Monday, April 19, 2021

Reconsider Survey Response Follow-up

There are circumstances in which we do best by keeping our distance from our customers. Sometimes it’s for only a short time. When a mother and her adult daughter are shopping together, stay visibly available, but give the pair time to settle into your store before asking what you can help them find. When kids in financially strapped families are shopping with their parents, step back to allow them privacy when they’re finalizing purchase decisions on the sales floor and, if you detect hesitation, even at the checkout counter.
     Researchers at McGill University, University of Nevada-Reno, and University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley provide an example of a longer-term withdrawal and one that applies post-purchase: When administering a customer satisfaction survey, recognize that if you offer to follow up with the respondent, they’re likely to tone down any expressions of dissatisfaction. You won’t get the range and intensity of critiques useful to you in staying ahead of risks to your organization’s profitability.
     The researchers attribute this stifling to people’s desire to avoid disappointing the marketer, since a marketer’s goal is to have satisfied customers. Experience shows how customers will often shade their face-to-face reports. Even if a person doesn’t enjoy their dessert as much as they thought they would or appreciate the shocking hairstyle upon looking in the mirror, that person hesitates expressing dissatisfaction right then. Instead, when asked, “Do you like it,” the customer will talk about some concrete feature they did enjoy. “The presentation of the dessert on the plate was good.” “With this hairdo, my eyes are set off more.” The concrete language might serve as a signal that the shopper is less than fully satisfied.
     We do want to follow up on complaints, and to do it promptly. The exception to the main study finding was with extreme dissatisfaction. People didn’t hold back in writing about this on surveys. Unless you respond, you risk not only losing the customer, but also brewing a depth of betrayal which can lead a former customer to actively sabotage the organization.
     The researchers found that adding to the questionnaire statements showing an openness to such criticism removed the response bias and so allowed for the questionnaire to state there would be a follow-up interview. This text read, “We strive to get accurate feedback, and value both negative and positive comments from our customers. Please tell us how you really feel.”

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Let Mother-Daughters Shop at Leisure 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Belly Up to Belly Bands

Encouraging shoppers to browse increases the probability of purchases. University of Bologna researchers found that one device to accomplish this is the belly band—a paper strip which wraps around an item and includes text, images, colors, or other properties designed to draw special interest. The studies considered belly bands on some of the books in a book shop. Those with the bands drew increased interest as well as consideration of surrounding books.
     Belly bands simplify perceptions. Although the front and back covers of a book serve as a major determinant of purchase probability, covers contain an abundance of information. Shoppers who intend to buy a book but are not hunting for a specific one can be attracted by the headline impression from the belly band. In fact, since color perception is quicker than reading text, the researchers predicted and then saw how color has greater influence than the text on the effectiveness in using the bands.
     The band color should complement the colors of the item. The text on the band should introduce the benefits of the item and also can give situational appeal. If a book was recently released in a movie version or a sweater design is ideal for an upcoming local sporting event, this can be briefly noted. For quicker perception, include images when possible, such as a graphic of a movie projector or the logo for the local sports team.
     Belly bands were more influential with items which were already popular. This finding indicates that the band brought attention to existing benefits rather than adding a benefit in itself. However, a belly band might potentiate an unveiling appeal. Pleasants Roland, the founder of American Girl Dolls, insisted on using a belly band to secure each doll inside the package. The slight delay from undoing the strip added to the joy of meeting your doll, she argued.
     Including the belly band on the American Girl Doll added 2¢ and 27 seconds to the packaging process. Not much, but installing the bands on other items could consume unacceptable time and money. There are also the expenditures to prepare the bands. Still, stay aware of all that these paper strips add when you want to get sales moving. After all and on balance, failing to acknowledge the nudge power of belly bands could contribute to a promotional campaign going belly up.

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Wait a Minute Before Purging Customer Waits 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Cause Trust with First-Things-First Effects

At the core of persuasion is cause-and-effect. We state to the targets of our influence that if they follow our recommendations, this will lead to results they desire.
     Researchers at University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley and University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce find that the sequence of elements within those statements is itself an instance of cause-and-effect. Presentation of the brand name and then the result of use in alphabetical order produces greater trust in the claim than if the elements are presented in reverse order. It’s not a gigantic effect, but it does make a difference.
     Consumers were presented twenty statements, ten of which had the two elements in alphabetical order (“Bicanyl treats Fever,” “A-100 burns Clean”) and ten of which had the two elements in the reverse of alphabetical order (“Picanyl treats Fever,” “E-100 burns Clean.”) The consumers were asked to rate the likely truthfulness of each statement.
     As predicted by the researchers, the alphabetical-order statements received higher ratings. A follow-on study concluded this was because those statements were easier to mentally process. The fluency of a familiar order generates additional trust.
     Consumer familiarity with sequence goes beyond alphabetical. Which of these two numerical element orders do you think is more attractive to shoppers? 
  • $29.99 for 70 rolls 
  • 70 rolls for $29.99
     It’s the second one. When per unit calculation is challenging, as in 70 rolls for $29.99, shoppers pay more attention to the first number. A quantity of 70 seems like a lot. A price of $29.99 is high enough to justify a second thought. In order, the appeal of the 70 outweighs the pain of the $29.99, making “70 rolls for $29.99” the more attractive phrasing.
     However, another reason for the superiority of the second alternative is that “quantity for price” is a format more familiar to shoppers.
     The effect also applies to image elements. When a product or service claim includes before & after photos, we’d expect the before picture to be to the left of the after picture.
     The “we” in these instances would consist of consumers who read from left to right. In a study at New York University, University of Pittsburgh, and Duke University, calorie count information on menus influenced food choices more when the calorie count appeared to the left instead of the right of the food item’s name. But the effect was reversed among Hebrew speakers.

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Put Large Quantity Before Odd Price 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Abandon Naked Abs for Influential Ads

Sexual cues sell, and nudity’s a sexual cue, so it’s surprising that unshirted male models turn off female consumers.
     Researchers at University of Georgia, Temple University, and Stockton University showed men and women, aged 18 through 40 years, a photo of a man about age 30 sitting on a set of stairs holding a thermos bottle while gazing at it. Accompanying the photo was an endorsement of the thermos bottle by the man. For half the number of study participants, the man was wearing a shirt. For the other half, he was not, showing him to have a firm, highly muscular torso. All the participants were asked how likely they’d be to purchase the thermos bottle.
     Among the male study participants, there was no real difference in average purchase intentions between the two groups. Among the females, those seeing the unshirted model were notably less likely to express intentions to buy the bottle. Along with this, among the women, the model missing the shirt was associated with decreased trustworthiness. Statistical analyses indicated the lowered trust explained much of the decrease in purchase intentions. A second study by the researchers found similar results when the question concerned not purchase of just a thermos bottle, but rather a general, “purchase a product he recommends.”
     The cause-and-effect between trustworthiness and buying intention relates to women’s preference, often subconscious and arguably evolutionarily-determined, for longer-term relationships over flings. Men showing off their muscles could be seen as highly narcissistic, and the self-centered constitute inferior partners. A study at TBS Business School in France concluded that a man’s attractiveness to women increases when he embraces pro-environmental practices, demonstrating his interest in sacrificing for others. From the other perspective, men in long-term relationships were more likely to express socially conscientious beliefs than are those who were not in such relationships.
     Coming back to the shirtless, since the muscle show negatively influenced women and had minimal effect on men, it’s best to avoid naked male torsos in ads designed to persuade shoppers. There are likely exceptions, such as in ads targeted to men which illustrate the effectiveness of a fitness program.
     Still, even here there could be limitations. Many studies say that a skinny attractive female model negatively influences female shoppers more than does a reasonably slim model. A highly ripped male model might have a parallel effect on men. Set aspirational, but realistic, goals for shoppers.

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Beautify Persuasion Transactions 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Recount to People Their Virtuous Deeds

You’re more likely to behave yourself when somebody’s taking notes. That includes when the somebody is you.
     Northwestern University studies find associations between a person’s rating of their memory quality and the degree to which they donate money to a charity, donate time to help an acquaintance, or adhere to healthy habits. If you think you’ll easily remember your good deeds, those good deeds count more in maintaining a self-image you desire. Recognizing this, you’ll be attracted to the virtuous path.
     When you’re wanting others to donate, to eat healthy, or to exercise regularly let them know you’ll bolster their memory. You’ll send them reminders of what they’ve done. This technique could be especially influential with people who rate their memory as poor, such as elderly adults.
     Researchers at University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, and Gadjah Mada University saw this as building pride. 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. Along with this, 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.
     Reminding people of their transgressions might not work nearly as well in motivating good behavior. People prefer to hide from facts which threaten a positive self-image. Cornell University and University of Chicago studies identified how we often sidestep encouragement to act responsibly. We hide from the truth, generating cover by giving as reasons for our actions some characteristics of the situation relevant to what we want to do, but irrelevant to conscientiousness.
     The researchers saw this in experiments involving calorie information on menus, cause-related marketing, and an offer to view one’s skin damage from exposure to the sun. In each case, the consumers were given additional information they could use to justify ignoring the socially responsible action. And in each case, the consumers tended to use such information as cover.
     The studies investigated public choices, in which the decision was known by others, and private choices, in which the consumer believed the decision was not. Cover was seen in both types, indicating it has to do with self-image, not just how we’re seen by others. Here, the transgressive behavior wasn’t influenced by somebody taking notes.

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Profit Your Nonprofit by Arousing Gratitude 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Scapegoat Top Dogs If Crises


When your organization is accused of a major error precipitating a crisis of confidence, your reaction could be: 
  • No response. You might fear that saying anything would prolong attention to the damaging incident. 
  • Denial. If there’s clear evidence of misperceptions or false reporting, you could say the error did not actually occur. 
  • Apology. This might work well if your organization has previously maintained a highly positive reputation in the marketplace and the apology is accompanied by a commitment to correct for prior oversights. 
  • Justification. Say that this incident is not at all representative of your organization’s actions, the standards which were violated are overly strict, there was a greater good to be balanced against the transgression, or another statement designed to dilute the error into a broader context. 
  • Scapegoat. Blame somebody else.
     The last of these might seem to be the slimiest. Yet in a set of studies at California State University-Long Beach and University of Lyon, scapegoating worked better than the other alternatives for salvaging the organization’s reputation. The major advantage was in decreasing negative word-of-mouth set loose against the offender.
     Reducing negative WOM lessens the probability of a consumer boycott following the crisis of confidence. You’ll want to head off the boycott as soon as possible. Once one begins, it’s harder to counter with specificity. Researchers at Germany’s University of Kiel find that the arguments consumers give for a boycott are often devised afterwards to rationalize the decision and convince others to join in.
     The researchers do recommend using scapegoating only when the blameworthy one is powerful and the organization states how those parties will be held accountable. Scapegoating an underdog risks backfiring. People, especially in countries like the U.S., have an affinity for the underdog.
     As with the apology, failure to commit to corrective action makes scapegoating worse than an empty gesture. If the miscreant is a particular employee, omit news about the details of a reprimand, though. Consumers affected by a major error want the responsible person to be bawled out. Researchers at Florida State University found that a promise the employee will be punished is among the most influential ways to keep from losing a damaged consumer.
     However, the researchers also found that the consumers want punishment delivered out of their presence. They want harshness, yet don’t want to witness the harshness. They also want the employee to be granted the respect of privacy.

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Skedaddle from a Skittles No-Win