Monday, September 28, 2020

Weather Changes in Weather-Based Buying

Consumer research has repeatedly found that weather conditions such as temperature influence purchasing behavior. For instance, during cold spells, people become more willing to take on complex risks and more interested in watching feel-good romance movies while eating fattening snacks.
     Studies at Rice University and University of South Wales show how the second of those is particularly true among women. The reason is that women are more sensitive than men to their negative emotional states. The researchers found plenty of evidence for this. Adults in New York State spent more money on entertainment and tobacco during cold months than warm months. The difference was most pronounced in census tracts having greater percentages of women. In a sample of adult non-dieters from across the U.S., there was higher reported consumption of chocolates and cookies when the temperature was colder and the rainfall greater. These changes in consumption habits tracked self-reported changes in mood. For both genders together, the effect was stronger for those who reported having spent more time outside. Between genders, the effect was stronger for the women than for the men.
     Services like Weather Unlocked, Weatherfx, and WeatherBug allow marketers to knowledgably develop campaigns, including promotional discounts, based on weather forecasts. The research indicates the return on investment for doing this will be greater for product classes of interest to female consumers. The projects are also likely to be more profitable when recognizing how it is not only the current weather, but also the anticipated weather which influences purchasing behavior. Women often choose their swimwear as the temperatures start to rise, and all that could be well after they’d joined the gym or purchased exercise equipment. The Rice/South Wales researchers recount that Pantene shampoo once used WeatherFX to spot upcoming humid days and then issued “frizzy haircasts.” Sales of Pantene increased 28%.
     As a rule, when the weather is warm, people become more comfortable paying higher prices for products and services. Yet if the product is a snow shovel and the service is repair of the furnace, a willingness to pay more is likely to come into action during the cold months instead of during hot ones. And studies at Clicksuasion Labs in North Carolina, University of Auckland, and Western Sydney University find that the effect of warm temperature reports on price anchors operates most clearly when consumers are making their purchase decisions without complete amounts of information.

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Keep Shoppers Cool for Critical Thinking
Elevate Expected Prices with Hot Cues
Smooth It with Females, Angle for Males

Friday, September 25, 2020

Deep Canvass to Uncoil Voters’ Rigidity

“Let them know they’ve been fooled without making them think they’re fools.”
     I crafted that epigram to headline advice I give to campaign workers who want to change voters’ deeply held convictions. The persuasion tactics I then go on to suggest include listening to stories of life experiences told by the voter which have led to mistaken beliefs and then sharing true stories which illustrate a more accurate worldview. All this with the exchange of tales in ways which sidestep personal judgment of each other. When it’s done in face-to-face neighborhood contacts, political psychologists call it “deep canvassing.”
     The method is supported by results of a study based at Stanford University and University of California-Berkeley. The study was conducted to question the popular view that the only way to influence elections is to increase the number of people with your view who vote. Personally important political opinions are extremely resistant to change. All new information which confirms previously held beliefs is attended to and remembered well. Any new information which contradicts beliefs is ignored or forgotten. Trying to change these political opinions is therefore futile, says this perspective.
     The pessimistic view also comes with research support. Political scientists at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Rice University say that liberals tend to be physiologically different from conservatives. Liberals have relatively more gray matter in the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain associated with impulse control, while conservatives have relatively more gray matter in the amygdala, which is associated with intense emotional experiences.
     These are overall tendencies, not true of every individual voter. Further, the physiological predispositions, built into a consumer’s DNA, aren’t the whole tale. Situations and experiences do matter. An article in VICE Magazine about the use of deep canvassing quotes advocates of the technique who attribute its effectiveness to building relationships of trust through mutual storytelling. The article also reports on the limitations of deep canvassing during the during the 2020 election cycle. Considerations like the coronavirus restrict door-to-door visits and invitations to sit down together to chat. Deep canvassing could be used in phone conversations, though.
     The notion that life experiences can uncoil even deep-seated political orientations certainly is not new. Although a 2007 research article claims to have disproved the claim, the old saying “A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged” persists. Author Tom Wolf added, “A liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested.”

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Involve the Shopper in Your Story
Discuss Disgust Conservatively & Liberally
Mobilize Cause & Guilt Against Fake News

Monday, September 21, 2020

Accredit Seniors About Alzheimer’s

Identification of a senior’s enhanced potential for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has personal and societal benefits, say researchers at University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University. Although there is currently no cure for AD, early diagnosis allows for treatments which delay the progression and for contingency planning.
     Yet many seniors who show preliminary signs, such as confusion, decline opportunities for screening. What measures, then, work best to persuade suitable seniors to participate? The most important answer, the researchers found, has to do with a senior believing they’re capable of handling news of an AD diagnosis. It’s a characteristic psychologists call “self-efficacy,” and it arises when a person feels empowered by education. Before suggesting to a senior that they undergo the screening, qualify them to make informed decisions about the diagnostic procedure and about living with AD.
     Self-efficacy also develops from social norms. In the research, seniors were more likely to be interested in AD screening when they heard their peers were undergoing it or believed that people they respect would want them to do it. It was found that the women, who are more sensitive than men to social norms, were more likely than the men to agree to AD screening. This is consistent with other research showing women play closer attention to their ongoing health and that wives are effective at coaching husbands to engage in preventive health care.
     These Miami / Florida Atlantic recommendations were based on structured surveying of 1,043 people ages 50 to 97 years who tested as showing no evidence of dementia, and then sophisticated statistical analyses of the results.
     In the studies, seniors carrying long-term care insurance were more likely to agree to AD screening. The researchers attribute this to knowing the cost of the screening would be covered. Another likely reason, in my opinion, is that those with the insurance are more comfortable that if AD develops, they won’t be such a burden on others. The long-term care insurance will provide personal assistance and pay at least some of the fees.
     This derives from the question, seen especially in the elderly, that if you can’t do anything about a problem, why expend resources discovering it? Beyond this is a concern about stigma. If there’s evidence of future AD, the senior will think less of themselves. More importantly, other people will consider the senior’s current capabilities as inferior even prior to any evidence of marked deterioration.

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Couple Wise Consumer Decisions
Affect Seniors’ Rehabilitation Intentions

Friday, September 18, 2020

Throw Shoppers a Curve with Cursive

On labels, ads, and signage, fonts which resemble cursive handwriting will project to the viewing consumer a sense of connection. Researchers at University of Massachusetts and University of Houston find that the reasons go beyond the warmth portrayed by the curves and the personalization implied by the slight imperfections and inconsistencies absent in machine-written typefaces. Their studies showed that, for many products, cursive characteristics stimulate the brain to connect by touch. Shoppers became more likely to pick up the item, open the box to look, and carry the item toward checkout. Decades of prior research have shown that haptic engagement like this enhances purchase probability, so cursive fonts build profitability.
     Curves bestow on inanimate objects an association to cute, sweet little babies, and we’re drawn to reach out toward cute, sweet little babies. It’s not true for all consumer packaged goods, though. This set of studies found it didn’t make much difference for items the consumer thought of as risky. It worked with jams and air fresheners. However, handwritten label fonts don’t, in themselves, overcome hesitancies to pick up roach spray or hug the hot sauce.
     Handwriting is tied to psychological identity. In a University of Alberta project, some participants were asked to print their name as part of a task while the rest were asked to write their signature. Then each participant was asked to shop for a pair of running shoes. Among participants who had said they consider running an important component of their self-identity, those who had written their signature ended up spending more time in the store and trying on more shoes than did those who had been previously asked to print their name.
     The cursive-triggered desire to hold will hold for pleasure-oriented items much more than for utilitarian items. Toward making use of this finding, researchers at Zhejiang University note that many items might be positioned as hedonic instead of utilitarian. A headset could be featured as fashionably designed in addition to or instead of as having a long battery life. A soap might be advertised as having a rich foam rather than as deep cleaning. In this way, cursive fonts could be employed quite widely.
     The Zhejiang results also broaden the scope in another way: The advantages of curves held for both English and Chinese characters. English-language cursive-style fonts used in these studies include Ribiohead, ├ćnigma Scrawl, Moon Flower, and All Things Pink.

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See the Handwriting at the Mall
Reach Out for What Will Touch Your Shoppers
Put It to People to Put It in Writing
Shape Benefits As Hedonic or Utilitarian

Monday, September 14, 2020

Luxuriate in Luxury for the Religious

Devout Christian consumers love their God while also loving their Gucci. That’s roughly how researchers at University of Minnesota, Auckland University of Technology, and Universidad Diego Portales portray their finding that many among the faithful have no problem in coveting luxury merchandise.
     Merchants might assume otherwise. Mainstream Christian religions judge materialistic shoppers to be shameful, if not downright evil, and materialism seems intertwined with shopping for luxury. Past research seems to support the assumption. Shoppers of a range of religious persuasions are more often found to be consistent tightwads than are non-religious shoppers.
     The current research doesn’t directly contradict those findings, but rather refines them. The religious shoppers treasured luxury in their purchases, but were not materialistic in the sense of valuing themselves based on how many luxury possessions they had. Truly religious consumers reject materialism as an attachment to worldly goods while feeling affection toward luxury merchandise.
     However, the research also found that positive emotions surrounding luxury goods do not uniformly translate into purchase of such goods. People who experience their religion as intimate and personal values which guide daily behavior resist the urge to buy. Researchers at University of Wyoming referred to these consumers as “cognitively religious.” They strongly agree with statements like, “The scripture of my religious affiliation is the word of God.” These consumers take comfort in adhering to a firm set of required and forbidden behaviors integral to the religion.
     People who experience their religion affectively have less resistance to fulfilling the love of luxury. These consumers are likely to agree with statements like, “God is an important influence in my life.” The affectively religious take comfort in a personal relationship with a divine being.
     In any case, there’s no need to avoid selling luxury to religious shoppers. Appeals proving successful include:
  • Luxury as show. Be sure the luxury brand name is conspicuously displayed whenever the item is used in public. 
  • Luxury as a password. When the consumer belongs to an exclusive group, they’ll be looking for subtle cues—what corresponds to the secret handshake which allows members to recognize each other while not tipping off outsiders. 
  • Luxury as functional. Your shopper pays more in order to guarantee lasting value. 
  • Luxury as celebration. Commemorate significant occasions. 
     Insightful retailers can notice that religiously devout customers have distinctive shopping habits. Identifying those distinctions is valuable because religious patrons frequently witness their faith in readily observable ways.

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Shove Materialistic Shoppers’ Shame
Disentangle Religiosity Effects on Shopping
Satisfy Desires for Luxury

Friday, September 11, 2020

Optimize Shopper Optimism for Price-Quality

Optimistic shoppers tend toward purchasing less expensive merchandise in an assortment. Researchers at University of Kentucky, Texas A&M, and University of Seoul say they’ve discovered a major reason why: Shoppers believe lower-priced items are likely to be of lower quality than higher-priced items in a category, but also of less predictable quality. Optimism leads to the shopper assuming the item they’re selecting will be an exception to the strict price-quality link.
     Optimism is often considered an enduring personality trait. However, in their studies, the researchers were able to influence the degree of shopper optimism by the wording on signage accompanying the items for sale. Optimism was increased with signage that appealed to bettering oneself. It was decreased with signage that warned about making mistakes.
     Perhaps, then, the researchers risk disrupting our optimism in using the results of their studies by warning us about making a particular mistake. The greater variability in quality estimates for lower-priced items was found for merchandise. It was not found for services. In fact, the researchers saw in their studies some evidence that consumers assume a greater variability in quality for both the lowest and highest priced services than for mid-priced services in the category.
     So optimism is less of a consideration for the price-quality link in services than in merchandise. Still, optimism does show itself in other avenues of shopper psychology.
  • The California Lottery aimed to leverage consumer optimism with the tag line, “Believe in Something Bigger.” backed up by a choral arrangement of the song “California Dreamin’.” Optimism is a valuable commodity. As long as costs to the consumer are not excessive, using existing optimism to sell an item which prolongs optimism makes sense. 
  • If you advertise “Up to 40% off regular prices,” shoppers think the item they’re seeking will be one of those tagged for close to the full discount. You’ll attract almost as many shoppers as you would have if you’d offered the 40% cut on all the merchandise. Advertise “Up to 39% off regular prices,” and people become even more likely to think they’ll be getting the maximum discount. It has to do with how our brains handle rounded versus precise numbers. 
  • A customer’s decision about buying an extended service contract is influenced by their optimism toward life. Those with reason to feel less positive because they live on a very limited budget might benefit from the comfort of the ESC. 

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Scare Up Price-Quality Links After Scarcity
Sell Either Protection or Promotion
Sell Optimism
Up Yours with “Up To” Discounts
Offer the Escape of an ESC

Monday, September 7, 2020

Attract Ecommerce with Unattractive Faces

Research has found that a salesperson’s physically attractive face enhances the persuasive power of the salesperson bearing that face. The exception to this which is widely documented in consumer research occurs when the beauty or handsomeness intimidates a shopper.
     Now researchers at University of Hong Kong and Lingnan University verify another exception: If the persuasion agent’s face is seen just online, an unattractive appearance subconsciously communicates technical competence. This, then, enhances persuasive power with consumer decisions based on technology or in which attention to technical details is important.
     There are two related reasons for this. First, the salesperson is perceived as needing to work harder toward customers satisfaction in order to compensate for the appearance deficit. This leads to subconscious beliefs that the salesperson attends to technical details more conscientiously. Second is what the researchers coin the “Ugly Einstein” effect. Consumers buy into the stereotype of the nerd who has limited social skills, yet is technologically brilliant. In consumers, this generalizes to a positive impression in areas beyond the technological—as long as the consumer won’t need to socially interact with the salesperson. This is why the Ugly Einstein effect was seen so clearly by the researchers in ecommerce.
     Calling this “Ugly Einstein” and referring to the “ugliness premium” might seem harsh. The researchers can defend this by pointing out how they found the boost in persuasiveness is highest for the most unattractive salespeople. In their study of almost 18,000 Airbnb listings which included an owner’s profile picture, the occupancy rate was about 4% higher for unattractive hosts on average, but 16% higher for the most unattractive hosts. The attractiveness ratings had been determined in a separate project by the researchers.
     An attractiveness premium is highest when a woman markets to a man. The ugliness premium is most pronounced when a man markets to woman. Maybe this latter has to do with a concern among female shoppers that a male salesperson will think the women lack technological expertise. Researchers at University of Minnesota, Concordia University, and Yonsei University found that women avoid situations such as automobile shopping, financial planning, and tax preparation because the women fear salespeople will try to cheat them, assuming their customers lack STEM strength. STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math.
     Featuring the owner’s photo in an ecommerce ad gives it credibility. Even owners who consider themselves relatively unattractive should countenance this advantage.

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Beautify Persuasion Transactions
Stem the Tide of Female Shopper Discomfort
Show Online What’s in Store
Look Out for Ugly Shoppers!

Friday, September 4, 2020

Prolong Sales Meetings with Holistic Listening

Does a longer sales appointment raise the possibility of a satisfied client? Researchers at University of Texas-Arlington, University of Chile, and Universidad del Desarrollo say the answer depends on how the salesperson spends the appointment time. The answer is yes if the salesperson engages in “active empathic listening.” (AEL).
     AEL refers to the salesperson responding to the client’s words and nonverbal messages holistically, integrating them for an understanding of the beliefs, feelings, and intentions of the client. The researchers measured salesperson self-rated AEL using questionnaire items, “I listen for more than just the spoken words,” “I ask questions that show my understanding of my customer’s position,” “I show my customers that I am listening by my body language (e.g. head nods),” and, “I sense why my customers feel the way they do.”
     Doing this takes time. When it was carried out, the client rated the service as being of higher quality than otherwise. This held true even if the client didn’t like the salesperson. The additional time investment required for AEL accounts for why the longer sales appointment raised the possibility of client satisfaction.
     There are other possible reasons for a prolonged appointment. Salesperson perseverance, for instance. The salesperson survey item with the most significance in measuring this was, “If the customer is about to refuse my offer, I ask why, counter their arguments, and make a new proposition.” Such perseverance lowered satisfaction, even if the client did consummate the transaction. Here, prolonging the sales appointment was worse than wasteful. It lowered the probability of the prospect doing future business or recommending the firm to others.
     There was an important exception to the destructive effects of salesperson perseverance, It occurred when the client reported to the researchers that they’d liked the salesperson from the very start. Perhaps this was because the salesperson had previously engaged in AEL.
     The research was conducted with investment advisors and their clients. Other studies have shown the value of empathy and related salesperson behavior in a range of settings. Attentiveness, friendliness, and empathy toward services customers influence customer satisfaction to a greater extent than do service outcome factors, such how well the clothes dryer works after being repaired, if the vacation met expectations, and the extent of financial returns on investments.
     Customers will be less dissatisfied and less likely to blame the service provider for any problem when the service provider demonstrated they care.

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Emphasize Empathy in Providing Services
Puff Persuasively to Holistic Shoppers