Monday, February 27, 2017

Charge for Savoring

Two groups of basketball fans were shown the stats for a fictitious player’s performance over five seasons and asked to state how much this player should be paid in year six. The fans in one group were told that the stats were for actual performance. Those in the other group were told the stats were expert predictions of a rookie’s first five years in the league.
     For which group of basketball fans was the average of the statements of deserved pay higher do you think, and, based on your own years of performance as a retailer, why do you think that?
     The correct answer from the study, which was headed up at Stanford University: The salary estimates were about 20% higher for the rookie than for the experienced player. The researchers attribute the finding to consumers’—sports fans and others’—excitement in thinking about potential. One name for this type of excitement is “savoring,” and savoring does carry with your shoppers a definite value which allows you to set a higher item price.
     The value of savoring shows itself in ways other than money paid. In a study at University of Chicago, some participants were asked something like, “How much effort are you willing to exert for a bag of Godiva chocolates? Oh, before deciding how hard you’ll work, you want to know how many chocolates are in the bag? Well, it’s either two or four.”
     Those participants worked noticeably harder than did those told that the bag was guaranteed to contain four chocolates. The researchers explain this by pointing out how the tickle of uncertainty stimulates consumers. They had parallel results when offering one group a guaranteed reward of two dollars and the other group only a guarantee that it would be either one or two dollars.
     The value augmentation from savoring is most pronounced with novel experiences. When shoppers have had ample familiarity with a certain type of purchase, the tickle of uncertainty fades. Also, what we see as effects of anticipation might actually be due to reality testing. Those Stanford analysts of the basketball player performance stats should note that the average career duration of a National Basketball Association player is said by the NBA to be about 4.5 years. The rookie might legitimately garner a higher estimated salary because the player with five years of experience is heading into a downward performance path.

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

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Tickle with Uncertainty
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Facilitate Downsizing for Senior Shoppers

The Detroit-area condominium developers couldn’t figure out why so few lookers were turning into buyers. The target market consisted of retirees ready to sell a larger home now that other family members had moved on or passed on. Careful research, including focus groups with prospective purchasers, had provided ideas for pricing and physical designs of the units—ideas which were carefully implemented. But this wasn’t enough, it became clear.
     Then, report the business consultants from Cambridge Group and Innosight who analyzed this case, there was a breakthrough in the form of three words: Interviews with those who had purchased units already often included the phrase “dining room table.” Once the condominium shopper figured out what to do with the big dining room table from the larger home, they came closer to signing the contract for the condo. Further inquiry revealed that the underlying themes were wanting places to socialize with family and the challenge in disposing of possessions. The condo builders reconfigured the floor plans to allow for more hosting areas. They also began offering buyers two years of on-site storage space and use of a “sorting room” for pruning down the possessions.
     In the retail store, too, you can bolster business by facilitating downsizing for senior shoppers.
  • Shorter aisle lengths require less walking by senior citizen shoppers. Shorter aisles also look less intimidating. In areas of your store where you stock merchandise primarily of interest to elderly shoppers, divide up long aisles with cul-de-sacs. And can you fit in a bench on which shoppers might take a brief break? 
  • If you carry a broad assortment of brands and models in a category, feature a few of them within easy reach for the elderly shopper. This makes decisions quicker, especially later in the day, when the older brain is more readily confused. 
  • Keep package sizes small. That makes them easier for older hands and arms to lift from the shelf and accurately place into a basket. The elderly generally prefer smaller package sizes for additional reasons. Perishable products can spoil too quickly if the customer is no longer living with a full family. When retirement checks barely cover expenses, smaller item sizes are more affordable. And the elderly often have limited storage areas at home. 
     A skilled retail store operator also can provide opportunities for in-store socializing, completing the lesson from the “dining room table” case study.

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

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Qualify Discount Effects by Item Quality

Analyze records on the reasons for your promotional discounts along with the amounts of discounts. The more you do this, the better you’ll get at using promotions. And as part of it, you might solve some puzzles about why certain discounts of equal amounts on seemingly comparable items produce widely varying degrees of sales lift.
     The reason, according to a set of studies at Miami University, could be that consumers have different quality perceptions of the items. The researchers saw how discounts on items viewed as of high quality are substantially more effective than are discounts of equal amounts on items viewed as being of lower quality. Another way of viewing this is that a smaller discount is necessary to achieve the same sales lift on higher quality than on lower quality items. And still another angle is saying that to get the best from your promotional discounts, highlight the quality of the discounted items.
     The dimension of perceived quality also comes into play when analyzing discounts of equivalent percentage or dollar amounts on house brands versus national label brands. Researchers at Monash University explored the situation in which a retailer introduces a value version of a house brand to add to a premium version on the shelves. Here’s what happens:
  • Prior to introduction of the value version, the premium version is likely to be considered by consumers to be of standard, not premium, quality. 
  • After introduction of the value version, consumers’ quality assessments of the premium version increase. 
  • If a premium version is introduced to an existing value version, the assessment of the value version doesn’t change noticeably. 
  • The price consumers expect to pay varies directly with their perceptions of the quality. 
     On the other hand, researchers at Miami University and France’s ESSEC Business School found that addition on store shelves of a value version to a premium version of a national label product leads to lower quality ratings of the premium version. The researchers used as examples the introduction by Charmin of a lower-quality Charmin Basic product and Foster’s Beer producing a lower-quality Foster’s Grog.
     All this is a reminder to discover not only how well a promotion is working, but also why. The best promotions pull a variety of triggers. A prospective purchaser might respond to one more intensely than to another, and every prospect is more likely to purchase when there’s a bunch of triggers.

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

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Elicit Sameness for Practical Satisfaction

A skilled retailer’s interactions with a customer differ from pre-purchase to post-purchase. For instance, customers usually want specifications pre-purchase, but after making the purchase, they're usually seeking reassurance. So right after the purchase, tell the customer that they’ve made a good decision. Keep it general. Then when the customer returns to your store later or contacts you to place a telephone or ecommerce order, deliver a different sort of reassurance about their prior purchase: Emphasize cause and effect. Point out to them how what they obtained from you generated benefits important to them.
     Research at Duke University and University of Florida indicates that when the item was purchased primarily for practical, utilitarian use rather than for pleasure-oriented, hedonic benefits, your inquiries should emphasize usage sameness, not variety. Ask, “What are the one or two ways you’re using the item?” rather than, “What are all the different ways you’ve found uses for the product?” Limiting the scope of consumption experiences led to more positive evaluations of the product and the purchase experience, higher intentions to purchase the product again when a new one is needed, and a greater willingness to recommend the product to others.
     The researcher’s explanation is that when consumers think of the variety of ways they’ve used an item, they’ll tend to think of using it less often than when they think of only the primary way they use it. This leads to perceptions that the product is less valuable, since it’s been used less often.
     This is true just for utilitarian items. With hedonic items, post-purchase questions about the range of consumption situations did not worsen evaluations.
     All this highlights another difference between pre-purchase and post-purchase tactics. Prior to purchase of any item, we’ll want to advertise the range of ways in which the item can be used. This catches the attention of a wider range of shoppers and helps each shopper justify the cost of the item.
     But here, too, usage frequency counts in ways we might not expect. In a set of studies at University of Maryland-College Park and Georgetown University, consumers became less likely to purchase items they were led to believe they would use substantially less often than their peers. So when discussing predicted frequency of use, talk about each shopper as an individual. Avoid comparisons with others.

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

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Opt for Full Disclosure of Opt-Out Defaults

A pre-conference announcement sent to about 300 registrants from over 60 federal agencies described the default lunch option: Bean sprout and soy cheese sandwich on gluten-free soda bread. The recipients of the announcement were invited to opt out and choose an alternative in advance of the conference. But only 20% did so. How surprised many of the other 80% were when their inaction was discussed at the keynote address, the theme of which was information disclosure to consumers!
     The pair, based at University of Chicago and ideas42, who conducted this little demonstration project went on to point out to the conference attendees that few consumers thoroughly read any terms and conditions given by sellers. That reality opens possibilities for merchants to swindle, and even endanger, their customers. Consumer advocates argue for assertive disclosure to shoppers of any opportunities to opt out of defaults.
     Would doing this encourage opt-outs? Not much, say researchers at Northeastern University, Indiana University, and University of Cincinnati. They conducted a series of experiments involving opt-out configurations for food choices, financial incentives, energy usage, and privacy permissions. Rejection rates for the default option were about the same whether or not the consumers were told the purpose of the opt-out structure was to encourage them to accept the default. As long as consumers feel in control, they usually prefer simplicity, and accepting the default keeps things simpler.
     But the assertive disclosure did make a positive difference in another way: Those given it developed higher trust in the seller and were more likely to say they’d give the seller future business.
     This argues for using defaults and making full disclosure to consumers that you have opt-outs. Further, in choosing what defaults to use, be aware how your choice shapes behavior. For instance, this applies to charitable contributions. In a field study based at France's ESSEC Business School, a request for a small amount increased the willingness of the person to make a donation, and the larger the greatest amount in the same request, the higher the eventual donation.
     Researchers at SUNY-Buffalo and University of Chicago obtained similar results, plus finding that because of these countervailing effects, a high default amount with opt-out doesn’t reduce net funds raised. The high default will actually increase the average donation amount over a low default if full disclosure is paired with an effective argument for donating at all.

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

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Use Rejection to Learn About Shoppers

Analyzing how your customer chose among the available alternatives provides you valuable information about what to offer the customer subsequently. Analyzing how customers go about rejecting alternatives also can give you useful insights.
     Researchers at University of Miami and Babson College noticed that when asked to begin the choice process by eliminating alternatives, shoppers became more likely to end up selecting one of those alternatives they were considering for rejection. This happens because attention to any item makes it more likely people notice characteristics of the item they find attractive. Along with this, the process of deciding what to reject brings concern about missed opportunities, a concern people ease by selecting rather than rejecting.
     But once the rejection occurs, the rejected item becomes even less likely to be subsequently selected. A laboratory example of the effect was seen in a study at University of Florida, Louisiana State University, and London Business School. The study used soda, cheese, shampoo, and chocolate brands which the researchers knew were not familiar to the participants.
     In displays of items, each participant was asked to locate a specified brand of an item category, such as a specified brand of chocolate. The task was repeated with different item categories. Then afterwards, when the participant was asked to select between the brand of item previously located and a brand that had never been seen before, the previously located one was chosen much more often.
     That’s expected, you might say. But there is more. In the initial location task, there were always precisely two brands of the item type. Therefore, in locating the one brand, as requested by the experimenter, the participant was neglecting another brand. The consumer was rehearsing rejection.
     What happened when, later, the participant was asked to express a preference between the previously neglected brand and a neutral brand which had not been seen before? Yes, the neutral brand was more likely to be favored.
     I’ve regularly heard from retail salespeople that once a shopper has rejected selection of an item, the shopper seems resistant to changing their mind. This could be attributed to a fear of looking indecisive. However, I’ve found many exceptions, in which the shopper does have second thoughts and will end up going back to an already spurned alternative. One technique for facilitating this is to introduce an alternative which is obviously inferior to the previously rejected choice.

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

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Divert Multitaskers from Why to How

Multitasking is a common consumer behavior, often out of necessity but especially with younger consumers, from a preference for packing the maximum amount of enrichment into precious time. When selling to multitaskers, retailers do best to command attention quickly and dramatically. Use colorful, stimulating content.
     You’ll also want to attend to a fork in the road of consumer decision making which directs shoppers toward asking either why they’re considering the purchase or how they’ll complete the purchase. Researchers at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, Concordia University in Montreal, and BVA Group found that multitaskers who take the “why” prong have a harder time coming to a satisfactory decision. Their deliberations about motivations cause them more stress than happens with the “how” multitaskers, who are closer to achieving implementation, such as the actual purchase.
     The researchers suggest that you guide multitaskers toward considerations of how they’ll complete the purchase and best integrate the product or service into their life. Or in circumstances where the multitasking shopper seems stuck in considerations of why, ease the stress. Encourage the shopper to go on to another item to be purchased and come back later to the previously stressful decision. Guide the shopper toward a less crowded area, perhaps one with live foliage—an environmental feature documented to ease stress by studies at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and University of Leuven. When the “how” concerns the mechanics of completing the purchase, you could turn the talk to credit terms or layaway.
     When the “how” concerns the mechanics of integrating the item into the purchaser’s life, think about product training. People often buy more features in a product than they know how to use and then become more likely to return the product when they’re unable to master the features.
     This bifurcation into how and why is also seen in other consumer psychology areas:
  • A financial planner client with a short-term savings objective will reach that objective more quickly if asking “how” more often than “why.” With longer-range objectives, spending time navigating the “why” path is more motivational. 
  • In encouraging recycling, loss-framed arguments (“If you don’t recycle, we could run out of places to put our piles of trash.”) are most effective paired with “how to” instructions while gain-framed arguments (“If you recycle, we’ll be better able to save trees and reduce pollution from manufacturing.”) are most effective paired with “why we’re telling you” arguments. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Encourage Prompt Use of Discounted Items

The interval between purchase and use of items your customers buy at a substantial discount influences their interest in purchasing from you again. Getting a price break pleases people, and pleasure usually translates to wanting to patronize that retailer again. But paying the lower price also reduces a need to justify the purchase and therefore firmly remember there was a substantial discount. This diminishes the impact of the discount on motivation to buy again.
     In studies at Columbia University and University of Toronto, participants with a sweet tooth were given sufficient money to purchase chocolate truffles at either the regular price of one dollar each or a 50%-off price of fifty cents. Some of the people were asked to eat the chocolate right after purchase, while the others were asked to wait a week before consumption.
     Among those purchasing the discounted items, the people who had to wait rated the transaction as less satisfactory. The researchers found the same pattern with purchases of other merchandise types such as orange juice and with purchase of experiential items such as music selections.
     This doesn’t necessarily mean people experience no pleasure from waiting. Researchers at University of California-San Diego and Duke University discovered that although people say they would never pay more money if it meant waiting longer for delivery, those same people report experiencing substantial pleasure from anticipation during the wait. And with items for which there is no discount at purchase, the wait can add noticeably to the consumption pleasure. With products like theatre tickets and premium chocolate candies, the purchaser might obtained more total enjoyment if there is a delay before use. Savoring feels good.
     An important function of retailer’s discounts is to create a positive price image among potential customers. Studies at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Tilburg University found that the pricing of a certain class of items was especially influential in shaping the price image. Among these “lighthouse items,” the researchers said, are those usually bought in large quantities and then stored, and for which consumers believe higher product or service quality requires a higher regular price.
     But with stored items, consumption is delayed, so the power of the discount is lessened. The remedy is for the retailer to encourage purchasers to promptly use as least some of these lighthouse items, along with promptly at least sampling other items purchased at substantial discounts.

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

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