Friday, September 30, 2022

Insulate Perfectionists from Unwise Risk

Ethical marketers protect people against vulnerabilities. Retailers pull back any sales pressure when dealing with shoppers showing signs of a compulsive buying disorder. Food manufacturers design labels to highlight nutritional information on items tempting to adolescents.
     It’s equally valuable to recognize when it would seem we should protect shoppers from themselves, but the effort is unnecessary. Retail therapy—the intentional use of shopping by sad people in order to improve their mood—generally doesn’t cause practitioners to go overboard making purchases they’ll later regret. People seeking retail therapy are fully capable of exercising self-control. Their shopping is mindful, not mindless. They restrain themselves because the restraint itself helps lift their spirits.
     A set of warnings and reassurances from University of Southern California and Queen's University at Kingston researchers is in this spirit. They explored the vulnerabilities of consumers who aim for perfection. What their studies find is that shoppers who strive to avoid imperfection are at elevated risk of taking on elevated risk. They’ll tolerate relatively high levels of physical, functional, and financial danger. Regarding a decision to use a nutritional supplement claimed to improve memory, the physical risk was presented to study participants as a probability of side effects (headaches and blurred vision); functional risk as incomplete FDA approval, and financial risk as exorbitant cost ($39.99 for a 30-day supply).
     The researchers recommend that marketers clearly describe risks to consumers who fear imperfection when these consumers are considering purchase. In the studies, these consumers were distinguished by agreement with statements like, “If I fail partly, it is as bad as being a complete failure” and “I hate being less than the best at things.” The researchers also present evidence that consumers are moving overall toward embracing this form of perfectionism, which they call “perfectionistic concerns.”
     The researchers go on to detail how there is no evidence that another form of perfectionism, which they call “perfectionistic strivings,” results in a tendency to take on excessive risk. Perfectionistic striving consumers agree with statements like, “I set higher goals than most people do” and “I am very good at focusing my efforts on attaining a goal.” While perfectionistic concerns result in anxiously avoiding the losses of imperfection, perfectionistic strivings result in enjoying the gains in approaching perfection.
     Further, compared to people motivated by perfectionistic strivings, those motivated by perfectionistic concerns feel they’re more dependent on acquired items. Those with perfectionistic strivings feel more self-sufficient.

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Compulsive Buying Disorder. Okay, Laugh 

Monday, September 26, 2022

Develop Morality Impressions Using Diversity

You’ve heard the argument: Racial and gender diversity on the management team increases an organization’s skills when responding strategically to competitive challenges.
     But that’s false advertising unless certain conditions are met, conclude researchers at University of Massachusetts–Amherst, Queen’s University in Ontario, Western University, and Rowan University. To fully realize the competitive gains in ways which increase financial performance, you must incorporate certain diversity management programs and diversity cognition policies.
     The diversity management programs include mentoring, succession planning, and formalized minority networking groups. The diversity cognition policies include making diversity management a performance appraisal dimension, awarding bonuses for achieving diversity objectives, and attending to diversity management in all or most employee training.
     Study results from University of Miami and Rice University suggest that an important reason for the gains from diversity among organizational managers is that consumers will consider the organization’s offerings to incorporate higher morality. The consequence is more positive attitudes toward the organization. Consumers perceive that having a variety of racial and gender viewpoints encourages consideration of the greater societal good.
     The effect was seen in experiments like these: 
  • A team responsible for writing and broadcasting local news was assessed to be more moral when the team was composed of four men of different races than when the four men were all white. Those considering the diverse team also expressed greater interest in watching the news. 
  • A fictitious Walmart ethics and compliance team composed of two African-American males and two African-American females was predicted to respond to suspected corporate malfeasance better than was the team composed of four African-American men.
     Other of the experiments ruled out alternative explanations for the presence of diversity leading to perceptions of greater morality.
     The researchers report that their study design placed high importance on “ecological validity,” which refers to the likelihood that experimental results obtained in a university laboratory will hold up broadly in real-world settings. Ecological validity came to my mind when thinking about the finding that television news teams with a diversity in membership are viewed more favorably by viewers. The researchers’ explanation is that consumers like morality in their TV news. But the polarization in American society is evidence to me that many consumers place a higher importance on support of their preexisting opinions than on morality. In this case, the receptivity to news which was seen in the lab might not be operative in today’s real world.

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Diversify Job Duties in Diversity Management 

Friday, September 23, 2022

Rescue Rescue-Based Foods from Rejection

Telling people how their eating rescue-based food (RBF) reduces garbage may be well-intentioned as a marketing point. However, researchers at Hotelschool The Hague, Vrije Universiteit, and University of Kentucky say that emphasizing the landfill angle could backfire in persuading people to consume the food.
     RBF consists of perfectly safe ingredients which are destined for the dump because of aesthetic flaws, oversupply, or another reason. A Swedish food purveyor markets their use of RBF by saying, “(W)e realized that a third of the world’s food goes right into the garbage.”
     The intent is to appeal to our environmental stewardship and position the food provider as socially responsible. However, when the researchers adapted such RBF taglines to test the effects, what they stimulated in many study participants was mental images of rotting produce—surefire appetite suppressors.
     This wasn’t uniformly true, though. In my email exchange with the lead researcher, Anna de Visser-Amundson, she explains, “We found that when the marketing appeal for RBF was free of waste associations by, for example, emphasizing the social benefits of the RBF purchase rather than the environmental value, customers wanted to buy the RBF food as much as they wanted to buy the conventional food.”
     In fact, in a field study at a soup buffet on a Netherlands university campus, customers even preferred an RBF soup to a conventional soup. Signage when the RBF offering was the soup-of-the-day sometimes featured the environmental benefit of reduced landfills and at the other times, the social benefit of helping farmers.
     The RBF soup sales levels between these two types of signage differed in interaction with the color of the soup bowl available. All bowls were white on the inside, while at times, they were also white on the outside, while at the other times, they were a shade of green generally associated with environmentalism.
     During the times of social benefit signage, bowl color made no difference. During the times of environmental signage, the likelihood of choosing the RBF soup was lower when a green bowl was in use than when a white bowl was in use. The researchers’ explanation is that the combined effect of multiple environmental cues (i.e., environmental benefit signage and green bowls) tipped mental associations toward images of waste and thus negatively impacted soup sales.
     In your marketing of foods containing rescue-based components, head off consumer rejection by emphasizing the social benefits of RBF use.

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Waste Not with Misshapen Produce 

Monday, September 19, 2022

Deliver Multifunction Products Promptly

A group of Chinese consumers were asked to evaluate a vitamin tablet, a shampoo, and a toothpaste after being presented a description of each. For some of the consumers, the description was of a multifunction product: A multivitamin tablet. A two-in-one shampoo. A multi-effect toothpaste. For the other consumers, each of the products was described as serving a single function.
     After completing the evaluation task, each participant was asked to imagine they’d won a lottery and then say whether they’d prefer to receive the monetary reward as 20 RMB immediately or 30 RMB in one week.
     Those consumers who’d evaluated the multifunction products were more likely to choose receiving the immediate reward, even though it was a substantially lower amount. Attention to product multifunctionality developed an attitude of impatience.
     What does one have to do with the other?
     Efficiency is the link, say the researchers from University of Massachusetts Amherst, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, University of South Carolina, and Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. In companion studies, they showed evidence of the effect in American as well as Chinese consumers; when the impatience resulted in an additional outlay for the customer, such as paying extra for expedited delivery; and with products where the multifunctionality would occur sequentially rather than simultaneously—a cooker described as suitable for use in sautéing, steaming, slow cooking, or stewing.
     Prior research found that multifunctionality adds to item attractiveness, as long as we don’t overload the shopper with complexity. This current research indicates that purchasers of multifunction products will place higher value on receiving the benefits sooner even when the result financially benefits the marketer. To take advantage of this effect, recognize how waiting for a multifunction item to arrive will seem longer than waiting for a single-function item to arrive.
     Also notice other generators of purchaser impatience. For instance, waiting for lingerie to arrive can seem longer than waiting for cashews. That is, unless the shopper considers cashews really sexy. Sexual cues lengthen the subjective time interval until a payoff is delivered.
     Researchers at University of Southern California and University of Pennsylvania asked men to say how much higher an Amazon gift certificate value would need to be for them to agree to get it in three months instead of today. Those shown pages from a Victoria’s Secret catalog first set a higher dollar amount than those shown nature scenes first.

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Pitch the Synergy of Multifunction Items 

Friday, September 16, 2022

Personalize Pricing for the Nostalgia Prone

Personalized pricing—a form of adaptive pricing—can noticeably improve a retailer’s profitability. Different customers are charged different prices for the same item depending on what demographic and psychographic data indicate the customer is likely willing to pay. But chances are your customers will get upset if they discover they’re among those who paid more. Consequences could include complaints to the retailer, criticism of the retailer to potential customers, and fewer subsequent purchases from that retailer.
     After citing studies which demonstrated those negative consequences, researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and Bern University of Applied Sciences report a way they’ve found to ease the consumer disgruntlement: Stimulate nostalgic feelings.
     The researchers’ explanation for why this works begins with the idea that when someone discovers they’ve paid more than others, they feel the seller has isolated them. Nostalgia is a social emotion, in which the attraction to events and objects from one’s past includes thoughts of significant others from that time. When people are lonely, their interest in nostalgia grows. Nostalgia eases loneliness, and thereby the feelings of isolation which produce the negative consequences of personalized pricing.
     Study participants considered a situation in which they paid €350 for a weekend course and discovered that others paid €175. Some of the participants were also asked to reflect on a personally nostalgic event. Other participants were asked instead to reflect on a personally ordinary event.
     On the whole, the “nostalgic event” people reported less price unfairness. However, this was most true for the “nostalgic event” people who had previously been identified as prone to nostalgia. Nostalgia proneness was defined as disagreement with items such as, “Modern business constantly builds a better tomorrow.”
     The researchers advise that for shoppers likely to have nostalgia proneness—evidenced by their retro brand purchases, for instance—personalized pricing can improve your profitability while keeping the risk of shopper irritation relatively low.
     Nostalgia appeals generally loosen consumers’ purse strings. Researchers at University of Minnesota, University of Southampton, and Grenoble École de Management asked study participant in one group, selected at random, to think about their past. The remaining participants were asked to think about recent or future events. Then each 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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Ditch Deep Discounts via  Adaptive Pricing

Monday, September 12, 2022

Challenge FLEs to Embrace Shopper Demands

In getting their needs satisfied, consumers often become demanding of frontline retail and service employees. Those FLEs who respond to the demands primarily as challenges to be met offer advantages for their employers over FLEs who respond to the demands primarily as hindrances to be avoided.
     Studies at Ohio Northern University, Oklahoma State University, and University of Tennessee verify that those advantages include better job performance as a result of higher task engagement and lower job turnover as a result of less work stress. One message for managers from these findings is to recruit and hire FLEs with prosocial motivation, intrinsic motivation, and tendency to take on challenges. Another message is to develop these characteristics in current FLEs.
     Regarding the first message, the researchers recommend that marketers carefully maintain and demonstrate the desired approach to challenges and that prospect screening include use of scenarios in which the candidate is presented with sample demands. Regarding the second message, the researchers point to training modules which specifically build awareness of how FLEs’ actions affect customers, managers, and others. Also recommended are organizational practices which offer employees task variety, remind employees of the significance of their work, and empower employees to make decisions.
     But, in my opinion, don’t fully empower every FLE to make every significant decision. There are those who are better able to make the right decisions than are others. Much of it has to do with amount of experience and the training you do. If your employees do go beyond what the store policies say, they must let their supervisor know so the issue can be discussed.
     Research findings from Loyola Marymount University, University of Alabama, and University of La Verne indicate that the types of training which result in higher customer satisfaction have to do with fuzziness.
     Some consumer entreaties are outside store policy, yet not blatantly wrong. The shopper who looks familiar comes in as soon as the store opens, asking for the sale price which expired yesterday. The customer who doesn’t look familiar comes in at a busy time asking you to teach his wife right then how to use the technology he purchased.
     If the customer gives the impression of dominating rather than collaborating, the FLE often subconsciously labels the fuzzy request as illegitimate. Train your employees to instead stay open-minded. These should never become moral issues, where the objective is to punish the customer.

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Initiate Personal Initiative in FLEs