Thursday, December 29, 2016

Coordinate Store Atmosphere Stimuli

Music, scents, and colors in a store are among the most thoroughly researched atmospheric influencers of people’s purchase behavior. Researchers at Austria’s Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Portugal’s Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, and Aberystwyth University in Wales systematized thirty years of others’ conclusions about the three:
  • Music and scents which the shopper find to be pleasant motivate in-store purchases, especially the purchases of services. The broader point is that atmospheric factors count more when there aren’t the sounds, scents, and colors of products and product packages competing with surrounding sounds, scents, and colors added by the store staff. In all cases, the effects are strongest when the stimuli are subtle, so they’re best used in a long-term strategy of maintaining sensory branding to distinguish a store from other venues. 
  • Music is notably helpful in circumstances where moderate levels of machine noise or customer chatter risk distracting shoppers’ deliberations. 
  • Warm colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—stimulate consumers to make decisions more quickly, while cool colors—greens, blues, violets, and whites—increase consumers’ satisfaction with their purchases. This leads to the suggestion to use warm colors in areas of your store featuring innovative items and cool colors at the complaint desk. 
  • Scents are more influential with women than with men, and music is more influential with men than with women. 
     Other research finds that the effects of different sensory modalities are not completely independent. Synesthesia is the cross-sensory phenomenon where certain sounds produce in the shopper’s brain perceptions of colors, each sound bringing forth a particular hue. Or how the sounds of music can arouse sensations of taste.
     In university laboratories and retail field settings, researchers at Freie Universität Berlin and Technische Universität Berlin exposed consumers to different feelings of surface hardness or to different temperatures. The results of the studies indicate that greater amounts of hardness make consumers more likely to think of a retail business as rugged. Higher temperatures—as long as they’re not too high to be pleasant—make consumers more likely to think of a retail business as having a warm personality.
     The quality of background music in a restaurant influences gustatory experiences when eating and thereby the impression the diner carries away as the restaurant image. Specifically, research from Oxford University finds:
  • Sweet tastes and sour tastes are accentuated by higher-pitched music 
  • Bitter, smoky, and woody tastes come through better with lower-pitched music 
  • Piano or woodwind strengthens fruity flavors 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Orchestrate Purchase Intentions
Spice Up Store Sales
Exercise Cultural Sensitivity in Color Use
Mirror Responsibility at Complaint Desks
Use Synesthesia to Reinforce Store Image
Arouse Patrons’ Sensations

Monday, December 26, 2016

Relax Cost-Sensitive Shoppers via TRP Trips

“Only pennies a day” is a classic sales pitch format, especially for high priced items and highly cost-sensitive shoppers. Researchers at Japan’s Keio University refer to the technique as Temporal Reframing of Prices. They reviewed studies done by others and conducted their own inquiries toward developing recommendations for TRP use. Here’s my version of what they found:
  • In general, TRP facilitates the sale more often with units of merchandise and services the purchaser will consume over a period of time rather than all at once. This is true even in cases where the supply will be replenished promptly with another purchase of the item so that consumption does occur over a period of time. 
  • TRP loses effectiveness when the per-day quote is itself high. In one study, the break point was $4 a day, but that study was done in 2003, so the figure might very well be somewhat higher now. 
  • Charities will often combine TRP with a comparison point, such as saying, “That’s probably less than you spend each day on lunch.” This addition does increase donation frequency. However, it doesn’t help in retail selling contexts. 
  • Give the TRP quote only after describing the product benefits and clearly stating the actual total price. If you fail to do this, many shoppers will believe you’re hiding information from them and they’ll feel distrustful. A variation of TRP is stating the price in units of benefits. A tire retailer could state prices in terms of how much it costs per 1,000 miles. This can work well by keeping the focus on advantages instead of expenditures. 
  • If you post unit pricing (“$1.68 per liter”), as you might be required by law to do, the additional use of TRP can confuse shoppers, and confusion makes bailing on the sale more likely. Here it’s best to reserve the unit pricing for shelf labels and reserve TRP for the face-to-face selling. 
     The logic underlying TRP is to have cost-sensitive shoppers think longer-term. There are other ways to do this, too. How about offering extended payment for an expensive purchase and pointing out advantages in purchasing an extended service contract? Even if the shopper doesn’t accept either offer, you’ve prompted a long-range perspective. Surveys by Fulcrum Analytics found that shoppers for a major appliance are more likely to end up buying when the retailer offers an ESC, even though many don’t actually get the ESC.

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

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Move Shoppers Beyond Fixating on Price
Give Customers Long-Range Perspectives
Offer the Escape of an ESC

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Brand People by Interpersonal Relationships

Sharp retailers recognize the interactions between people’s brand preferences and their self-image. Shoppers are more likely to select brands reflecting the image they’d like to have and believe they can achieve. And the brands people select influence the ways in which they view themselves.
     These mutually reinforcing links endure long enough to determine even decisions about how a user will ultimately dispose of branded items. Researchers at Boston University and University of Alberta explored the ways in which people decide whether to trash or recycle commodified items like paper cups and aluminum cans. They found that recycling was substantially more often the choice when the brand consumed from the cup or the can was one with which the person identified.
     Asking your customers how they dispose of products could yield useful information both about what brand personalities they seek and how to entice them to reduce environmental waste.
     The link of brand with self-image also has a role in how couples shop. Generally, when a married pair makes a purchase decision together, they are either developing or following rituals. By building on those rituals, you can guide the couple’s preferences.
     The newly married may have already set up housekeeping and therefore made many shopping decisions together already. However, shopping after the ceremony brings out different power dynamics. Both the man and the woman are each subconsciously influenced by how their respective mom and dad handled the decisions. The challenge for the retail salesperson is to track the ritual, which is still in a formative stage.
     The long-married couple has settled into their shopping-together rituals. Here, the challenge for the retail salesperson might come from the ritual being so automatic and quick for the couple that it is hard to discern. Moreover, once you’ve spotted it, the ritual often changes if one or the other member of the pair gets frustrated with the relationship. Researchers at University of New Hampshire and Duke University say it can come back to brand preferences.
     When a husband or wife feels low in relationship power and is irritated at the spouse, oppositional brand choice arises. A brand clearly different from the one selected by the spouse is preferred. It’s a temporary situation. When the relationship is mended, the underlying brand preference again shows itself. But accommodating the temporary situation helps you make the sale as well as resolving your puzzlement at what’s going on.

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

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Close In on How Shoppers Close Out Use
Build on Couples’ Decision-Making Rituals
Manipulate the Shopper’s Sense of Power
Attend to Genetic Influences in Selling

Monday, December 19, 2016

Fancy How to Sell More Features

When suggesting to shoppers an item that comes in a barebones version, a fully loaded version, and maybe versions in-between, where should you start? The primary rule is to discover enough about the prospective customer to decide which model would best meet their needs.
      Precede your recommendations by probing about how the shopper plans to use the item. This line of questioning provides you the information to deliver advice which is on-target for this individual consumer. It also means your recommendations will come across as credible.
     But what if a range of option loadings could meet the shopper’s needs and the higher-priced alternative with more features would better meet your revenue needs?
  • Researchers at National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan found that the best strategy depends on how far in the future the shopper plans to use the item. For nearer timeframes, consumers find it easier to decide on the purchase when the salesperson begins with the basic model and then builds up with the options, asking the shopper to think about the outcomes of using the purchase. For more distant timeframes, the sale will move along more smoothly if you present the bells-and-whistles option and then, if the shopper seems overwhelmed by the complexity or the price, proceed to prune down, all the while encouraging the shopper to think about the process of learning to use and then getting use out of the item. 
  • If the time frame for usage is not clear, encourage the person to focus on just this one purchase, forgetting for a moment the other items on their shopping list. Then start with the fully loaded model, studies at Bentley University indicate. Shoppers who appreciate the appeal of this fancy model become more likely to consider the price of the model with fewer options to be a good deal. Therefore, the introduction of the fully-loaded model can be an especially helpful selling technique at the point where the shopper has concerns about the price of whatever other model they have their eye on. 
  • If as you provide your recommendations, you sense that the consumer’s trust in you is starting to fade, encourage the consumer to settle on less. In a group of studies conducted at University of Maryland, participants were offered a choice from three versions varying in complexity. Post-usage inquiries showed that those who selected a simpler version of the product ended up happier. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Describe Fully-Loaded Items to the Focused
Offer Customers Basic Plus Add-Ons
Build or Prune Depending on Trust Levels
Accent the Emotions when Imminent Usage

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Floor Me with Persuasive Flooring

Researchers at New York University-Stern, University of Pittsburgh, and Drexel University found that a coupon requiring shoppers to travel farther from their planned path to obtain the discounted item resulted in an average increase in spending of about $21.00. When the coupon didn’t require wandering from the planned path, the increase was instead about $14.00.
     So consider the situation where a shopper comes into your store without a coupon, homes in on a particular item, instantly turns into a customer, and then immediately leaves your store after paying for it. A quick profit’s good. Still, considering the potential profits from aisle travel, you might very well prefer to have that shopper wander around a little before completing the transaction. They’re more likely to buy ancillary items on that visit and they’re better able to appreciate all the possibilities your store carries when considering future visits.
     Ecommerce has turned Possibilities Shoppers into Mission Shoppers. Because consumers are now accustomed to learning all about the products, the alternatives, and the prices before entering the store, many more of them bullet in with a target in mind and then leave without even as much as a ricochet toward impulse items.
     To encourage a tour of your business, create progress markers, say store atmospherics experts from Erasmus University, Ghent University, and Université Catholique de Lille. Sequential numbers on aisles or a sign on each describing what’s carried there can serve as progress markers. Prior studies have found that such progress markers might consist of store displays and merchandise arrangements intriguing enough to become mental speed bumps.
     But this latest set of researchers suggests you also get to the foot—well actually, the feet—of the matter. Changes in flooring affect shoppers’ pace. When there’s an easy path to follow, such as continuous carpeting surrounded by hard flooring, people tend to move relatively quickly. If there are variations in the flooring texture along the way, people tend to slow down and look around.
     We can even use flooring to draw attention differentially. University of Minnesota-Minneapolis and University of British Columbia researchers discovered that shoppers who are walking on soft pile carpeting, compared to on hard vinyl tile, attribute extra comfort to offers of products or services they see which require them to walk off the path a bit to reach. They are drawn to these items in the same way accent lighting would attract them.

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

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Escort Shoppers on In-Store Travel
Charge for Entertaining Possibilities Shoppers
Use Accent Lighting to Build Shopper Interest
Stimulate Shopper Search

Monday, December 12, 2016

Remedy Reluctant Salesmanship

In the years just prior to World War II, comedian Al Pearce regaled radio audiences nationwide playing a character named Elmer Blurt. The story of Elmer was that each time he’d approach a residence, he’d nervously chant, “Nobody home, I hope, I hope, I hope.” The laughter from the radio audiences came because the rest of the story was that Elmer was a door-to-door insurance salesman. Not a highly successful salesman, we would conclude.
     I’ve encountered employees in retail stores who are equally reluctant to initiate a sales transaction. They’re more comfortable with their backs than with their bellies facing the shoppers. Some are simply very shy. They certainly don’t belong on the sales floor unless and until they overcome their introversion.
     I’ve also encountered store owners who show little enthusiasm about initiating a sale. These retailers seem burned out, and whatever momentum is keeping their business going is winding down. Protect your business by heading off burnout in yourself. Findings from Hong Kong Polytechnic University and University of Hong Kong support techniques like these:
  • Encourage shoppers to give you feedback 
  • Remind yourself of the importance of your store to the community 
  • Rearrange your tasks to add novelty 
     And sometimes the reluctance to sell well comes from a failure to genuinely believe in the sales claims you’re making. Recognizing this issue as important, researchers at Princeton University, University of Sydney, and McKinsey & Company-Paris outlined questions sellers can ask themselves to check for subconscious, potentially slippery bias. Here’s my version:
  • What information that you don’t have would you like to have in order to help you make more accurate claims for the product without losing what could be valuable selling opportunities? Get that information. 
  • Is your recommendation to a shopper based on what you’ve recommended to others? If so, check how those other recommendations worked out and that the situations are sufficiently similar. 
  • Are the numbers and stories you’re using in recommendations overall averages which mask a wide range? Are they extremes that mask typical situations? If either of these, come up with more representative numbers and stories. 
     Business researchers at Harvard University and University of Notre Dame analyzed instances in which retail businesses cheated customers. The researchers concluded that in many cases, the owners/operators did not intend to do wrong.
     Bring to mind the retailers you respect. Honor them, honor the best in yourself as a retailer, and honor salesmanship.

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

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Shy Away from Frightening Off Introverts
Prefer Order Getters to Order Takers
Burn Out Resignation of Skilled Staff
Inform Consent in Shoppers & Yourself
Impassion Yourself to Arouse Shoppers
Honor Salesmanship

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Slice the Selling Delays Thin

Thin slice judgments are assessments made on the basis of quickly presented samples. When shoppers decide if they want to do business with you within the first seconds of seeing you, those are thin slice judgments.
     Such assessments work because our brains are superb at finding patterns among a sample of narrow windows of experience and relating our current perceptions to our prior learning. Still, thin slice judgments do risk errors of prejudice.
     Marketing scholars at University of Maryland and Tilburg University wondered how thin slice advertising impressions work. The length of time a typical consumer spends absorbing the content of a typical ad has always been briefer than the advertiser would like. But the time has been getting even shorter because of the increased pace of contemporary life, the drive to save on marketing expenses, the use of technologies which allow zipping through an ad, and other factors.
     The results of the Maryland/Tilburg inquiries indicate you should get to the point when making your case to shoppers in ads or in face-to-face selling. Ads that promptly identified who the ad was for and why the consumer should pay attention earned positive attitudes. Ads in these studies which prolonged suspense about the sponsor and the benefits worked less well.
     In face-to-face selling, you’ve the opportunity to gather information from the prospect before making your pitch. But people will want you to get to the point once you do begin the pitch. They don’t want to spend time needlessly, and they get skittish if unsure about where you’re heading. To soothe the shopper’s nerves, start with a good subject line, stating what you plan to offer.
     Still, if you maintain some intrigue, there can be advantages to delay. Research findings from Indiana University and University of Colorado-Boulder show the value of a mystery ad format, in which you wait until the end to announce the retailer’s name. Start off with an unusual story or absurd humor which dramatizes the category of retailer and hooks the ad’s viewer or listener into thinking “Who’s this commercial for, anyway?”
     These mystery ads were significantly more effective than traditional ads in strengthening a name-category link in which consumers looking for items in a category would think about your store as the place to go.
     In any case, minimize distractions to selling. Like a skilled delicatessen server, always slice the baloney thin.

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

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Track the Trajectory of In-Store Impressions
Subject Shoppers to Compelling Subject Lines
Blank Out to Increase Consumption

Monday, December 5, 2016

Advance Consumer Benefits with Advance Ordering

The same person purchases differently when expecting future consumption rather than immediate consumption. Usually, the introduction of delivery delays results in higher quality choices.
     University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University researchers compared the calorie counts of meals ordered by students either before or after class, with the meal to be delivered right after class. Meals ordered before class averaged lower calories counts—especially when it came to desserts and beverages—than those meals ordered after class. Satisfaction with the ordered meal was similar for the two groups, so the upshot is that advance ordering resulted in healthier behavior.
     The delays in these studies varied between 30 minutes and three hours. When we move toward longer delays and move beyond edibles, we see additional evidence of longer-term benefits for the consumer when using advance ordering. Customers shopping for a product or service targeted for future consumption pay special attention to the distinctive features. But when they plan to put the item to work promptly, they're especially interested in ease of use. When, for instance, people are looking at software they'll start using in a few months, they give great weight to the range of capabilities of the software. However, if they plan to start using the software within a few days, their primary criterion is ease of learning the software.
     About one month prior to the graduation ceremony at a college, researchers at Columbia University and Singapore Management University described to groups of juniors and seniors at the college two sorts of apartments, then asked each of the students to say which apartment they’d prefer if actually renting it upon graduation.
  • A small apartment attractively decorated, with pretty views out the windows 
  • A large apartment located close to activities the graduate enjoys 
     The college seniors were more likely to select the first alternative than were the college juniors, whose graduation was further in the future. The researchers suspected this is because decisions on purchases consumers plan to use soon are based on emotional assessments. On the other hand, the research evidence suggested, if the consumers won’t be using the purchase for some time, they’ll place more importance on an objective, non-emotional assessment.
     Encouraging advance orders helps your store meet demand smoothly. It also smooths the way for your customers to achieve greater benefits in the long run.

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

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Accent the Emotions when Imminent Usage
Lend a Friendly Ear to Loan Debtors
Quote Measurement Units for Future Buys

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Shower Cold on Regretful Customers

“Throwing cold water on an idea” means to discourage its pursuit. “Taking a cold shower” is traditional advice for easing passions. And according to researchers at Washington State University, Ryerson University, and Canada’s Western University, a retailer offering cold temperatures to customers reduces any regrets the customers might have about purchases they recently made.
     When people experience regret—thinking more about what they might have done than what they actually did—they perceive their bodies becoming somewhat warmer. It’s related to the blushing we experience when embarrassed, ashamed, or just self-conscious. The consequence is an increased desire for merchandise and experiences which will cool us down. The researchers suggest that when offering for sale items or adventures which carry a risk a purchaser might later regret taking, turn down the store thermostat.
     Please note all this is true for “action regret,” a consumer reacting to actions they’ve taken, but not necessarily for “inaction regret,” a consumer thinking about missed opportunities because of a failure to take action. Inaction regret usually leads to wistfulness instead of guilt.
     Also note that there are times we’ll want to warm up the shoppers. Whenever shoppers experience rejection or loneliness, they’re ready to buy physical warmth. They feel cooler than do people who aren’t lonely. Studies at Purdue University, Tilburg University, VU University, and University of Milano-Bicocca indicate this is because lonely people are, in fact, physically colder. Experimental subjects who were rejected as suitable partners in a game showed reduced body temperatures, and lonely people reported feeling more comfortable when asked to hold a cup of warm tea or coffee.
     Researchers at NUS Business School in Singapore and University of Florida-Gainesville postulate all this is due to lonely consumers being mammals. From when mammals are very young, any sign of negative emotions produces a desire to be held close to get warmed up.
     Bear hugs from staff probably won’t work. Cranking up the heater could burn through your profitability. There would be the fuel cost plus the risk of chasing off shoppers who aren’t feeling cold at all. The way around this is to recognize that the research shows psychological warmth in a store also attracts lonely consumers.
     So to keep lonely shoppers receptive to purchasing more, keep them nicely warmed up. But to help all your customers close out doubts about their purchases and move on, consider offering them a cold beer.

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

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Dissect the Shopper’s Risk Tolerance
Aim Away from Shame
Add to Global Warming in Your Store
Close Out the Purchase
Brew Helpful Thoughts Through Beer