Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ease Purchasers’ Worry About Explaining

Why is it that a shopper will select an item from your store that both they and you know is not the best one for them? In answering that question, we’ll want to exercise some humility. We may think we know what’s best for the customer when, in fact, we don’t. We may think that the shopper agrees with us as to what’s the superior item when, in fact, they don’t.
     There are instances in which consumers buy a unsuitable item in order to push back against what they perceive as excessive sales pressure. It’s called “reactance.” But there are many other instances in which reactance isn’t the motivating force.
     Researchers at University of Cologne and Jacobs University found that one of those motivations is a need to have something to talk about. Participants in their studies sometimes preferred an objectively inferior alternative because the purchase enabled them to form an opinion, with both positives and negatives. The near-perfect alternative didn’t allow for as much conversation. We’re social animals, so we’re more comfortable when we can discuss our choices with others.
     We also worry about social risk. People will hesitate buying a product or service because of fears of what others will think of them when the purchase becomes known. They’ll be called on to explain themselves.
     Ease the concerns by giving purchasers easily remembered explanations for why the superior alternative is best.
     Not that those explanations will necessarily be accurate when coming from experts. Researchers at University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, New York University, and University of British Columbia found that product and service experts don’t stay sufficiently familiar with details of their logic. They’re accustomed to giving advice from habit rather than tracing out the details each time. If pinned down by requests for those details, experts often make up reasons for their conclusions.
     What’s worse is that the experts tend to consider the reasons as genuine. They’ll create false memories on the spot and then accept those memories as real. They don’t know they’re lying.
     Staff members identified as experts are proud of the designation and feel accountable for advice they give. When they can’t recall details in their reasoning, they assume it must have slipped from mind. They dig deeper to fill in the gaps, not realizing the deep digging leads their brains to subconsciously create phony recollections.
     The alibi for purchase could be interesting, but phony.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
React When Faced with Reactance
Ease Social Risk by Accommodating Shyness
Articulate the Reasoning Experts Use
Appeal to the Heart

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sweeten Treat Sales by Being a Sweet Thing

When consumers feel a retailer has been sweet to them, they’re more likely to buy sweets from the retailer.
     Participants in the University of Washington study were assessed for the emotions of general happiness, pride, and gratitude. All the participants were then offered regular salted pretzels and sweet chocolate-covered pretzels. As predicted, those who felt grateful were substantially more likely to eat the sweets than those who were proud or generally happy.
     The researcher’s explanation is that when salespeople treat consumers sweetly, the consumers say to themselves, “That happened because I’m deserving of sweetness,” and the internal talk relaxes resistances to indulgences.
     It’s not only sweet treatment by salespeople which has this effect in a store. When shoppers perceive sweet closeness with the people around them, they also are more likely to succumb to sweet treats. Gratitude draws us closer to others, and the closeness influences us. Researchers at Erasmus University-Rotterdam, Aston University, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven report that when a consumer pulls their arm toward themselves, the consumer becomes more likely to desire short-term pleasure, such as purchasing candy, over longer-term benefits, such as weight control. From infancy on, we subconsciously associate pulling our arms toward ourselves with acquiring pleasurable objects.
     All this works the other way around, too. Pushing an object away from ourselves, such as when navigating a large shopping cart through an aisle, subconsciously potentiates the brain traces of rejecting items which are not immediately pleasurable. This pushing effect is nowhere near as strong as the pulling effect. Sugar has a substantial power of attraction. Still, the Erasmus /Loughborough / KI Leuven researchers hypothesize that requiring a customer to shove open a door to enter a business lowers the likelihood of the purchase of pleasure oriented items.
     Although bringing sensual pleasure, you selling sugary sweets probably isn’t in the best health interests of your customers. So it’s nice to know that the University of Washington researchers concluded that dried fruit with no added sugar could satisfy the urge.
     The greater the extent to which customers say they’re grateful to the retailer for helping to solve a problem or satisfy a need, the more likely the customers are to praise the retailer to others and say they intended to shop with that retailer again. Treat your shoppers in ways which elicit their gratitude. Then be sure you have for sale a selection of treats, including healthy sweet things.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Go for Customer Gratitude and Guilt 
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Abandon Abundance After Attracting

In running your retail business, you expect decisive advice. If I throw you too many “On the one hand…, but on the other hand….” tactics, you’ll get irritated. That’s why I’ve been clear in the past in advising you that presenting an abundance of choices to the shopper who is ready to buy can sabotage the sale. The shopper gets confused.
     But the truth is that behind the curtain, I’ve encountered over the years a number of research studies saying that the more choices you give the shopper, the better the selling probability. Now a report in Journal of Consumer Psychology says that those studies’ conclusions were misleading.
     This report from Northwestern University and Compass Lexecon was a meta-analysis of almost 100 studies of possible choice overload involving a total of more than 7,200 consumers. The evidence is clear that choice overload does happen. Moreover, the new report uses the abundance of study data to say when the phenomenon is most likely:
  • The shopper lacks clear decision criteria 
  • There’s high time pressure 
  • Comparing the items requires mental effort 
  • The shopper wants the choice to be easy 
     You might consider this list of four as no more than glorified common sense—another danger I must avoid in giving you advice. But together, those four support advice from other researchers: Studies at Yale University, University of New South Wales, and Peking University indicate that you can avoid choice overload by encouraging the shopper to think in more abstract ways, such as about features the items have in common rather than considering each item in the choice as unique.
     Similarly, researchers at University of Delaware and University of Pennsylvania discovered that a way to keep shoppers engaged is to encourage them to focus on product features rather than item alternatives. With the features in mind, the person can start rating each alternative until coming to a decision.
     Large product assortments attract shoppers to a store, but once there, many of the shoppers avoid making a purchase because they’re not sure what’s best. Nagged by indecision, they might leave the store.
     In your marketing, point out how you offer a large number of choices. When a browser starts the shopping with you, display categories within categories to highlight the abundance of alternatives.
     Then stay alert to evidence of choice overload. If you spot the evidence, abandon the appeal of abundance.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
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Monday, April 20, 2015

Resolve to Leave with Resolution

Two charities have asked your store to participate with them in a fund-raising campaign. One is named “Feed the Children,” the other, “Stop Child Hunger.” You’d prefer to collaborate with a charity that will be around for a while so the personality of the partnership will strengthen in your customers’ minds. Considering just the names alone, which of those two charities has better prospects for longevity?
     Before reading on in this blog posting, please make your guess and think about why you chose that one. Is it “Feed the Children” or “Stop Child Hunger”?
     University of Utah researchers, before formulating their answer to that question, analyzed ten years’ worth of financial data from a group of nonprofits and tracked actual donation behavior for a couple nonprofits.
     The results indicated that “Feed the Children” would last longer. The reason is that consumers prefer to spend their money on supporting the positive than on fighting against the negative. Consumers seek an uplifting denouement—an end to the story which draws together the threads of the plot.
     “Stop Child Hunger” does tug at the emotions more than does the promise of a positive resolution. Of the two alternatives in the short term, it’s likely to draw more money from consumers. Shock is powerful.
     Researchers at Bangor University, Glyndwr University, and Loughborough University say they were shocked, absolutely shocked. The cause was the use of shock itself, specifically the broad consumer acceptance of shocking images and descriptions in advertising. A TV ad from the early 2000’s for a product called X-cite employed shockvertising to convince the viewer that using the product would eliminate what the ad referred to as “dog breath.” The ad starts with a disheveled man awakening on a couch. The man opens his mouth and, via special effects magic, regurgitates a dog.
     Shocking images and descriptions trigger storytelling in the consumer’s mind. Once having been stopped in their tracks, the viewers ask themselves questions like “What is happening here?,” “What led up to this scene?,” and “What’s likely to happen next?” They spend more time contemplating the situation and, we hope, thinking about the product.
     But to close the sale, remember to give potential donors and purchasers a positive, morally correct resolution to the story they’re telling themselves. The X-cite ad ends with the man quickly swallowing a tablet before being happily kissed by a woman who’s entered the room.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Realize the Dream

I look for the dream before I look at the merchandise. That’s where I start when I come into a store as a retail consultant.
     My bio sketch says I’m a “nosy shopper.” Yes, I do have limitless curiosity about why people buy and don’t. But my inquisitiveness extends to seeking what the retailer has in mind for their store and how they define success for themselves.
     Making money is up there at the top, as it should be. There must be adequate profitability if the business or professional practice is to survive. With the best of the retailers I’ve seen, also at the top is the drive to serve the community with competence. Central to the dream is pride in performance.
     Achieving the dream requires perseverance. In fact, the dream will probably never be fully achieved. The richest, most satisfying dreams evolve rather than end. The gossamer coalesces into concrete form, which soon gets gauzy again for a while.
     To muster and maintain that perseverance, avoid continuous monitoring of how far we need to go to achieve those long-term, somewhat fuzzy goals. When a retailer carefully monitors results toward achieving long-term goals they’ve set, one consequence is that time seems to pass more slowly for the retailer. And that, in turn, makes the goal seem more distant. The best solution is to regularly monitor how far we’ve already progressed toward each clearly defined business objective.
     Realizing what the dream is can be tougher if you’re taking over the family business. It doesn’t work well to live out somebody else’s dream, especially when the somebody else drops by regularly. Investigators at Boston Consulting Group and Cambridge Advisors to Family Enterprise say that only about one out of every ten privately-held businesses makes it through to the third generation.
     The sentiment transcends languages and cultures, as evidenced in the English-language versions of these maxims:
  • “Father merchant, son gentleman, grandson beggar” (Mexico) 
  • “Rich father, noble son, poor grandson” (Brazil) 
  • “From the stables to the stars and back to the stables” (Italy) 
  • “Wealth never survives three generations” (China) 
     Family-founded business or not, every store comes with a history. Regularly check that if I come to visit your place, the dream I’ll see is yours. Recognize what it is and achieve it. Realize your dream.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Monitor Your Progress Toward Objectives
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Monday, April 13, 2015

Look It Up: Abstract Benefits Above Shoppers

Features of products you sell can be concrete—such as the average time between repairs—or abstract—such as a general claim of high quality. According to Ghent University researchers, shoppers are relatively more interested in concrete features when gazing down at the merchandise and relatively more interested in abstract claims when peering up.
     Consumers in the studies had been asked to state which of two printers they preferred. One printer was described as reliable and the other as being of high quality. Those consumers who needed to look down to see the printers favored the “reliable” printer on average. Those consumers who needed to look up tended to prefer the “high quality” printer.
     The researchers explain their findings by saying that we’re more attentive to details when our heads are facing downward because we’re accustomed to items below us being close, and therefore of potentially greater danger than items we look up to see.
     These remnants of body movements were also seen in earlier experiments. When a consumer pulls their arm toward themselves, the consumer becomes more likely to purchase short-term pleasure over longer-term benefits. Have the restaurant patron lift the water glass to mouth to quaff the contents instead of drinking through a straw, and the potential for ordering dessert climbs. When a shopper uses a basket instead of a cart in a grocery store, the shopper is almost seven times as likely to purchase candy bars rather than fruit as a snack.
     Over our lifetimes, our brains subconsciously associate pulling our arms toward ourselves with acquiring pleasurable objects. Pulling the arm toward the body activates subconscious expectations of short-term pleasure, and the arm pullers look to fulfill those expectations.
     It also works the other way around: Pushing an object away from ourselves, such as when navigating a large shopping cart through an aisle, subconsciously potentiates the brain traces of rejecting items which are not immediately pleasurable.
     Smart retailers have known for a while that when a prospective customer nods their head up and down—even if the nod comes from reading a brochure using narrow columns—the person becomes more likely to complete the purchase.
     The effects are subtle, Still, how a shopper moves not only projects their buying intentions, but also influences their buying intentions.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Get Strange to Ease Shopper Guilt

Want to ease your customers’ guilt about buying items they might otherwise deny themselves? Prominently display on the walls of your store photos of people engaging in unusual exciting activities. The reason this works, say researchers at University of Texas-Arlington and Quinnipiac University, is that such photos increase the flexibility of consumers’ thinking.
     In their studies, the researchers saw other tactics working in the same way:
  • Asking shoppers to talk about strange pleasant experiences they themselves have had 
  • Encouraging shoppers to focus on similarities among items being considered for purchase rather than emphasizing the differences 
  • Describing to shoppers foods primarily associated with one meal during the day—such as sausages for breakfast—as also being able to fit well on menus for the other daily meals 
     The tactics made the most difference with shoppers concerned that what they were ready to purchase wouldn’t be good for them. They were the kinds of people who worry excessively about what might go wrong in the distant future.
     To be sure, things can go wrong in the future and there are items shoppers would be unwise to purchase. Sugary treats for diabetics and expensive construction for financially-strapped homeowners. The Texas/Quinnipac researchers remind you and me to use the cognitive flexibility enhancement tactics ethically.
     On my own, I’m also reminded of an experience in 2011 at Sterling’s, the white tablecloth establishment in Reno, Nevada’s Silver Legacy hotel. I was in the area to fulfill my periodic intensive-format course responsibilities on the teaching faculty at University of Nevada-Reno Extended Studies, as I’ll be doing again next week.
     During my 2011 visit, the Sterling’s waiter asked if he might tell me about “a very special special,” a Kobe beef hamburger. He leaned down to speak more softly into my ear. “It is priced at $39 tonight.”
     I was ready to reply, “Does the $39 include the pickles?” But what stopped me was the realization, popping out of my longer-term memory, that Kobe beef comes from only one country—Japan, and my more recently stored memory of all the nuclear trauma there. So I replied, “Does the Kobe beef hamburger shine in the dark?”
     Judging by the glance I received from the waiter, I concluded mine had not been a white tablecloth question.
     Consumer psychology research findings argue that my waiter should have shown me or asked me to visualize pleasant scenes of exciting adventures in Japan.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Spice Up Store Sales

Introduce a cinnamon fragrance and the drive to make purchases wafts through the air. That’s the conclusion from a set of studies in retail stores by Stevens Institute of Technology, City University of New York, and Temple University researchers.
     At last, consumer behavior science has pinned down the reason retail sales go up so sharply around Christmas. Cinnamon is a frequent olfactory accompaniment to the holiday shopping season, right?
     But, no, I guess the extra sales have more to do with the spirit of gifting and spirited promotions. So how do we explain why cinnamon odor boosted buying substantially more than did a peppermint fragrance?
     It has to do with power. Cinnamon as well as vanilla scents led consumers in store spaces to feel warmer and more crowded. This aroused in them a desire for dominance in order to prevail over any interpersonal friction, and that desire led, in turn, to an urge to buy items, especially luxury items which would distinguish the purchaser from others. Peppermint, on the other hand, is a cool fragrance which didn’t set off a sense of being crowded.
     Burning fragranced candles, spraying a scent from a can, or using a fragrance diffuser does influence shopper’s behavior. The right store fragrance causes more people to buy and builds your store’s brand identity.
     Smells certainly can pace shoppers. The odor from a dirty restroom, ripe garbage, or even an excessively intense dose of a favorite fragrance will rush the shopper right along toward the exit.
     On the positive side, researchers at Drake University in Iowa and Washington State University report that fragrances in a store distort the customer’s sense of time. People shopping in scented surroundings find that time passes more slowly. The result is that consumers generally stay longer in the store. When research subjects shopped in a no-scent environment, time tended to drag. If not able to check themselves against a clock, these shoppers estimated the duration spent shopping as being much longer than it actually was.
     Use pleasant fragrances which are already familiar to the shopper or which you make familiar through repetition. If a smell hasn’t been encountered before, with associations stored in the brain, it will be complicated for the shopper to decode, so the advantages of instant, subconscious influence are lost.
     Still, even the best olfactory plans can be sabotaged when the store browsers wearing their own fragrances circulate.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Confide in Shoppers for Calibrated Confidence

We’d like our patrons to be both confident and what consumer psychologists call “well-calibrated.” In well-calibrated customers, there’s no more than a small discrepancy between self-perceptions of expertise about the purchase alternatives and objective measures of knowledge about the purchase alternatives. Any consumer confidence is deserved. At the other extreme, poorly calibrated customers don’t have an accurate appraisal of how much they know.
     Poorly calibrated shoppers could be either overconfident or underconfident. Researchers at Cranfield University in England collected data about the post-purchase problems with each type that could disrupt return visits to your store.
     Compared to customers who are well-calibrated, the overconfident and underconfident are especially likely to afterwards rate their purchases less favorably. With overconfident consumers, this is because the people purchase too quickly, paying inadequate attention to what will fit their needs, and they underestimate how much learning will be required to get the best from the item. This also can lead to them misusing the item and subsequently rating the performance of the item as lower quality. On the other hand, underconfident consumers put unnecessary time and energy into mastering the item, so they end up seeing the shopping, purchase, and usage as inefficient.
     With attention being drawn to effectiveness and efficiency assessments, overconfidence and underconfidence result in purchasers giving less credit to skilled product design and aesthetic appeal than is given by well-calibrated consumers.
     Playing around with a product or playing around with the idea of purchasing a product or service helps calibrate shoppers. Unfortunately, high levels of overconfidence and underconfidence disrupt a willingness to play around during the purchase process.
     Prior studies found that well-calibrated shoppers are more likely to seek out helpful information than are the overconfident and underconfident. People who believe they know lots about a product or service category or think they know only a little about it usually ask fewer questions than do the shoppers who figure they know a moderate amount. People perceiving little knowledge say they couldn't think of questions to ask. And those who believe they have lots of knowledge? One reason they limit their inquiries is that they fear looking like less than experts in front of others in the store.
     To improve shopper calibration, confide information about the challenges in getting the best from the item being considered for purchase. The Cranfield researchers point out how pre-purchase marketing often sets unrealistic expectations in shoppers.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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