Monday, September 25, 2023

Power Up People Before Selling Experiences

Why is it that people get greater happiness from experiences they purchase, such as a cruise or a concert, than from material acquisitions, such as a camera or a chair? Researchers at Sungkyunkwan University, University of Akron, and University of Technology Sydney cite prior studies to attribute the difference to considerations of socializing, distinctiveness, and self-identity.
     Experiences are often consumed with others, and past experiences are discussed with others. Friends show greater interest in hearing about our recent cruise than about our new camera. Happiness derives from distinctiveness, and experiences differ among themselves in content and context. A series of concerts reflects a broader range of characteristics than does a collection of chairs. And experiences shape our identity, while we shape experiences to fit our identity. It’s weaker with merchandise. We strengthen the self-identity by remembering our many experiences with the material goods.
     After citing the prior studies, the researchers hypothesize that consumers perceiving more personal power will enjoy experiences relative to material items to a greater extent. Socializing allows people to show and shape their power. Powerful people prefer purchases which differentiate them from others. And they’re highly interested in expressing themselves through their consumption.
     A set of experiments supports the hypotheses. The researchers conclude by recommending that marketers of experiential offerings target people already in powerful positions and cultivate feelings of power in potential customers.
     As to the targeting, wealth can bring a sense of power. Researchers at New York University, University of Southern California, and UCLA found that the experience economy does best when consumers feel financially confident. If the consumers instead feel highly financially constrained, their preferences shift to buying material goods that will last for a while. This is true even if the material items to be purchased are frivolous and indulgent. Emphasizing to prospects that fun experiences give enduring memories was not sufficient to overcome the effect.
     As to the cultivating feelings of power, use advertisements and store signage which emphasize the power possessed by the shopper (“At our business, you’re the boss”) rather than messages which deemphasize the power (“At our business, we take care of you”). Treating the shopper with deference instead of authority reinforces this impression. Studies at Stanford University and Tilburg University raised participants’ sense of personal power by having them sit on a tall chair and lowered it by having them sit on an ottoman.

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Leapfrog Generations to Sell Experiences 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Examine How Sharing Exaggerates Knowledge

When I recommend to you an article about retail pricing, your estimate of my knowledge about that topic increases. My recommending also increases my self-impression that I know a lot about retail pricing.
     These University of Texas findings seem trivial until you hear the rest: It happens even if I’ve read nothing at all in the body of the article I’m recommending to you. The act of sharing based on my seeing only the article title, for instance, misleadingly exaggerates my confidence in the depth of expertise about the topic.
     Considering the widespread online sharing of links among consumers, these findings argue for staying alert to your customers and clients making inadequately informed decisions. This holds true not only for those receiving links, but also for those sending out recommendations.
     One of the researchers’ studies found that consumers who share investment advice subsequently choose riskier investments. This may not be bad. A prior study by a different set of researchers concluded that subjective overestimation of financial literacy can have beneficial effects. Given the proper support, those self-confident consumers are more likely to plan well for retirement than are those who accurately assess their financial literacy. The degree of self-perceived financial ability was a better predictor of financial wellbeing than was actual financial skills.
     But this is an exception. For most consumer decisions, overconfidence is a liability. As you guide these shoppers toward properly informed choices, embrace their self-perceptions of expertise: 
  • Respect them. Do your floor staff know where all the merchandise is located? Are they aware of the comparative features of brands in their department? Can they explain them to the customer if asked? Customers want sales staff who know it all, but without acting like stuffy know-it-alls. 
  • Surprise them. Experts are attracted to categorization in ways that surprise them. Sporting equipment might be categorized by the sizes of the items. Power tools might be categorized by the type of job they could be used to complete. Clothing might be categorized by color. Foods might be categorized by country of origin. 
  • Impress them. Experts want to know technical specifications. At the same time, they often make product selections without prolonged thought. They don’t request features lists because the experts think they already know what the products can do for them. Experts are interested in technical specifications largely to justify to themselves and others that they’ve made the right choices.

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Invest in Financial Literacy Overconfidence 

Monday, September 11, 2023

Launch Items Which Arouse Competitiveness

Being among the first to own a just-released iPhone or Nike sneaker bestows honor in the iPhone or Nike sneaker community. People will wait in long lines at the store or will jockey to be early in the internet queue.
     These and other brands with rabid fan bases can benefit from the consumer competition at product launches. It’s true that in-store, the competition could get dangerously aggressive. Shoppers shove each other, wrench items from each other, or worse. But if managed properly, the competition boosts initial sales revenues—valuable for marketers, who want to quickly recoup product development costs—and for retailers, when they recognize the demand lets them set premium prices on the items.
     Researchers at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies developed a statistical model which identified product characteristics that arouse the desire to compete to be the first to own. A basic is item uniqueness. A product perceived as better than any other in that category is more than distinctive. It’s one-of-a-kind. At least until the next version is released. The Hankuk researchers also identified in their model the importance of the consumer’s need for uniqueness. If the prospective purchaser wants to be one-of-a-kind, they’ll be attracted to a product with that characteristic.
     Factoring into this, then, is item scarcity. People are willing to exert more effort to obtain desired items which are in short supply. This is true whether or not the item is newly introduced to the marketplace. But when a new introduction is a limited release, a fear of missing out triggers the sort of competitiveness necessary to awaken at 3 AM to get into the queue early.
     This relates to the more general theme of self-enhancement. New releases which enable the purchaser to claim authority or exert influence over others are more likely to lead to competitiveness. Here, too, there are individual differences. Self-enhancement is associated with personal gain at the expense of others’ welfare. The race to acquire is seen as producing winners and losers.
     For the owner to claim the prestige of a winner, the item needs perceived popularity. The perception can come from the queue itself. A large group competing to be among the first further fuels the competition to be among the first. This ties back into the drive arising from scarcity. Unless the new release is perceived by the individual as popular, the competitive spirit will be compromised.

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Navigate Shoppers Toward Distinctiveness 

Monday, September 4, 2023

Cancel Culture About Negations Selectively

Including negators such as “not” and “never” in marketing messages risks confounding audiences. Consumers given a list of toothpaste dispenser characteristics which included “not difficult to use” liked the dispenser less than did another group given a list of the dispenser’s characteristics identical except that it read “not easy to use.” The participants had little trouble remembering what the phrasing said. It wasn’t as if they failed to see the “not.” Instead, it was that the “easy” or the “difficult” had much greater emphasis in the decision making than did the “not.” One group was evaluating the toothpaste dispenser with “easy” in mind, while the other had “difficult” in mind.
     The recommendation for marketers: To smooth the cognitive flow when you have the objective of persuading a prospect, avoid the speed bumps of negations.
     But researchers at University of Adolfo Ibáñez and University of Nevada-Reno identify an advantage of using negations in marketing via social media—enhanced consumer engagement. In one of their studies, Facebook messages for 18 brands, including Lululemon and Monster Energy, with a greater use of negation words, such as “don’t” and “none,” had higher numbers of likes, comments, and shares. Parallel results were found with Twitter message likes, retweets, and replies and with word-of-mouth intentions of recipients of direct email marketing.
     Results from the set of studies led the researchers to explain the effect in terms of brand power: From childhood, culture shapes us to maintain positivity in interpersonal communications. Use of negations by an adult implies the power of social confidence because the adult is violating a norm. The association between negations and power carries over to brand image. People like to portray social influence, which they aim to gain by engaging with brands they find to be powerful.
     This explanation for the role of negation is supported by the researchers’ finding that the effect was stronger for consumers expressing a need for status, measured by items like, “I want to improve my social standing as compared to others.”
     The recommendation for marketers: To build consumer engagement with your brand, incorporate negations into messages.
     In navigating between these two opposite recommendations, you’ll be determining the situations in which to cancel traditional cultural expectations of positivity for interpersonal communications. To help with this, assess the probabilities of shopper confusion and need for status in your intended audiences. Also attend to the appeal among consumers of the low-status underdog at times.

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Unknot Distortions from Using “Not” 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Please the Defensive by Asking a Favor

It might seem that a salesperson asking for a favor would only add to a shopper’s suspiciousness when facing a negotiation. But researchers at Old Dominion University, Baylor University, and Auburn University find that asking for the right sort of favor actually relaxes sales resistance.
     In the studies, the favor requested was minimally intrusive, such as asking the shopper to share their opinions of the store showroom or briefly watch the salesperson’s friendly dog. Compared to responses from participants not presented with a scenario including the request, those considering the scenario which included the request were more likely to express positive feelings about negotiations with the salesperson and the outcome of sales transactions.
     The researchers explain this effect as the favor request indicating the salesperson wants an equitable, caring relationship with the shopper, and this indication is evidence to the shopper that the salesperson is trustworthy.
     A related explanation is that people are more willing to believe they’re getting a good deal in a transaction when they conclude that they’ve earned it. An action worthy of reward could be doing a requested favor for the retailer. In a set of studies at Georgetown University and Pennsylvania State University across a range of shopping situations, consumers were offered discounts on a purchase. In some cases, the offer was accompanied by a request for a favor to be done by the shopper. Those consumers asked to do the favor were more likely to accept the discounted offer than were those not presented the request.
     Yet a third explanation involves shared experiences. People who successfully collaborate build mutual trust. When the salesperson requests a favor and the shopper honors the request, they are sharing the experience of collaboration: Aiming to improve the showroom. Assuring that the dog and the dog’s surroundings are properly monitored. 
     In a tasty extension of this, when you and your customer eat sweet foods together, the potential for mutual persuasion grows. People are more open to being convinced when they’re feeling good, and sweet foods are pleasant. The act of eating slows down time, so there’s more opportunity for the salesperson to make sales points. Chewing food potentiates a desire to talk things over. Still, it’s the shared experiences which form the core of the University of Chicago researchers’ explanation—the shared experience of consuming the same food. Shoppers trust salespeople who they believe are similar to them.

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Augment Discount Appeal with Requests 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Think Better Than Saying It Could Be Better

Suppose you want to sell a Bird of Paradise house plant to a prospective buyer. Unfortunately, the plant looks a bit withered. Your sales pitch is, “It is easy to care for and will add style and vitality to any setting.” You’re also thinking of saying, in addition, “Unfortunately, the plant looks a bit withered now due to insufficient sunlight. It would look fresher and livelier if it received sufficient sunlight.”
     In a study using this situation, conducted by researchers at China Europe International Business School and University of Chicago, about 60% of participants chose to add the “it could be better” phrasing. But the study results also indicated that people were less likely to purchase the plant when hearing this. Other studies in the set verified this effect with a range of items and in a range of situations.
     The study results also developed an explanation: When there is a defect, the salesperson is more likely to be thinking about the untarnished item performance than is the shopper. In saying how it could be better, the salesperson brings attention to a defect the shopper might not have otherwise noticed. The implication for persuasion agents: Present the item as it is without explaining how it could potentially be better.
     The research results also point to an exception to this advice: If the shopper is quite likely to recognize there’s a defect, it can be wise for the salesperson to acknowledge the shortfall and explain the potential for correcting the blemish. This could occur if the shopper is an expert with this type of item—such as Bird of Paradise house plants—or if the defect would be obvious even to a shopper naïve about this type of item.
     When persuading others, we want to present our case in the best light. Also, consumers pay more attention to potential than to past or present performance. Refraining from “it could be better” explanations requires a purposeful effort.
     On the other hand, there might sometimes be value in explaining how it could have been worse. The scenario in these studies involved delivery of a restaurant order delayed so long that the diner missed the first part of a movie. The waiter strongly apologizes. If the waiter added that he recently had a similar situation and missed the entire movie, this lowered the ratings by study participants of anger the diner would feel.

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Tell Some Complainers It Could Be Worse