Monday, August 30, 2021

Swish Aside Wish List Problems

Asking customers to maintain wish lists seems like a good way to keep them interested in purchasing from you. And it is. But for best results, sweep away two problems for the retailer when using wish lists—problems shown in a pair of Kent State University studies.
     The first problem arises because placing an item on a wish list gives a bit of the satisfaction from actually possessing the item. With some consumers in some circumstances, satisfaction like this can sharpen purchase desire. But with wish lists, it can dull it. The benefits of actual ownership have been partially achieved.
     The second problem with wish lists comes about because of the delay between adding an item and buying it. Again, this could operate in the direction of increasing desire as the consumer discovers and thinks more about the item. But the passage of time often cools off passions and leads to questioning prior decisions—in this case, a decision to put the item onto the wish list. Also, in a continuing search over time for the best terms on the wish-listed item, the shopper might end up buying it from someone other than you.
     The researchers recommend that retailers develop ways for their customers to regularly interact with their wish lists. Basic purchase reminders aren’t enough. Perhaps continuing to send bits of information about the products and the latest customer reviews would serve this objective.
     Also decrease the time until purchase. Don’t let the wish list get moldy. One meaning of “swish” is “fashionable.” Let’s swish away wish list purchase delays in order to keep wish list items swish.
     When the wish list takes the form of a gift registry, there’s yet another possible problem. Researchers at Emory University and University of Texas-Austin found that people feeling closest to the intended gift recipient are quite likely to pick items different from what the celebrant has placed on the list. The reason is that close friends and family members want to personalize the gift by selecting something to signal the nature of the relationship.
     In the study, 25% of gift selections were from outside the gift registry among distant friends, while corresponding choice share among close friends was 64%. To improve the match between what the gift registrant lists they want and what the people buying the gift end up selecting, coach gift registrants to include items which carry relational messages.

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Dream Consumption Visions of the Past 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Stumble Upon Serendipity as a Sales Tool

While searching for one desired thing, you unexpectedly spot something else even more appealing. Or you weren’t looking for anything in particular and cross paths with a highly appealing experience The pleasure in the discovery is greater because you avoided the expenditures of time, money, or effort specifically seeking the item and because you feel special for having been in the right place at the right time. That’s a Serendipity Effect.
     A set of studies at University of Sydney, University of Florida, University of Basel, and Rutgers University gives suggestions for mobilizing serendipity to improve the customer experience so that customers will want more. In an example analyzed by the researchers, participants were users of a subscription service such as Birchbox, Stitch Fix, or The Tie Bar. With these services an item arrives at expected intervals. The subscriber can choose products themselves or have products selected for them. The researchers found that those participants who had received products selected for them reported higher satisfaction with and feeling of meaningfulness in the purchase, greater willingness to recommend the company, and more interest in extending the subscription.
     Using serendipity to good effect requires a balancing. We’ll want to know enough about the consumer’s characteristics to select items they’ll like. But the items must be different enough from what they expect for them to feel surprised. In order for the consumer to notice us, we’ll need to let them know exactly where and when they can expect our offerings. But there must be enough uncertainty to bestow a feeling of luck when coming upon the serendipitous discovery.
     The researchers suggest you lead the consumer to believe a recommendation will be from among a large number of possibilities and that you avoid phrasing like, “We’ve made this selection carefully for you after examining your preferences.” When it seems like the person has been surveilled, the pleasant experience no longer feels fortuitous.
     Promotional discounts gain effectiveness when they have the elements of surprise and luck associated with serendipity. In a study at University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and University of Pennsylvania, people were asked to assume they had to buy an essential item at a store and they also could buy other items while there. A surprise discount resulted in about an 8% increase in the quantities purchased of other items, more than making up for the store revenues lost from the discount.

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Subscribe to Offering Self-Image Benefits 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Stay Open to People’s Territoriality

Shoppers get territorial. Especially when sensing their access is limited, such as when realizing a store will soon close for the day, a shopper guards their floor space and hovers over the merchandise in their cart.
     Researchers at University of Rhode Island find that territoriality at store closing time leads to shopper behaviors which could readily irritate front-line employees. Examples include people slowing down their product selection in an effort to assert control or making a mess as a way of expressing anger. If the FLE responds in turn with anger or a struggle for control, this worsens the situation.
     To avoid triggering the bad behaviors, FLEs should warn shoppers that the store is closing enough in advance to allow comfortable completion of the transactions, and should refrain from carrying out store closing tasks, such as tidying up shelves or reconciling registers, until the shoppers have departed. If it’s necessary to engage in closing time activities while shoppers are still present, still place primary attention on being of service to the shoppers and briefly explain to the shoppers how the activities are helpful to people like them. Taking care not to intrude on each shopper’s personal space is also recommended. When done well, these measures result in the shopper yielding territory graciously as this need is recognized, finishing up quickly and leaving the store satisfied.
     In many other areas of persuasion, too, territoriality is a driving force. Or sometimes a lack-of-driving force. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University and Georgia State University measured the time it took people to pull out of a parking space they’d temporarily occupied. It would seem that a driver would want to leave the space as soon as possible and that the exit would be even briefer if the driver saw another car waiting to pull in. In fact, this is how drivers surveyed by the researchers said they’d behave.
     However, territoriality appears to have applied the brakes. Drivers took about 32% longer to leave their parking space when a car was seen waiting. We might attribute this to the departing driver taking more time to exercise caution upon realizing another car is close by. But this explanation is undercut by the further observation that if the waiting car honked, the time for the egress was longer still. A honk didn’t flag “Here’s where I am” so much as “I want your territory right now.”

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Anticipate Black Friday Syndrome 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Don’t Get Me Started on Farts

Not often do I encounter a study where the researcher intentionally directed toward the participating consumers the smell of, in the phrasing of Prof. Sina Esteky at Miami University, “fart spray and fish oil.” But he did just that. His objective was to test the long-standing assumption that if an item of merchandise is being considered in the presence of an unpleasant odor, people become less likely to buy that item. Prof. Esteky found that in some circumstances, an unpleasant odor can instead enhance sales.
     Each participant in his study selected between organic and non-organic grocery items while exposed to either a pleasant or unpleasant odor, with the odor being one people tend to consider from either a natural or a non-natural source. The pleasant natural fragrance was lemongrass and lavender. The pleasant non-natural was a gender-neutral smell of ambiguous origin. The unpleasant natural was the fart spray and fish oil, and the unpleasant non-natural was burnt engine oil.
     Compared to a control group of consumers who made their choices in an environment with no odor pumped in, the group experiencing the pleasant natural odor were more likely to select organic over non-organic items. That’s what would be predicted by common sense as well as by past research results. But the people exposed to the unpleasant non-natural odor also were more likely than those in the control group to select organic over non-organic. It’s as if the smell of burnt engine oil made the consumers long for products of natural origin as compensation.
     The groups exposed to the fart spray and fish oil or the non-natural pleasant smell were less likely than those in the control group to choose organic over non-organic. This is evidence that it wasn’t just the presence of a fragrance which affected choices.
     Prof. Esteky saw the same pattern of results when assessing the results with sounds instead of odors. The pleasant natural sound was birds chirping, the unpleasant natural sound was dogs barking, the pleasant non-natural sound was electronic music, and the unpleasant non-natural sound was construction noise.
     You probably won’t infuse your store with the aroma of burnt engine oil or prioritize store renovation projects during operating hours. However, shopkeepers in industrial neighborhoods with unpleasant outdoor smells or in areas with building construction might turn this to their advantage by offering shoppers the respite of organic items.
     Keep in mind individual differences in whether a particular smell or sound is considered pleasant or unpleasant. A fisherman might associate the odor of fish oil with a profitable catch. As to that other component in the unpleasant blend, AsapSCIENCE claims scientific evidence shows most people find their own farts pleasant, while the farts of others obnoxious.

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Smell Familiar for Purchasing Enhancement 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Ricochet Shoppers Using Context

After a North American consumer purchases a product because it’s colored black, they become more interested in donating to a cause. After a North American consumer purchases a product because it’s colored white, they’re less open to helping others. The color need not be the primary reason they purchased the product, but for my statements to be true, it is necessary that the consumer has taken careful note of the white or black.
     The explanation for this strange effect, found in studies by researchers at Purdue University and Grenoble École de Management, is in moral balance theory. People in Western cultures generally associate white with moral purity and black with the opposite. The researchers note that children in the Western world have been shown to believe white boxes contain good objects and black boxes, bad ones. Because we often aim for balance in our moral behavior, purchase of a white product grants license to subsequently do something less moral. Those who purchase a black product feel a need to do something more moral.
     The broader implication for retailers is in using the context of a consumer decision to bounce them into a compensating direction. Researchers at Harvard University and Duke University were interested in whether shoppers who brought their own bags purchased a higher number of organic versions of items. The answer from receipts was that yes, the shoppers were. More specifically, on those trips when the consumer brought their own bags, they were more likely to buy organic than on those trips when that same consumer did not bring bags. Green actions begot green actions.
     But there’s more to the story: When shoppers bought organic, they were more likely to add candy bars and cookies.
     This sort of thing is true for all kinds of merchandise beyond food items and for ecommerce as well as store purchases. A shopper who makes a good, sound purchase decision is ready to buy an item that's mostly for fun. And when your customer is looking around for fun items, you'll want to be sure you make those items easy to find.
     The best way to do that is to have fun items displayed throughout the store and the website. More than this, whenever a customer makes the decision to buy a highly sensible item, offer them a follow-on sale of a fun item in the same or a related product category.

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License to Marry Naughty 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Stifle Reactance to Promotional Favor Discounts

Asking shoppers to earn a discount rather than giving it to them unconditionally can make the discount seem more valuable. Yet because of the extra work involved, the requirements can irritate shoppers.
     Researchers at ESADE in Spain and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in The Netherlands analyzed the effects of promotional favors, in which a discount is offered in exchange for the customer doing a task, such as completing a marketing questionnaire, posting a review, or making a referral. The set of studies found that customers will often take advantage of the offer, and they might consider the discount more valuable because it was earned. But they’ll end up spending less than with an unconditional discount.
     In one of the studies, conducted at supermarkets, shoppers offered a 5% discount for completing a questionnaire about choosing a supermarket spent between about 8% and 17% less on their grocery purchases than did those offered an unconditional discount. The researchers checked that this decrease was not attributable to the people being rushed because they had to complete the questionnaire during the shopping trip.
     The researchers attribute the decrease to reactance, which kicks in when people sense that their freedom of choice is threatened. Customers feel they’d be foolish to pass up the opportunity to save money, but don’t like the accompanying feeling that they’re being pressured to behave according to dictates from the seller. In the studies, people offered the promotional favors tended to develop more anger and frustration than did those offered an unconditional discount.
     Because promotional favors can benefit your organization, it’s best not to eliminate them from consideration. To avoid the negative aspects, dissolve the reactance. You might accomplish this by pointing out the options for each task. “You can write a review which is positive, negative, or mixed.” “We encourage you to carefully choose from among the people you know who you’d like to refer to us.”
     Another approach to easing the reactance is to offer a range of ways to earn a discount. This month, it’s a promotional favor. Next month, it will be a gambled discount, such as a scratch-off ticket. And every month, it’s the loyalty program reward of a percentage off an upcoming purchase.
     A third approach is to present the request as a way to help you. For customers who want your enterprise to succeed, this can be seen as an opportunity, not an obligation.

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Slant Referral Rewards Toward the Referred 

Monday, August 9, 2021

Slice Open the Minds of the Elderly

Senior citizens reject views differing from their own more often than do younger adults. Dr. Daniel R. Edgcumber of Newman University in the UK based this conclusion on a meta-analysis of twelve studies which included a total of more than 9,000 people ranging in age from 18 to 83 years.
     When taking a physiological perspective, Dr. Edgcumbe attributed the drop in open-mindedness largely to deterioration of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Senescent changes in the brain follow a “last in, first out” principle. The last parts of the brain to fully mature, such as is the case with the DLPFC, deteriorate earliest during advanced age. The DLPFC helps us keep opposing ideas in mind at the same time so that we can compare and contrast them. This capability facilitates us changing our views when offered compelling evidence. Deterioration in the DLPFC along with increased distractibility and quicker fatigue which accompany old age could cause the senior to disregard the evidence.
     The senior might experience the closed-mindedness as feeling that a change in opinions is a sign of weakness. An item on the survey used in the studies was, “Certain beliefs are just too important to abandon no matter how good a case can be made against them.” With this rationale, the seniors don’t see themselves as unwisely stubborn.
     Because of this closed-mindedness about being closed-minded, it often requires concerted interventions to slice into it with the objective of opening up the thinking. Areas in which open-mindedness is notably important for the senior include personal finances, end-of-life planning, health care, voting, and if the senior is still employed, on-the-job judgments. Based on Dr. Edgcumbe's analysis, I suggest bringing together elderly adults with different views for ongoing discussions and persevering when showing seniors the value of considering a range of perspectives before making a significant decision. “This would enable us all to recognise the limitations of our own knowledge whilst benefitting from the knowledge, perspectives, and opinions of others in the practice of open-mindedness,” Dr. Edgcumbe added in an email to me. 
     As well as implementing these sorts of tactics to cut into the stubbornness, let’s each keep an open mind ourselves about the extent and purposes of cognitive rigidity in the elderly. In the meta-analysis, no more than half the variation in open-mindedness was attributable to advancing age. Yes, that’s a considerable amount, but it still means there are lots of individual differences in open-mindedness at every age. Not every senior is bound to be a flawed decision maker. Also, wisdom can compensate for some flaws. The senior who is highly experienced at living could be quite justified when rejecting the latest popular opinion.

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Negotiate with the Stubbornness of Old Age 

Friday, August 6, 2021

Cite City Vibrancy to Attract Tech

Studies from Erasmus University, University of Hamburg, and Kühne Logistics University documented the value of the right city slogan for attracting visitors. The researchers recommend you express in the slogan features which consumers find attractive.
     So what should the slogan and other marketing express if your city wants to court high-tech organizations? Results could include robust tax revenues from a profitable business sector and well-paid, well-educated workers. High-tech organizations do attend to the city branding in deciding where to locate. When Amazon invited proposals for their second headquarters, they wrote of wanting “a compatible cultural and community environment.”
     To answer this question about what to feature, University of North Texas and Virginia Tech researchers correlated descriptions of 133 cities with the extent of high-tech growth in those cities. For the city descriptions, they employed computerized analysis of text from Lonely Planet Travel Guides and then statistical techniques to form the descriptive terms into dimensions. The names they gave to the dimensions along with some of the words included in each dimension were: 
  • Vibrancy. Music, celebration, night, hotel, community. Nashville, Las Vegas, New Orleans along with Lafayette, Louisiana scored high on Vibrancy. 
  • Revitalization. Local, cool, biggest, beautiful, boom. Dayton, Wichita, and Paducah were high on Revitalization. 
  • Gastro Hub. Food, market, football, hike, beer. South Bend, Omaha, and Milwaukee were high here. 
  • Local Center. Downtown, river, university, mountain, park. Dover in Delaware and Rapid City in South Dakota excelled here. 
  • History & Arts. Historical, culture, architecture, African, theatre. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Kansas City, Missouri; and Montgomery, Alabama stood out on History & Arts.
     Of these five, Vibrancy was most closely associated with growth in high-tech organizations and employment. Because this was a correlational study, we can’t be sure of cause-and-effect. Still, there’s evidence that featuring descriptions of vibrancy in marketing your city will attract high-tech.
     The researchers describe the possible payoffs from you doing this: High-tech pulls more than its own weight. While constituting under 10% of U.S. employment, the tech sector contributes 20% of gross domestic product. Each new high-tech job generates four to five additional jobs in service-oriented sectors.
     At the same time, the researchers do reveal a flaw in their methodology: Wenatchee, Wisconsin was high on Vibrancy. But this should be attributed to its being the largest apple producer in America. The guide book phrases “pulsating” and “eye-catching” referred to that, not to Wenatchee having an electrifying entertainment scene.

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Sloganize for City Attraction 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Back Off for Better Adherence

After IMSS, Mexico’s largest healthcare provider, cut down the frequency of doctor appointments with patients who have high blood pressure if untreated, the patients’ adherence to medication instructions climbed. Beyond that, there was no evidence that the patients’ overall health suffered. A win-win for all parties since the patients functioned better, clinic crowding and workloads eased, and healthcare costs dropped.
     This Princeton University study was carefully done, tracking 1.2 million hypertensive patients over time and analyzing the data from different statistical perspectives. The reduction in monitoring frequency was from every month to every three months. The benefits might not be the same if the doctor visits are only yearly, let’s say. In addition, those patients participating in the program had already demonstrated stable control of their hypertension. The point remains, though, that overly intensive supervision by healthcare professionals could interfere with valuable patient self-management.
     One explanation for what happened is that the patients appreciated not having to travel to appointments, pass time in the waiting room, and fill prescriptions as often. They were thereby motivated to comply with healthcare recommendations because this would qualify them to continue in the reduced-frequency program. That explanation is supported by how those patients who showed the benefits most clearly were those receiving their medical care from the most congested clinics. A related explanation is that people become more likely to follow healthcare instructions when it’s less difficult to do so. Additional lessons, then, are to reward people for good self-management, including self-monitoring, and to simplify adherence. This empowers healthcare consumers.
     Other forms of empowerment might not work as well. Researchers at Erasmus University and University of Navarra analyzed programs where patients are provided information about options and then encouraged to make medical decisions for themselves. Arguments put forth for doing this type of informed consent are that it supports ethical patient interactions, relieves providers of blame for flawed outcomes, and increases compliance with the expert’s advice.
     However, the study conclusion was that the amount of information necessary for true informed consent often disrupts proper 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 nonadherence. 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 mistaken conclusions.

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Check for Empowered Shoppers’ Compliance