Monday, March 29, 2021

Win-Win with Data Disclosure Gamification

It’s nothing new in consumer research to show how shoppers become more willing to reveal their personal information to you when you state how you’d use the information to make their purchase experiences more efficient and fruitful, and how you’ll safeguard the information. Now studies at University of Passau in Germany identify a way to increase that willingness further when the shopper has not yet come to fully trust you: Illustrate the rationales and reassurances with a game.
     Revealing information involves risk management, and risk management is an essential element of many games, so there’s a fit between the request and gamification. Still, to be influential, the game must be an obvious supplement to the textual or verbal material. Gamification of any sort usually keeps people involved with a marketer. But when the trust in the marketer is not yet solid and the person is being asked to disclose sensitive information, a game which seems to be no more than irrelevant entertainment will decrease trust rather than build it.
     The game used by the researchers asked the shopper to move sliders on scales to report what would best fit them and their situation. As the sliders were moved, a representation of the shopper reflected how the measures would influence the design of the item offered by the vendor.
     We’ll want the shopper to feel they’ve won the game. The most significant win is getting an item which meets their objectives. Beyond this, the researchers propose that other elements of games, such as points and badges could serve as motivators which, in the process of earning them, cultivate trust.
     Badges earned and displayed by the vendor also can build the trust useful for persuading prospects to reveal themselves. An example is how the home page of online mortgage lending service LendGo showed Better Business Bureau, VeriSign Trusted, and TRUSTe logos.
     A recommendation of the company by Consumer Reports would have been a great additional badge of honor. However, as it turned out, LendGo wasn’t featured in a lender comparison in that magazine. No, the highlighted mention was instead in a bloopers collection.
     The message on the LendGo website asking you to enter your private information, including your telephone number, concluded with, “We’ll call you shorty” rather than “We’ll call you shortly.” Consumer Reports showed a screen shot of that and then added their own caption, “And we’ll call you chubby.”

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Engender Trust for New Ecommerce Sales 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Sequence to Cut Manipulation Perception

In successfully persuading people, we are manipulating them. Except people hate thinking of themselves as having been manipulated, so it’s important to avoid that perception. Especially when we truly don’t intend to manipulate them.
     The pandemic-stimulated growth in home delivery services is yoked to increased use of pre-fulfillment tipping. When the consumer places the order, they’re invited to add a tip. The true motivation for this may well be convenience for the purchaser. They don’t need to give a cash tip when the order arrives.
     However, studies at University of Oregon and University of Richmond find that consumers do frequently feel they’re being manipulated by this practice. One consequence was less positive recommendations of the retailer to others. Another consequence was fewer online ratings of the retailer and lowered intentions to use that retailer’s services again. This means that the retailer might very well not become aware of the less positive recommendations. And a third consequence was lower tips overall, which could lead to inferior service by disheartened frontline employees.
     Asking in advance is certainly consistent with the origin of both the custom of tipping and origin of the acronym “tip.” In British pubs during the 16th century, patrons could bribe servers with the objective being “to insure promptitude.” Still, considering the consequences of advance requests in our 21st century marketplace, the Oregon/Richmond researchers recommend eliminating this source of perceived manipulation by changing the sequence of the tip request. Ask after the order is delivered.
     With subliminal persuasion, the optimal sequence placement is during service delivery. Prosocial music in a restaurant and red in the wardrobe of the servers increase the frequency and size of tips.
     In other circumstance, announcing your intentions in advance is the better sequence for counteracting perceptions of manipulative intent. University of Colorado-Boulder, Colorado State University, and University of Amsterdam studies indicate advantages in giving notification early on. The research had to do with product placements in media seen by consumers. The placements were sufficiently subtle for the people to often not notice them. Yet brand attitude was about 25% more positive with the product placement.
     In a subsequent study, consumers were exposed to the media with product placement, but also told about the effort to manipulate their attitudes. When this disclosure was made afterwards, the brand attitude was about 16% less positive, while when the disclosure was made beforehand, the drop was only 1%.

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Influence Subconsciously, Not Subliminally 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Co-locate Items to Fit Shopper Concepts

We know that the way in which items within a product category are arranged on a set of store shelves influences how well those items sell. Researchers at Columbia University and Erasmus University say the arrangements should be influenced by how shoppers mentally configure the alternatives. A chief advantage of doing this, the researchers find, is that shoppers will perceive the assortment variety to be larger. Although consumers want to simplify filtering through alternatives, they’re attracted by ample variety at the start.
     But how to determine the way in which shoppers mentally organize the assortment? Survey a sample of them. In laboratory studies, the researchers instructed consumers to move images of items on a computer screen to fit their preferred arrangement. In a field study, grocery store shoppers were invited to arrange cards, each card with an image of an item, on a sorting table.
     In these studies, the researchers found considerable differences among people’s mental arrangements. Familiarity with the product category accounted for a good part of this difference. This indicates that in your own surveys, you should include your product categories with different levels of likely shopper familiarity.
     The heterogeneity in favored arrangements also indicates that you won’t be able to please everybody. Recognize that the principles shoppers use to organize the assortment inside their brains is influenced by whatever arrangement you and stores similar to yours typically use. Then incorporate recommendations from other research about item co-location.
     For example, a shopper’s judgments of the quality and price of an item depend on what surrounds the item on the shelf. Researchers at University of North Carolina, University of Pennsylvania, and Duke University explored results of consumers being exposed to multiple brands in situations where the selection of an item did not hold high importance for the consumer. Such a purchase might be laundry detergent rather than perfume.
     In these situations, the person was most likely to select an item if the surrounding brands had different brand personalities from the item selected. The most commonly accepted classification of brand personality was devised by researchers at Stanford University
  • Sincere. Down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful  
  • Exciting. Daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date 
  • Competent. Reliable, intelligent, successful 
  • Sophisticated. Upper class, charming 
  • Rugged. Outdoorsy, tough
     If it would fulfill your objectives to have a particular item selected, have the personality of that brand stand out from the personality of a surrounding brand.

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Organize Shelves & Racks to Portray Variety 

Friday, March 19, 2021

State Your Best Association

“All politics is local,” Tip O’Neill often said. Mr. O’Neill was a member of the U.S. House of Representative from 1953 to 1987 and Speaker of the House for the last ten of those years.
     “All economics is local” might be the tag line for a set of consumer behavior studies at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, North Dakota State University, and Ohio State University. But the definition of “local” in the consumer’s mind can range from neighborhood to nation. For instance, the researchers verified that when comparing purchase alternatives, Americans tend to favor the one where sales revenues will assist their state of residence.
     In your marketing within the state of manufacture, highlight the association. State governments may maintain marketing programs for this, such as Ohio Proud, Pride of Dakota, and California Grown. The titles of those first two point to how another appeal, aside from the economic angle, is an ego boost.
     When marketing outside the state of manufacture, your appeal should be to the quality of the item, the studies find. This may not be too big a lift. Scientists whose affiliations included ISM University of Management and Economics in Lithuania, Lingnan University in Hong Kong, Sun Yat-sen University in China, and Vienna University of Economics and Business found that consumers consider merchandise to be more pure when it comes from sources closer to home.
     Still, you might be able to also develop a helpful mental association in the shopper with the state in which they live. Researchers at Texas State University-San Marcos, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Delaware found that with clothing, it worked to call attention to where the fibers originated rather than where the item was made.
     Tip O’Neill used this state-switch persuasion approach skillfully in the political arena during his career representing Massachusetts. In the 1982 congressional run, his opponent was Frank McNamara. Most of Mr. McNamara’s war chest funds came from Oklahoma and Texas. Pointing to this was a major thrust throughout Mr. O’Neill’s advertising in what turned out to be his winning campaign.
     But for another issue, his approach to state association differed. After Mr. O’Neill, a Democrat, introduced a billion-dollar jobs bill to Congress, House Republican Leader Robert H. Michael fought vigorously against the bill. Mr. O’Neill’s reaction was to travel to Peoria, Illinois, Mr. Michael’s home state, where he delivered an address detailing how the bill would solve infrastructure problems in Illinois.

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Count on County Origin If Quality’s Clear 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Hide Item Features from Shoppers Sometimes

“Products likely to benefit most from concealment tactics are those that have the least to hide.” This is how researchers at University of Georgia and University of Pennsylvania cap their findings about keeping key aspects of an item hidden from the shopper.
     The mechanism of action is arousal of curiosity, which increases involvement with the product and allows the shopper to imagine the fully revealed product will be ideal for them. It follows that the peekaboo ploy ends up making the sale only if the product is sufficiently attractive. Also, partial concealment could easily irritate shoppers who want to make a purchase decision promptly rather than contemplate the possibilities. And unless the shopper trusts the marketer, the deliberate withholding of important information might come across as deception.
     With all these conditions, why would you hide item features? Because when it’s used properly, the technique works so well. In the studies, hiding about 50% to 65% of the item features at initial exposure significantly increased product inquiries by 54%.
     Other studies find that when a set of purchase alternatives would all satisfy the shopper’s basic specifications, the shopper prefers those alternatives they discover for themselves over those initially presented by the salesperson. Researchers at Miami University, University of Northern British Columbia, and University of Alberta gave consumers hints as to suitable items, but kept those items out of sight until specifically asked by the consumer to see them or try them out. The tease ended up making those items favored over suitable items initially presented in full view to the consumer.
     The way in which this one worked is important for you to understand. It was not that the consumer’s assessments of the discovered items were higher than that of the previously revealed items. Instead, it was that the revelation of the previously unknown items led the consumer to devalue the items shown openly by the salesperson.
     Progressive disclosure enhances the effect. Show shoppers a gift box being slowly opened, and their evaluations of what’s inside the box will be more positive than if you just showed them the item. This pleasure-from-watching-a-striptease is so compelling that researchers from Chinese University of Hong Kong saw it operate even if the box is empty. In this case, the observers of the unveiling liked the empty box itself more, on average, than an equivalent set of consumers who were just shown the box.

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Unwrap Purchase Alternatives Seductively 

Friday, March 12, 2021

Defog Buying Effects of Air Pollution

About 90% of the world’s population is breathing polluted air. That World Health Organization estimate is noted by researchers at Renmin University of China, a country troubled by extremely dirty air in major cities.
     The researchers summarize a range of study results which show potential air pollution effects on consumer behavior. These include sharpened attention by shoppers to environmentally friendly purchases and comparatively lower product ratings of all products. But of interest to the researchers was the effect of a particular characteristic of air pollution—reduced visibility.
     In a study, consumers were asked to select between descriptions of common behaviors, such as eating, washing clothes, and caring for houseplants. One set of descriptions was abstract, such as, for eating, “getting energy and nutrition.” The other set of descriptions was concrete, such as “chewing, tasting, or swallowing.” The task was administered to some of the consumers on a day with high outdoor visibility. The other consumers were administered the task on a day with visibility highly impaired, such as by heavy air pollution.
     Compared to the “high visibility” participants, the “low visibility” participants were more likely to select abstract definitions. Subsequent studies showed the same types of effects, plus a related one: During days with poor outdoor visibility, consumers placed higher importance on product quality features, such as high ranking of a movie. Quality ranking is an abstract characteristic. During clear-visibility days, consumers placed relatively higher importance on feasibility features, such as the convenience of getting to the movie theatre. Feasibility is a concrete characteristic.
     The Renmin researchers explain these results in terms of the clarity of objects seen through the fog of air pollution. When objects appear fuzzy, our brains default to more general impressions. We consider the general, the abstract, instead of the details, the concrete.
     Based on these results, the researchers suggest retailers highlight feasibility features on clear days and quality features on polluted days. Ghent University research indicates the position of the product on the shelf can assist with this. Shoppers are relatively more interested in concrete features when gazing down at the merchandise and relatively more interested in abstract claims when peering up.
     The Ghent researchers say that we’re more attentive to details when our heads are facing downward because we’re accustomed to items below us being close, and therefore of potentially greater danger than items we look up to see.

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Construe to Fit Comparative Price 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Endow Voice Assistants with Flowing Traits

As an increasing proportion of our interactions with marketers includes a computerized device talking to us, the personality of that voice deserves attention. Researchers at California State University Bakersfield centered their inquiry about voice assistant personality on the principle that the main objective of the voice should be to flow us through the transaction.
     The researchers asked a total of 275 consumers to rate on seventy personality traits the voices of Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Assistant. Analysis of the results highlighted three of those seventy as clearly enhancing a flow state with this group of participants. Here are my brief descriptions of the three: 
  • Intelligent. How competent and confident does the voice sound? 
  • Sincere. How friendly and agreeable? 
  • Contemporary. How culturally current are the words and phrases?
     Because the study participants were selected as a convenience sample, not as a representative sample of a general population, please consider the results as suggestive, not conclusive. In addition to the three flow-enhancing traits identified, it could be that gentle humor and emotional sensitivity increase the attractiveness of a voice assistant. Ask Apple’s Siri “How old are you” and you might hear the voice say, ““Well, I am no Spring Chicken. Or, Winter Bee. Or Summer Squid, or Autumnal Aardvark ….” When you ask Alexa how your favorite team did in today’s game, the voice programming includes the capability of sounding disappointed if announcing a loss.
     Surprise, either in the tone of voice or in the nature of the voice assistant’s personality, is likely to disrupt the consumer’s flow state. When the consumer expects the voice assistant to move the transaction in a certain way, but the voice moves it in a conflicting direction, the consumer feels a loss of control. Being in control of self-service technologies is important to the consumer, so the surprise causes irritation and alienation.
     Most humor depends on surprise. That’s fine as long as the joke is incidental to the flow of the transaction. The emotional sensitivity of a voice assistant’s reply could surprise the consumer, but that surprise is more likely to facilitate than to interfere with the flow.
     Still, any amusement at the humor or appreciation for the emotional sensitivity could turn to cynicism when the consumer realizes the voice assistant is only simulating a personality. Avoid the risks of this by having the voice assistant clearly announce it’s not a real person.

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Flow Shoppers into Extra Purchases 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Envision Seniors Envisioning Commitments

Persuading someone to do something falls short of ensuring they’ll actually do it. People change their mind and they forget. Both those happen at every age, but the mind changing is more likely with younger adults and the forgetting more likely with seniors.
     Studies at University of Notre Dame, University of Geneva, Australian Catholic University, and The University of Queensland tested in older adults a combination technique for preserving the effectiveness of what is called prospective memory: Have the senior verbalize aloud a commitment—“When this happens, this is what I will do”—along with vividly visualizing themselves carrying out the action in that circumstance.
     This works best applied to events rather than general times. “When I’m next out shopping at the drug store, I’ll have my blood pressure checked,” produces higher adherence than, “Next Tuesday, I’ll have my blood pressure checked,” with each accompanied by visualization. The difference is probably because it’s easier to vividly visualize the specifics of “shopping at the drug store” than the more amorphous “next Tuesday,” and vivid visualization is integral to the success.
     In the studies, the instruction for a verbal commitment was in the format, “Please repeat aloud three times, ‘When [event], I will [action].’” The visualization instruction was in the format, “Please close your eyes and visualize for thirty seconds completing the action. Include as much sensory detail as you can.” Health care professionals and others wanting to increase adherence to a good practice can use these formats.
     The researchers say they were somewhat surprised that the commitment plus visualization worked so much better than either alone. The brain becomes more distractible as it ages, so has additional trouble competently doing more than one thing at a time. But in this case, the two activities reinforce each other, therefore do a better job of imprinting the intention. Distractibility applies to incompatible tasks.
     Seniors, especially those with serious health challenges, also have trouble imagining events into the distant future. They consider their time as more limited than do younger adults in good health. This indicates that the suggested combo technique for preserving the prospective memory applies most clearly to actions planned to occur during coming weeks. For repeated tasks, such as the one of having the blood pressure checked, building a habit even for the somewhat distant future can start by having the individual start soon, even if it’s not so necessary for now.

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Ask for the Sale 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Serve Customers Ways to Reward Servants

Mandatory tipping, in which a gratuity for a specific percentage of a service’s base price is automatically added to a bill, has been poorly received by consumers, report researchers at Washington State University and Murray State University.
     Businesses ranging from restaurants to hair stylists suffer lower return visits under non-voluntary tipping than when decisions about who to tip and the amounts are in the hands of the customer. Even in industries such as cruise businesses where a mandatory tip is a common practice, consumers, when asked, say they’d prefer a voluntary system.
     Is this because consumers resist being told what to do? Or is it because they miss the opportunity to reward the specific individual who served them rather than having the amount go into a general pool? A mix of those two, conclude the researchers, but much more the second motivation than the first. Giving the customer an opportunity to express gratitude to one or more staff facilitates loyalty to the service provider.
     Woven into this dynamic is a desire to consider the service provider as subservient to the patron, at least for the duration of the service transaction. The notion behind leaving a tip is that the diner is judging the wait staff. When those role expectations of a superior judging a subordinate are violated, the consumer often becomes uncomfortable.
     Researchers at University of North Carolina and Western Carolina University explored what happens to customer tipping when the server draws a smiley face on the check before giving it to the diner. Other research had found that writing a brief thank you note leads to higher average tips.
     However, in this study, those patrons receiving a bill with a smiley face left a smaller tip percentage than did the patrons getting their bill sans decoration. The smiley face implied a level of informal familiarity which violated role expectations.
     Studies at Academic College of Tel-Aviv yielded a parallel and equally surprising finding. The study objective was to explore interactions among rudeness of customer behavior, agreeable and friendly attitude of the service provider, and tip amount.
     The overall finding was that server agreeableness resulted in greater tips. However, when highly rude customers were being served, friendly servers received lower tips than did less agreeable servers. An explanation is that the highly rude customers were made uncomfortable by a server who deserved sanctions for neglecting their place as a servant.

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Help Ecommerce Customers Thank You