Monday, May 26, 2014

Model Ads Around the Right Model Type

In ad copy, should you show a picture of the product on its own or of a person using the product? Researchers at University of Michigan and KoƧ University say that the answer depends on the degree of expertise the ad’s intended audience believe they have about the product category: If the audience generally believes they know a lot about the category, you’re better off showing the product. On the other hand, an illustration or photo of somebody using the product works best in increasing purchase likelihood with shoppers who rate themselves as having limited knowledge about the product category.
     The reasons for this difference have to do with people’s needs to verify and enhance their expertise. Consumers are more comfortable looking at the product when they’re confident of their ability to evaluate it. But when there’s self-doubt, they gain confidence and thereby build interest in the ad upon seeing someone they identify with.
     Of course, you might want to show representations of both the product and the potential user. Here, the proximity and positioning of the representations make a difference. Researchers at University of British Columbia and National University of Singapore showed study participants a picture of a facial cream to treat acne and a picture of the product benefit—a smooth face. The researchers found that participant groups shown the two pictures adjacent to each other were more likely to consider the facial cream to be effective than those shown the photos physically separated from each other.
     As to whether you should show users at all in comparative ads, there’s been controversy in the research literature. Studies at University of Maryland concluded that pictures of people using the product in comparative ads led shoppers to start thinking about using the products themselves, and when they do this, they put too much mental energy into thinking about just the recommended product. They forget to pay attention to the comparative advantages. The power of the comparative ad fades away.
     Then research findings from University of Bamberg indicated that showing a person in an ad comparing a recommended product to an alternative helps in selling the recommended choice if:
  • The recommended product is complex or innovative 
  • Shoppers seeing the ad want to take the time to carefully analyze for the best choice 
  • Compared to the alternatives, the product you intend the shopper to buy has at least one powerful advantage 
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Ping Consumers with Cause-and-Effect 
Relax Caution About Comparative Imagining 
Locate Your Logo As Friend or Leader

Monday, May 19, 2014

Criticize Humbly

A team of researchers from Emory University, University of Minnesota, and University of Chicago noted that a major appeal of word-of-mouth for shoppers is that WOM often includes cautions and downside risks. Retailers’ and manufacturers’ ads aren’t expected to do that.
     Then the researchers went on to find that when a source criticizes a store or product rudely, the influence of the criticism drops. On the other side, a tone of courtesy and humility added credibility.
     Consumer participants in one study were asked to read a review of a luxury wristwatch. For some of the participants, the review included the sentence, “I don’t want to be mean, but the band pinches a bit,” rather than only, “The band pinches a bit.” Even though this was a criticism, the softening phrasing significantly increased the likeability and influence ratings accorded the reviewer. In turn, this resulted in a higher preference for the watch and a willingness to pay 43% more for the watch. When participants were asked to describe the watch’s brand personality, those consumers who had read courteous criticism gave higher marks on honesty, cheerfulness, and wholesomeness.
     A negative sentence in an otherwise positive review can, in itself, add to the credibility of the review. Reviews that include both strong positives and a few negatives will develop curiosity in prospective shoppers. The curiosity can lead to the shoppers wanting to check things out for themselves at your store or website. When positives end up far outweighing negatives, you’ve won a customer. Research at Rutgers University concluded that direct experience with the retailer affects how the negative information is interpreted.
     But beyond balancing the positive by throwing in suggestions for improvements, courteous phrasing augments the effect. Courtesy reflects humility, and a touch of humility makes it more likely a recommendation resource will convince a shopper to go ahead and buy. Stanford University researchers found that expert restaurant reviewers are more influential when the reviewers say they're less than completely certain about their conclusions.
     As a retail salesperson, avoid coming across to the customer as absolutely certain in your recommendations. A little uncertainty makes the customer more comfortable in asking questions. Those questions are highly valuable when you’re facilitating the sale. You can present counterarguments or you can steer the customer toward an alternative which will better fit their needs.
     Give your shoppers balanced reviews and comparison critiques with courtesy and humility.

Click below for more: 
Attend to Face-to-Face Word-of-Mouth 
Encourage Balanced Customer Reviews 
Speak the Language of Helpful Reviews 
Impress Customers with Your Staff’s Expertise 
Criticize Employees with Care

Monday, May 12, 2014

Confirm the Status Lift from Nonconformity

Henry Kissinger, perhaps best known as the U.S. Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon, is quoted as saying, “The nice thing about being a celebrity is that, if you bore people, they think it’s their fault.”
     Along this same line, if a high status person make a joke which the recipient doesn’t understand, the recipient often accords even higher respect to the joke-maker, thinking that the joke-maker must be smarter than the recipient.
     A variant of this social psychology phenomenon is that if your high-status customer flagrantly violates some norm—such as a dress code—this can lift their status rather than lessen it.
     Researchers at Harvard University asked students to judge the professional status of a teacher. In some cases, the teacher was described as working at a community college; in the rest of the cases, the teacher was described as working at a prestigious university. And some of the participants in each of those two groups was told, among other things, that the teacher was clean-shaven and wore business suits; the other participants in each group were told the teacher had a beard and wore T-shirts.
     The ratty dresser got higher status ratings than the natty dresser if a professor at a prestigious university. The logic seems to be that a person has to have earned truly high credentials before they can get away with rejecting conventions.
     Sell to your shoppers the advantages of violating a norm or two. It can raise their status in the eyes of others. They’ll be trend setters. The Harvard researchers say you can charge premium prices for skillfully guiding your shoppers into selective nonconformity.
     Why not strip shoppers to the full monty of norm violation? Because the phenomenon works only if others perceive transgressions as intentional. This is best accomplished when maintaining an overall tone of conformity.
     There are circumstances under which consumers will strive to use items they associate with a lower socioeconomic status. Consumer psychologists call it “parody display.” Among Americans, tattoos were more popular in low socioeconomic classes before the prevalence moved uptown. Other examples include pickup trucks and blue jeans.
     Behind parody display is the customer’s desire to be distinctive. Everyone else is wearing the aspirational wardrobe. Create a striking image by incorporating artifacts others don’t expect. Smart retailers leverage this motivation via contrast in merchandising. Show the lower-class item surrounded by the usual aspirational things.

Click below for more: 
Plumb for Consumers’ Desire to Slum 
Raise Luxury Prices If Equivalents Drop Prices

Monday, May 5, 2014

Lend Formality When Customers Borrow Items

Sometimes a shopper will debate with himself whether or not to purchase an item because the shopper lacks the equipment to transport or install the item. A deal maker in these cases can be the retailer offering to loan the person the necessary equipment. Other circumstances in which you might invite the shopper to be a borrower include an effort to resolve indecision by sending the person home with a few samples to try out and then return.
     Keeping these arrangements informal makes the shopper feel special, as if the offer is being made to them, although not to everybody. Still, research findings from Bournemouth University in the UK suggest limits on advisable informality. The culprit is ambiguous obligations.
  • What does the borrower owe to the retailer if accepting the offer? “In taking home the samples, do I become ethically obliged to ultimately purchase at least one of them?” “If I don’t accept the offer to borrow the installation equipment, am I required to give the retailer a bunch of other reasons for not making the purchase at this store?” In answering these questions, the consumer may give loyalty to the retailer for the offer of the loan, but it can be a grudging, and therefore short-term, loyalty. 
  • What does the borrower owe to the items? The UK researchers found that borrowers under highly informal circumstances will initially treat the objects less carefully than if they owned the items. This makes it more likely the customer will damage the installation equipment or fail to return the samples. If the retailer enforces contractual obligations afterwards, this easily leaves a residue of ill will. 
     In offering to loan the shopper items, formalize the expectations, such as with a brief agreement the person signs. Resist making the process overly formal, though, just as you’re not making it overly informal.
     Also, allow the customer’s appreciation to arise spontaneously, with minimum prompting. Don’t say, “Take home a few samples, with no obligation on your part.” This is similar to saying to a shopper, “I’ll give you a free estimate with no obligation on your part.” Consumers expect there to be no charge for an estimate, so “free estimate” comes across as bragging about nothing. The consumer then doubts the value of real benefits you describe later.
     Say, “May I run the numbers?,” and in the case of borrowing, “I can loan you the items.”

Click below for more: 
Offer Exclusive Price Discounts Cautiously
Fight Employee Theft With Expectations 
Warm Up Cold Calls