Monday, December 6, 2021

Sustain Reservations by Showing Sustainability

People might hesitate reserving a room at your hotel because of low customer ratings. Take the feedback to heart, making necessary improvements, and then publicize the changes. Promptly post responses to online criticism you find is unjustified or bogus. And let everyone know about your environmental sustainability or other social responsibility initiatives.
     That last technique for addressing reservations about making reservations comes from research at HES-SO University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland, University of Neuchâtel, and Kedge Business School. In one of the studies, a group of Americans were told of a holiday hotel in Thailand that had received only a two-star rating on a five-point scale. In addition, some of the participants were told about amenities at the hotel—such as the pool, room service, and free internet—and that the hotel had received three environmental sustainability certifications. The other participants were told instead only about hotel amenities. Each participant was then asked to rate the quality of the hotel.
     The people told about the sustainability certifications rated the quality of the hotel as higher than did those told only about the amenities. It appears that the sustainability achievements compensated for the low customer ratings.
     News of the certifications made little difference when the customer ratings were high. This was seen with another pair of groups in the study who were told the hotel had received four stars.
     The researchers asked the participants another question, too, “How would you feel if you booked this hotel?” The response scales included “ashamed/proud,” “in the wrong/in the right,” “wicked/virtuous,” and “unethical/ethical.” The responses from each participant were combined into what the researchers called a “warm glow” measure. It turned out that this warm glow measure helped explain why the news of sustainability achievements compensated for the low customer ratings.
     Your hotel might earn a warm glow, and therefore higher guest ratings in the first place, with environmental sustainability initiatives during the stay. But how to foster participation by the guests?
     Researchers at Arizona State University collaborated with the Holiday Inn in Tempe, Arizona to place towel recycling appeals in the lodging rooms. One version began, “Help save the environment.” A second said a donation would be made if the guest agreed to reuse towels. But the version which got highest compliance reported that about 75% of guests asked to do so were reusing towels. Peer pressure was persuasive.

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Resolve Customer Complaints Carefully 

Friday, December 3, 2021

Firm Up with Consumers You’re a Family Firm

Restricting control of business operations to members of a single family can limit the size of the business. This shifts greater importance toward favorably distinguishing in consumers’ minds the image of the business from that of larger enterprises. Researchers at University of Bologna, The University of Adelaide, and University of Verona wondered in what ways marketing a family firm identity might augment this favorable distinction.
     For most of us, the concept of family does carry the association of long-term orientation, and the studies did document how this carried over to the image of a business known to be a family firm. Identity as a family firm also indicated to consumers that the business was socially responsible, strove for quality, and offered uniqueness.
     To varying degrees, these characteristics increased consumer trust and brand satisfaction across the study samples, consisting of wine consumers in Australia, Italy, and the U.S. However, for the Italians, long-term orientation was a positive, while for the Americans, long-term orientation was associated with lower consumer satisfaction. The researchers attribute this to an old-world country treasuring tradition, while Americans fear that long-term consistency means insensitivity to changing consumer needs.
     The researchers acknowledge the limitation of their inquiry to wine companies, but do show that the general conclusions are supported by studies covering a range of hedonic product categories. Talking of family control humanizes the business. Researchers at Babson College and University of Innsbruck suggest humanizing by using fonts which resemble hand printing on labels, ads, and signage. The researchers found that the use of these fonts enhanced the perception of a human connection with the shopper, resulting in more favorable brand evaluations and actions. However, this was true only for entities in which emotional attachment sells.
     Even when the product category is more utilitarian than hedonic, the success of humanizing operates through the emotional channel. In an East Carolina University and Hansei University study, 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—the founder story—compared to those exposed to the second version, had more positive emotional responses. Still, both versions produced better emotional responses than did a version which gave just facts about the luggage.

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See the Handwriting at the Mall 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Entertain Entertainment’s Mobile Ad Value

Mobile phone advertising has been around for two decades, certainly long enough for an abundance of research about what’s most important for marketing success. Unfortunately, there’s no abundance of clear-cut conclusions. The credibility, informativeness, and entertainment in the ad make a difference, but to different degrees. And what would seem to be an advantage of mobile phone advertising when compared to media like TV or newspaper ads—the ability to personalize the ad to the recipient—doesn’t always help and could even end up irritating the consumer.
     Researchers at Griffith University and University of Minnesota suspected some inconsistencies would be resolved by analyzing results of past studies in terms of the ages and genders of the consumers in the different samples, the level of economic development in the country the ad was used, and whether the ad was text-based or graphic-based. The researchers’ indices of success were the audiences’ positive attitudes toward the ad and the intention to receive mobile ads.
     As expected, the results showed that a positive attitude produces a greater intention to accept the ad. Ad credibility was instrumental in establishing a positive attitude and greater intention. Credibility was defined as the audience’s perception of believability. Also important was informativeness, defined as the amount of useful information provided.
     It might seem that informativeness and credibility would each have the largest single influence of any of the characteristics studied. The marketing function of an ad is to influence behavior, and credible information is an influential tool. But an even more substantial influence came from the entertainment value of the ad. Entertainment value was defined as the ability of the ad to satisfy a recipient’s desire to escape reality, have fun, and release emotions.
     As an overall recommendation, the researchers suggest that, while providing credible information, marketers using mobile ads incorporate music and videos for entertainment value. Their analyses by audience characteristics also allowed them to give some more specific advice: 
  • The evidence is that entertainment value is more important for female than for male audiences and for consumers in economically developed countries than for those in developing countries. 
  • Informativeness of the ad appears to be especially influential with older consumers and with general adult audiences compared to the college-age audiences often used in marketing research. 
  • Credibility in mobile ads is assessed carefully by audiences in developed countries. Graphic-based ads are considered more credible than text-based ones.

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Drive Personalization by Fostering Narcissism 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Sustain Seniors’ Memory with Self-Esteem

In our transactions with the elderly, we often find it useful to inquire about their past experiences. We’re calling on what cognitive psychologists refer to as the senior’s episodic memory and about which those psychologists distinguish between recall and recognition. In free recall tasks, an elderly adult might be asked, “What places did you visit last time you toured that city?” The corresponding cued recognition task would consist of asking, “From this list of places often visited in tours of that city, which ones did you previously see?”
     As we might expect, advanced age brings greater deficits, relative to younger adults’ memories, in recall than in recognition. In addition, a mix of anxiety and low self-esteem operate differently to impair the two types of episodic memory in the younger than in the older adults. Researchers at France’s University of Tours found that among those ages 20 to 40 years in their sample, anxiety and low self-esteem operated in tandem to cause impairments. The effect of self-esteem on memory performance could be explained by how low self-esteem increased anxiety. However, among those in the sample who were ages 60 to 80 and free of signs of physical brain impairment, the degree of self-esteem impaired episodic memory separately from the effect of anxiety on memory.
     The researchers attribute these findings to older adults having a pronounced sensitivity to self-esteem. Related to this, because thinking about our past experiences is central to our identity in the world, the senior’s recognition that recall is fading can itself disrupt self-esteem, creating a vicious circle with memory problems.
     Studies at Springfield College and University of Missouri acknowledged the reality that the elderly remember facts less well than do younger adults. Causes 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. Then there’s that other cause, which is 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.
     While compensating for increases in memory lapses, avoid aggravating the problem. When your shopper experiences a senior moment, be patient and move on. Because recognition memory persists better than recall memory over the years, use cues, such as with lists of alternatives which you present to the senior.

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Cool Barriers to Senior Shopper Momentum 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Come Across with Organic Benefits

Shoppers for organic packed goods carefully scrutinize what’s written and pictured on those packages. Is that why researchers at Leibniz Universität Hannover found that such shoppers are willing to pay more for organic items when the container is aligned horizontally rather than vertically? Is it because the text is easier to read and pictures easier to appreciate when the lines are long instead of tall? Consumers are able to process a greater amount of information with a higher degree of fluency.
     The study results support that explanation and find there’s more to it. People generally select foods for both hedonic and utilitarian value. We want it to taste good and to fulfill some function such as easing our hunger or maintaining our health. Shoppers for organic foods place special emphasis on the utilitarian values of quality nourishment and environmental sustainability. Their willingness to pay is based on appreciation for the utilitarian benefits, and utilitarian benefits are more compelling when easy to decode.
     In the study, utilitarian value was measured with scales that had anchors ineffective/effective, unhelpful/helpful, not functional/functional, unnecessary/necessary, and impractical/practical. Horizontal packaging alignment positively influenced the rating of utilitarian value, and this rating positively influenced how much the consumer would be willing to pay for the product, which in the study was organic sesame crackers.
     In the studies, there was no clear evidence that the horizontal or vertical orientation of the package influenced willingness to purchase. In other studies, bold package colors persuaded people to consider making the purchase, but those seeking healthy foods were willing to pay more when the package colors were bland.
     Much past research concluded that consumers consider healthfulness and tastiness to be incompatible. This was especially true for children. If an item is really healthy, it is bound to taste really bad. Researchers at University of Vienna think they’ve found a way around this. They showed groups of consumers photos of packaging of snack products, smoothies, and juices. Some of the photos of the packaging were in bold colors, others less bold, and the remainder in grayscale with all color removed.
     The results said that people generally evaluate items portrayed as having boldly colored packaging to be both heathier and tastier. The researchers’ experimental design allowed them to spot an explanation for this: Bolder colors signal greater freshness. A bright red apple is more appealing to us than is an old brown one.

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Go Bold or Au Naturel for Packaging Healthy 

Friday, November 19, 2021

Trim Activity Apprehension for Experiencers

Many studies in consumer behavior research have found that people tend to prefer products with an abundance of functions during their shopping, but then, after purchase, often encounter feature fatigue. They get frustrated while trying to master all the different functions.
     When purchasing experiences—such as a cruise—rather than products, the fatigue—or fear of fatigue—happens prior to the purchase, according to studies at Washington State University, Arizona State University, University of Northern Colorado, Pepperdine University, and Kennesaw State University. Before purchasing the experience, consumers have activity apprehension.
     The explanation for this difference is in the perishability of experiences. Your drive to get full value for your money and time creates anxiety. Attributes of products can be enjoyed at leisure and in a range of sequences. But if you miss the visit to the pyramids during the tour or the zipline drop when in the rain forest, let’s say, the opportunity is gone.
     Yet that same drive has an opposite effect after the experience. You’ll feel better looking back at all you did. Plus, the more activities you engaged in, the greater the possibility of a memorable peak episode. In the studies, people gave higher ratings post-experience when there had been more activities.
     Knowing this and in the interest of return business and good recommendations, see if you can reduce the activity apprehension before trimming the activities. The researchers recommend designing the experience so, when considering purchase, the shopper will anticipate scheduling flexibility and options to participate in all or only some of the activities. Also point to nonperishable components of the overall experience, such as the availability of the hotel swimming pool or the cruise ship buffet for the entire duration.
     According to researchers at University of Chicago and New York University, another way to improve post-experience ratings is to rotate the activities for the customers. The tour operator who wants the trip to seem like the customer is getting more for the money would intersperse music events, historical stops, and sporting events on the schedule rather than group the different types together.
     This technique is also useful when the customer is given unlimited flexibility. An amusement park retailer could make a day at the park seem longer by emphasizing individual components rather than categorizing them. A guide brochure to the park would show the mix of rides, games, eateries, and restrooms in each area of the park.

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Ask Shoppers to Estimate Multifunction Usage