Monday, January 31, 2022

Validate Vulnerable Consumers

Quitters never win. Winners never quit. But those who never win and never quit are idiots.
     That Despair, Inc. epigram does seem harsh. Let’s change the last two words to, “are vulnerable.” A study at Deakin University and Monash University of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) consumers would support us doing that. Actually, though, we’d expect all the consumers in that study to experience vulnerability. IVF requires substantial costs along with substantial uncertainty about outcomes.
     The researchers recommend that IVF clinics empathize with and then reduce the vulnerability of their patients. Ease the anxiety which precipitates vulnerability by giving evidence of the competence of clinic staff. Then educate in ways that depend on how likely it is the IVF procedure will result in a successful pregnancy. In the study, almost one-third of the women said they’d undergone more than five cycles of IVF treatment.
     Here is my adaptation of the researchers’ recommendation: 
  • For those with a high probability of success or when the probability is unknown, empower the woman and her partner by giving them information to use in feeling control over the process. 
  • For those women the clinic judges to have a low probability of success, offer or refer for services to assist in acceptance of this fact and explore alternatives for parenthood, such as surrogacy, adoption, and foster care.
     The advantages of empowering with information are seen in other health care areas. For example, early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease 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, according to studies at University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University, is for a senior to believe they’re capable of handling news of an AD diagnosis.
     Empowering with information and encouragement in a retail setting is a type of “transformative retail service.” Studies at Germany’s WHU found that when the participants appreciate the improvements in their physical or mental wellness and haven’t paid for the program, the participants’ gratitude leads to significant increases in loyalty and modest increases in positive feelings about purchasing from the marketer.
     This argues for offering TRS at no cost and checking that those benefits are recognized by consumers who complete the program. In health care settings, especially, the benefits should include reduced feelings of vulnerability.

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Censor Silly Sales Sayings 

Friday, January 28, 2022

Maintain Your Distance for Slumming Shoppers

More than 40% of new stores opening in the U.S. during the last year are dollar stores, says Money magazine. This during the same period that about 9,000 permanent stores in the U.S. closed. It would seem that for survival, every type of retailer should devote at least part of the building to bargain seekers.
     But you don’t want to alienate your other shoppers—people whose self-esteem would be threatened by what they consider to be slumming. Researchers at Mannheim University suggest a solution: Give high-class shoppers plenty of space. This helps them avoid physical proximity to what they fear will be any riffraff who think the shopper is like them. In addition, spaciousness relaxes the type of stress arising from a discrepancy between how we see ourselves and how we want to see ourselves.
     The researchers note that dollar stores are often cluttered. Clearing that clutter would help maintain distances. But an experience from a decade ago suggests that clutter reinforces the bargain image: From late 2009 through early 2011, many Big Box retailers tidied up aisles and shelves. In some cases, the cleanup came from a realization that consumers were wanting to keep all things more straightforward in their lives because of the economically uncertain times. Loblaw Companies Limited—Canada’s largest grocery retailer—rolled out their “Clutter-Free Check Out Lanes,” and Superquinn in Ireland moved in that same direction.
     Walmart cut down on the clutter in order to attract shoppers from Target. End caps got narrower, the floor-toward-ceiling power aisle shelves got much shorter, and people coming from opposite directions could actually navigate two shopping carts comfortably past each other.
     Walmart shoppers loved the spaciousness. Customer satisfaction surged. On the other hand, the size of the average sale plummeted. In response, Walmart began plumping up the racks and cluttering up the aisles. Around the same time, Dollar General decided to raise shelf heights.
     To attract the full range of shoppers, manage clutter strategically. When opportunities allow, also add spaciousness in the physical layout of store areas devoted to bargain merchandise. The scenarios used in the Mannheim studies described a spacious environment as one “with no baffles or pillars integrated into the design, so you can easily navigate and find all the products you need.” Other research suggests that stress from slumming could be reduced by integrating into store designs live plants or posters illustrating scenes of nature.

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Clear Up Clutter Ambiguities 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Let’s Stock Up on Democracy Stock

In the U.S., analyses of voting patterns frequently highlight how candidate selection is influenced by whether the voter has a four-year college degree. In the UK, surveys found that people with low education were those most likely to favor Britain leaving the European Union.
     One view is that those with a college degree make political decisions reflecting greater tolerance of diversity. Educational achievement could lead to this by developing critical thinking skills and exposing students to a broad range of ideas. Still, there are exceptions. In European countries with a neo-nationalist political party, it is the most-highly educated nationalists who vote for candidates from that party.
     This attention by political scientists to level of education comes alongside warnings that authoritarianism is eating away at democracy in America and internationally. Takanori Sumino at Japan’s Ritsumeikan University found a twist in the relationship of the two: When a country has accumulated considerable democratic traditions and experiences, a citizen’s advanced education steers them away from uncritical loyalty to their country. Blind patriotism is related to favoring authoritarian leadership and hostility toward those who disagree politically. In the studies, blind patriotism was measured as agreement with the statement “People should support their country even if the country is in the wrong.”
     On the other hand, in countries with limited “democratic stock,” as Dr. Sumino calls the accumulation of traditions and experiences, educational achievement had less influence on the avoidance of blind patriotism. In the pattern of relationships, democratic stock exerted more influence on the effects of advanced education than did the current state of democracy in the country.
     The argument is that resistance to authoritarianism builds up over generations of democratic traditions and experiences. Studies at University of Amsterdam and University of Lausanne find another generational influence: A higher level of educational achievement in a parent increases the probability of the children pursuing further education. Along with this, the parents inculcate offspring with their political views in addition to their views about getting a college degree. The studies contend that what’s seen as the effect of education on voting patterns might be more accurately seen as the effects of parents on their children’s subsequent voting patterns.
     However we view it, it appears that protections against dictatorship arise from cultivating respect for democracy’s advantages, engaging in the traditions of democracy like petitioning and voting, and consciously warning the next generation about authoritarianism’s dangers.

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Value Cultural Values 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Construe Differences in Disability Duration

In a study reported by researchers at Northwestern University, sighted participants stated how capable they thought blind people, in general, were of living independently. But prior to doing that, some of the participants carried out challenging physical tasks while wearing a blindfold. This group estimated the difficulty of independent living to be substantially higher than did the others, who hadn’t worn the blindfold first.
     The flaw in these estimates was that the blindfold group participants were blind to how people can learn to adjust to a long-term disability. Given proper support, people who are born blind are likely to do just fine living on their own.
     This difference between temporary and permanent disabilities was explored in a study of shopping behavior by researchers at Copenhagen Business School, University of Leeds, and University of Amsterdam. They considered disabilities as restrictions on behavior. Their examples of temporary restrictions included recovering from a broken arm and being on a diet to lose a specific amount of weight. Permanent restriction examples included diabetes and celiac disease.
     The researchers found that a shopper’s perceived duration of their restrictions influences whether they’ll be more responsive to marketing to a concrete or abstract mindset—what is called the shopper’s “construal level.”
     Those who consider their disability to be short-term think concretely, focusing on how to carry out an action. Those who consider their disability to be long-term think abstractly, focusing on why to take one or another action. Ranking alternatives by ease of use is concrete. Ranking alternatives by item quality is abstract. A chocolate candy might be thought of concretely in terms of the appeal of its particular ingredients or abstractly in terms of how good eating it leads one to feel. An ad for a diamond pendant could use the tag line, “Flawless quality and pure color,” in order to appeal to concrete thinkers, or “Make it unforgettable,” to appeal to abstract thinkers.
     Compared to those who think concretely, shoppers thinking abstractly prefer a broader categorization of products when evaluating alternatives in a store. In the study of perceived duration of restrictions, those considering their gluten-free restriction to be long-term preferred supermarket shelves with all the gluten-free items shelved together. On the other hand, those who considered the restriction temporary, such as for a limited-term diet, preferred shelves to contain adjacent assortments of gluten-free and non-gluten-free products. They were comfortable with narrower categories, which is a characteristic of concrete thinking.

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Construe to Fit Comparative Price 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Pair the Ad Tagline to the Endorser’s Behavior

Celebrity endorsements are most effective when the shopper perceives that the celebrity’s skills match the nature of the marketed item and/or the celebrity is respected by the shopper for their distinctive accomplishments over time. A set of studies at University of Jammu augments this attention to the behavior of the celebrity. The studies analyzed the impact of priming—how observing the celebrity’s actions influences the consumer’s receptivity to subsequent marketing messages.
     The prime here was whether the celebrity was seen as living a more or less luxurious lifestyle. This was assessed in the context of whether the celebrity urged the shopper to spend money or save money. Since the studies were conducted with university students in India, the two celebrities referenced in the example ads—Salman Khan and Ajay Devgon—were Bollywood film stars. On a survey prior to the main experiment, using a different group of participants, Mr. Khan had been found to be perceived as living quite luxuriously and Mr. Devgon as living more simply. In the main experiment, participants were shown photographs designed to reinforce these impressions.
     The ad in the experiment was for a fictitious brand of smartphone. For some versions, the tagline read, “Luxury, you deserve it,” while in other ads, it read, “Being economical keeps you going.”
     The study results indicated that participants’ willingness to spend money for the phone was raised when the primed reputation of the endorser matched the spirit of the tag line. In a follow-up study, parallel results were obtained when the priming was with a movie poster showing Mr. Khan playing either a wealthy or an indigent hero.
     Matching the ad tagline to an actor’s behavior might be safer when the endorsement is from the celebrity’s role persona than from their personal life. Studies at University of Newcastle and Monash University found that endorsements by the characters produced better attitudes toward the advertisement, attitudes toward the brand, and intentions to purchase the item. The reason is that the associations held by consumers are limited and fully known. But the real-life person can subsequently misbehave, dragging down the value of the endorsed brand.
     An extramarital affair, a DUI, a lapse in “professional integrity.” Reports of each of these were presented to a sample of Millennials by researchers at University of Leeds, University of Kent, and University of Sheffield. As in similar studies, there was indeed a drop in the celebrity’s endorsement credibility.

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Prime Your Shoppers Below Awareness 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Meet Meat Eaters with Distinctive Alternatives

How appropriate that the site for a group of studies about meat consumption was University at Buffalo. The research question was whether presenting pigs and cows as sharing characteristics with people would affect interest in eating pork and beef. The answer was that it did.
     In reply to my email inquiry to Prof. Sunyee Yoon, one of the researchers, she wrote, “Participants tended to choose healthier meat rather than tastier meat after seeing anthropomorphized animals.” The anthropomorphism aroused feelings of warmth toward the animals, and expecting to eat a healthy rather than tasty meat dish reduced the consequent guilt for those people who chose to eat meat.
     Among the anthropomorphism messages were posters showing an illustration of a pig with humanlike eyes, a speech bubble reading, “I am ME, not MEAT! I am not different from you,” and text below stating, “See the person inside.” Study participants in a non-anthropomorphism group instead saw a poster with the slogan, “This is PIG, not MEAT,” and the caption, “See the living animal.”.
     People may be committed to meat consumption because they perceive it as enhancing health. Or it could be because they perceive meat consumption as power. A team of researchers from France and Australia told study participants they'd be given either a beef sausage roll or a vegetarian roll to eat. But those tricky researchers had lied to half the participants, who actually were served the other entrée from the one they were promised.
     A group of those participants granted a high rating to what they ate, regardless of which they actually ate, as long as they thought it was meat. Unlike the veggie fans, these meat elitists showed up on psychological testing as embracing power and strength.
     Vegetarian rolls are healthier than beef sausages. Another perspective on persuading people to eat healthier alternatives is a study done at…wait for it… University of Vienna. As in Vienna sausage. I love it!
     However, the study, including researchers from University of Bath and University of Cologne in addition to University of Vienna, found the participants did not love it. As in the healthier alternative. People focus on the differences between the healthier and less-healthy alternative and then find the differences to be undesirable. The researchers recommend discouraging similarity comparisons. Market a healthier burger, for instance, as providing a completely new taste, even better than the taste of a beef hamburger.

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Spot Values by Asking Shoppers for Reasons 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Specify Odd-Ending for Conspicuous

There are exceptions to exceptions. A general principle is to set prices at $499 instead of $500, for instance, since the 99-ending leads consumers to perceive the cost to be noticeably less. One explanation is that shoppers devote higher attention to the left-most digit—in this case 4 versus 5—over the right-most digits. Another explanation has been that people who want to buy an item look for evidence that it’s at a good price, and the $1 drop provides a comforting argument for that.
     It’s been said that an exception to the rule is with luxury items, since a 99-ending would signal bargain over quality. The exceptions to the exception, according to studies at TBS Business School, ESCP, and Université PSL, occur if the luxury items are conspicuous to others when used by the purchaser. People who want to show off their status are more likely to be attracted by a slight cut in the price than are those principally motivated to indulge themselves with the superb quality of luxury items.
     To test their reasoning, the researchers obtained survey responses from 169 women who had bought luxury items during the past two years. The logic for asking only women is that they are responsible for about 80% of all luxury purchases. The respondents were asked to express purchase preferences among luxury handbags in which sets of odd-ending and even-ending prices were randomly assigned by the researchers.
     The survey responses supported the researchers’ perspective about odd-ending prices’ attractiveness to those looking for status and even-ending ones’ attractiveness to those seeking quality materials and construction.
     Another angle from which to assess the hypotheses was tabulating the frequency with which marketers of luxury items, namely Gucci and Louis Vuitton, use the two types of pricing. In the researchers’ sampling on French websites, with prices in euros, odd-ending prices were significantly more frequent for items in which a logo was prominent, consistent with the idea that the purchaser was seeking a demonstration of status.
     These findings mesh well with prior research showing how about 20% of sunglasses selling for under $50 included a brand name or logo easily visible to others, about 85% when the retail price was between $100 and $300, but for sunglasses selling above the $500 mark, the percentage dropped dramatically to about 30%. Who needs to show off when what you’re principally seeking is the indulgence of luxury?

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Roll Those Price Quote Wheels-Within-Wheels 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Remind Consumers of Robots’ Competence

When planning my prostate surgery, the urologist asked if I’d like it done by a robotic device. Authorizing an unmanned Roto-Rooter to probe and clean out body parts I associate closely with my manhood did not interest me. Sensing my reaction, the urologist added that the robot incorporated the best state-of-the-art expertise of human prostate surgeons and that a real-life urologist would be right there beside the robot. That did ease my resistances. Rejection of the robotic option ended up being for scheduling restrictions.
     This episode was brought back to mind by a question which researchers at Weber State University and University of Toledo posed: Would people prefer a robotic financial advisor to a human one? Answers from the data: When people trust that the human has substantial expertise, they’ll prefer the human over the robot. But when they perceive that the human is a novice financial advisor, people are equally comfortable choosing the human or the robot.
     Consumers are attracted to self-service technologies like robotic financial advisors because of perceived reliability and convenience. Consumers resist using such SSTs due to concerns about privacy violations and limited control. But with health care and financial management SSTs, a central issue is trust. A robotic financial advisor would be seen as having extensive information and unbiased judgment, leading to trust. On the other hand, personal interaction with a human advisor allows the consumer to assess trustworthiness.
     When there’s a serious mistake, consumers are more likely to blame a human service provider than a robotic service provider, according to studies at University of Zaragoza and Eindhoven University of Technology. With the robot, consumers generally held the firm responsible. Because the human service provider who fails is more accessible than “the firm,” restoring trust after a mistake should be easier with the human.
     People expect consistent performance from a robot. Consistency can build trust, yet there’s also a downside to consistency. The study participants said they’d expect a human service provider to shape up more quickly after a service failure than would be true for a robot.
     Along with reliability and convenience upsides of SSTs for consumers, there are the cost advantages for service providers. Look for ways to encourage consumers to embrace the robots. Foster trust by detailing how sophisticated analytical capabilities are built in and continually updated. As with my prostate surgery option, say that a human monitors the machine.

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Buttress Trust with Clarity 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Provoke Reports as Experiences Occur

Photos and comments taken and written by satisfied customers and shared with you can be used afterwards in your advertising, on your website, and on your store walls. These materials help persuade others of the value in what you sell. Moreover, text, photos, and videos generated by your satisfied customers and shared with others as they are consuming experiences purchased from you help them persuade themselves of the value in what you’ve sold.
     The researchers at Rutgers University and NYU analyzing this contemporaneous content generation attribute the positive effects to increased immersion of the customer into the experience. In fact, with one of examples used—a horror movie, which the participants afterwards judged to be negative—enjoyment was enhanced only with those participants for whom the recording boosted their involvement in the experience.
     The researchers acknowledge that some prior studies reported how putting resources into recording and sending impressions distances the consumer from the experience, which decreases enjoyment. But that’s not what these researchers saw. Maybe the difference is because the experiences used in the current studies were particularly compelling. A Super Bowl halftime show. A fast-paced dance performance. The horror movie.
     Maybe the difference is because the prior studies were conducted at a time when using technology to record impressions was less easy and to send impressions less continuous, and therefore more distracting, than is true these days. We’ve become highly accustomed to recording and sharing our impressions in real time. In one of their exploratory studies, the researchers found that more than 45% of tweets about the final episode of “Game of Thrones” occurred during the show. It would seem that people did not widely consider commenting on the experience of watching the show would detract from their enjoyment watching it.
     Based on their findings, the researchers recommend offering incentives or simply encouraging your customers to generate and share content about their experiences in consuming your offerings. As with photos you request customers to submit for your later use, ask customers to include you on the routing list for posts of their contemporaneous comments and media.
     Acknowledge each submission. In the same place you solicit the contributions, explain that you won’t be able to use each one. Even with this, however, people will yearn for acknowledgement. They’ve sent you something special. At any point where you find you lack the resources to acknowledge every submission, stop inviting more.

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Solicit Photos from Satisfied Customers