Monday, May 29, 2017

Face Resistance to Shopper-Facing Technology

Technological innovations can increase a retailer’s revenues and decrease a retailer’s costs. Those advantages must be weighed against the expenses of purchase, maintenance, and use of the technologies. Researchers at University of Pittsburgh and Boston College point out that another offset stems from shopper resistances to the technologies in the store.
     Among the shopper-facing technologies considered in the researchers’ studies were self-scanning of purchases at a checkout station or at the points where items are selected; monitoring via infrared sensors of checkout wait times; and facial recognition software to allow personalized purchase recommendations or discount offers. The results of a statistical analysis of shopper reactions to these and related technologies identified the two sorts of resistances we’d expect, but with some emotion components at a strength we might not anticipate:
  • Sufficient value. Consumers ask if the extra time and effort required of them to use the technology is balanced by their savings in time or money. An emotion component is the feeling of fairness. Are the procedures for use of the technology a fair request? Are the benefits from its use a fair return? If there are problems with the use, are shoppers treated equitably? 
  • Privacy concerns. Consumers ask if information gathered about them via the technologies is used to violate what they want to keep confidential. One emotion component is trust. Is the information gathered with the consent of the shopper, and is the shopper aware of how the information is used? Another emotion component is referred to by the researchers as “creepiness.” An infrared sensor watching you differs from a person watching you. 
     Acceptance of change comes with time. The early history of ATMs at banks included customer complaints that service quality was deteriorating and that tellers they’d grown to know and like would be losing jobs. It seemed unfair. Those complaints faded as customers experienced the advantages of transacting business when the bank lobby was closed and as use of the ATM became a familiar habit. Similarly, as consumers become experienced with other data-gathering methods intruding into their lives, the methods used with shopper-facing technologies in retailing won’t seem so disconcerting by comparison.
     Still, the time to acceptance will shorten when you face the emotions head on. The enthusiasm of the retailer with these technologies often isn’t shared by the customers unless the retailer takes steps to prove the fairness and eliminate the creepiness.

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

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Tell Shiitakes from Shinola

Monday, May 22, 2017

Minimize Pricing Spoilage

“If you have to ask, you can’t afford it” is a motto of luxury purchasing exclusivity. An adaptation of the phrasing to become “If you choose to ask, you won’t enjoy it for as long” fits research findings about the relationship between price knowledge and consumption satisfaction. Researchers at Vanderbilt University, University of Minnesota, and Simon Fraser University find that a purchaser’s attention to the price of a product or service accelerates satiation. Their enjoyment decreases faster than if having used the identical item without attention to price. The reason, conclude the researchers, is that the usage experience becomes less of a pleasant break from monitoring needs and more of a motivator to monitor expenditures.
     To keep from being a killjoy, retailer, introduce the price gently. You’re less likely to spoil the subsequent consumption experience when you, for example, state the cost after the quantity: “70 rolls for $29.99” draws more buyers than “$29.99 for 70 rolls,” as well as prolonging the pleasure from eating all those rolls.
     Shoppers do engage in willful ignorance, where they prefer to delay getting information—in this case, price. If it looks as if the customer doesn't want to think about the price because it's painful, avoid mentioning it, and if asked, say the price slowly. Researchers at HEC School of Management-Paris and at University of Pennsylvania find that this makes the shopper less sensitive to the cost. So if the tariff is $148.29, instead of saying "one forty eight twenty nine," say, "the price of this item is one hundred forty eight dollars and twenty nine cents." Maybe this tactic works because you don't notice the sour taste of the medicine when it goes down slowly.
     Or facilitate acceptance using familiarity.
     Which of these fetches the most favor from folks seeking flapjack flavor?
  • 4 Pancakes: $3.87 
  • 4 Pancakes: $4.13 
  • 4 Flapjacks: $3.87 
  • 4 Flapjacks: $4.13 
     The correct answer is the last of the alternatives. Researchers at University of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Baruch College say the explanation lies in alliteration—the use of the same initial sound in words within the same group. The three “f” sounds in that fourth choice lead to positive evaluations because the similarity of the sounds makes the phrasing seem more familiar; what is familiar is easier for the brain to process; and what’s easier for the brain to process is liked longer, everything else being equal.

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

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Dim the Lights for Low Down Purchases

When consumers’ purchases would be starkly exposed to others and themselves, they’re less likely to purchase from you items they’re embarrassed about. In a study at four restaurant locations, researchers at University of South Florida, Portland State University, Cornell University, and Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group found that when the ambient lighting level was bright, 48% of the patrons selected a fried food, red meat, or other item considered relatively unhealthy, but the percentage was 65% for a different set of patrons ordering with dimly lit dining. In a follow-up inquiry, college students were more likely to select the 100-calorie Oreo over the chocolate-covered Oreo and raisins over M&Ms when the lights were bright.
     The researchers’ explanation has to do with mental alertness. Brighter lighting wakes us up, and fuller awareness leads to wiser choices. I see it as concerning social risk—what others will think of us—and psychological risk—what we’ll think of ourselves—following the consumer choices we make.
     With restaurant dining, a related explanation for the ambient lighting finding is the association between dim lighting and attention to the taste of the food. We associate fine dining with dim lighting. Beyond this, consider what happens if we dim the lights completely. At Dans Le Noir? restaurants, you dine in the dark, served by visually impaired staff. The chefs take care to keep the flavors distinct in the offerings because the patrons enjoy picking apart each taste, an endeavor made easier since each taste is more striking in the pitch black.
     Clearly, other factors contribute to people’s decisions whether to select healthy or unhealthy purchases. The ambient lighting researchers point out that places like Dairy Queen, with menus of indulgent, but relatively unhealthy offerings, are brightly lit.
     And there are plenty of other ways to ease embarrassment around choices. Position adjacent to potentially embarrassing items other items which give the opportunity for opposite impressions. Northwestern University study participants were asked how embarrassed they’d feel buying just a book titled The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Improving Your IQ. A parallel group of participants were asked how embarrassed they’d feel buying the book along with a purchase of the scholarly Scientific American magazine and the mind-challenging Rubik’s Cube. The add-ons evaporated the embarrassment.
     Still, even when you use these other ways, if it’s in both your and your shopper’s interest to indulge them, turning down the lights wouldn’t hurt.

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

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Feel Out a Fitting Emotional Attachment

A consumer’s emotional attachment to a retailer results in repeat business and a resistance to switching stores. Researchers at Neoma Business School in France and University of Gafsa in Tunisia measured emotional attachment at retail by asking consumers the degree to which they agreed with these four statements:
  • I am very attached to this store. 
  • I feel this store is a part of me. 
  • I feel like there is a bond between me and this store’s personnel. 
  • No other place can compare to this store. 
     The two settings in which the researchers explored determinants of emotional attachment were a hairdresser and a grocery store, to represent close and less close interpersonal transaction styles. The objective of the research was to provide guidance to retailers on how to cultivate emotional attachment.
     A major finding of the studies was that a store’s target audience is composed of people who have widely varying degrees of interest in forming an emotional attachment with a retail store. For those seeking such attachment, birthday cards and invitations to special events could satisfy the desire. But those same techniques are likely to alienate shoppers who are pleased to give a retailer business, yet fear the commitments associated with an emotional attachment. This caution is consistent with the finding from University of California-Riverside, Boston College, and Southern Methodist University researchers that there are fewer repurchases from customers who say they’ve been thanked too much by the retailer, and this tipping point is different for different customers.
     To cultivate and maintain emotional attachment, check that you’re not going too far in another sense as well: Researchers at University of Texas-Austin and Switzerland’s University of Bern looked at the emotional attachment of a total of more than 2,300 consumers to a total of 167 brands retailers carry. They found that consumers are more likely to form an emotional attachment to an item at retail if the consumer sees the item as fitting their image of their current self rather than of the person they aspire to be. Shoppers hesitate reaching out too far.
     Shoppers seeking emotional attachment responded differently in the grocery retailing than in the hairdressing service setting. Service quality and image congruency were especially important in the grocery setting, while feeling at ease and trusting what the retailer says were especially important in the hairdressing setting. For emotional attachment from your customers in close settings, project authenticity.

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

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Step Away from Calling Stephen Stephen

How bad is it to call a shopper by the wrong name? We know that using the right name enhances the sale. Calling a shopper by name underlines how you’re treating them as an individual rather than as a member of a herd. In fact, people’s self-esteem and their propensity to buy is heightened not only when their name is used, but also when they are shown or given products with brand names starting with the first letter in their own names. Our name is a set of sounds very familiar to us, and when we hear the set used in a pleasant way, our distrust dissolves.
     But is it better not to use the name at all rather than use the wrong name or mispronounce it? Yes, advise researchers from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Temple University, and University of Alabama. Interest in purchasing from a merchant dropped more sharply when the wrong name was used than when no name was used.
     How readily the good intentions can get mangled. If you see the name Stephan, and say “Steff uhn,” how deeply do you offend the “Stee vuhn” standing in front of you? If you hear the name “Chris” and then write that on the sales slip, will Kris be irritated? Or if you assume Chris is one gender, and it turns out you got it wrong, what’s the damage? More importantly, what can you do to avoid or repair the damage? Because of the power of using the name, I don’t advise you to give up the practice.
     The researchers say the damage comes from feelings of disrespect, so the remedy is to show respect. If you get the name wrong, apologize and ask the shopper’s help in getting it right. Then take care to be accurate next time.
     Another way to show respect, the researchers found, was to probe for personal values. I’ve seen success doing this by asking shoppers their reasons for selecting certain items over others. It’s best not to ask the questions in a “Why?” format. When asked, “Why did you make that choice?,” some consumers get defensive, as if their judgment is being ridiculed. Instead, use a phrasing that assumes the shopper is making a good decision: “What is important to you when choosing a product like this?” or “In what ways do you find this one to be better than the other possibilities?”

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

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