Monday, August 31, 2015

Beware the Rushin’ Language

Store visitors who feel rushed find the shopping experience to be less pleasant. Researchers at Stanford University, Duke University, and Erasmus University noted that those feelings could be turned to a retailer’s advantage. The visitors might pay a higher price to have the time pressure reduced, such as by the retailer assuming responsibility for making decisions and taking actions. However, in many other cases, rushed shoppers will put off completing the purchase and, instead, scurry out the door.
     To address that issue, the researchers investigated what leads store visitors to feel under tight time pressure even when time is not, in fact, tight. They discovered it has to do with goal conflict. Shoppers who perceive they’re in a rush often are having trouble balancing tradeoffs among item alternatives or between buying and not buying anything at all.
     Other research finds that shoppers who feel in a rush make unwise decisions. In a study at University of Memphis, Wayne State University, and India’s IFHE, participants were presented with a deal that was clearly phony on close examination. Those who felt under time pressure gave the phony deal twice as much credibility as those not feeling under time pressure.
     When words and body language indicate your prospective customer is rushing, choose from these research-based remedial actions:
  • Simplify those decisions the shopper needs to make on their own. A pressure cooker shopper may be accompanied by children or a spouse. They respond best to methodically considering one purchase choice at a time. 
  • Assess whether the shopper is in a positive mood or negative mood. The parent shopping for children’s medicine is probably feeling bad. The Valentine’s Day bouquet bon vivant is likely to be in a positive mood. When a shopper is in a positive mood, their decision making is more flexible than when they’re in a negative mood, and they’re more likely to persevere in the shopping process. Decide on your recommended purchase alternative and talk about how the positives outweigh the negatives. But when the shopper is in a negative mood, quickly decide on your recommended purchase and then talk about how it is the least bad alternative. Be ready to answer questions about the negatives of each alternative. 
  • Have the shopper take one or two deep breaths. How to accomplish that? Take a deep breath yourself and smile gently. Like a yawn, deep breathing and gentle smiling are both contagious. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Stomp Discount Scams from High Time Pressure
Simplify for the Shopper
Clock Customer Actions to Fit Time Metaphors
Let Customers Take Their Time
Attend to Negatives When High Time Pressure

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Forget About Letting Shoppers Forget to Buy

One of the more puzzling findings in the history of consumer behavior research came from Duke University, UCLA, and University of Florida: People who carry around the store shopping lists they created in advance—the consumer trying to remember what they need and what the store carries—end up more likely to make purchases they will later regret than do people who don’t make a shopping list in advance.
     Probably for as long as retailing has existed, shoppers have been advised to compose a list before entering the store. The shopping list protects against unwise impulsive purchases, it’s said. With list in hand, the shopper can relax enough to have fun, knowing they’ll get what they need, but not much more.
     How could it be that making a shopping list wouldn’t be a good idea? The most common explanation has been that creating a shopping list from memory uses mental energy. Every shopper has a limited pool of mental energy, and when a great deal of it is consumed in making the list, there is less mental energy remaining to resist the foolish, unhealthy, even sinful items.
     But a good shopping list has an important function beyond protecting against impulsive purchases. It also checks that the consumer won’t forget to buy the items they came for. Studies at Cornell University, University of Sydney, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, and Erasmus University took this perspective with studies that culminated in recommendations for retailers how to help ensure shoppers remember to buy what is needed and wanted while the shopper is still in the retailer’s store.
     The studies found that the items most likely to be forgotten are the ones purchased infrequently. The retailer can help by placing reminders of these items in store areas generally visited by shoppers. Because good business advice is to stock best sellers in higher traffic areas, the reminders to be used for the less popular items probably shouldn’t be the items themselves. Instead, remind via a picture along with a note of the item’s location in the store. Signage for these relatively infrequently bought items should take priority over signage for frequently bought items, since the shopper is more likely to remember what they’ve forgotten with habitual purchases.
     All this decreases dependence on the shopping list. That’s fine, for surveys conclude most people, and especially the increasingly common time-stressed consumers, don’t prepare a shopping list in advance anyway.

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

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Influence Shopping List Behavior
Encourage Stimulus-Based Shopping Lists
Tempt the Right Shoppers in the Right Ways

Monday, August 24, 2015

Orchestrate Purchase Intentions

Want your diners to accept relatively unconventional, higher-priced Indian food at the restaurant? Play relatively unconventional Indian music, but melodies easily identifiable as Indian in nature. Want to overcome reluctance in your store shoppers to buy personal hygiene products? You’ll do better playing country music instead of classical music in the background. But if it’s appearance enhancement items you’re aiming to sell today, the classical music is the orchestration of choice.
     The Australian researchers, at Curtin University and Macquarie University, whose studies are behind these recommendations view the music as providing a nudge more than a shove. The desire to purchase the product or service must already be there. The melodies reduce the resistances. But once having done that, the effect is to increase not only the probability of choosing the item, but also the willingness to pay a higher price for it.
     When it’s items with an ethnic identity you want to sell, the corresponding ethnic music sets the right mood. For all selling, say the researchers, a major distinction is between what music will work with pragmatic items like tools, appliances, and personal hygiene products and what will work with sophisticated items like jewelry, wine, formal attire, and luxury cars.
     Other studies find that an additional distinction when using music in retail is the degree of intrusiveness. If you want the shopper to carefully analyze the purchase decision, use music that is barely noticeable. Researchers at Columbia University and Northwestern University determined that when a customer listens to the music in the store, attention is diverted from analyzing the purchase decision. If you’re wanting shoppers to try new brands or new products, minimize intrusive music.
     Based on those same research findings, use noticeable music—such as music with lyrics—if you both expect and want the shopper to select items from habit without much thought. Noticeable music helps head off arguments the shopper might make to themselves about the purchase.
     A while back, a business professor from University of Virginia and the executive director of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra found that frequent changes in the harmonies, texture, or tempo amplify the intrusiveness of music both in-store and in ads. As part of an ancient survival mechanism, our human brains are wired to put top importance on processing unanticipated background sound changes. Our prehistoric ancestors found this skill valuable for sensing danger and homing in on high-protein meals.

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

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Space Out for the Hoity-Toity

People are attracted by the sight of a crowd, yet consumers aren’t necessarily more likely to select items from crowded locations in a store. Researchers at New York University and University of Pennsylvania who tracked the paths and purchases of grocery store shoppers found that social density exerted a pull, but once the shoppers arrived, the speed of market basket expenditure additions slowed considerably. It might be because items are more difficult to get to when there’s a crowd around or because the fascination of the crowd draws attention away from the shopping task.
     Researchers at University of Kansas, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and University of Toronto have also explored the effects of social density on consumer decision making. One major effect they uncovered was a retreat to safety. Shoppers who encountered crowds of unfamiliar bodies preferred to shop for their headache relievers at a pharmacy than at a convenience store. In casinos, crowding moved typical gamblers toward less risky wagers. Lower risk taking cuts into enthusiasm about making big purchases.
     Another reason for lower market basket totals in crowded areas is that sparse social densities lead consumers to higher estimates of prices and increased willingness to pay those prices. In verifying this, another study at University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Kansas discovered how one motivation was the assumption of consumers that if there are fewer shoppers in a store, those shoppers are more likely to be hoity-toity—people with money, prestige, and selectivity. Hobnobbing with the hoity-toity away from the hoi polloi—the common people--carries value.
     If you intend your store or areas of your store to appeal to those with money, prestige, and selectivity, give shoppers enough space to stretch out. Similarly, space out the merchandise so that no shopper must touch any other, or even ask for permission to pass, when reaching out to lift an item.
     It might seem that allowing all this room for merchandising the high-profit-margin items isn’t wise, since you’ll be able to show only a limited number of them. However, a whole stream of consumer research has found that scarcity also leads to higher estimates of prices and increased willingness to pay those prices. In addition, researchers at Columbia University and University of British Columbia find that shoppers in less spatially dense surroundings are less demanding of variety in the types of items and in the brands of items offered to them.

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

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Form Crowds Into In-Groups
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Monday, August 17, 2015

Say Thanks, Keep the Change

When thanking a customer, you could be better off not adding a monetary reward.
     Researchers at Duke University, University of Pittsburgh, and Vanderbilt University found that consumers reacted positively to an expression of gratitude, but negatively when a trivial amount of money was added. The researchers’ explanation is that the smallness of the financial reward made the thanks seem small.
     I agree, but I see another explanation as well: When a salesperson gives money as an expression of gratitude, there’s a risk the salesperson will figure the money does the trick, and they’ll neglect the importance of a genuine face-to-face or handwritten thank you. They can forget that the customer’s purchase is itself a thanks, which helps the store owner and the sales employees pay their bills. And a thank you from the customer deserves a heartfelt thanks in return.
     Still, it’s possible to thank customers too much. Researchers at University of California-Riverside, Boston College, and Southern Methodist University assessed the repurchase behavior over a three year period of customers who were thanked repeatedly by the retailer. The researchers found that when there were too many thanks, the recipient began to see it as more of a sales pitch than as genuine appreciation. There were fewer repurchases from customers who indicated to the researchers that this tipping point had been exceeded.
     How to avoid the risks?
  • Find out which channels each consumer prefers for messages. Repurchasing dropped faster when a customer liked a personal telephone call, but was getting thanked via e-mail. For most customers, a grammatically correct handwritten note is a welcome break from text messages.
  • Add unpredictability. A surprise thanks comes across as more genuine than an obviously scheduled one. Researchers at Yale University and Carnegie Mellon University found that a surprise gift to commercial bank customers resulted in significantly higher deposit account balances.
    Still want to augment the thanks with a little monetary reward? Here are two tactics:
  • If it’s a modest amount, like a real estate agent giving a $25 gift certificate as a thanks for a sale, describe it as a high point on a range: “We like to give $10 to $30 gift certificates as thanks.” 
  • If the amount is truly trivial, explain that it will be pooled with rewards given to others and contributed to charity.
    In the Duke/Pittsburgh/Vanderbilt study, both these eliminated the negative pull from the financial thanks.

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

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Humanize the Item into a Salesperson

A shopper’s temptation to purchase an item can trigger the shopper’s drive for self-control, making it less likely the purchase will be made. Using consumer psychology insights, clever retailers have found ways to dilute the self-control. Some of those ways are surprising because of how well they work. Researchers at Technical University of Lisbon and at Tilburg University in the Netherlands found that people who resisted eating a tempting product were more likely to overcome their hesitations when presented with small packages than when presented the equivalent amount in a large package. The people who got started on the small packages ended up eating more than did those who dug into the large package. The participants had said they believed small packages would help them limit their consumption. The opposite proved to be true.
     Other techniques for diluting the self-control carry surprises in why they work. An example is in the effects of anthropomorphism, which means giving human characteristics to an item for sale. This might come from how the item looks, in a picture or name of a person on the packaging, or in the way an advertisement or the salesperson describes the item. It’s been thought the reason this works is that anthropomorphism makes the item more friendly. Researchers at Northwestern University, University of Cologne, and South Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University find another influential reason it works is that a properly anthropomorphized item gains the persuasiveness of a human salesperson. This decreases the shopper’s feelings of responsibility for purchasing the item. They can blame the item for them giving in, just as they would blame a compelling sales pitch. “I couldn’t help myself.”
     In using this tactic to improve sales, do stay aware of three cautions:
  • There must be a desire for the item in the first place. The tactic does not, in itself, stimulate the desire. However, the Northwestern / Cologne / Sungkyunkwan researchers say the desire need be only sufficiently large to motivate purchase when the self-control resistance is diluted. 
  • Use the tactic ethically. Those researchers expressed clear concerns about misapplications of anthropomorphism in public health initiatives. I take responsibility for applying the research findings to selling sweet temptations. 
  • Stop short of making the human appeal so precious it could impede consumption. The very first example of anthropomorphism given by the researchers was for Crunchy Cheetos snacks: “Schedule a break with some crunchy orange friends. Then eat your friends.” 
Click below for more: 
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Monday, August 10, 2015

Impress Without Intimidating

A modest degree of modesty facilitates the sale of prestige items in any store and any items in a prestige store. Researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv University found that brands perceived as arrogant cause a conflicted response: The typical shopper is attracted by the exclusivity and implications of high quality, but repelled by feelings of personal inadequacy.
     An image of hubris might be set off by salespersons’ haughty pride. The reputation of the product can set it off, too. Columbia University researchers noted the outcomes when shoppers viewing themselves as uncreative thought about purchasing an Apple computer—considered to have a creative product personality. The thinking about the purchasing led to the shoppers’ estimates of the Apple computer’s creativity growing greater. The shoppers felt themselves to be competing on creativity with the product. This made them less likely to say they’d want to buy it.
     The Columbia researchers suggest that, before pushing to close the sale, the retailer build the shopper’s confidence in having personality traits which would be strengthened further if the product is purchased. With an Apple computer, for instance, help the consumer reveal their creativity to themselves and then show ways in which the product can help the owner become more creative.
     You’re raising the prestige of the shoppers, not lowering the prestige of the brand. Doing it the other way around carries risks. Advertise and publicize how you consider your retail business to be excellent, but not perfect. Say you’re always looking for ways to get even better. But don’t push the humility too hard.
     Harvard University researchers used as their study sample owners of Prada handbags. All the participants were asked to consider a situation where every visitor to a boutique shop was offered, at no charge, a luxury-quality shopping bag graced with the Prada logo. Then one group of the study participants were also told that accepting the shopping bag led to the consumer admiring the Prada brand. The other group of study participants were told, instead, that accepting the shopping bag led to the consumer feeling like a part of the Prada community.
     The group who’d been told the recipients admired the brand said the gifting had raised the image. The other group said the gifting cheapened the image of the brand. Having people consider themselves part of the luxury community without making a luxury purchase had that effect.

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

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Saturate Your Store with Sweet Smiles

Smiling signage and packaging boost purchase intentions. Researchers at University of Rochester, University of Oxford, Giessen University, and Universidad de La Sabana had study participants view tea, juice, and shampoo items. In some cases, the labeling for the item carried a concave, smile-like, line, while in other cases, there was a convex, frown-like, line. The subtle cue was enough to influence ratings of the items and the participants’ declared purchase intentions. They rated the items more favorably and were more likely to say they’d buy the items after seeing labeling reminiscent of a smile.
     With additional groups of participants, the labeling carried either a straight line or no line at all. After analyzing the results from these consumers, the researchers concluded that the purchase pull upwards for the smiling line was stronger than the purchase pull downwards for the frowning line. The smile is both more positive and more powerful than the frown. An implication I see in this additional finding is that a salesperson shouldn’t hesitate to frown in facing a shopper when that frown shows genuine concern about a shopper’s problem. This can be followed by a sweet smile when the problem’s addressed.
     Smiles, whether spotted on signage or faces, set the tone. Let’s say a sales clerk looks up at the approaching shopper and smiles gently. If that event is followed by a sincere greeting from the cashier as the shopper passes by, the shopper is likely to consider the cashier’s greeting to be sincere and welcoming. This is less likely if the shopper had received no more than a cold stare from the sales clerk when entering the store.
     Researchers at University of California-San Diego University of Michigan, and University of Wisconsin-Madison offered thirsty study participants a serving of a beverage. Along with this, some were exposed to a brief image of a frowning face and some to a brief image of a smiling face. The exposure was so brief that any notice of the emotion would almost surely be subconscious.
     The thirsty people shown the smiling face didn’t report feeling much different from those shown the frowning face. However, those shown the smiling face poured more beverage from the pitcher into their cup, drank more from their cup, and were willing to pay about twice as much for the beverage. A smile—even one so brief as to have no conscious effect—made for more motivated consumers.

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

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Shape Customer Reviews to Your Advantage

You’ve limited influence over what your shoppers choose to post in reviews about your store. Hard sell pitches for positive comments risk irritating even those consumers who do have praise for you. However, knowing the ways in which prospective customers interpret the reviews they encounter does allow you influence over how you use whatever reviews which are posted. A few of the research findings point out unexpected exceptions to the general rules:
  • People who aren’t highly familiar with your store will look at summary ratings, such as the average number of stars you were given by raters. However, researchers at Germany’s University of Mainz found that a single or small set of positive comments carries substantial weight, even if potential customers don’t perceive it as representing the average opinion. This fits with the general consumer psychology finding that a good story is usually more influential than a set of statistics. The implication for you: In portraying your reviews to prospects, accentuate the positive stories. 
  • In general, consumers consider recent reviews to be more valuable than old reviews. But researchers at China’s Fudan University uncovered an exception to this: When shoppers are thinking of purchases for use in the somewhat distant future, their interest dramatically increases in older reviews. It has to do with both the past and the future being more abstract than the present, so the consumer’s brain perceives a better match. The implication here: If there’s a review from the past you want to highlight, talk about it in terms of the prospect’s purchase being for the long-term. 
  • It might seem that anonymity would be helpful when a review about you is negative. Readers would figure the reviewer with the criticism is hiding out to avoid responsibility for their statements. This would make the review less credible and therefore less influential. Yet this power of the identification doesn’t show as reliably as you might think. Researchers at Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, and University of South Carolina say that when a reader is unsure about the identity of a negative reviewer, they often assume the reviewer is like them, adding credibility to the review. But when a negative reviewer’s clearly identified and the shopper’s already developed positive feelings about the store or product, the shopper often emphasizes the ways in which they are different from the reviewer. They want to continue liking the item. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Craft Powerful Stories
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