Thursday, March 29, 2018

Activate Prior Knowledge for Senior Persuasion

Recount benefits of a product or politician to a consumer in similar ways often enough and the consumer could become certain of the existence of the benefits. The effect is so well-established by decades of research that consumer scientists coined the term “truth effect” to refer to it.
     The problem is that the beliefs due to the truth effect do not need to be true. What is repeated gets easier to understand, and ease of understanding facilitates persuasion. Consumers might be fooled by any misleading messages which happen to be much easier to comprehend than are accurate complex messages.
     The problem is more severe in older than in younger adults because of how age impacts memory. People remember both a statement and the degree of truth. Older adults tend to forget the degree of truth. In one study, participants of varying ages were presented various true and false statements three times. The statement “Corn chips contain twice as much fat as potato chips” was presented with a correct “False” designation each time. Later, the younger adults in the study remembered the statement as false much more often than did the older adults.
     Researchers at Duke University and Claremont McKenna College find that senior citizens can mobilize an effective defense against this problem: Activating their past experiences. In those cases where the older adults take the time to consider what they already know about a topic, they are more resistant to chicanery.
     For the seniors to take the time, they must believe they have the time. As our objective is to ethically persuade our consumers, don’t rush them. The researchers say that seniors will then naturally activate memories of past experiences because they’ve become accustomed to doing so in their daily lives. The evidence is that older adults learn to use this as a way to compensate for other cognitive deficits.
     The effectiveness does depend on the older adult having built the subject matter knowledge in the past. If it’s not there to consult, the senior can be more easily fooled. This argues for the ethical persuader to take even more time, beyond not rushing the client, in order to educate the client.
     The results can explode myths of the relentless deterioration of abilities with advancing age. It might explain why University of Waterloo researchers found no evidence senior citizens were more susceptible to financial scams than were younger citizens.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Leave Diners with Leftovers

When a restaurant server offers to wrap leftovers before presenting the check for the meal, diners are more likely than otherwise to become repeat customers. A group of Iona College researchers explored the how of this finding.
     People are less likely to take leftovers when they need to ask the server to wrap them than when the server initiates the offer. They also are less likely to either make or accept the request when dining with people they are trying to impress. The reason is shame. Years ago, diners who are now senior shoppers would rationalize taking the leftovers by saying they wanted a “doggy bag.” A way around this is for the server to first address the offer to take leftovers at the person at the table who seems to be most socially dominant. When that person accepts the offer, the hesitation on the part of the others disappears. This requires servers to attend to the table’s interpersonal dynamics.
     As the restaurant operator, pay attention to containers in which you package the leftovers. Having it recyclable reinforces the social consciousness of reducing food waste, so further eases any embarrassment at carrying the leftovers. The package is also an opportunity to feature your restaurant during carrying. Put the name and location on the container or the bag holding the container. Those passing by will consider it as a dining recommendation, and the customers will be reminded of the good feelings when finishing off the remains.
     Researchers at Drexel University were also interested in the marketing of leftovers. In their, case, though, it was a category of foods called VASP for value-added surplus products. VASP are foods created using byproducts from the manufacture of other products. These byproducts are then turned into something new. For example, “spent grain from beer brewing can be dried and made into granola rather than being discarded. Carrot peels can be dried and added to a powdered soup mix.”
     That was the description presented to a group of consumers who were then asked what would increase their interest in VASP. A principal finding was that there wasn’t much resistance to purchasing or consuming such foods. The acceptance was particularly good when benefits to the environment and social responsibility in reducing food waste were highlighted. Of the names proposed to the consumers to replace the strange sounding “VASP,” the consumers’ favorite was “upcycled.”

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Subtract from the Senior Digital Divide

How can marketers ease the resistances older adults have to embracing digital technologies such as self-checkout and ordering via kiosk? After analyzing 144 studies about such questions, researchers at Free University Berlin and Technical University Dortmund conclude that the marketers should be marketing usefulness and ease of use.
     As to ease of use, it can be a tough sell. The digital divide between younger and older adults is not so much a sharp line as it is a gradual decline. As people age, their abilities to perceive and to learn fade. Technology use becomes more difficult. Studies document how seniors, because of vision impairments, have trouble navigating websites that are easily handled by younger people. Because of reduced touch sensitivity, the seniors stumble when aiming for graceful interaction with touch screen transactions.
     As to perceived usefulness, marketers should recognize that as people get older, their needs shift, and usefulness is a direct function of how well needs are met. Compared to younger adults, seniors place more emphasis on protecting against errors and losses than on taking chances and gaining more. So tell the older adults stories about people who were at risk of making a mistake, but used the technology to turn things right. When the seniors do use a technology well, praise them. However, too much praise for their successes will make them fret that you’re not leveling with them. They’re always on guard. Similarly, be ready to honestly discuss privacy concerns expressed by senior shoppers about consumer technologies, but going into needless detail will arouse rather than ease resistances.
     Advanced age brings increased appreciation for social relationships and a desire for gentle rather than breathtaking stimulation. The most common internet activities of older adults center on communication and entertainment. This indicates a value in introducing seniors to digital technologies in the world of retailing by highlighting or creating benefits for communicating with others and being entertained. If you use a game format as a teaching tool, though, use a game in which motor speed isn’t required.
     One theory is that the digital divide is due to today's older adults having grown up in a world without personal computers. Therefore, seniors in the future, having been exposed to the internet of everything, won’t have these resistances. However, the researchers reviewing the 144 studies say the digital divide won’t disappear because it’s due to such a substantial degree to ability declines.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Spark Nicknames in the Name of Love

In year 2011, it was not unusual to hear somebody refer to Target Stores as “tar gay,” as if with a French accent, inspired by the retailer’s aspirational claim to a high fashion reputation. In my hometown of Vacaville, California is a locally-owned café named Pure Grain Bakery. My wife and her friends never call it that. They abbreviate it to PG, even though in their earlier years, friends reserved that letter pair for other friends who were with child and in more recent years, for movies they might not want to view with children. Business Insider has compiled a list of nicknames for McDonald’s across ten countries, from Mickey D’s in the U.S. to Mak Kee in Hong Kong.
     Bestowing nicknames on businesses is usually a sign of customer affection, and customer affection is good for business. Researchers at University of North Dakota, University of Minnesota, and University of St. Thomas find this applies to products as well as stores. Purchase intentions increased and persisted when consumers were encouraged to nickname items. Creating the nickname requires an investment of time and thinking plus gives a sense of personalizing. All this produces a feeling of ownership which people fulfill with actually buying the item.
     To build a sense of companionship with your store or with a product you sell, you could give a nickname, such as McDonald’s did with their flagship Big Mac. If you choose this route, select one that fits a predominant characteristic of the retailer or item. In the research, the assigned name Muggy produced higher purchase intentions than did Bob for a mug. Blue worked better for a blue stapler than did Steve.
     Better, though, is to have the shoppers and customers christen the prospective possessions. When naming our children or pets, the highest feelings of bonding come with choices fitting our cultural and family history as well as our heartfelt wishes for the child or pet. We’d presume the same for other types of naming.
     The profitability drive of self-selected nicknames often goes beyond the initial purchase. Arizona State University and Texas Christian University studies described people who called their cars by pet names and purchased guns in what the purchasers later described as a moment of passion. Those consumers subsequently spent six times more for accessories, on average, than did those not evidencing the sorts of involvement and intimacy signaled by chosen nicknames.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Become a Third Place for Future Third Agers

When researchers at Ghent University and Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School asked groups of older adults how they’d like to be referred to by marketers, the name “seniors” was well-received. Playing to negative reviews was “third age,” seen in uses such as by the Third Age Foundation, where childhood is the first age and the second age covers raising a family and pursuing a career.
     Maybe the poor reception for that name was because many older adults are still engaged in their careers. Still, marketers are wise to recognize that with older adults living longer, those people we’ll call seniors are potential customers for a good while after retirement.
     Results from studies at Macquarie University and University of Tasmania suggest you keep in mind another third: Position yourself as a third place for future third agers. In this usage, the first place is home, the second place is work, and the third place is where you, the marketer, offer services to the senior. The studies find that you achieve this position by encouraging customers and clients to behave like a community.
     The researchers tell of a 68-year-old client who learned that an 88-year-old client was having trouble reading labels while grocery shopping and so arranged to help her with her shopping every fortnight. Other aspects of creating a sense of community were facilitating access of the seniors to information and giving them ample opportunities to make choices. The results, the researchers said, could be viewed as empowering the clients. Third places empower us.
     At the same time, citizens of good communities are not unpleasantly intrusive. Researchers at Université Paris-Est, Monash University, and Concordia University interviewed French consumers about those consumers’ experiences with restaurants, cafés, department stores, concert halls, and libraries. The findings from the analyses were that establishments which evoke certain reactions are especially likely to become third places.
     Many of those reactions identified by the researchers, such as authentic interactions with store staff, are what you would probably expect for a “third place” award. Beyond this, though, there was another reaction which may not have sprung to your attention: Security from intrusions. Café seating which allows those who desire to sit with the back to a wall. A women’s cosmetics section with alcoves in which the shopper can feel a sense of privacy. Waiting rooms insulated from the noise of barking dogs, car repairs, or emergency clinic hustle.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Practice Personal Selling

Personal selling—the technique of face-to-face persuasion by a salesperson—does have disadvantages compared to, let’s say, targeted marketing or mass advertising. Personal selling requires high labor costs, depends on staff who might become unreliable or inconsistent, and can reach only a limited number of prospects.
     Yet when it comes to return on investment, personal selling outdoes those other two methods, according to a meta-analysis of hundreds of studies by researchers at University of Missouri, University of Miami, and Kühne Logistics University. Using what is called “short-term elasticity” for the measure of sales revenue increases as a function of selling method expenditures, personal selling was about 31% more profitable than mass media advertising and about 6% more profitable than targeted marketing. Further, the effects of the marketing communications on sales are sustained substantially longer with personal selling than with the other two methods.
     This last isn’t surprising, since personal selling, when done properly, develops relationships of the shopper with the selling staff. The shopper senses that they are the focus of caring attention and customized messages as they interact with the salesperson and the products. On the salesperson side of the equation, personal selling provides more opportunities than the other two methods for closing the sale right there.
     Of course, few retailers would use only personal selling without incorporating other advertising and promotional techniques. For purposes of assessing relative ROIs, the researchers statistically teased out the effects from what in the real world operates as synergistic marketing initiatives.
     Still, a verification of the payoff from personal selling is useful. Those payoffs will be at their greatest when the personal selling shows expertise:
  • Aside from thieves, consumers choose to be acknowledged when they enter a store or a department within a store. Beyond that initial contact, shoppers want staff available to answer questions. 
  • Coach your staff to be order getters, not only order takers. They should do this in a way which recognizes a prevailing truth: People prefer to buy than to be sold. Gently, but decisively, spiral the shopper in toward purchases which will both meet the customer's desires and boost your retailing profits. 
     Practice personal selling in the sense of valuing it as a professional skill, in the spirit of a medical practice. Also practice personal selling in the sense of continually improving your skills, in the spirit of practicing a musical instrument. Over time, become a virtuoso.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Media-Chat with Seniors

When Tracey Crouch, Britain’s Minister of Sport and Civil Society, was awarded an additional portfolio by Prime Minister Theresa May, Ms. Crouch was promptly nicknamed in the media “Minister for Loneliness.” Her mandate is to address an epidemic of loneliness, especially among older adults, a mandate accompanied by a multimillion-pound fund to carry out the work. The government estimates that half the number of adults at least age 75 in England live alone, with many not having in-person visitors for weeks at a time.
     Mental health professionals at Israel’s Shinui Institute and Center for Academic Studies have seen the same problems of loneliness and need for solutions among their country’s elderly population. These professionals cite studies showing loneliness increases the probability of death by 30% to 60%. 
     Remedies certainly should include arranging for visitors to seniors and providing socializing spots for seniors. NBC News reported that some on social media doubted the seriousness in Ms. Crouch’s appointment, pointing out that it coincided with government funding cuts for community halls, day care centers, and public libraries.
     But social media—actually media in general—might provide a supplemental remedy in the form of opportunities for chatting. When socially isolated people watch TV shows featuring people who seem like friends to them, the people feel less lonely. A natural extension of this is that organizations ranging from social service agencies to ecommerce vendors can assist seniors and build consumer loyalty via remote gabbing. It might not even need to be two-way interchanges. Those characters on the TV shows who seem like friends aren’t really conducting dialogues with the viewers.
     This helps explain the popularity of TV shopping networks among the elderly. Researchers at Philadelphia University and University of Tennessee-Knoxville surveyed 295 TV home shoppers who were at least 60 years old. These survey respondents reported that the infirmities of old age made it more convenient to shop via TV than to go out to a store. Still, staying home could be lonely. Another reported value in TV shopping came because the hosts attended to chatting with the audience and each other.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Right Neighborhood Blight with Shoppers’ Sight

Require the pot dispensary to go from the neighborhood, and the neighborhood might go to pot. That’s the conclusion in a Journal of Urban Economics study based on data collected by USC and University of California-Irvine researchers.
     The researchers begin by acknowledging how both politicians and the politicians’ constituents generally believe marijuana dispensaries attract crime in ways similar to what has been seen with liquor stores. So after the City of Los Angeles decided to close down more than 400 dispensaries, did the crime rates in the neighborhoods of those shops subsequently plummet?
     It appears not, at least in the short term. Instead, when the rates in those neighborhoods were compared with the rates in neighborhoods where dispensaries were allowed to remain open, the evidence indicated property crimes and theft from vehicles increased while the rates of other crimes did not change much over the next few months.
     Why is this? The answer began to emerge when the researchers went on to find a similar effect in areas adjacent to restaurants temporarily closed for health violations. Property crime rates increased until the restaurants opened again. The reason had to do with what the researchers called “eyes on the street.” An open store or restaurant attracts traffic, and moderate amounts of traffic deter criminal activity.
     This doesn’t mean we should allow the unhealthy restaurants to stay open. Poisoning the customers is worse than having their cars broken into. It does mean we should encourage enough foot traffic around neighborhood stores so that even if one shuts down, there are still plenty of eyes on the street.
     Encourage the success of stores where people want to dwell. Cafés, dress shops, hardware stores, and book shops are examples. But any store appealing to a specialty interest and staffed by experts can increase dwell time. Advocate for plazas where people can gather and decorative streets where they can stroll.
     Doing this requires attention. Keeping up appearances outside your store can be more difficult than handling the interior décor. Store owners frequently don’t own the building itself so have limited control over the exterior. Municipalities short on funding may emphasize attention to industrial parks and Big Box power centers, since they pay such a high percentage of the property and sales tax revenues. Small to midsize independently-owned retail operations get fewer publicly-funded amenities. And often, there’s lax enforcement of city regulations mandating quality standards for exteriors.

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Inspire Seniors with Interval Training

Physical exercise of any sort, as long as it’s not punishing, helps maintain health in senior citizens. But high-intensity interval training, in which pushing hard alternates with not pushing hard, holds promise for actually improving health.
     Mayo Clinic researchers assigned sedentary men and women at least age 65 to exercise on a stationary bicycle. For some of these seniors, the instructions were to pedal hard for four minutes, rest for three, and then repeat that sequence three more times. This took about half an hour and was to be done three times a week. Participants in another exercise condition were instructed to peddle at a moderate pace for thirty minutes a few times a week and lift weights lightly on the other days. Twelve weeks into the program, the interval training group showed superior gains in endurance even down to the cellular level. Nearly 400 genes associated with muscle cell health were functioning better, while in the moderate exercise group, it was only 19.
     Participants in both groups, as well as in a group that was assigned to do vigorous weight training, showed improvements in physical fitness and blood sugar regulation to a degree not seen in a group assigned to not exercise. Still, pushing hard paid off for the seniors as long as they had an opportunity to pull back periodically. The researchers even described it as reversing the effects of aging.
     Parallel effects can occur with mental exercise. Challenging the older brain activates plasticity—the ability of the brain to physically change as a result of learning—and brain flexibility—the ability of the brain to use its current physical structure to meet novel challenges by rearranging tasks. The effects are stronger when there are intervals of rest which allow the changes to take hold.
     Interval training also makes the activity more engaging. Interruptions increase enjoyment. It’s an example of what psychologists call habituation. Massage therapists report that the client generally likes the massage better when they’re rubbed for a while, pounded for a while, kneaded for a while, and then rubbed again than if there’s no change. Inserting a commercial break in a nature documentary stimulates willingness to donate.
     There is a difference between the physical and intellectual though. Younger adults are more susceptible to habituation than older adults. But the relative advantages of high-intensity interval training are more compelling for older than for younger participants.

For your success: Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology

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