Monday, January 30, 2023

Offer Clarity with Percentages Over 100

Southern Methodist University marketing professors Matthew Fisher and Milica Mormann write that a Black+Decker vacuum cleaner claims to last “125% longer” than competitors’. Their objective in reporting this is not to sell us the item, but rather to caution that people often misinterpret such a benefits statement to mean the vacuum lasts 25% longer than the competition. Off by 100%!
     It's an example of how shoppers generally have difficulty correctly mentally manipulating percentages. It’s also an example of specifically how, in this case, there’s a confusion between “125% of the length,” which does add only 25%, and “125% more than the length,” which requires thinking about the typical length of the competitors’ vacuum cleaner life span and then thinking about how different that would be when doubling it plus adding another 25% of the competitors’ typical length. Complicated!
     Use of percentages somewhat higher than 100 was shown by the researchers to do more damage than cancelling out the advantage of large differences in benefits. They make the benefit look inferior to a statement using a percentage somewhat lower than 100. Consumers told of a 102% increase judged it to be of smaller magnitude than did another group of consumers told of a 98% increase. It operates in the other direction, too. Consumers told a phone used 108% more power than their current phone expressed greater interest in purchasing the phone than did the group told the phone used 92% more power.
     The researchers suggest using a multiplier term instead of a percentage when the difference is over 100%. The “125% more” becomes “2.25 times as much,” or better yet, in my opinion because of simplicity, “More than twice as much!”
     Another option is to present the actual numbers along with the percentage. Usually, percentages are easier than raw frequencies for shoppers to understand and remember. If ease of comprehension is important, the percentage format offers advantages. This would be especially true if your statement has lots of elements aside from the frequencies themselves. Also, including a percentage greater than 100 in marketing messages does indicate an impressive difference. Still, to ensure the awe, give actual numbers in addition to the percentage.
     Then, to maintain credibility as well as clarity, double-check your calculations. The Southern Methodist University researchers report a benefits statement for a Toto toilet: “Wide 3-inch flush valve is 125-percent larger than conventional 2-inch flush valves.” Flawed math!

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Choose Between Percentages & Frequencies 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Dismiss Distractions from Interrupting Seniors

Interruptions in decision making are potentially problematic for consumers of all ages, but are especially disruptive for the elderly. The older brain has more difficulty recovering from the interruption to restore focus onto the intended task. University of Oregon studies detailed how the problem is due to advanced age slowing the brain’s ability to control the physiological gate which protects working memory from distractions. The experiments compared performance of younger adults—ranging in age from 18 to 28 years—with older adults—ranging in age from 65 to 80.
     Other researchers have seen distractibility in what’s called the cocktail party problem: Older adults have trouble understanding what someone is saying to them when many conversations are going on around them at the same time. Again, this is a problem for people of all ages, but of greater magnitude for seniors. The explanation in terms of brain physiology for this one concerns how the regions responsible for unconstrained thought are influenced by activity in the auditory cortex. Hearing loss, which necessitates more effort to understand phrases and is more common in the elderly than in younger adults, adds to the cocktail party problem.
     The implications for marketers when influencing seniors are to minimize interruptions and avoid auditory distractions such as other people talking and unnecessary sounds.
     At the same time, realize that the distractibility due to aging does have an upside—increased creativity. Elderly adults find it difficult to suppress intrusive thoughts. But intrusive thoughts provide a broader range of ideas when your objective is to be creative. A task commonly used by psychologists to assess creativity is to ask the person to think of as many uses as possible for a highly mundane object like a brick. The superiority of older adults on just such a task was documented in a set of University of Michigan studies. Not only that, but another group of older adults generated more creative recipes than did a group of younger adults when limited to using corn, carrots, and tomatoes.
     Also, although interruptions might hurt cognitive functioning, a certain sort of interruption enhances seniors’ physical functioning: High-intensity interval training, in which peddling at a moderate pace on a stationary bike is broken up with intervals of pushing hard, improves health of those at least 65 years of age more than does exercising consistently at a steady pace, suggests a Mayo Clinic study.

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Interrupt the Urge to Interrupt the Shopper 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Weed Out Weaknesses in Power Building

When your actions result in the customer experiencing a service failure, they may feel a loss of power and then blame that loss on you. If so, their interest in doing further business with you takes a hit. Counteract the perception of power loss to head off you experiencing revenue loss.
     Researchers at NEOMA Business School-Rouen Campus and Birkbeck University of London suggest accomplishing this by marketing the notion that using your services builds the customer’s power. This helps insure that in the event of a service failure, the customer will still feel sufficient influence. For their studies, the researchers used a restaurant slogan, “Revitalize yourself with a nice meal! Raise your strength! Boost your power!,” and a hotel slogan, “Boost your power with our comfort! Revitalize yourself and feel refreshed.”
     Both slogans proved effective in increasing the consumer’s perceived empowerment. However, another type of power reassurance backfired, as the researchers predicted it would. The slogan “You have power over us and your experience with us determines our future!” raised in the consumers perceptions of manipulative intent. The slogan came across as exaggerated and smarmy. This can cancel out the power increase perceptions. Avoid it happening by associating the influence increase with use of the service rather than with claims that the customer will control the organization’s actions.
     Although avoiding impressions of manipulative intent is useful, manipulating the shopper’s sense of power does offer payoffs for a marketer. If you make shoppers feel more powerful, they’re likely to spend more on themselves. If you make them feel less powerful, they’re likely to increase the amounts on purchases for others.
     Participants in a Northwestern University study placed bids on items like a T-shirt and a mug. When purchasing for themselves, those feeling greater power bid about 86% more for an item, on average, than those feeling lower power. When purchasing the item for someone else, those feeling less powerful bid about 52% more for an item, on average, than those feeling higher power.
     How can you manipulate a customer’s sense of power? In the Northwestern study, participants were asked to imagine an actual episode from their past during which they possessed either high power or little power. Another research technique is presenting to shoppers slogans which emphasize power possessed by the shopper (“At our store, you’re the boss”) or deemphasize the power (“At our store, we take care of you”).

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Multiply Recovery from Double Deviation 

Monday, January 9, 2023

Accentuate Time Back from Cashback

Users of online cashback services click a button to access the manufacturer or retailer website they’re seeking. Going through the cashback button process is an extra step. The payoff is a small rebate on each purchase, made possible because the cashback service receives a fee from the marketer for the referral.
     Getting money returned is nice. Still, New Mexico State University and University of Scranton researchers find that the fundamental appeal of cashback button shopping for users is the time saving. Saving time on finding the best price. When shopping with the button, a consumer can quickly search through the information and filter deals on options from a range of supply channels. Note how for that consumer, the best price might not be the lowest price. The manufacturer’s reputation, such as for quality or prestige, or the retailer’s policies, such as for timely delivery or accepting returns, makes a difference.
     The implication of these findings for cashback services is to accentuate the timesaving advantage in advertising. Among the implications for retailers are to include price searching capabilities on their own websites and to otherwise acknowledge the high value of time for the online shopper.
     The researchers preface their report about all this by pointing out how cashback sites such as Rakuten, Ibotta, and Shopkick have been found to boost the average online order value by about 46%. Behind this, the researchers suggest, is the prior evidence that saving time leads to greater shopping enjoyment and less shopping cart abandonment.
     The study is a reminder that time and money are psychologically different for consumers. Research findings from Hong Kong Baptist University and Chinese University of Hong Kong suggest that a marketer is wise, under certain circumstances, to emphasize to a shopper the time savings the shopper could experience in selecting, using, and maintaining a product or service more than emphasizing cost savings in purchasing or using the item:
     Consumers consider time more valuable than money when thinking how time is perishable. If you don’t use time now, it’s gone forever, but money not used now can be used later. In fact, if invested properly, the money gains in value. This appeal also works well when consumers are thinking of time as more subject to having a fixed supply than does money. There’s only so much time available, but a person can use credit to expand the funds available today.

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Time Out for Number-Free Descriptions

Monday, January 2, 2023

Wheel Up Sales with Wheelbarrow Handles

How nice it would be to have a shopper come up to the checkout station pushing a big wheelbarrow filled with merchandise to buy! But the reason the wheelbarrow is so full may have as much to do with the design of the handles as with the capacity of the bin. And the drive on the shopper to increase their purchases is probably due more to pulling than to pushing.
     An electromyography study based at City University of London and University of Innsbruck showed how a person’s extensor muscles of the upper arm are activated when moving a standard shopping cart forward while grabbing the horizontal handle. We push that cart. On the other hand—or hands, in this case—if the shopping cart has parallel handles like those on a wheelbarrow, moving it forward activates the flexor muscles. We’re pulling toward ourselves as we push the wheelbarrow. This matters because, oddly enough, a pulling action increases the motivation to satisfy our wants. We tend to purchase more items.
     An explanation for this influence of arm flexion on purchase preferences is that over our lifetime, we associate pulling our arms toward ourselves with acquiring pleasurable objects. Pulling the arm toward the body activates subconscious expectations of short-term pleasure, and the arm pullers look to fulfill those expectations.
     Pushing an object away from ourselves, as when navigating a shopping cart through an aisle, subconsciously potentiates brain traces of rejecting items which are not immediately pleasurable. This pushing effect is nowhere near as strong as the pulling effect. Still, researchers at Erasmus University-Rotterdam, Aston University, and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven speculate that requiring a customer to push a door to enter a store will lower by a little the likelihood of selling pleasure-oriented items. They also report that a shopper carrying a basket instead of pushing a cart is almost seven times as likely to purchase candy rather than fruit as a snack.
     The team at City University of London and University of Innsbruck verified that the arm flexion when navigating a shopping cart with two parallel handles instead of the one horizontal handle tends to increase purchases of a range of items, including frozen foods, beverages, and even cleaning products, as well as sweets.
     You won’t replace all your standard shopping carts with wheelbarrows. But having shoppers flex their arms while shopping, as long as shopper comfort is adequate, can increase purchase totals.

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Push Shopping Baskets’ Pull for Sweet Items 

Friday, December 30, 2022

Zoom In on Using Zoom Out for Luxury

“You want to buy this item I just showed you? Well, you will need to reach for it. After all, we both recognize it’s an exclusive piece, and you’re smart, so you know how exclusivity does not come easy!”
     That’s my version of Sophia University researchers’ explanation for a video zoom effect they identified: When a video ad starts with a closeup of a luxury product and then zooms out, viewers’ interest in product purchase is greater than if the video had zoomed in from overview to closeup. The zoom-out portrays the exclusivity of distance, and so reinforces the perception of luxury.
     The zoom-out advantages weren’t seen if the product was positioned as a non-luxury purchase. Nor did the effect appear with static presentations, that is, when showing a photo of a closeup and then a photo of a more distant view. The animation enhances the perception of moving away.
     The researchers checked for other possible explanations of the effect. Video ads that are more interesting, arouse suspense, or indicate scarcity can all generate perceptions of luxury. None of these three characteristics were rated by consumers as greater in the zoom-out than in the zoom-in ad. But other studies do verify the value of you using interestingness, suspense, and scarcity signals in your video advertising.
     Also, other research demonstrates benefits, as well as liabilities, in generating perceptions of distance. Researchers at University of Chicago found that shoppers who characterized themselves as smart rather than not smart expressed a higher preference for products they’d have to travel across town to purchase compared to preference for equivalent products they could purchase nearby. These shoppers also evaluated products more positively when the products had been pushed back on the shelves rather than being in easy reach.
     Emotional reactions become less intense when a prospective purchase is perceived to be at a distance. According to studies at University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Oviedo in Spain, and Lieberman Research Worldwide, this is true for highly positive emotions—such as the thrill in having the item—and for highly negative emotions—such as anger at flawed product performance—and for all the emotions in-between. In these studies, distance could come from selecting an item to be used in the future rather than starting now, selecting an item for use by someone else rather than one’s own use, or considering an item after reading an ad rather than in the store.

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Look Lively!