Monday, December 30, 2019

Experience Higher Profits with Experiences

People are more receptive to a price increase for an experience than for a material object. A major reason is that people generally consider an experience to be more distinctive than a material object, and they’re willing to pay a premium for distinctiveness.
     A set of experiments at Universidade Catolica Portuguesa suggests that the distinctiveness can be portrayed to consumers in one or more of four ways:
  • Limited opportunity. “You are here now.” “We are available now to provide this experience.” “You have the time for this experience now.” 
  • Unique design. “This experience will be dramatically different from any other experience you’ve had so far.” “Each time you partake in the experience, we can make it different for you.” 
  • Personalized design. “We will customize this experience to fit your characteristics and preferences.” 
  • Counter-conformity. “This experience allows you to temporarily rebel against what others expect you to do.” 
     Prior research has found that people usually find greater happiness in purchasing experiences than in purchasing objects because experiences bring higher pre-acquisition savoring, more opportunities to share consumption of the purchase through joint participation, and more interest of others in hearing about the purchase. These subsequent studies verify how the difference in acceptance of price increases is due to the distinctiveness apart from the expectation of greater happiness.
     An implication of the findings is that you can ease resistances to price increases for objects by emphasizing the distinctiveness of the purchase. In a counterintuitive example of this, researchers at University of Texas-Dallas found circumstances in which you should raise your price on a particular item when the price on apparently equivalent items is lowered.
     One result of such a drop by a supplier of a high-prestige item is that demand increases for a substitutable item with a higher price. The logic goes like this for the consumer, perhaps at a subconscious level: “If the price is now lower, more people will be able to buy the item. This means the people in my social group won’t be as impressed when I show them I purchased this item. However, if I buy this other item, which carries a higher price, my purchase will impress others more because it’s distinctive.”
     Whether it is in selling experiences or material objects, you should respond to increased demand by raising the price. Not a huge jump, since it’s never a good idea to gouge, but a nudge upwards.

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Up the Experience Purchase Quality
Prepare Customers for Price Increases
Charge for Savoring
Raise Luxury Prices If Equivalents Drop Prices
Dip Your Toe Into Extreme Experiences
Encourage Customers to Pay What’s Right

Friday, December 27, 2019

Discern Motivations for Joint Consumption

In purchasing merchandise or experiences to be shared with others, characteristics of the buyer, the other consumers, and the item all count. Researchers at University of Pittsburgh, New York University and Duke University recommend you discern the specifics to ensure optimal satisfaction.
     The fundamental balance in joint consumption decisions is between preferences of the purchaser and preferences of the others. When the group consists of family, the preferences might be quite similar because of shared genetics and life experiences. Still, different generations may have divergent objectives. Grandparents might be pleased to place the preferences of their grandchildren over their own when sharing because the grandparents will derive their enjoyment from watching the youngsters enjoy.
     With a group of friends, there are often commonalities of interests, making it easier for a retailer to suggest a purchase which will please all. In a group of coworkers, consideration of the hierarchical position of the buyer gains importance. Arranging a banquet or team building retreat in which the boss will participate is different from making arrangements when you are the boss. The salesperson should keep in mind how shared consumption decisions both reflect and affect relationship networks.
     People making joint consumption purchases generally aim for collaboration (“I’ll start by placing top importance on the item features we all like”) or compromise (“Because I selected a time I prefer, I’ll select a place they probably all prefer”). Compared with male shoppers, females are more likely to use compromise in order to maintain the relationship or, when compromise is not feasible, to give greater consideration to others’ preferences than to their own.
     When collaboration or compromise is overly difficult, the interpersonal style of the decision maker and the size of the consumption group come into play. Shoppers who pride themselves on maintaining good interpersonal relationships strive to accommodate the desires of as many of the group as possible. Shoppers who pride themselves on independence progressively neglect the desires of other group members as the size of the joint consumption group grows. As a retailer comes to know the customer over time, they can discern the customer’s placement along the interdependence-independence dimension.
     People concerned with how they appear to others are willing to spend ample time finding what would please the entire group. That characteristic might be easier to spot by looking at how the customer dresses and interacts with others in the shopping setting.

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Attend to Genetic Influences in Selling
Leapfrog Generations to Sell Experiences
Influence the Compromise Choice Process
Transition as Entire Cultures Transition
Discover What the Gift-Giver Expects in Giving

Monday, December 23, 2019

Enliven Influence by Viewing Life Scripts

Elderly adults generally strive to see the upside in any situation. At the same time, they tend to see their own lives as becoming more negatively-toned in advanced years. Researchers at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University and Brock University found this fact about life scripts to be similarly true for people across the varying cultures of twelve developed countries. Moreover, it was true for the life scripts of younger adults as well as those of the elderly.
     A life script consists of a person’s description of key events they expect to experience between birth and death. A common technique for eliciting a life script is to ask the individual to imagine an average newborn in their culture and then list the seven most important milestones this newborn would likely encounter over a subsequent lifetime.
     Because of the similarity in life script trajectories across cultures, attention to features of life scripts is especially useful to marketers who are attempting to influence groups of consumers worldwide with whom the marketers lack personal contact. We can safely assume that our target markets believe their lives will become increasingly more challenging as they enter into and then continue through their senior years. Consumers can be interested in planning to maintain what they possess and compensate for what they anticipate losing. It may take a targeted effort, though. For example, some young adults are no more motivated to save for retirement than to give money to a stranger. Those young adults view a self in the distant future to be like a stranger.
     The researchers’ review of studies considered how elderly adults perceive the trajectory of their lives, not necessarily the actual life trajectories. Because heavy responsibilities increase during young adulthood, the typical life script about that period is notably more positive than the actual sense of well-being. In the transition from middle age to old age, well-being is usually stable or increases, at least up until death approaches. However, the life scripts expressed by adults tend to overstate the downsides of the transition.
     It is consumers’ perceptions of themselves—and, in this case, the course of their lives—which are of more interest to marketers than the objective realities. People are persuaded best with appeals to their perceptions of their realities. Adults of all ages could be motivated by appeals to an underlying assumption that life satisfaction is threatened as they approach advanced age.

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Blend Culture into Senior Selling
Bag Consumers with Future Images

Friday, December 20, 2019

Clothe the Aged Workforce

Smart marketers have noticed that older Americans control about 70% of the disposable income in the U.S. Many of the initiatives to get seniors to spend those funds are being devoted to products and services designed to ease the health problems of aging and enhance the pleasures of leisure time.
     Researchers at San Francisco State University, University of Minnesota, and Iowa State University point to a niche that is easily overlooked in those efforts: Seniors who need clothes to wear to work. People of all ages spend more on clothes when they are employed. This is both because employers expect staff to dress to fit the position and because being employed gives the consumer more to spend. But the researchers find that holding a job is a stronger determinant of clothing purchases by the elderly than is having the money to spend.
     Along with the senior population growing in size, the percentage of seniors who choose to continue employment is high, now approaching 32%. Old age does bring health problems, and those should be accounted for in the design of apparel and of store dressing rooms. But in general, the health problems are not frequent or severe enough to hamper most seniors from seeking the social, intellectual, and economic benefits of staying on the job or seeking a post-retirement job. Based on their literature review, the researchers estimate that fully 25% of the total U.S. part-time and full-time workforce consists of people aged 65+. Many who don’t seek employment do volunteer in settings requiring a fashion cut above retirement-community casual.
     Compared to younger consumers, seniors are more willing to pay for quality, comfort, and safety. The researchers point to particular opportunities for marketers to profit from featuring women’s footwear dressy enough for an office setting while avoiding the tripping dangers of shoes acceptable to younger women. In all apparel categories, seniors prefer classic to trendy brands and styles.
     Compared to middle-aged consumers, the elderly are likely to want to refresh their wardrobe regularly in order to maintain good fit as body dimensions change. As we age, we tend to shrink in height and width, fat and muscle reconfigure themselves, and the shape of the resting posture changes.
     A need for regular updates paired with the ability and willingness to spend money and time on apparel can be a formula for success for those choosing to clothe the aged workforce.

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Store Goodwill with Seniors
Cut Out Trying Item Tryouts
Foot the Bill for Stocking Shoes

Monday, December 16, 2019

Beautify Persuasion Transactions

People are generally more likely to be persuaded when the face-to-face influence agent is good-looking. Handsome solicitors for charitable contributions collect more money. Beautiful store salespeople produce bigger market basket totals. Political candidates whose facial features are symmetrical are more likely to garner votes for themselves and for their causes.
     A team from America’s University of Dayton, Canada’s Concordia University, and China’s Sun Yat-sen University verified how a service representative’s physical attractiveness boosts consumer satisfaction, service quality perception, and likeability of the representative. In combination, these should lead to more repeat business. The scenarios used in the studies were a restaurant and an airport, with the attractiveness of the service provider varied.
     Encourage your workers to maintain their physical attractiveness. Charity solicitors or store salespeople don’t need to be real knockouts, though. Researchers at University of Western Australia find that human faces incorporating a typical appearance for a culture are likely to be judged as beautiful by people in that culture. This is because what is average is more familiar to us, and familiarity is comforting. In fact, the mechanism behind the beauty premium effect is that people consider themselves to be socially closer to others who look attractive. We want, and therefore tend to consider, good looking individuals to be trustworthy members of our in-group.
     Too much beauty can intimidate consumers. Studies find that shoppers who perceive themselves as being unattractive can respond negatively to salesperson beauty. In-store shoppers for appearance-oriented products compare themselves to how others in the store look. If the comparison comes across with the shopper thinking they end up on the short end, the chance of you making a sale drops.
     This idea is true not only about the clerks. When a female store mannequin looks unattainably gorgeous, women who have doubts about their attractiveness feel threatened, with the result that they criticize the product the mannequin displays.
     The researchers at University of Alberta and University of British Columbia who saw this happen also observed a similar effect in men. In this case, one explanation is that the fellows felt disturbed that they’d not be able to hold the attention of a real woman who was so attractive. Another explanation is that an attractive female mannequin stimulates in men the general idea of how society casts judgments based on physical appearance. Suggested remedies include masking the faces of mannequins or even using headless bodies.

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Mobilize Your In-Store Erotic Capital
Anticipate Aesthetics Avoidance
Mask Those Gorgeous Mannequins
Look Out for Ugly Shoppers!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Shove Materialistic Shoppers’ Shame

Materialistic shoppers judge themselves by how much desirable merchandise they own. The more the better. Mainstream religions judge materialistic shoppers to be shameful, if not downright evil. Marketers, economists, and consumer researchers carry a more sanguine, nuanced view of these consumers, who take pride in purchasing lots of quality stuff: As long as they don’t start to buy compulsively, hoard their large collections, ignore their vital obligations to society, or yield to scams, materialists should be able to enjoy themselves.
     With this sanguine approach in mind, researchers at University of Virginia and Bridgewater College explored how to ease the shame. The headline answer is to allow these consumers to represent themselves to others as smart shoppers. The tool to accomplish this is a program of price promotions. But recognizing which price promotions work best depends on an understanding of the moral dilemmas. Our society criticizes both wastefulness and stifled self-expression.
     Buying a never-ending supply of home improvement construction materials wouldn’t be criticized in the way that filling closets with dresses and jewelry would be. Discounts on what society considers to be nonessentials are useful in development of that smart shopper label.
     When people put forth an effort to obtain merchandise, they are seen as less self-indulgent. Reminding materialistic shoppers of what they did to earn the money they’re spending shoves away shame. Offering discounts that are unadvertised or accrue only to those who ask for it also are seen as requiring a shame-reducing effort. Along with this, obtaining any discount strengthens one’s impression of being a smart shopper.
     The size of discounts is less important than the frequency of discounts. If negotiating with the materialistic shopper, quote a moderate size discount in total dollars, not as a percentage, on a substantial bundle of items. The researchers found that a gift with the purchase also worked. In fact, a “Buy One, Get One Free” deal reduced shamefulness judgments more effectively than did a monetarily equivalent “Buy Two, Get Both 50% Off.” I believe use of the word “free” in the first offer was what made the difference.
     Interacting with a salesperson might in itself ease negative feelings beyond shame. Tilburg University studies found that a subcategory of materialistic shoppers buy in order to meter their degree of success. This habit increases isolation, so it can be said that the materialism is a cause of loneliness. These shoppers will welcome nurturing interactions from retail salespeople.

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Compulsive Buying Disorder. Okay, Laugh
Supersize Switching with Superconsumers
Personalize Discount Offers
Go for BOGO Free Over BOGO Discounted
Isolate Loneliness & Materialism

Monday, December 9, 2019

Attract Volunteer Retirees with Ease

Seniors who have retired from regular employment are an excellent source for volunteer services to help out your nonprofit or business. Volunteering also helps the seniors by giving them stimulation, prestige, structure, and socialization.
     Taking this into account, a pair of researchers at Deakin University and La Trobe University are troubled about the rates. They report that in the U.S., about 75% of seniors do not currently volunteer, and in Australia, where the researchers are based, volunteer rates, although higher than in America, have been declining.
     Let’s view the situation as one of untapped potential. The researchers find that once volunteering begins, the increased sense of well-being within the seniors motivates continuation. Keep it easy to get started and the momentum will carry it on. Plus, from the start, base the appeal of volunteering on the gains achieved instead of the losses avoided for the beneficiaries of the contribution. This fits best with the positivity bias carried by seniors.
     Let’s also attend to a likely reason for the low or declining rates: Seniors are staying in the workforce until higher ages than was true for the prior generation. It is at the time of retirement from regular employment that people are especially good candidates to segue into contributing their time.
     Altruism is important to the elderly. Seniors like to give their business to retailers who are compassionate, and they like to view themselves as generous. Whenever you organize a charitable activity, offer a variety of ways for your older customers to pitch in to help. One dynamic behind this is seniors’ 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.
     However, contributions of money are considered differently than contributions of time. Researchers at University of Louisville and University of California-Riverside find that people with beliefs in karma—good actions produce good results at some point—will donate money more generously to charities when the appeal is the opportunity to help others. But the same sorts of people are less likely to contribute time to charitable activities when the appeal is to karma. Contributions of time are perceived as opportunities for social companionship. These strike many believers in karma as tawdry cheating, gains for oneself masquerading as selfless sacrifice. In these cases, use trigger motivations other than karma in requests for donations of time.

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Generate Seniors’ Generativity Now
Embrace Sadness in Marketing to Seniors
Sell Seniors on Future Plans
Consider Karma in Contributions

Friday, December 6, 2019

Describe Alternatives’ Appearances for Seniors

If shown even a small number of purchase alternatives, we can get confused later when trying to compare and contrast them from memory. Because advancing age brings memory deficits, the problem is greater for seniors. Researchers at The University of Edinburgh find that one technique smart seniors use to maintain recollections of the item alternatives is to describe the physical features of each one to themselves. With this technique, older adults can perform at about the same level as young adults.
     Success of this technique depends on the senior having sufficient opportunity to describe the item, either aloud or inside their head. To assist with this, be patient with seniors as you persuade. In addition, thoroughly describe physical characteristics of each alternative you present to seniors, such as the colors, the shape, and the size.
     Since the physical characteristics may have little to do with the functions or benefits of the item, you might be tempted to omit mention of the physical characteristics. With young adults, that’s fine. In fact, including the descriptions could irritate younger consumers, coming across as a waste of time or an effort to distract the shopper.
     But with older adults, the careful description of the physical characteristics of each alternative serves a function. This holds whether or not the physical characteristics are integral to the products’ features and benefits. Still, if you can verbally associate the physical characteristic to the specifications, so much the better. “Being less than 24 inches high, this one would fit nicely under the counter you described to me.” In comparison grids you give to a shopper or post online, include photos or illustrations of the alternatives.
     A cardinal characteristic of items is color. Colorblindness is more common in the elderly, so a comparison of the alternatives in terms of color might need to be augmented with descriptions of shape and size. And for seniors who aren’t colorblind, the best way to describe colors differs from what works best with young adults.
     Unexpected color names like “freckle brown” and blatantly ambiguous ones like “millennium orange” build interest among young shoppers, and mental involvement increases purchase likelihood. Ambiguous names work best when the shopper doesn’t see the actual product color first, while unexpected descriptive names work best when the product color is seen.
     For older consumers, an ambiguous name muddles remembering. For them, if the item is red, call it red.

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Remember Effective Senior Memory Training
Activate Prior Knowledge for Senior Persuasion
Juice Up Sales with Flavorful Names

Monday, December 2, 2019

Proselytize to Fit Current Culture

Almost 80% of American adults identify with some religious faith, and most Americans without religious affiliation still say they believe in God. However, a growing percentage of Americans question the value of adhering to a particular religion. Rates of membership in a church, synagogue, or mosque have fallen to about 50% overall—the lowest ever recorded by the Gallup organization.
     A professor from City University of New York and one from Italy’s Libera Università di Bolzano viewed this as a marketing challenge and so analyzed what benefits an organized religion has offered to target audiences. Their comprehensive review of research findings identified four:
  • Control over the world by adhering to a moral code. Organized religion includes petitionary prayer, in which we can achieve results via appeal to God if we adhere to God’s requirements. By behaving properly according to a well-articulated set of standards, we can largely influence whatever happens in our lives. 
  • Protection against eternal death. Through the concept of heaven or reincarnation, an organized religion relieves us from many of the anxieties about dying. 
  • Certainty in understanding the world. An organized religion includes a set of explanations for phenomena that can seem puzzling. Consumers are uncomfortable with long periods of ambiguity. Religious doctrine curbs ambiguity by advancing a master plan intended to cover even phenomena, such as human suffering, otherwise difficult to understand. 
  • Social identity. Those who are accepted by an organized religion achieve self-fulfillment and emotional comfort by labeling themselves as members of a distinctive tribe. The acceptance can come through a brief baptism, completion of a long indoctrination, or something in-between. 
     I’ve listed these in what the research review suggests is from the most to least influential value propositions for current Western cultures. So people who want to proselytize should emphasize the mastery over one’s future, including death, achieved by deep dedication to the particular organized religion.
     Because scientific explanations of previously puzzling phenomena abound in contemporary society, certainty in understanding the world depends less on organized religion than in the past. Still, there is much left to be understood, and the concept of “God’s master plan” can appeal to the human need for uncomplicated explanations.
     There are currently many ways to achieve a distinctive social identity and feel accepted by others in a group. Consequently, the professors make a case that this is a relatively weak appeal when an organized religion chooses to proselytize.

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Disentangle Religiosity Effects on Shopping
Use Consumer Karma to Build Repeat Business
Dimension Your Approach to Customer Culture
Sustain Mystery, But Not for Too Long
Keep It Simple, Whatever That Means!
Accept Shopper Concerns About Acceptance

Friday, November 29, 2019

Premiere Items with Gifts for Preorders

When introducing a new item to your audience, you can benefit from preorders. Kicking off with a bundle of sales builds buzz to motivate further sales. And the revenues before the item even appears provide a cushion for recovery in case the new item flops. Encourage preorders by telling shoppers they’ll be among the first to have this state-of-the-art version in their hands.
     You also might grant a substantial discount off the price you’ll be regularly charging, or you might offer a special free gift at the time of the preorder. Researchers at Purdue University Northwest, The University of Memphis, Westfield State University, and University of Nevada‐Las Vegas find that how these incentives work depends on the length of time between the preorder and the promised delivery of the item.
     When this interval is relatively short, a larger discount produces more preorders. A preorder discount of 22% on a portable printer produced greater intentions to purchase than did a 7% discount if the product was due in one week. But when a different set of consumers were told the launch date was six weeks off, those offered the 22% discount did not show a higher preorder purchase intention than did those offered the 7% discount.
     An explanation for this curious finding has to do with the difference between search goods and experience goods. Search goods have features, the value of which can be relatively easily assessed before purchase. The values of experience goods are more difficult for the shopper to assess until they’ve been used. Because the preorder is being placed for a previously unavailable item, a high price discount could arouse perceptions of inferior quality. Much prior research has shown that when an item is purchased for immediate delivery, feasibility—such as a low price from a high discount—carries particular weight. But when delivery is in the further future, perceptions of item quality predominate.
     If an incentive you’re offering for preordering is a price discount and the delivery time is a number of weeks off, improve your revenues by keeping the amount of the discount modest.
     But the researchers found that when the incentive was a free gift, offering a higher value produces stronger purchase intentions for both long and short intervals until delivery of the preordered item. Here you’ll do best by balancing the value of the free gift against the increase in preorders you observe.

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Commit Shoppers from a Distance for Expenses
Post Dramatic Tales for Post-Experience Goods
Moderate Discounts to Project Quality
Change Up with Entitled Customers

Monday, November 25, 2019

Fret Less About Seniors’ Regret

We all have regrets. But according to a group of psychologists at Stanford University, people become less disturbed by their regrets when late in their lifespan. Rather than experiencing only despair and wistfulness about mistakes made, the elderly are likely to also experience positive emotions. These might include gratitude for lessons learned or pride at having moved on from the setbacks, for instance.
     In the studies, the ages of the 629 participants ranged from 18 to 92 years and the sample was selected to be representative of U.S. Census benchmarks by age and gender. Some participants were asked about a major life regret, while others were asked about a regret which occurred within the past year. This was done to equalize the exploration of emotions across the age range because the psychologists recognized how the longer you’ve lived, the more opportunities you’ve had to accumulate regrets.
     Considering this care exercised in conducting the study, I believe the conclusions can be applied to both action regrets—thinking about what the person did—and inaction regrets—thinking about what they failed to do. It can be applied to major decisions which the senior later decides led to long-term disadvantages and for decisions as minor as a purchase which the senior wishes they’d passed on.
     So marketers should not worry that justified decisions they’re persuading seniors to make are likely to be mistakenly regretted by those seniors later. At the same time, though, marketers need to protect seniors from making the sorts of decisions which should be regretted later. Older people can complete transactions with an excess of impulse. It has to do with the trouble the aged brain has in filtering out irrelevant signals and in keeping focus.
     Compared to younger shoppers, seniors spend less time and attention on gathering detailed information before decisions. But along with this, they are less likely to complain and more likely to accentuate the positives after making a bad buy. Even when dissatisfied, they tend to return to the same set of merchants and shop for the same brands. Familiarity is appealing, and memory is often flawed. Studies find the habits to be so strong that even when there is evidence of harm from a product, senior shoppers usually have to be assertively steered away from repeat purchases. The helpful guidance which regret provides in the younger consumer is too often overlooked by the elderly.

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Embrace Sadness in Marketing to Seniors
Shower Cold on Regretful Customers
Keep Senior Shoppers From Worst Impulses

Friday, November 22, 2019

Poke Sedentary Seniors’ Assets

A group of researchers at Ghent University in Belgium refused to sit still for seniors just sitting still. They realized how at least a moderately vigorous level of physical activity for at least an hour most days protects against unnecessary disability. Fewer than 20% of adults over age 60 meet the standard. The World Health Organization has declared increasing that percentage to be a public health priority.
     How do we persuade sedentary elders to start exercising and then keep at it? The researchers decided the answer begins with discovering why seniors who are fully capable of moving around do no more than sit around instead. A total of fifteen studies about that topic were reviewed, covering seniors ranging in age from 63 years to 79 years in the United Kingdom, Canada, the U.S., and Belgium.
     The first overall finding was that seniors often fail to realize how much of their time they are sitting around. A logical remedy, then, might be to encourage seniors to schedule times to vigorously exercise. For many of the seniors in the studies, weather is a limitation. A successful schedule will provide for alternatives to going outside when weather conditions are bad.
     But it isn’t so straightforward. You see, there is the matter of falling straight forward, or backward, or sideways, or, more precisely, fear of falling. Many of the seniors said they’d slipped into the habit of being sedentary after having taken a spill. The answer here might be to teach both ways to maintain your balance and to take a fall. Reassurance could come from checking for disorders such as osteoporosis and in providing mobility aids such as a walker, if indicated. Fatigue propensity is a consideration. Program exercise for the morning rather than late afternoon.
     Seniors are more likely to exercise when they are around others, so arranging for companionship helps. But the expectations of those others are a factor. A number of the seniors who were studied said that they perceived society expects them to sit as their primary mode of living. At the same time, some seniors said that they don’t go out into their neighborhoods because there aren’t enough places along the way to sit if they get tired. Longer term solutions to the problem of seniors being sedentary should include persuading those around the seniors to encourage them to exercise and persuading public facilities to install benches.

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Inspire Seniors with Interval Training
Vaccinate to Encourage Seniors’ Vaccinating
Help Seniors to Shop Early
Media-Chat with Seniors
Forget Stereotypes of Seniors’ Memory Deficits
Feel Easier for Seniors with Biophilia Design

Monday, November 18, 2019

Level Option Expectations in Customization

Shoppers are attracted by the possibility of customizing a product or service to fit their particular needs and desires. But those same shoppers can feel overwhelmed when a great many categories of options and options within each category are available. A straightforward way for a seller to address this conundrum is to guide the shopper through the choices step-by-step. In selecting a laptop computer, the shopper could first be asked about operating system, then after that choice is made, asked about memory capacity, and so on.
     Unfortunately, this technique frequently has an effect opposite to what’s intended. It turns the shopper into a maximizer. Maximizers are consumers who want to hold out for the best possible alternative, with the result that they’ll delay or even walk away from purchase decisions. Further, when people in a maximizing mindset do buy the item, perhaps because they have a pressing need for at least some alternative, they leave the transaction feeling frustrated.
     Studies at University of Denver and University of Florida indicate that the step-by-step method works best with shoppers who have given evidence of satisfaction with products which are good enough and with products in which objective ratings are lacking. When there are clear objective ratings for the options in each category, a matrix presentation works well. Here a table of all the categories and all the options within each category are presented at once to the shopper.
     If you’ve concerns about the step-by-step bringing out maximizing tendencies, level the option expectations. Give good points about each alternative. First, this helps the shopper feel good about whatever choice they make. Second, it makes the decision more challenging. Maximizers feel better when important decisions are at least a bit difficult.
     Researchers at University of Alberta and University of St. Gallen evaluated another technique for avoiding the problem: Develop a limited number of combinations of the major item attributes, then encourage the shopper to choose one of these and personalize using the other attributes.
     With shirts, automobiles, vacation packages, jewelry, and financial products, the researchers identified clear benefits of this customization via starting solutions. Compared to use of a step-by-step or matrix method, purchasers were more satisfied with what they ended up buying and found more mental stimulation in using the items. The businesses using this method were pleased how customers selected a greater number of item features, resulting in a higher-dollar transaction.

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Absolve Maximizers of Solely Absolutes
Look Simple, But Offer Complexity
Tempt Shoppers with a Template

Friday, November 15, 2019

Handle Controversy in Retail Performances

Even today, the Gettysburg National Military Park is a site of battles. Gratefully, not the tragic Civil War confrontations in which about 23,000 Union soldiers and 28,000 Confederate soldiers lost their lives over a three-day period. Rather, it is the battling perspectives among groups of visitors to the historic attraction. In general, white visitors with firm roots in the heritage of the American South view Gettysburg much differently than do visitors with allegiances to a different geography.
     Researchers at California State University-Stanislaus investigated how tour guides handled these controversies in ways designed to make the visits stimulating, but pleasant, for visitors. The research findings might best be understood in a framework of the tour guides staging a performance for the visitors. What worked in those performances yields ideas for any retailer navigating differences among consumers’ ideologies.
     The essential objective is to avoid an escalating spiral of confrontation. The Gettysburg tour guides most successful in this start by establishing authority. Confidently providing factual information worked well. Authority via expertise is vital when consumers come convinced of mistaken beliefs.
     The next steps consisted of controlling the narrative by instructing visitors to look at specific artifacts or signage while the tour guide told a relevant story. This is easier when the servicescape—the physical environment in which the performance is taking place—quickly projects certainty without indicating dogmatism.
     Acknowledging different perspectives is also helpful. One cadre of park employees, while wearing costumes associated with events in the history of Gettysburg, involves visitors in reenactments. Respect for the allegiances and knowledge of the visitors is important. A common complaint from visitors is that there aren’t enough Southern artifacts. In interviews by the researchers, a few visitors expressed disappointment that one of the cannons on display had “1864” inscribed on its muzzle. The Battle of Gettysburg occurred in 1863.
     Highlighting commonalities helps smooth outrage. Tour guides are instructed to emphasize stories about the courage of the soldiers more than stories based on numerical details of battles. Statues and memorials are used as prompts and props for these stories. Scripts used by the guides highlight that all the soldiers fought for a cause they considered to be noble.
     Lessons from all this apply beyond the frontline employees at Gettysburg National Military Park. Talking about commonalities, using stories to guide impressions, and establishing authority through expertise work well in any retail situation when calming unruly controversy.

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Use or Sidestep Political Polarization
Convert Controversy to Retail Sales
Prop Up Frenzy with Pop-Up Servicescapes?

Monday, November 11, 2019

Neglect Overprotectiveness of Seniors

In serving the needs of aging adults, we’ll sometimes be asked to accommodate what we consider to be excessive risk. Maybe it’s the elderly man who wants to purchase a cane, but would be safer with a walker. The 80-year-old woman looks to be in excellent physical condition, but she’d be by far the oldest person you’ve ever guided on the adventurous travel tour she’s selected. A resident of an assisted living facility has asked you to arrange for her to celebrate her birthday with champagne, but your records indicate that she’s not to have alcohol.
     Joseph Ibrahim at Monash University has been probably the best-known proponent of the “dignity of risk” in these sorts of situations. His argument is that we providers to the elderly should ensure informed consent, but even cognitively impaired seniors usually have some capacity for expressing their preferences and making decisions. Get signed waivers if necessary, but shun overprotectiveness. Encourage elderly adults to step out from any excessively cautious self-imposed limitations. Allow them to experience the thrills from fulfilling their wishes, even in the face of possible injury or perhaps expedited death.
     This argument makes sense within what’s known about the psychology of seniors. As we get older, we do become increasingly cautious. Caution serves us well when it comes to avoiding scams, but not when it comes to avoiding risks in ways which lead to sadness.
     Attention to the dignity of risk does fit a zeitgeist in society. From the two old skydiving guys in year 2007’s “The Bucket List” up and through the squad of old cheerleading gals in year 2019’s “Poms,” the message of grab it before you’re gone prevails. There’s an important difference between those movies, though. In the first, both protagonists are already terminally ill and the physical danger in their escapades is high. In the second, only one protagonist has the bad medical prognosis and the dangers include ridicule as much as broken bones. The spirit of the times is that you no longer need to be facing imminent death in order to take inordinate risks.
     Contemplate how much of that spirit you choose to inspire you, though. I admit Prof. Ibrahim might be taking it too far. The lead sentence in a policy paper he co-authored advocating for the dignity of risk in serving the aged reads, “Live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse.”

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Retire Impatience with Seniors’ Price Decisions
Protect Customers From Dangerous Decisions

Friday, November 8, 2019

Envision How Envy Affects Shoppers

Envy motivates buying. But which items are most likely to be purchased depends on the nature of the envy. Benign envy occurs when a shopper feels that someone with advantages over them is justified in having the advantage. Malicious envy occurs when the shopper believes the someone isn’t.
     Your conversations with a shopper might allow you to determine which of these the shopper is experiencing. Statements like, “I admire that person,” and, “I think I could do that if I try,” signal benign envy. Statements like, “There must have been some cheating, since they don’t have the talent,” “What’s the use of trying?” or, “What they have isn’t really worth my effort,” indicate malicious envy.
     According to studies at University of Cincinnati, University of Miami, and University of Florida, both benign and malicious envy motivate consumers to purchase self-improvement items. Those feeling benign envy are more likely to want to improve in the domain in which the other person has the advantage. If the other person got a job the shopper wanted, benign envy narrows focus onto products and services which build skills for that specific job. On the other hand, malicious envy shifts the spotlight toward cultivating competencies for a related type of job. Appeal further to malicious envy by describing the ease of mastery of the product or service.
     Envy applies to possessions as well as accomplishments. When a shopper believes the other person earned the right to the advantages of owning the product, that shopper is willing to pay a premium for owning the product themselves. The extra money is like a tribute to the respected person. In those studies, people who had this benign envy of someone owning an iPhone, for instance, were willing to pay an average of €80 extra for their own iPhone.
     What about the shopper who believes the other person doesn’t deserve the good fortune? There is then a desire to show how what the other person has isn’t so great, after all. In the studies, people with this malicious envy were also willing to spend more money, but only on a competing product.
     Envy of either type can be aroused temporarily, and maybe unintentionally, in the service situation itself. Researchers at Hong Kong Baptist University, University of Hong Kong, and Hanyang University ERICA saw it happen when a customer witnessed others receiving special benefits because the others were premium customers.

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Wriggle Along with the Wrinkles of Aspiration
Redirect with Evil Envy
Stay Aware of the Drive to Share

Monday, November 4, 2019

Assure Consistency By Using Uncertainty

Repetition and predictability are valuable to a marketer. We want our customers to come back again and again. If we can anticipate what they’re likely to buy and what sorts of discounts will be most attractive to them, we can optimize our efforts.
     Researchers at University of Chicago, Carnegie Mellon University, and Chinese University of Hong Kong saw how repetition, and therefore predictability, increase when there is some uncertainty in the payoff of a transaction. The resolution of the uncertainty, in itself, provides pleasure. In one of their studies, consumers who weren’t sure if they’d receive a 5¢ or 10¢ cash-back coupon were more likely to continue making purchases than were consumers who knew they’d receive a 10¢ cash-back coupon.
     Other research by the University of Chicago group showed that uncertainty also can motivate effort. Imagine yourself a participant in an experiment in which you’re asked, “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.”
     Study participants given instructions like that worked noticeably harder than did another set of participants told that the bag was guaranteed to contain four chocolates. The researchers 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 researchers point out that uncertainty motivates well only if it is resolved quickly. In times of high turmoil or when a transaction already involves considerable risk, don’t introduce prolonged uncertainty about the payoff. People going to the dentist or an auto repair shop prefer to know the parameters of the pain.
     At the other extreme, when the consumer’s involvement in a transaction is low, adding uncertainty can grab attention. Research findings from Indiana University and University of Colorado-Boulder indicate 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 which dramatizes the category of retailer, but hooks the ad’s audience into thinking “Who’s this commercial for anyway?”
     Mystery ads were significantly more effective than traditional ads in making the name-category link memorable. Again, don’t sustain the mystery for too long. Announce the name at the end boldly.

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Encourage Category Consistency Time-to-Time
Tickle with Uncertainty
Sustain Mystery, But Not for Too Long
Kick the Sale with Curiosity
Worm Your Way into WOM with Self-Discovery

Friday, November 1, 2019

Reveal Limitations of Mystery Shoppers

The money and trust devoted to mystery shoppers by finance, telecommunications, travel, hospitality, motor dealership, and other retail organizations is worse than wasted. The results can mislead marketers. Those are the conclusions from studies headquartered at University of Zurich and Reutlingen University, which found that mystery shopper ratings did not predict well either customer satisfaction ratings or sales results.
     While pretending to be typical customers, mystery shoppers visit service points. They use systematic protocols to record their observations, which they summarize and report to the client.
     Some older studies said that the use of mystery shoppers did improve the quality of customer service, but mostly in the short-term. Perhaps this was because store associates were on good behavior, knowing that they could be secretly rated at any time.
     Why don’t mystery shopper programs do better?
  • The projects generally include two to four visits. Prior research suggests that at least twenty visits are necessary for valid conclusions. Further, the individual mystery shoppers may not be representative of the actual target populations of customers. Even if they are selected to be demographically similar, they don’t have the same emotional investment in considering purchase options. 
  • Professional mystery shoppers make it a point to record separately their assessments of each encounter during each store visit. The greeting upon entering the shop might have been superb, but the wait to get help from a salesperson was excruciating, and the experience when paying for the merchandise was only acceptable. Typical shoppers don’t dissect their judgments in this way. Instead, they remember and talk about salespeople with overall impressions along only two principal dimensions—interpersonal skills and product expertise. Moreover, researchers at University of Texas-San Antonio and University of Virginia find that those overall impressions are influenced by whether the shopper is accompanied by others. A mystery shopper makes their visit by themselves. 
  • Based on the behavioral assessments, professional mystery shoppers are expected to answer questions in the format, “What are your opinions of the store?” Researchers at University of California-San Diego and Northwestern University find that building a profitable relationship with customers is more likely when asking questions instead in the format, “What items of advice do you have for our store?” Advice questions lead to purchase intentions. 
     Without you correcting for such problems, a mystery shopper program might yield leads to explore. However, I recommend against you making strategic decisions depending solely on mystery shopper reports.

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Track the Trajectory of In-Store Impressions
To Build Loyalty, Ask Advice, Not Expectations
Demystify Mystery Shopper Review Oddities
Tally the Costs of Customer Service

Monday, October 28, 2019

Hearken to What’s Tweeting About Seniors

A cardinal feature of the Donald Trump presidency, historians might someday declare, was policy announcements via tweet. Perhaps inspired by this American peculiarity, four statisticians in the UK choose to divine worldwide policies toward the elderly by using Twitter. They randomly selected 1,200 from a total of 185,258 English-language tweets they collected which contained the term “ageing,” “old age,” older people,” or “elderly.”
     What the researchers found after analysis was a largely negative view of seniors on social media. The elderly are portrayed as incompetent and unattractive. The findings supported prior research which added descriptions such as suspicious, intolerant, and rigid. Many of the tweets did describe old age as bringing wisdom and kindness. But reports of helping the aged seemed based more in acknowledging their fragility than in respecting their skills.
     The disempowerment expressed in all this can have life-or-death consequences, according to the researchers. When the policies of others affect seniors’ perceptions of themselves, older adults with positive views of aging live eight years longer, on average, than do those with less positive self-perceptions. Beyond this, if the major motivator for assisting seniors arises from pity for their fragility, those who begin to become empowered are at risk of losing offers of assistance.
     Let’s correct these international problems by cultivating respect for aging’s upsides. Based on their analyses, the researchers suggest one method is to embrace the term “older persons” and avoid the term “elderly,” which is currently used much more often to refer to the same age demographic.
     Let’s also work to empower older persons, which could make matters of specific terms less influential. Accomplish this by encouraging collaboration in decision making.
     When it comes to health care, though, there should be limits. A trend among health care providers is to empower consumers by describing options to them and then encouraging them to make medical decisions for themselves. But a study at Erasmus University and University of Navarra concluded that the amount of information necessary for true informed consent often disrupts adherence to expert advice. One way in which this happens is that an abundance of information overloads the consumer’s reasoning and emotions, resulting in unintentional non-adherence. Another way it happens is that the wealth of information bestows overconfidence, leading the consumer to subsequently listen less well to qualified experts and discount expert views different from their own premature conclusions.

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Embrace Sadness in Marketing to Seniors
Look At Mean, Median, Mode, and Range
Respect Your Elders
Empower Indirectly Using Co-creation
Check for Empowered Shoppers’ Compliance

Friday, October 25, 2019

Partition Premium Pricing for Busy Shoppers

Your loyalty program participants will reach reward levels faster if you keep their focus on whichever is smaller in size—the percentage of the requirement they’ve already completed or the percentage they’ve yet to complete. This “small area effect” works with most things that require the consumer’s effort.
     Because paying money is a burden for shoppers, a small area effect is seen in pricing for upgrades to premium versions. Suppose that one retailer’s ad states $199.99 as the price for the standard version of a product and $259.99 for the premium version. Now suppose that another retailer also advertises $199.99 for the standard version, but then says in the ad, “For $60 more, you can purchase the premium version.”
     Which do you think is more likely to persuade shoppers to purchase the premium version?
     Researchers at University of British Columbia and Nanyang Technological University find that it’s the second version. Partitioning the upgrade cost makes it seem like a smaller expenditure because it’s a smaller number than the total price. Not surprisingly then, this works best with busy shoppers who don’t take the time to calculate and contemplate the total price.
     Since there’s a potential with this technique of tricking consumers, check that the premium version truly will be of benefit to this individual shopper. Then once you have verified the benefits, incorporate those into your selling. Partitioned pricing calls attention to each of the components for which a cost is stated, so state the additional cost in the format, “For only this dollar amount more, you’ll receive these specific additional benefits.”
     Generally, it is best to state that additional amount as a round dollar figure. So if the prices on the bin tags are $19.99 and $29.99, say, “For only $10 more, here are the additional features you’ll get.” The easy comparison facilitates acceptance of the offer. However, if your upselling includes more than one upgrade step, persuasion is more likely when you quote the actual price points rather than rounding and when you go into more detail in discussing the prices, such as talking about per unit costs or percentage differences. Researchers at Babson College and Baruch College found that with sequential upgrade offers, consumers perceive the differences in prices between the regular and premium versions to be smaller if the comparison is harder to compute than in a prior upgrade decision.

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Vary Velocity for Loyalty Program Motivation
Expect Exceptions to 99-Ending Pricing
Use Partitioned Pricing to Highlight Benefits
Detail Subsequent Upgrade Price Comparisons
Upgrade Your Upselling

Monday, October 21, 2019

Line Up Time Estimates in Best Directions

The longer it will take to achieve a desired outcome, the less attractive that outcome is to the consumer. For pleasure-oriented items, we might savor the waiting, but we’re willing to wait only so long. For utilitarian considerations such as receiving a refund payment, the sooner, the better.
     Researchers at Colorado State University, University of Kentucky, and University of South Florida find that, for consumers in Western cultures, a vertical timeline versus horizontal depiction matters. A vertical with the soonest time at the top makes waits seem less burdensome than does a horizontal with the soonest time at the left.
     In one of the studies, patrons at a Greek restaurant were asked to choose between a coupon giving $2 off tomorrow and one $4 off in two weeks. Presentation of the options in a vertical format resulted in a greater frequency of choosing the $4 option. In another study, participants indicated they’d allocate more of their income to a retirement plan when pictures of a young man and older man were arranged vertically rather than horizontally. A vertical depiction moves people away from wanting to get and use resources as soon as possible. They’ll be more willing to accept delays.
     How you state units of waiting also makes a difference. If there will be an unexpected delivery delay, when is it better to say, “Your product will be arriving in three weeks, not one week,” and when should you use, “Your product will be arriving in 21 days instead of 7”?
     If the customer is anxiously awaiting the arrival in order to start using the item, favor the first wording. In this case, the customer is looking for small. If the customer’s focus is instead on, “I made the purchase then because it was a great price, but I won’t be using the item right away,” describe the delay in terms of days.
     Demonstrating progress on the timeline can ease anxiety about waiting. Work in front of the customer and give a running rendition about the progress being made. Say how far along you are and how much further you have to go. Researchers at University of Singapore and University of Toronto found that people actually evaluated the price of a locksmith service as a better value when the service took more time than when the lock was picked faster, as long as they were kept informed of the progress.

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Charge for Savoring
Quote Measurement Units for Future Buys
Flex Your Understanding of Time Perceptions

Monday, October 14, 2019

Bee Aware of “Honey Do” in Retirement Plans

As my wife approached retirement after over three decades as an educator, people would ask her how she’d be spending her time. Her go-to answer was, “At whatever I want to do.”
     Studies by Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute indicate a more accurate answer might have been, “At whatever Bruce and I want me to do.” The researchers found that a husband or wife has significant input. Those professionals who help employees plan for a satisfying retirement should include the spouse in the deliberations.
     Based on surveys of more than 4,000 older adults and the respective spouses, the researchers statistically distinguished three domains of retirement intentions, which they labeled bridge employment, self-developmental leisure, and social leisure. Retirement includes a weighted blend of these three. When a spouse was concerned about post-retirement finances, the employee was more likely to intend to engage in bridge employment. If the spouse had tasks in mind for their honey to do, there was a tendency toward self-developmental leisure. When the employee and spouse were maintaining a vibrant network of family and friends, social leisure was more often the choice.
     Other determinants also showed up in the research. Most people plan to continue into retirement the sorts of activities they’d engaged in while working. Those who predicted they’d live for a long time contemplated ways they’d be maintaining an income. But in all cases among married employees, the spouse’s preferences and intentions exerted substantial influence.
     This is consistent with other studies which verify couple influence in a range of consumer domains. For example, men in supportive marriages are more likely to have a recommended colonoscopy—that diagnostic procedure in which you consent to endure a long tube with a video camera and set of clippers run up your rear end.
     Researchers at University of Chicago and Brigham and Women's Hospital said that if the wife was happy with the relationship, the probability climbed further. And if the wife previously agreed to undergo a colonoscopy for herself, the husband was more likely to accept having one.
     But it didn’t work completely the other way around. Marriage happiness had no significant effect on the probability the wife would get a colonoscopy. This could be because women are wiser about preventive medical care than men regardless of how others around them are behaving. Husbands and wives may make consumer decisions together, but each partner may do it somewhat differently.

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Couple Wise Consumer Decisions
Pare Senior Consumption Flaws with Pairs
Sell Seniors on Future Plans

Monday, October 7, 2019

Show Products Made of Recycled Items

Although recycling opportunities abound, only about 26% of waste in the U.S. and 13% of waste globally is recycled. Yet, more than half of landfill material could have been recycled. Further, recycling rates have plateaued.
     Researchers at Pennsylvania State University and Boston College cite these statistics in introducing a method they developed to increase the percentages: Show people ads which demonstrate how recycled items are transformed into new items. The method works regardless of whether the transformed item is similar to the recycled item (material from recycled soda cans being used to produce new soda cans) or quite different (material from recycled soda cans being used to produce bicycle frames). Considering the potential of trash inspires people to engage in this socially responsible behavior.
     The salience can also be achieved with ads stating that a marketer’s products are made from recycled materials. However, the researchers note a downside to this method: People tend to consider items which incorporate recycled materials to be inferior to parallel items which use only new materials. This is a variant of the contamination concerns experienced in other areas of consumer behavior.
     The transformation ad effect is itself a variant of consumption vision advantages. Consumer researchers use the term “consumption vision” to describe a shopper’s mental image which is vivid and specific enough to let a shopper vicariously experience the benefits they would personally enjoy when using a product or service. Consumption visions generally increase purchase likelihood.
     Consumption vision of transformed waste can be particularly useful in heading off a surprisingly common reason people don’t recycle: They subconsciously believe that scraps of material are less likely to be worthwhile. In studies at Boston University and University of Alberta, participants were asked to evaluate a pair of scissors. Some were instructed to cut one or two sheets of paper as part of the evaluation. The others were instructed to conduct the evaluation without cutting the paper. Afterwards, each participant was told to discard the paper as they left. By the door were two identical bins, one for trash and one for recycling.
     The people recycled whole sheets of paper much more often than the pieces which had been cut. An ad showing transformation to a dissimilar product, such as a soda can to a bicycle frame, implies that the recycled item will need to be reduced to scraps before reuse, so even scraps are worth saving.

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Keep It Clean
Stimulate Consumption Visions with Ads
Abandon Discard of Damaged Packages
Trash Ineffective Appeals to Recycle