack shot. A standalone picture of the item with the brand logo clearly displayed 
  • Consumer selfie. Like a pack shot, but the face of the selfie poster or item user is also in the frame 
  • Brand selfie. Like a consumer selfie, but rather than a face, only a hand holding the item is shown
     The brand selfie format produced evidence of the highest purchase intention by social media viewers. The explanation is in the ability of the viewer to imagine themselves holding the item. The pack shot doesn’t do as well in getting the viewer in touch with the item. And the human face in the consumer selfie directed thoughts away from the brand, toward the person shown.
     It’s on the idea of drawing attention in the wrong direction that studies at University of Maryland caution about the use of images in comparative advertising. Showing pictures of people using the product leads shoppers to start thinking about using the products themselves, and when they do this, they put too much mental energy into thinking about just the recommended product. They forget to pay attention to the comparative advantages. But an exception to this exception is when the comparative shopping decision is quite complex. Then an image helps.

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Lend a Hand to Brand Selfies 

Monday, June 3, 2024

Upsell the Discounted Purchase

A $50 price break on items in a merchandise category draws shoppers. Once the shoppers arrive, we almost always prefer that they purchase the higher-priced alternative in that category covered by the discount. A tactic for giving a nudge toward this is offering the price break as non-integrated rather than integrated.
     The definitions of integrated and non-integrated were developed by researchers at University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Shanghai University for use in their studies which demonstrated the value of the tactic. An integrated price reduction is a discount shown directly on the price statement for each applicable item, as in the format “$179.99 each regular price. Now $129.99. Save $50.” A non-integrated price reduction is presented in a form separate from the item’s price information, such as via a coupon with a promo code to get $50 off the regular purchase price of applicable items.
     The researchers find that, compared to the situation with an integrated discount, shoppers are less likely to be thinking about the final prices of the item when using the non-integrated discount. The result is that the difference in prices between a lower-priced, less desirable item and higher-priced, more desirable item is psychologically smaller. The difference between regular prices of $22.99 and $40.99, each to be discounted by $10 with a promo code, feels smaller than does the difference between the discounted prices of $11.99 and $39.99 as shown on the price tags. A feeling of smaller additional financial outlay to upgrade achieves the objective of nudging the shopper toward purchasing the higher-priced alternative.
     Studies at Tilburg University and Macquarie University address the same objective when a retailer is using a multiple quantity discount: What difference does it make whether you say, “Buy two, get 20% off on both,” or “Buy two, get 40% off on the lower-priced item”?
     Overall purchase rates were about the same with either. Yet the two alternatives did result in different ways of selecting the items to purchase. For the “40% off on the lower-priced item,” shoppers tended to select a more expensive second item than under the “20% off on both.” Helping this along is that 40% looks larger than 20%, even though the 40% applies to only one of the pair. Shoppers want to maximize the return from the 40% discount, so they’re more open to a higher price point.

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Stand Out 

Monday, May 27, 2024

Decelerate the Pace to Develop Contemplation

When producing a short video to persuade others—such as for social media platforms—we’ll often aim to stuff in as many selling points as possible. We also may recall the evidence that young adults—often a top target audience for our persuasion efforts—seek the excitement of speed. The result is a fast-paced portrayal in the short video.
     A set of studies from researchers at Tilburg University, Goethe University Frankfurt, and University of Colorado Boulder argue for us to consider slowing down. Sometimes, slow-motion video significantly enhances persuasion.
     The findings apply when the short video portrays complex movements which the viewer finds to be pleasant. Portrayal of a basketball dunk or wave crashing on the shore, for instance. Decelerating the action facilitates comprehension and appreciation of the details. The advice doesn’t clearly apply to longer videos, in which slowing the action can come across as boring, foolish, or faked.
     Nor is the advice intended for situations where the video viewer is not aiming for comprehension fluency. Examples of this include portrayals of unpleasant images or with a consumer who prefers incomplete comprehension. But in the proper circumstances, slow-motion videos increased ad sponsor preference and willingness to pay compared to equivalent normal-motion videos.
     The advantages of sometimes slowing down apply not just to short videos, but to entire sales transactions. There are circumstances in which we do well to slow down the shopper as they settle on a course of action. Premature closure can have bad consequences ranging from returned items to safety risk.
     Easing the speed is a particular challenge when serving people high in a personality trait called “need for cognitive closure.” These consumers want to make shopping decisions promptly and then lock in those decisions. They’re uncomfortable with ambiguity. They are the polar opposite of shoppers who evidence a strong need to analyze as much information as possible before deciding.
     Researchers at Baylor University and University of Cincinnati found that shoppers with a high need for cognitive closure will slow down their decision making and work harder to analyze information when they believe the effort will be useful for making similar decisions in the future. An example of this is when the choice is about a newly introduced item or experience which is likely to become recurrent. This finding indicates that a marketer can encourage more contemplation during a transaction by highlighting those characteristics of a choice.

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Slow Decision Making Among Shortcutters 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Noodle the Value of Novelty for Seniors

After reviewing decades of research about how older people make purchase decisions, University of Stuttgart gerontologists noted a tendency for seniors to return to the same merchants and shops for the same brands. They attributed this to the appeal of familiarity.
     Younger consumers seek the excitement of novelty, while older consumers seek the calmness of familiarity. In one set of studies, participants were offered choices of tea, bottled water, and music. The older participants were more likely than the younger ones to select “a relaxing blend of chamomile and mint” over “a refreshing peppermint blend,” the bottle of “Pure Calm” water labeled in green over the “Pure Excitement” water labeled in bright orange, and the relaxed-tempo version of the song “Such Great Heights.”
     Such findings can lead marketers to avoid presenting novel offerings to seniors. However, a preference for the familiar is not the same as emotional upset from the unfamiliar. Results from a Stanford University study of people ranging in age from 18 to 94 years indicate that older adults actually experience less negative emotion when encountering novel situations in their daily lives than do younger adults
     Study participants were asked to rate their everyday experiences on dimensions of newness, unfamiliarity, and unexpectedness five times a day for a total of seven days. The accompanying emotional reactions were measured via participant self-ratings of intensity using positive descriptors, such as excitement and contentment, and negative descriptors, such as boredom and frustration.
     The researchers say the lowered emotional reactivity to novel situations among the older participants is due to a general lowered emotional reactivity which comes with advanced age. Researchers from University of Zurich contend that what distinguishes consumers who live happily into their advanced years is composure and poise. These reduce problems of daily living to manageable levels.
     The Stanford University researchers remind us that the nature of emotional reactions depends on the nature of the novelty. Being invited to explore new travel destinations is different from being required to change where you live.
     The Stanford University researchers present their findings as suggestive, not conclusive. They point to the evidence from prior studies that participation by older adults in a variety of experiences will contribute to physical, cognitive, and emotional health. So unless subsequent research results suggest otherwise, and without overwhelming the capacity to handle change, offer older customers and clients a smorgasbord of novelty to energize the familiar.

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Keep Senior Shoppers From Worst Impulses 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Listen with Benevolent Intentions

Listening sells. In a literature review article, researchers at University of Haifa and Stanford University point to the evidence that agents of influence who listen well are more persuasive than those who don’t. Good listening builds trust, and trustworthiness leads to the target of persuasion taking advice and accepting claims. Trust increases brand loyalty, purchase intentions, and post-purchase satisfaction.
     When the agent of persuasion is viewed by the target of persuasion as listening well, perceptions of competence of the agent grow. Interestingly, perceptions of the target of persuasion in their own competence also grow.
     The accuracy of all these statements does depend on our definition of good listening, though. And the definition of good listening is necessary if we’re to make use of the findings to improve our skills.
     Some listening skills covered by the researchers’ definition consist of verbal behaviors. Examples include: 
  • Ask follow-up questions. These request more details on what the target of persuasion has just said. 
  • Paraphrase what the target has said. Changing the precise phrasing used by the target is evidence you’re paying attention and not mocking. 
  • Exclaim on what’s said. Periodically saying short phrases like “I see” and “Oh, interesting” signal attention without needing to interrupt the target. 
  • Be attentively silent. Providing the opportunity for the target to complete expressing themselves projects receptivity to the message.
     Some listening skills concern nonverbal behaviors, such as looking at the target, smiling, and nodding.
     These verbal and nonverbal behaviors are observable. In their review, the researchers also highlight what is called “benevolent intentions,” an element which is not directly observable. This consists of the agent of persuasion’s positive regard for the target.
     Researchers at University of Texas-Arlington, University of Chile, and Universidad del Desarrollo studied “active empathic listening,” which refers to a salesperson integrating a client’s words and nonverbal messages for an understanding of the client’s beliefs, feelings, and intentions. These researchers measured salesperson self-rated AEL using questionnaire items, “I listen for more than just the spoken words,” “I ask questions that show my understanding of my customer’s position,” “I show my customers that I am listening by my body language (e.g. head nods),” and, “I sense why my customers feel the way they do.”
     When AEL was carried out, the client rated the service as being of higher quality than otherwise. This held true even if the client didn’t like the salesperson.

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Embrace Shopper Expertise