Thursday, June 30, 2016

Consider Teen Peer Dependency over Respect

Certain of your customers, compared to the others, will shop in your store more frequently, spend more on each trip, and recommend your store more strongly. Researchers at University of Southern Mississippi and Florida State University find that these three behaviors tend to go together in what the researchers name “super consumers.” Super consumers are materialistic, defined as a consumer placing unusually high importance on acquiring and owning material items.
     Researchers at Diego Portales University in Chile and Swinburne University of Technology in Australia were interested in materialism among teenagers. A quantitative analysis found that group dynamics are at play when teens consult with each other about shopping. Since group dynamics get complicated, the findings are not straightforward: When a teen feels dependent on their group for self-identity, materialism is higher. However, among teens who wait for others to approve of specific purchases, materialism is lower. A general allegiance to the peer group had no observable influence on materialism.
     The implication is that when you have a group of teens shopping with you together, your sales total will be greater if you encourage conformity instead of divergence in purchases. But I suggest you stay aware that this could work differently in your neighborhood. The study sample consisted entirely of Brazilian 7th through 12th graders, and there’s research evidence that teens in different parts of the world have different value systems.
      Your teen consumers might be viewed as segmented by purchase prompts:
  • Thrills & Chills having fun and spending freely. Offer these teens adventure and luxury. 
  • Quiet Achievers courting approval from adults. Give them reasons for making purchases they can take home with them. 
  • Bootstrappers rehearsing for their future as adults. Before closing the sale, educate them about the product category. 
  • Upholders supporting traditional cultural values. If selling innovative items, describe the ways in which the new is a logical extension of the old. 
  • World Savers wanting to share what they have with others. They’ll respond well to promotions in which a portion of the purchase price is donated to a charity. 
  • Resigners, limiting their expectations from products they buy. Place more emphasis on protecting against losses than on enriching their current situation. 
     Few individual teens will be purely one of the six. Still, you’ll find a different mix in different cultures.

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

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Couple Wise Consumer Decisions

Men in supportive marriages are more likely to undergo a recommended colonoscopy—that diagnostic procedure in which you consent to have a long tube with a video camera and set of clippers run up your rear end.
     The researchers at University of Chicago and Brigham and Women's Hospital used sophisticated statistical tools to tease out relationships between marital bliss and compliance with the medical recommendation. Married men were more likely to comply than were unmarried men. If the wife was happy with the relationship, the probability climbed further. When the wife had a higher education, there was higher compliance. If the wife had previously agreed to undergo a colonoscopy for herself, the husband was more likely to accept having one.
     But it didn’t work completely the other way around. Marriage happiness had no significant effect on the probability the wife would get a colonoscopy. This could be because women are wiser about preventive medical care than men regardless of how others around them are behaving. It’s an example of how husbands and wives make consumer decisions differently. As a general rule, a husband’s objectives are underpinned by a desire to ensure his individual specifications are met, while a wife’s objectives are underpinned by a desire to have the shared specifications of the couple met.
     Researchers at University of Chicago and Belgium’s Catholic Universities of Louvain and Mons found that the relative dominance of husband and wife in purchases depends on the type of product or service being considered. These overall patterns also differ by cultural background. Mexican-American couples are more likely than others to have husband-dominant patterns, while African-Americans are more likely to have wife-dominant patterns.
     Newly married couples may have already set up housekeeping and therefore made many shopping decisions together already. Even if not, the man and the woman are each subconsciously influenced by how their respective mom and dad handled the decisions.
     Couples often aim to balance their shopping tendencies. Researchers at University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and Northwestern University say that tightwads—who recognize they should be more willing to spend money—tend to marry spendthrifts—who recognize they should be more cautious in spending. Rather than viewing such couples as having opposite attitudes, view them as having complementary approaches. They married each other to help moderate the extremes. When making a sale, give them, and all other couples, sufficient opportunity to work their magic with each other.

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

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Stay Well-Read on Red Reactions

The color red usually heightens purchasing and consumption. Reds create excitement associated with fast movement and enhanced appetite. In a McDonald's, red means you eat more quickly, leaving space sooner for the next customer. In a Target store, red means you pile your purchases into the cart more quickly.
     But red also can make us slow down. After all, when you see a stop sign or a red light on the traffic signal at a busy intersection, you stop. The red raises alertness. Even if you don’t stop, you’ll probably drive through the intersection with more attention than you would otherwise exercise.
     Our reaction to red is built into our brain physiology. It’s subconscious. In fact, if a consumer begins to think consciously about it, the excitement and alertness fade. Researchers at University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, University of British Columbia, and University of Amsterdam say the stop or go response to red also depends on the degree of “sensation seeking,” which is a stable personality characteristic of people. Some of your shoppers are attracted to bright lights and the bigger city. In sets of studies at Stanford University, MIT, and University of Pennsylvania, these high sensation seekers were more likely to select “a refreshing peppermint blend” over “a relaxing blend of chamomile and mint,” the bottle of “Pure Excitement” water labeled in bright orange over the “Pure Calm” one labeled in green, and the more upbeat version of the song “Such Great Heights.”
     As you’d probably expect, high sensation seekers when compared to the calmness contingent are, on average, younger and focused on the future. However, as you might not expect, high sensation seekers are more likely than low-sensation seekers to react to the color red by resisting sales pressure and the temptation to buy.
     Continue to use red to stimulate purchasing. But with younger consumers, be ready to react to the shopper’s pushback:
  • When you see resistance developing, physically step away from the shopper for a brief time. Whenever possible, move to a less crowded shopping area or an area in which there is a large selection of products. 
  • Verbally step back by softening the rhetoric. Researchers at University of Illinois and University of Louisiana found more resistance when using phrasing like, “It’s impossible to deny all the evidence that the TMX-890 is the only choice for you,” than with, “Purchasing the TMX-890 makes the best sense for you.” 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Impassion Yourself to Arouse Shoppers

Developing within your customers an allegiance to your store is great. Even better, though, is them having a passion for shopping with you. A time-tested way—and surely a necessary way—to arouse such a passion is for you to serve your customers well. Still, researchers at Louisiana State University, Louisiana Tech University, and University of Richmond say that good customer service, even if necessary, may not be sufficient. They suggest you also develop within yourself passion for the brands you carry. Your own emotional arousal by the brands stimulates within shoppers a devotion to spending time in your store that goes beyond allegiance.
     The researchers found that retailers’ passion toward the brands in the store is more likely when the brands have three characteristics, each of which contributes to an impression of brand authenticity:
  • Distinctiveness. The brand can be easily told apart from others in the same product category, perhaps through unique features or an unusual logo design. 
  • Scarcity. The brand is not especially popular, and that lack of popularity implies exclusivity and/or the need for special effort to obtain the brand. 
  • Continuity. The brand has been around for a while, and for the duration, the brand has been associated in the retailer’s mind with consistent fundamental characteristics. 
     Maybe the brand has been around for a while as it extends into new products. A University of Connecticut study looked at the LEGO brand during the time the company was expanding beyond building block products to children’s books, stickers for art projects, board games, and video games. Was LEGO losing its authenticity?
     Here’s my version of the research results, in the form of four questions you can ask yourself:
  • How well does this extension maintain brand standards and style? Degree-of-agreement items on the Connecticut researchers’ inventory included, “The standards of LEGO are apparently contained in this extension.” 
  • To what degree does the extension honor the brand heritage? “LEGO seems to have abandoned its roots with this extension.” 
  • How well does the extension preserve the brand essence? “This extension captures what makes LEGO unique to me.” 
  • Does the extension avoid brand exploitation? “With this extension, it seems that LEGO was more concerned with preserving the brand than growing the market.” 
     How does a retailer’s passion about a brand carry over to shoppers’ sentiments? It’s via the stories the retailer tells about the brand. So those stories themselves should indicate authenticity.

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

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Horse Around with Healthy Selecting

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.” Along with being arguably the oldest proverb of English-language origin still regularly used, this sentiment serves as a caution for retailers aiming to increase the healthfulness of shoppers’ food and beverage purchases. We could carry nutritious items and then advertise and merchandise those particular items aggressively. But the individual shopper might still toss the unhealthy rubbish into their basket and toss out the idea of nutritious consumption.
     Research indicates that we can tilt the preferences in our favor—and in favor of the purchaser’s health—by recognizing that certain types of consumers are more likely to select the healthy option when they’ve recently encountered an unhealthy choice. In studies at Taiwan’s National Chung Hsing University, participants were assessed for their degree of calorie consciousness and degree of accurate nutrition knowledge. The participants were then offered a sequence of choices among healthier and less healthy food items.
     Those who had high calorie consciousness or highly accurate nutrition knowledge were more likely to select a healthy item if they’d first selected an unhealthy item. This finding is in accord with the observation that when people put into their grocery shopping cart an item touted as healthy, the people became much more likely to select an unhealthy food item next. And that when a healthy salad was added to a list of side dish choices, diners separately identified as high in self-control became more likely to order the French fries.
     To help your shoppers, give them license to marry healthy with a bit of the unhealthy. Researchers at Harvard University and Duke University were interested in whether shoppers who brought their own bags to a grocery store would purchase a higher number of organic versions of items. The answer was yes. On those trips when the consumer brought their own bags, they were more likely to buy organic than on those trips when that same consumer didn’t bring bags.
     But there was more to the story: When shoppers bought organic, they were also more likely to add candy bars and cookies. The indulgences were mostly small purchases, not adding much nutritional threat for the shoppers. Accommodating consumers’ desire for licensing could end up increasing your shoppers’ healthy choices.

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

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Forget About It When It Comes to Failures

If time is limited—as it is for our customers and ourselves—we’ll gain more from analyzing our successes than analyzing our failures.
     This holds true for shoppers struggling to exert self-control in the face of unwise indulgences. Researchers at Boston College, University of Pittsburgh, and Vanderbilt University found that when consumers analyze their failures to resist, they actually become more likely to subsequently succumb. It made little difference whether the recollections came easily or not.
     On the other hand, thinking about successes strengthened resolve in the consumers. Here, the degree of effort in recall did make a difference. The easier it came, the better the self-control. So when you want to help your shoppers resist making unwise choices, help them to recall their prior successes in doing so.
     The principle of strengths over weaknesses also applies in our business decisions.
     Researchers at Warwick Business School, Durham Business School, and Nottingham University compared serial entrepreneurs to portfolio entrepreneurs. Serial entrepreneurs occupy themselves with one business concept at a time rather than undertaking a range of diverse business enterprises simultaneously. Portfolio entrepreneurs are those business people who diversify in their retailing endeavors, running a set of businesses at the same time. The researchers found that the portfolio entrepreneurs learned better from failure because they have less investment in defending their prior actions. Their pride isn’t tied so tightly to one enterprise. They experience less pain from failures and spend less time analyzing them.
     In employee coaching, also focus on the strengths. The changes most likely to succeed for a retailer are gradual and based on the retailer’s existing strengths. When you’re scheduling employees, when you’re considering employees for special assignments or promotion, when you’re needing to lay off employees, look at the successes more closely than the failures. The strengths more closely than the weaknesses.
     This means shoving aside some assumptions in techniques like SWOT, which was designed a half century ago to assess the internal strengths and weaknesses of a client and then the opportunities available to and threats facing the client because of external factors. The SWOT framework is sound. A particular advantage is that it considers the externalities usually overlooked in other needs assessment techniques. Still, SWOT works best when S and O receive more attention than W and T.

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

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Vaccinate Shoppers Against Disappointment

How could it be that glowingly positive online customer reviews ended up denting the retailers’ financial performance? Researchers at University of Groningen and University of M√ľnster say it had to do with unrealistic promises. When the reviews portray what the retailer cannot actually provide, shoppers do buy more, but the number of item returns and people saying they’ll never shop there again climb dramatically.
     Set realistic expectations for your shoppers. Stay aware of what you’re promising and update the promises whenever necessary. In the research, damage to financial performance was most acute with newer customers and lower-quality items, so candor is especially important in those cases. Reminding customers to believe “You get what you pay for” can be to your benefit. To strengthen the price-quality link in the shopper’s mind, a retail salesperson might talk about what other people have paid for the item in the past or what other suppliers are charging. This should be done in a way that highlights the good value offered by your store.
     Researchers from European School of Management and Technology, Loughborough University, Ruhr University Bochum, and FOM Hochschule Hochschulzentrum Berlin recommend that service providers “psychologically vaccinate” shoppers against disappointment. In their study, a group of 1,254 airline passengers were sent a pre-flight email saying the company’s commitment to service quality had earned it several awards. A set of passengers within the group also received, in their email, phrasing that said long waiting times at the baggage claim cannot be eliminated.
     Among the passengers who did experience long waiting times, customer satisfaction was clearly higher for those who had received the added message. Importantly, the added message did not decrease customer satisfaction among passengers whose waiting times were shorter. The psychological vaccine only helped. It didn’t hurt.
     Notice that the retailer set the expectations. This is better than asking your shoppers what their expectations are. Researchers at University of California-San Diego and Northwestern University suggest you survey your shoppers for their advice rather than their expectations. The researchers found that advice questions were most likely to lead to purchase intentions. This is because asking for advice gives rise in the consumer to feelings of closeness to the store and a readiness to experience happiness if the store succeeds. In contrast, expectations questions distance the consumer from interest in the fortunes of the store except as a place to satisfy the consumer’s self-interested desires.

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

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Strengthen Fitness with Control

People are more likely to end up doing what feels good than what they should do. Therefore, hypothesized a team of researchers from University of Chicago, people will stay with what they should do if we add some fun to it from the beginning. Instead of urging the customers at the gym to do what are the most useful exercises for them, give a choice of helpful exercises and encourage them to pick the set that will be most enjoyable. Instead of carrying only the healthiest bag of carrots, stock a few quality brands and encourage shoppers to sample for the one they find tastes best to them.
     The research team put their hypothesis to the test, and they were proved right. People might start a healthy exercise and healthy eating program because they want the long-term payoff. In fact, they might stay with the program for a while mostly because it’s not as enjoyable, since they’ll feel more sense of accomplishment from sacrifice. But people persist in the program longer when there’s the element of fun.
     You might consider this research finding to be little more than common sense. But considering what’s truly happening here brings the finding beyond the obvious: The magic in adding the fun is that having a sense of control is fun. Giving your customers alternatives adds a dash of enjoyment.
     The optimal number and nature of alternatives for persistence does vary over the course. Researchers at University of Maryland worked with consumers who were toiling toward a fitness goal. Some were given evidence they were close to reaching their individual fitness goal, while others were led to believe they were far from the goal. All the participants were then shown a set of six protein items. In some cases, the items were all protein bars differing only in flavor. This was a low-variety set. The other participants—some who felt close to their goal and some who felt far from it—were presented a high-variety set that included a protein bar, a protein shake, and four other forms of protein supplement.
     Among consumers who felt far from the goal, motivation was higher when the consumer was asked to choose among the high-variety set. On the other hand, among consumers who felt close to the goal, motivation to achieve the goal was higher when the consumer was asked to choose among the low-variety set. 

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

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Give Just a Taste of the Product to Sweeten

Successful selling often depends on mobilizing the power of the shopper’s imagination. But because the imagination can be so powerful, the shopper can get as fed up with imagined consumption as with real consumption.
     Researchers at Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University found that when consumers were asked to vividly imagine tasting a particular item with which they were familiar, the experience affected the consumers’ receptivity to actually tasting the item afterwards. It also worked the other way around: After actually tasting an item, study participants interpreted a subsequent imagined taste by comparing it to the actual taste. And that could mean they got tired of the taste.
     In what might seem at first hearing to be a wonderful breakthrough for dieters, a Carnegie Mellon University study saw evidence how thinking about eating M&M candies decreased the appetite for eating M&Ms afterwards. It was satiation of hunger. Imagine eating loads of the candy, and you feel filled up. Unfortunately, though, it was a specific satiation of hunger for M&Ms. You’ll be significantly less likely to eat them for real for a while. However, there was no evidence the imagined tasting significantly reduced any urges to eat chocolate cake or even cheddar cheese cubes.
     Used properly, imagination can whet the appetite for more, but be careful not to drown off the appetite with excessive imagination.
     A few related tips inspired by consumer research:
  • Ask the shopper to imagine usage by whoever would end up actually using the product. Usually, this is the person who is making the purchase. But with products like pet foods and birthday gifts, the user is different from the purchaser. 
  • Separate requests to imagine from requests to analyze. Researchers at Arizona State University asked consumers to logically analyze sets of product features and then make rational purchase decisions. For some of these consumers, the researchers described the products using vivid language intended to evoke imagination. Those called upon to use their imagination were less likely to choose a product to purchase. 
  • Give aids for imagination. As long as you’re not asking the shopper to analyze or compare, use vivid language to stimulate the senses: “As you enter your room, you’ll be tempted to take off your shoes immediately so your feet can sink into the plush carpeting.” 

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

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