Thursday, May 31, 2018

Maximize Surveillance of Maximizers

When you’ve a shopper who is intent on buying the very best, stay aware that this shopper becomes more likely to cheat and lie to get it. Researchers at Vanderbilt University, Concordia University, and Peking University attribute this phenomenon to the relationship between maximizing and a sense of scarcity.
     Consumer psychologists distinguish between maximizers, who want to choose the best possible alternative, and satisficers, who are pleased to settle for what’s good enough. Wise retailers also make this distinction, since it determines how to make the sale. Moreover, wise retailers realize the distinction isn’t always straightforward. Maximizers are usually willing to pay more money than satisficers and to spend more time deciding. But some maximizers are bargain hunters, searching for a deal on the very best. Other maximizers are happy to pay top dollar if they can depend on a trusted salesperson to quickly point them toward perfection.
     When people have a maximizing mindset, they experience a sense of scarcity. For one thing, they believe there is only one best option, while there are probably a number of fully suitable alternatives. In addition, because maximizers spend so much time expanding the choice set and evaluating each alternative, a feeling of time scarcity arises, and research finds that this feeling spreads through the mind to become a general concern about scarcity.
     But why does a general concern about scarcity potentiate immoral behavior? The explanation is evolution. We are evolutionarily structured to become more willing to cut corners in order to protect ourselves and those close to us at times when essentials are in short supply.
     It’s not that maximizers are comfortable with their lying and cheating. They justify it, but they realize others would consider it wrong. In fact, maximizers are more likely than satisficers to regret almost everything about the transaction, including doubts about the quality of the items purchased.
     This then becomes the key to decreasing the immoral actions. Recognize that maximizing is often as much a situational mindset as a chronic personality characteristic. People can change. Help ease the maximizing so your shoppers will come away feeling better about themselves and their purchases. Rather than say, “Let’s find the very best one for you,” say, “Let’s find a few excellent alternatives which you can select from.”
     Still, however, it’s probably best that you stay on full alert for shady shenanigans whenever you’re dealing with an inveterate maximizer.

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Absolve Maximizers of Solely Absolutes
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Monday, May 28, 2018

Excuse Me with an Interruption

When selling prospects on purchasing an item or an idea, it would seem you wouldn’t want to be interrupted or to interrupt yourself. Shoppers in a flow state buy more. With their highly focused attention, they are less likely to go back-and-forth about making purchases.
     Still, researchers at Boston University and University of California-San Diego find that a well-timed interruption improves the purchase potential with decisions the shopper considers to be risky. That conclusion is actually old news. Prior studies have found value in interruptions. For instance, researchers at Cornell University and University of Toronto suggest that when a shopper is feeling overwhelmed by a difficult decision, you encourage the shopper to go on to another item on their shopping list and then come back in a short while to make the purchase decision. The interruption instantly relieves the sales pressure as the decision is temporarily suspended.
     But this later research reveals another explanation for the value of an interruption with risky decisions: When the person comes back to the decision situation after the interruption, they’ll probably reorient themselves by briefly reviewing what was covered before the recess, they’ll consequently go over material they’d processed before, this repetition adds familiarity, and what is more familiar engenders less apprehension.
     For this to work, you must bring the shopper back to the decision following the interruption. This means staying with them or tracking them down. Most consumers are more open to interruptions early in the purchase process and less open later. However, researchers at New Mexico State University and Sacred Heart University suggest that the retailer look out for the potential customer who seems pressed for time and is evaluating choices almost from the start. Minimize interruptions of these people early on and never interrupt early on with content not directly related to the purchase selection, such as with an extended greeting or casual conversation. With the shopper who is in this frame of mind, later interruptions are okay, and can actually create good will, as long as the interruptions are pleasant, such as reassurance or gratitude, and they’re not frequent.
     Another set of researchers, at Stanford University, note how in-store shopping can be subject to a plethora of interruptions from sources other than the retailer—phone calls, texts, impatient children. To the degree that the retailer can control additional ones, the sale of the item or idea is more likely.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Whack Price-Beating Policies

Consumer behavior research identifies payoffs for retailers in advertising price-match guarantees. “Find a better price on the same item, and we’ll honor that difference,” the store promises, and shoppers’ purchase intentions increase. This is because consumers interpret the promise to mean the store has low prices, so the shoppers’ motivation to search elsewhere fades.
     But does this mean you’ll increase revenues even more by advertising a price-beating policy? “If you purchase an item from us and then find the identical item at another store or online for less, we’ll give you double the difference in store credit.”
     Notice how the conditions of such a price-beating promise tilt in favor of the retailer. The consumer needs to purchase the item from the store in order to take advantage of the offer, and the refund is in credit, not cash, meaning that the consumer will need to spend the refund at the store.
     Even with this, though, researchers at Ghent University and University of Cambridge find that a price-beating guarantee is inferior to a price-match guarantee at increasing profits. One reason is that shoppers are less likely to trust the overall pricing policies of retailers who offer price-beating claims. Another reason is that compared to price-match claims, the price-beating claims attract a higher percentage of bargain hunters with little store loyalty. They’ll always be looking for even better offers and have little hesitation in switching suppliers.
     Price-beating also can come back to bite the retailer. The researchers recount the tale of a 2011 Tesco offer to double the difference if customers found purchased items at a lower price at an Asda store. One shopper took up Tesco on the deal by carefully selecting items which cost £38.46 at Tesco and £17.48 at Asda. Keeping the promise, Tesco issued a voucher equivalent to £41.96 to the customer, who walked away with free products plus also a little extra to spend.
     Sometimes the price matching itself might be unnecessary. When asked if you can meet a competitor’s price or the internet price, avoid saying no. That word irritates shoppers. Instead, say “Here is what I can do.” Then talk about items like:
  • Discounts for quantity purchases or purchase as part of a combo pack 
  • Delivery at times demand is slow for you 
  • Extras you offer, such as gift wrapping, training, or installation 
  • A discount on subsequent purchases, such as through a loyalty program 
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Monday, May 21, 2018

Endorse Policy, Not Character, Political Attacks

In political campaigning more than in any other arena of consumer persuasion, the saying “Be careful what you wish for, since you may receive it” often applies. A provision in the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, introduced by Republican U.S. Senator John McCain and Democrat U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, requires candidates to include in their ads a statement like, “Here is my name, and I approve this message.” The objective of the provision was to reduce political attack ads on the assumption that a candidate would be ashamed to personally and publically claim responsibility for such poisonous words. Ironically, though, the outcome of the provision, according to studies conducted at New York University and University of California, Berkeley has been to bolster voters’ belief of negative political advertising.
     The ads for which the personal endorsement most clearly increased credibility were those attacking a political opponent’s policies. The effect was not seen as clearly for attacks on an opponent’s personality. With these personal attacks, the degree to which the voter accepted them as justified did not depend on whether the “I approve this message” language was included.
     The researchers found three mechanisms of the negative policy attacks effect:
  • The candidate’s name attached to the ad gave it truth value. Other research suggests that if, in a printed ad, the candidate’s signature appeared, the truth value would be even higher. 
  • The use of the words “I approve” reduces the aggressive tone of the message itself and therefore relaxes the message recipient’s suspicious reaction to the vitriol. 
  • The formal structure of the notice with phrasing the voter has seen in other ads indicates that the ad is conforming to regulations, and this perception of conformity enhances its credibility. Other research suggests that some sort of official seal on the ad would increase the credibility further. 
     The general principle of consumer psychology here is that when you take personal responsibility and follow a well-recognized set of rules, whatever negative statements you make will have extra credibility. Regarding the retail store arena, researchers at European University Viadrina found that when a salesperson volunteered negative information about a product being considered by the shopper, the shopper became more likely to trust everything the salesperson said. But keep your words and logic simple. The researchers also found that with complexity, shoppers often won’t hook the talk of negative information to the salesperson’s credibility.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Keep Calm to Carry On Seniors’ Fraud Evasion

Consumer behavior researchers disagree about whether elderly adults are more susceptible overall to financial scams than are younger consumers. But the researchers do agree that the nature of the susceptibility and the dangers of succumbing to the fraud are more serious for senior citizens. Regarding the seriousness, seniors are more likely than young adults to be living on a limited income and to have fewer years to make up for large financial losses.
     Regarding the nature of susceptibility to fraud, researchers at Stanford University, Duke University, Humboldt University Berlin, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and AARP prefaced their studies by noting two risk factors for fraud are more common in the elderly—decreasing ability to accurately recall information from ads and to detect lying in face-to-face interactions.
     The researchers then went on to explore another risk factor which has been less well recognized—how emotional arousal, such as that famously used by successful con artists, interferes with critical thinking skills. This happens in adults of all ages, but the effects grow worse as we age.
     Older consumers respond to emotion-laden sales messages (“The aroma of our coffee brings waves of contentment”) more strongly than to purely rational sales messages (“Award-winning taste at a lower price”). Emotional appeals also result in senior shoppers remembering details about sources of sales messages more accurately. The seniors are especially receptive to positive emotions, so in a fraudulent sales pitch, they will pay more attention to the touted benefits than to signs of danger and will remember those benefits more clearly.
     The upshot of all this is that we can help older adults evade fraud by encouraging them to enter the consumer situation calmly, maintain calmness during the transactions, and insist on enough time to calmly consider tradeoffs prior to finalizing a purchase decision.
     Seniors will probably embrace this advice. They don’t want to be defrauded. Plus, unlike their young counterparts, seniors generally find happiness more in calmness than in excitement. They’re the type of consumers who in studies at Stanford University, MIT, and University of Pennsylvania would select “a relaxing blend of chamomile and mint” over “a refreshing peppermint blend” and a bottle of “Pure Calm” water labeled in green over “Pure Excitement” labeled in bright orange. In other research, older adults preferred calm TV advertisements with few camera changes, slower speech, and relaxing or no music over more arousing advertisements.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Build Up Bawl Outs When Telling Complainers

A customer who encounters flawed merchandise or service from your business often yearns for the person who is responsible to be bawled out. That’s according to researchers at Florida State University. In fact, the researchers found that a promise the employee will be reprimanded is among the most effective ways to keep from losing a snubbed customer.
     However, the researchers also found that the customers want reprimands delivered out of their presence. They want harshness, yet don’t want to witness the harshness. They also want the employee to be granted the respect of privacy.
     These findings are in accord with others, from University of Southern California, which concluded that about 40% of retail consumers report how at least once each month, they see a store employee treat another store employee so rudely that the customer gets less interested in shopping at that store. A supervisor reprimanding in front of a complaining customer the employee responsible for the shortfall may be intending to demonstrate respect for the customer. But this message is severely undercut by the failure of the manager to show respect to the salesperson in front of the customer.
     Moreover, it’s best that you not be harsh even in private. You’ll get better results when you fix the problem instead of fixing the blame. Holding people responsible is different from fixing blame. Estimates by psychologists at New York University and University of Tulsa suggest that about 70% of retail employees will do less well in a store like yours if you put more emphasis on fixing the blame for the problem than on fixing the problem that caused the setback.
     When serious problems arise in your retail business, hammer out the difficulties in supportive ways. Use your hammer to repair the shortfalls, not to pound your valuable staff—and consequently, their staff morale—into the ground. Stop at embarrassment, short of guilt or shame.
     Still, amplify the degree of intensity when telling the complaining customer what action you’ll be taking. Your words, voice tone, posture, and gestures should all convey that you consider the complaint to be consequential, and thus there will be consequences. With a loyal customer who feels highly scorned, telling them afterwards that a serious reprimand was delivered is useful. Actually, it’s possible the customer will say, “Oh, it wasn’t really that serious,” a mindset which further counteracts any desire to take their business elsewhere.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Generate Seniors’ Generativity Now

People donate higher amounts if asked to pledge a charitable donation in the future than if asked to give right now. As a result, charities can find it advisable to put off the collection date. However, this temporal discounting of donation amounts applies from the perspective of the charity, too. Getting money sooner is better than getting money later, everything else being equal.
     Good news, then, from Ryerson University researchers which finds that this temporal discounting among donors fades markedly as the donors get older. Senior citizens show fewer differences between donation-now and donation-later amounts than do younger adults. The researchers’ explanation is that as we age, our generativity—concern about future generations—grows, resulting in greater altruism and willingness to donate now.
     Seniors like to give their business to retailers who are compassionate, and they like to view themselves as generous. One dynamic behind this is a desire to leave behind a legacy of love. Maybe behind this, in turn, is a calculation of what will be required on the résumé submitted at the Pearly Gates.
     The increased generosity does not appear to be due to greater net worth or lower cognitive abilities as people age. And the fading of the temporal discounting applies only to charitable donations. As it comes to spending money in other ways, older adults still show a willingness to devote larger amounts when the due date is in the future than when approaching soon.
     When soliciting older potential donors, the advice to charities is to ask for the money to be contributed now, not later.
     The range of the request counts, too. 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 at all, and the larger the greatest amount in the same request, the higher the eventual donation. In a solicitation containing a scale of suggested contributions, a range of $5 to $1,000 would serve better than one of $20 to $500.
     Still, there is a boundary condition to the change in temporal discounting with charitable donations: The degree of altruism levels off at about age 75 and decreases somewhat thereafter. With the older old, then, the size of donations is likely to be highest with planned giving, in which the donation is made via a trust or will which will be activated in the future.

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Charge for Online Trustworthiness

Researchers at Brandon University, University of Alberta, and Conestoga College began with curiosity about differences in retail price spreads. Specifically, why do prices for comparable items usually differ more among ecommerce than among brick-and-mortar (B&M) channels? It would seem that because of the greater ease of price comparisons online, there would be less dispersion. But from three months of data collection, the researchers verified greater price spread for the ecommerce vendors on product categories such as batteries, flash drives, toys, espresso makers, vacuum cleaners, and TVs.
     The data collection also provided two explanations: First, because there are more online than offline sites available to the shopper, there are simply more opportunities for different mixes of prices, quality, and services. Second, consumers pay more attention to the reputation of the retailer when purchasing online than when purchasing at a shop. Ecommerce is considered to be riskier, principally because of the increased chances of consumer fraud and data security breaches. Retailers differ in a perceived reputation for trustworthiness. This opens opportunities to reputable ecommerce retailers who can charge because of their online trustworthiness.
     Such trustworthiness is enhanced when an ecommerce retailer has a B&M presence. Researchers from Florida State University, Saint Mary’s College of California, York University, and Lieberman Research Worldwide have shown how differences between ecommerce sales with or without a B&M partner are especially high for unknown retailers. Sales are higher even when the B&M store is physically distant from the shopper rather than across town. If consumers know you have an actual store, not just a virtual one, they trust you more.
     Although your earned trustworthiness enables you to set higher prices, remember how sales increase with promotional discounts. But do you maintain the same everyday pricing and same special pricing in both the online and offline channels?
     Researchers at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven analyzed retail situations in which a promotional discount was offered in one of the channels, but not the other. As common sense predicts, shoppers who were aware of the difference in pricing moved their purchases away from the channel which maintained the regular price and toward the one offering the discount.
     What these research findings did add to our common sense notions was the finding that the cross-channel cannibalization effect was stronger when the discount was online. Internet specials ate away at storefront sales revenues more than storefront specials ate away at internet sales revenues.

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Vaccinate to Encourage Seniors’ Vaccinating

A technique, both highly influential and broadly underused, to encourage elderly adults to protect themselves against vaccination preventable diseases (VPDs) is for those working with the elderly adults to stay current on their own vaccinations. This is according to a review of the status of vaccinations among seniors which was led by researchers at GSK in Belgium and included collaborators from Austria, Canada, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the U.S.
     Keeping current with vaccinations is especially important for seniors because as we age, our immune system becomes less effective at generating the antibodies afterwards. Using a vaccine with higher doses of the antigen does not overcome the problem. A regimen of more frequent vaccinations can.
     But seniors themselves and the health care professionals serving seniors are not sufficiently conscientious about following the regimen. As a consequence, in the U.S. for instance, about 99% of deaths from VPDs are among adults aged 60 years and above.
     The researchers found that one significant reason health care professionals are not monitoring the adherence is the health care professionals aren’t convinced of the value of vaccinations among the elderly. Contributing to this might be those reports that the immune system response of seniors is compromised.
     However, studies have also discovered that if public health programs place a special emphasis on seniors getting vaccinated, this has the ironic side effect of indicating to the health care professionals, who are generally younger adults, that vaccinations are relatively less important for them. Yet modeling is an influential tool for persuasion agents. Our customers, clients, and patients will place more trust in what we recommend when we ourselves are following those recommendations which apply to us.
     As in other realms of selling to the consumer, expertise is earned. Patients might not expect you to know everything, but they do expect you to get the answer when you don't know and to do a personal handoff to another expert as necessary.
     A touch of humility actually makes it more likely you’ll be accepted as an expert. Avoid coming across to the customer as absolutely certain in the recommendations you're making. A bit of uncertainty makes the patient more comfortable asking questions. For instance, concerns about the safety of vaccinations are common. Those questions are highly valuable when you’re facilitating the sale. You can present counterarguments or steer the consumer toward alternatives which will better fit their preferences.

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

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