Thursday, January 28, 2016

Single Out Cash Payment

People feel less pain paying by credit card than cash. They’re likely to purchase more and accept somewhat higher prices for items they desire.
     Still, Duke University and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill researchers found certain sorts of value to retailers in that pain of cash payment, benefits which go beyond you avoiding the bank fee from credit card transactions: Shoppers who pay with cash instead of a credit card subsequently feel more emotionally connected to the item they purchase and to the store where they made the purchase. Their interest in alternative items and sources of supply decreases, so the potential for repeat purchases increases. And your cash customers are a little more likely than your credit card payers to recommend you to friends and family.
     One implication of all this is that when a customer has decided on a single purchase and, in your judgment, is unlikely to purchase more during that visit, encourage cash payment.
     The idea of a bit of pain leading to increased commitment by purchasers is not new in shopper psychology research. And in all of it, the issue is whether the pain is so substantial that it discourages the shopper from becoming a purchaser in the first place. Control for this and also for your own discomfort. Unlike with credit card transactions, cash payments often require you to give change. 
     Well, since it’s a dirty bother anyway, consider the advantages of doing it with dirty money. Actually, dirty money change hedges your bets in case you were wrong and the customer might make further purchases. Researchers at Canada’s University of Guelph and University of Winnipeg found that when people are given their change in bills looking worn out, the people want to get rid of the bills quickly. This is the perfect time for you, the retailer, to promptly offer the person another item to buy from you, before the worn-out bills get hidden in the wallet, purse, or pocket.
     To enhance the effect, give change for cash purchases using bills of varied denominations. Researchers at University of Iowa found that a shopper with a single $100 bill was less likely to make purchases than a shopper with five $20 bills. The increased bulk of five bills makes it subconsciously feel like greater wealth than a single bill does. More than this, consumers have a measurable resistance to breaking a large bill.

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

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Inject Spending Power into Shoppers’ Pockets
Rough Up Customers a Bit
Clean Money, Cleaner Sale
Arouse Money Thoughts for Quicker Decisions

Monday, January 25, 2016

Drive Personalization by Fostering Narcissism

The use of digital technologies in retail sales at each step from the manufacturing floor to the store floor generates shoppers’ thirst for item personalization. Personalization goes beyond customization in that personalization takes into account the characteristics of the particular consumer.
     The degree of thirst depends on the nature of the item. In a Washington State University, University of St. Gallen, and Ruhr University Bochum study, the interest in personalization was greatest for vacations, computers, and autos among the twelve categories asked about. It was lower for perfumes, shirts, and athletic shoes. But the overall likelihood across the categories was about 47%.
     Because purchasers are happier with personalized items and less likely to return them to the retailer later, encourage personalization. A further set of studies by the Washington/St. Gallen/Ruhr team found that fostering narcissism in a shopper will drive an urge for personalization. The experimenters found that all it took in some cases was a phrase: “You impress” produced higher narcissism and, consequently, a greater thirst for personalization, than did “You belong.” One reason it’s not so tough is the trend in society toward greater narcissism.
     Extreme narcissism as a long-term personality trait is considered by mental health professionals to be a psychiatric disorder, since it disrupts activities of daily living. But raising narcissistic tendencies for the duration of a sales transaction is a far cry from producing pathology. The short-term narcissist wants to be the center of attention, enjoys influencing others, and believes they deserve exceptional treatment. A skilled retail salesperson can make all those happen.
     When selecting a gift, personalization requires the shopper to think in depth about the recipient and so enables presentation of the gift in an especially meaningful way. This dynamic holds true for more than adults. People like to personalize for the children and even for the pets they love.
     At the same time, personalization demands knowledge of what alternatives are available and of the tradeoffs when selecting among combinations of options. The shopper may ask you for help. How much direction should you provide?
     Research findings from University of Colorado, Florida State University, and Indiana University indicate you should guide the shopper toward brands that carry a less dominant product personality. When trying to personalize strong brands, the gift shopper felt they needed to share credit with the brand’s design staff for the outcome. They ended up less pleased with their personalization.

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

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Share the Decision Discomfort

When friends are all shopping together, there are some members of the group who will seek out what's different from what others are selecting. Therefore, it's useful for you to have sufficient variety in each of the product types you carry. Others will want to buy exactly what their friends are buying, so it's useful for you to have enough stock of the particular items.
     Then there are the group members who agonize over whether to be a conformist or an individualist, wrestling with themselves about the tradeoffs. Researchers at University of Pennsylvania and Ono Academic College discovered that when one of the shoppers does this, it has a predictable effect on the others: The friends become more likely to select whatever the agonizer ends up picking. The researchers say it’s because the others empathize with the indecisive shopper.
     Because this process speeds up the sales transactions for the group as a whole, it is to your advantage, retailer, to spread the news of the discomfort. Ask the shopper to discuss those tradeoffs with their shopping partners. Doing this carries the bonus benefit of the shopper reducing social risk barriers to buying. The social risk question is, “If the people I admire know I'm using this product or service, am I in danger of falling out of favor with them?”
     There’s also the “misery loves company” consideration. The Pennsylvania/Ono researchers realized the discomfort of public indecision is more than trivial. Social psychologists at Vanderbilt University have verified that when we’re in stressful circumstances, being with others suffering the same fate provides support that boosts our tolerance. People can complain to each other and commiserate. They find comfort in their social bonds.
     But if the sharing of indecision pain goes on for too long, you’ll want to rein it in. Research findings from University of South Carolina, Loyola University, and Baruch College suggest that one tool you have for doing this is the phrasing of a certain preferences question:
  • If you ask your shopper, “What about this product do you like that your friends would also like?,” this prompts individual distinctiveness, since it puts your shopper in the role of advisor and perhaps opinion leader. 
  • On the other hand, if you ask your shopper, “What about this product do your friends like and you also like?,” this prompts the shopper to think about the comfort of adhering to group preferences. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Expect Shopper Conformity & Variety Seeking
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Monday, January 18, 2016

Round Up Benefits for the Shopper

To portray longer-lasting benefits, describe aspects of the product by using round numbers. Based on their findings, researchers at University of Texas-San Antonio say that, for instance, an energy drink touting “200 mg caffeine” will be perceived as working for a longer time than one touting a higher “203 mg caffeine.” A no-iron shirt claim will garner higher trust if it’s said to last for 40 washes rather than 39 washes.
     The researchers attribute this to round numbers feeling more stable. Researchers from University of Florida and National University of Singapore give a related explanation for their similar findings: Rounded numbers, like 10 or 200, are encountered in daily life more often than non-rounded numbers, like 9 or 203, and familiarity builds trust.
     Please be sure to note that this effect doesn’t always apply to time quantities, such as for the duration of the benefit itself. For this second purpose, the use of fine-grained quotes has a different effect depending on the context. In a University of Michigan study, consumers chose between two GPS units, the first described as giving excellent guidance for two hours between recharges and the second, a somewhat more expensive unit, described as doing this for three hours. But for some of the study participants, the descriptions were stated in minutes instead of rounded hours. This made a difference. With the group given the estimates in rounded hours, 26% selected the less-expensive unit, while for the group given the estimates in the more fine-grained minutes, 57% chose the less-expensive unit.
     In a study producing different results, researchers at Ghent University in Belgium and Tilburg University in the Netherlands asked consumers to compare the advantages of a seven-year and a nine-year warranty on a retail item. To one group, the duration was stated as seven years compared to nine years. To another group, the identical duration was stated as 84 months compared to 108 months. Those consumers presented the months figures saw the difference between the warranties as larger than did the consumers hearing the comparison in years.
     The primary rule is to give time estimates in measurement units familiar to the shopper. Other research from Ghent University indicates that if you were to start talking about warranty lengths in hours or minutes or caffeine boost in fractions of a week, your shoppers would consider this odd enough to think less of the retail offering overall.

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

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mimic Me, My Pretty

Flattery of the shopper and feelings of familiarity facilitate purchasing. One way to accomplish both is for a salesperson to copy a few of the gestures and repeat some of the phrases used by the shopper. People are flattered when others imitate them, as long as it clearly is not ridicule. The flattery does not need to be genuine, although it shouldn’t be flagrantly false. And having someone subtly mirror your behavior makes that other person more familiar to you. This relaxes barriers to trust, so you’re more willing to comply with requests.
     If using this tactic, listen carefully not only to words the shopper is using, but also to their tone of voice. Watch the shopper’s gestures and their facial expressions. Figure out how they all go together. 
     Then establish your attractiveness to the shopper. Researchers at Florida Atlantic University and University of Social Sciences and Humanities-Warsaw found that store customers spent the most money and gave the highest customer service ratings when mimicked by a salesperson who the customers considered to be attractive. Those customers interacting with a salesperson considered unattractive who used gestures contrary to the customer’s gestures were the least likely to say they planned to return to the store.
     But realize that salesperson attractiveness doesn’t always help. In a set of five experiments at Chinese University of Hong Kong, shoppers who were considering items that might prove embarrassing hesitated making purchases from a salesperson they found to be highly attractive. There was substantially less hesitation if the salesperson was considered by the shopper to be less attractive. When the shopper and salesperson were of different genders, the reason seemed to be based in sexual attraction. With same-gender duos, the reason for discomfort seemed to be the shopper feeling they were inferior to the salesperson.
     Still, when mimicry works, it works well. Researchers at Université de Bretagne-Sud observed customers who were asking for advice about selecting an MP3 player in a retail store. Unbeknownst to the shoppers, some of the salespeople had been given instructions to subtly mimic the shopper. In other cases, the salesperson was not instructed to mimic the shopper.
     About 79% of the shoppers who were subtly mimicked ended up purchasing an MP3 player. Among those who were not mimicked, about 62% made the buy. In addition, the customers who were mimicked rated the salesperson and the store itself more favorably.

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

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Influence Variety Seeking with Mating Cues

Sex sells because of the mutual attraction of masculinity and femininity. Researchers at Xiamen University, Tsinghua University, and National University of Singapore were inspired by evidence that arousal of the mating motive causes consumers to purchase more eye-catching technology, wear more revealing clothing, and borrow more money. The researchers then went on to explore how mating cues have different effects in men than in women when it comes to seeking variety during shopping trips: The findings indicate that when a store area displays photos of sexy women, men will seek out a broader variety of items than otherwise. And when a woman is accompanied on a shopping trip by her husband, she’ll seek less variety than when unaccompanied.
     These differences are based in how the mating urge manifests itself. Men are relatively more interested in a variety of partners, while women are relatively more interested in a stable relationship with one partner, whether that partner is a person or a consumer product.
     With both your women and men shoppers, luxury purchases are a signaling system for mating rituals. The intended recipients of the signals are women in both cases, but the functions differ. Take this into account when making the sale.
     Researchers at University of Minnesota found that conspicuous display of luxury items by women serves a number of purposes. A predominant one is to warn other women that their mates are spoken for. A woman in the company of a partner, when that woman is wearing designer outfits and high-status accessories, was perceived by other women to have a more devoted partner who had financially contributed to purchasing the luxurious items.
     In one study, the researchers asked a group of women to imagine a romantic partner flirting with another woman at a party. The study participants were then asked to draw specified luxury brand logos. The drawings turned out to be about twice the size of those done by another group of women who had not been asked to imagine the flirtatious behavior.

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

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Begin Gift Card Users with Store Typicalities

People coming to you with a gift card bearing your store name are most comfortable purchasing with that gift card items typical of what you carry in your store rather than items outside your main merchandise lines. The researchers, at University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Chicago, and Georgia State University, say this is because, when our funds are limited, we’re driven to place those funds into specific categories. Therefore, we categorize what constitutes a proper purchase with the limited funds available with the card.
     This means that if the shopper asks you for guidance on how to spend the gift, begin by showing your best-selling items. But going beyond the research findings, I suggest you go beyond the typicalities. The shopper with a gift card is more likely to browse your aisles than is the shopper without a gift card. Here’s an opportunity for them to become better acquainted with the scope of your selection, including items they may not have realized you carry. At best, they’ll see a great many items they want, so they’ll spend some of their own funds in addition to the gift card allotment. At the least, they’ll expand their view about what’s typical in your store.
     In some cases, the gift card recipient is unfamiliar with your store at all. Perhaps a friend gave them the present to introduce them to you. Here, you’re less constrained in what you suggest. The Colorado/Chicago/Georgia researchers successfully shaped notions of typicality for such shoppers. Actually, such shaping is important, since the browsing does have a downside. Shoppers with gift cards who don’t know about your store can come without any clear idea of what they want. Their objective is to buy something rather than to acquire the benefits of a particular sort of item. If you sense any sort of frustration, help the shopper funnel the alternatives. Absent this, the shopper’s too likely to leave your store without making a purchase. In addition, because of the feelings of frustration, they become less likely to return to your store.
     Or you might encourage the giver to accompany the recipient. With purchase of a gift card, offer at no additional cost, a reward card with a substantially smaller face amount and a relatively close expiration date. Stanford University and Yale University research suggests positioning the gift card as satisfying an obligation and the bonus card as giving oneself pleasure.

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

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Start Shopper Learning Off Easy

A major reason customers return technically sophisticated products and shoppers won’t even consider purchasing such products is the perceived difficulty in learning to use them. The frustration and anger from this difficulty often leave negative impressions of the items, the retailer, and the shopping experience. Researchers at University of South Carolina and University of Colorado-Boulder say that a way around this is to warn prospective users what to expect. Avoid any temptation to advance the sale by spouting unrealistic claims about how easy mastery will be.
     Still, some of the subtasks will be easier than the others. Another set of researchers—at Fudan University, University of Hong Kong, and Peking University—suggest retailers encourage people to begin with these simpler tasks. Most consumers don’t go at it that way. Instead, their tendency is to start out with what they consider to be the more difficult challenges in the process. People generally believe that going from hard to easy will make the overall task easier, getting the tough stuff out of the way. But in seven studies of the issue, the researchers saw how, in reality, the opposite sequence—from easy to hard—leads to more success because of the momentum it creates.
     Researchers at University of Pennsylvania and Tilburg University refer to the consumers’ difficult-to-easy habit as a “get ready mindset” and find the effects show well beyond in learning to use a new product. For example, if people have a set of shopping tasks to complete, they’ll generally aim to get the hard ones out of the way first. Or if an especially challenging task can’t be taken out of sequence, consumers will prepare for it by working harder on an earlier task. That might turn out fine. However, if you are concerned this preparatory hard work could fatigue or frustrate the consumer, encourage them to space out the tasks.
     Spaced learning also fits well when learning to use a product by alternating between reading instructions and actual experience. But for those who insist on getting the experience before or instead of reading about it, intense hands-on trials may be the mastery method of choice. Two bonus advantages of this massed learning: Consumers will be willing to pay more for the item. And they’ll be able to use the new item in a broader range of situations. Just do what you can to start the shopper off easy.

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

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Unpack Product Learning
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