Monday, October 31, 2022

Select True Online Reviews for Trust

When you’ve the opportunity to select or edit customer reviews for use in marketing, improve the extent to which readers of those reviews trust them. Loyola University Chicago and Northeastern University study findings assist in that endeavor. Researchers gathered more than 3,000 authenticity assessments from consumers along with almost as many self-reports of why the respondent considered a review real or fake.
     Readability of the review mattered. Study participants were more likely to trust a positive review when the sentences were short and trust negative reviews when the sentences were long. The central questions being asked by the researchers concerned how consumers identify fake reviews, not how to persuade shoppers. Still, the finding about readability is consistent with advice to use short sentences in reviews designed to influence shoppers about benefits of your offering.
     Anecdotal evidence indicates that consumers frequently doubt that people would intentionally post fake negative reviews. This overlooks motivations like competitors wanting to draw business to themselves and angry customers wanting to exact revenge.
     Fake negative reviews unfairly hurt your profitability. Fake positive reviews distort consumer expectations, leading to customer dissatisfaction. Coach shoppers to recognize motivations for posting these fakes. Also monitor social media channels to spot and respond to fake reviews. Actually, it’s wise to selectively reply to genuine negative reviews as well.
     The researchers present their findings against the backdrop of previous studies showing people usually consider online consumer reviews to be genuine, especially if the reviews include negative comments. Encouraging criticism may seem like a strange way to attract customers. But a substantial stream of consumer behavior research finds that a sprinkling of negative reviews adds believability to the positives. For important decisions, reviews including both strong positives and a few negatives drives a desire to lean more. When benefits far outweigh liabilities, you’ve won a customer.
     Studies at Israel Institute of Technology, Open University of Israel, and Tel Aviv University discovered that, with less important shopping, reading a few grouchy reviews among an abundance of highly positive ones leads shoppers to conclude they’ve done their homework. Most consumers like getting routine purchase decisions completed promptly, but feel a need to do at least some evaluation. In the studies, comments accompanying a one-star rating were largely irrelevant to the leading purchase criteria. It was the rating itself rather than the relevance of the criticism which gave the shopper a sense of adequate vigilance.

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Choke Off Phony Store Reviews 

Friday, October 28, 2022

Care for Differences between Dog & Cat People

A year 2010 Anthrozoös article reported personality differences between “dog people” and “cat people.” The University of Texas-Austin and Atof, Inc researchers said people who prefer dogs are more likely to describe themselves as self-disciplined, outgoing, and altruistic, characteristics corresponding to Big Five personality traits of Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Agreeableness. In contrast, cat fans came through as relatively higher on Big Five traits of Neuroticism and Openness, which include characteristics such as worrying and—fitting when considering cats’ reputation—curiosity.
     Among other things, the Big Five model of personality has been used to characterize shopper preferences and suggest selling approaches. A year 2022 Journal of Marketing article contributes to consumer psychology from the perspective of another classic personality assessment model—Regulatory Focus Theory, which describes promotion-focused and prevention-focused mindsets. Promotion-focused consumers continually search for opportunities to move closer to their ideal selves, while the prevention-focused are always alert to avoiding losses from what they have now. Promotion-focused consumers take more risks than prevention-focused consumers.
     The University of Massachusetts, University of South Carolina, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University researchers here conclude that dog people are more likely to be promotion-focused and cat people, prevention-focused. The researchers relate these findings to how, compared to cats, dogs are typically more receptive to change and to rewards.
     Aside from the personality model used, the 2022 study is different from the 2010 study in identifying the range of ways these pet preference differences are demonstrated and in showing how consumers can be prompted to be a dog or cat person even when not owning one or the other pet. Dog owners were more likely than cat owners to invest in risky stock options and favor a pet toothpaste which claimed to freshen breath versus prevent gingivitis. These sorts of differences between dog and cat people were seen not only when study participants were screened on the basis of actual pet ownership—with people who owned both animals excluded—but also when study participants were simply asked at the start to think about experiences with one or the other of the pets or were first exposed to an ad with text reading either “Be a dog person!” or “Be a cat person!”
     Many people like both animals, and valid personality assessment models describe differences along dimensions, with few people at an extreme. Still, caring for differences between dog and cat people can usefully guide marketing.

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Give Me Five for Productive Staffing 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Face the Fact of Facial Discrimination

When a devout Democrat aims to persuade a devout Republican, they’ll almost surely use different arguments than when wanting to influence someone carrying their same political views. The devout Democrat also might discriminate against the devout Republican. A study by Boise State University political scientists demonstrates the wide range of ways in which this discrimination shows itself and how we often assume another’s political affiliation based on the subtlest of cues—in this case, what their face looks like. The research also indicates, as we’d expect, that the discrimination also occurs the other way around, from Republicans toward Democrats.
     The researchers’ first task was to check whether people are willing to judge a person as being either a Republican or a Democrat based on being shown only an image of their face. Indeed they are, in general, with only a third of the respondent sample choosing “Equally likely Republican and Democrat” across the 80 faces used.
     Then a subsequent study revealed how people with clear political affiliations treat others differently depending on whether the other person is seen as in political agreement, assumed from facial appearance. Respondents rated co-partisans higher on competence and on desirable personal traits like honesty. Given the same résumé, study participants were more likely to say they’d consider hiring a candidate for a middle management position when that candidate was assumed from facial appearance to be a co-partisan. Similar differences were found regarding less consequential decisions, such as a willingness to talk about politics.
     But does the fact that facial appearance is a subtle indicator of party affiliation mean it is no more than inconsequential evidence? The researchers point out how in their studies, the same head shot was sometimes seen by one set of participants as that of a Republican while by others as a Democrat. Moreover, once we engage in conversation with the other person, we’ve plenty of opportunities to suss out their belief system. If we were misled by the face, we could correct the assumption.
     That correction is, of course, if we engage with the person. The range of discriminatory behaviors identified by the Boise State University researchers cautions us that people might never get to the point of meaningful social interaction.
     Recognize in those we aim to persuade, as well as in ourselves, the dangers of discrimination via facial appearance and similar snap judgments.

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Work Class for Warmth 

Friday, October 21, 2022

Share a Scent to Ease Shared Consumption

When Zipcar introduced their collaborative consumption service, they anticipated users embracing the opportunities offered. Zipcar members would carry an access card which unlocked a car they’d reserved. The car’s parked in a convenient location, and the ignition key is inside. Along with the savings of money and hassle, the company expected users to enjoy the feeling of sharing with others.
     Instead, it was feelings of mistrust which were generated. Once the program got rolling, Zipcar members wanted the company to strictly enforce rules about filling the gas tank and returning the car on schedule, but at the same time found that the strict enforcement estranged them from other members. In 2013, Avis Budget Group acquired Zipcar, bringing the policies more toward traditional car rental.
     That was then, this is now. Researchers at HeSam University, Le Mans Université, and Toulouse School of Management propose use of a pleasant, clean scent to ease the tensions associated with shared consumption. In their set of studies, they diffused a fragrance they describe as a “floral musky note” in a shared workspace in a company, a university library, a rail station concourse, and a car which had been used by others in a car sharing service. In each case, users expressed more positive feelings about sharing when in the scented than in the unscented environment.
     The researchers also assessed why this worked. Of the three explanations considered, the only one which was validated was improvement in the consumer’s mood. Neither perceived influence of the scent on the behavior of other users or perceptions that the space with the scent was cleaner accounted for the difference.
     In the car sharing study, the fragrance was diffused using perfumed cards placed on the floor behind the driver’s seat. In other studies, a fragrance dispenser was used. In a retail store where many consumers are sharing the shopping space, another option for dispensing a floral musky note is... flowers. Researchers at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and University of Leuven explored the effects on shoppers of adding in-store vegetation. The strongest difference was in areas that were somewhat crowded with merchandise, had high traffic, or were visually busy. Here, the plants reduced stress for the shoppers. The sense of pleasure reported by the shoppers was more calmness than excitement.
     In using scents, you’ll want to attend to possible allergies and other consumer sensitivities. Keep any fragrance faint, simple, and familiar.

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Interact for Collaborative Consumption 

Monday, October 17, 2022

Double Down Against Sweethearting

In extending special favors to the employees whose work they oversee, supervisors could be disloyal to their own employer. For instance, this might occur if the supervisor allows a restaurant hostess to go home early when the restaurant isn’t busy while ensuring that the hostess is still paid for the whole shift. University of Hohenheim and Ebonyi State University researchers find that such “supportive-disloyal leadership behavior” can lead to customer sweethearting, furthering the damage to the employer’s interests.
     Customer sweethearting refers to a store employee: 
  • Giving away products or services for free or at a deep price cut 
  • With plans to get, in return, an extra tip, increased social status, or a product or service for free or at a deep price cut from the sweethearting recipient 
  • And all this violating policies set by the store owner/operator
     It’s the first prong of that definition which creates the risk to profitability and the third prong which qualifies sweethearting as a form of fraud.
     Employee sweethearting refers to a supervisor providing unauthorized privileges to supervisees, also with the motivation to obtain benefits in return from the supervisee and also in violation of policies. Employee sweethearting can stimulate customer sweethearting. The employee imitates the supervisor. The motivation includes a need to maintain relationships with customers. In addition, observing employee sweethearting persuades employees the chances they’ll be disciplined for customer sweethearting is low.
     The researchers also find an alternate route: The indulgent behavior by the supervisor satisfies a need to belong, in this case via a positive relationship with the supervisor. The need to cultivate relationships with customers is less, so sweethearting decreases. Related to this, the resulting loyalty to the welfare of the organization stifles sweethearting.
     The alternate route was more likely when the supervisor established mutual trust with employees. However, there’s still the possibility that the mutual trust will cause imitative behavior. Organizations should recognize the double-edged nature of employee sweethearting and double down with initiatives to curb it, say the researchers.
     To more directly reduce customer sweethearting, set special favor policies which are unambiguous and easily understood. What sorts of items can be given away or deeply discounted? Which employees are granted the discretion to do this and under what circumstances? What practices, such as trading discounts, are forbidden? To audit the extent and the effectiveness of the practices, what degree of reporting and accountability are required from those employees?

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Stab Sweethearting

Friday, October 14, 2022

Cross Time Markers for Positive Experiences

When do your customers expect ninety minutes of a pleasant activity to be more enjoyable than ninety minutes of a pleasant activity? No, I didn’t make an error there. I intended to pose that riddle with repetition.
     The answer, according to a set of studies at University of California Berkeley and University of Chicago, is, for example, if the interval is 1:45 PM to 3:15 PM instead of 1:15 PM to 2:45 PM. When more time markers are crossed—in this case two markers of hours from 1 to 3 instead of one from 1 to 2—the consumer’s prediction of pleasure is greater. Similarly, an indulgent vacation scheduled for March 31 through April 6 would be expected to deliver higher pampering than if the same duration was for April 2 through April 8.
     The parallel effect applies to negative experiences. Expectations are of greater discomfort when more time markers are crossed. We’d expect the dental patient to be less concerned about a procedure scheduled for 10:00 AM to 10:45 AM than if scheduled for 10:30 AM to 11:15 AM. A delayed delivery of a special order from a retailer will probably seem less pleasant if the promised arrival is some date next month rather than a date this month which is the same number of days away. Another facet of the effect is that people predicted they’d accomplish more tasks in a given interval when the start and end times covered hour labels further apart.
     The researchers acknowledge that services marketers often have limited control over how many time marker boundaries are crossed. They recommend exploring the use of different temporal systems. Although an air flight arrival must be at 11:02 AM rather than 10:58 AM, a description of “take off in the morning, be in your hotel before lunch” could be persuasive.
     Time markers also influence whether a consumer will use an item if time is involved in acquisition. University of South Carolina researchers provided summer theatre patrons a movie ticket. Some tickets were for use later that summer, the rest for use that coming fall. Summer tickets were more likely to be redeemed than were fall tickets. But only for those who’d earned the ticket by having taken about seven minutes to complete a survey. For those getting the ticket by paying a discounted $3.00, there was no difference between summer and fall ticket use.

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Time Out for Number-Free Descriptions 

Monday, October 10, 2022

Cross to Cross-Selling with Collecting Urges

We’ve an urge to complete the whole set. Researchers at Simon-Kucher & Partners, Seattle University, University of California Irvine, and University of St. Gallen see a potential for increasing cross-selling by using incompleteness cues to active the urge. When items are presented as interrelated components rather than individual alternatives, shoppers become more likely to purchase a greater number, or even all the items.
     This incompleteness effect is at its best when the set is presented visually, not just in text descriptions. In one of their studies, banking services were depicted as pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.
     The drive for completion is related to the Zeigarnik Effect. More than ninety years ago, a Russian psychologist named Bluma Zeigarnik explored the reasons that waiters had a better memory for orders placed which had not been served or had not been paid for than for those for which all the steps had been completed. Psychologists since then have used the term Zeigarnik Effect to refer to the mental itch we feel when a task is in limbo.
     This recall for unfinished tasks is substantially greater when the person has goals requiring the various components. The incompleteness effect comes from the shopper feeling a need for the chosen items beyond simply wanting them all. This doesn’t mean that the urge to collect operates only with absolute necessities. In my email exchange about the study with Prof. Eric Spangenberg, one of the researchers, he wrote, “I see presentation of items as a set as establishing an intrinsic goal.”
     Other research and retail anecdotal evidence indicate shoppers are attracted to items presented as a set because it stimulates imagining about how the items can be used and it eases selection of a group of items which will fit together well.
     The researchers caution that the incompleteness effect depends on the shopper believing it is feasible for them to acquire the additional items. That could mean encouraging the consumer to spread purchases over time. This is, in fact, a cardinal characteristic of the collector.
     For merchandise and service offerings beyond those consumers consider to be sets, think about giving the items the appeal of collectibles. Take special orders and publicize alternative markets. When your customers are having trouble getting that special item to fill in the missing spot in the collection, help them get it from you or from a collectors' group. Keep the collectors involved.

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Give Customers a Clear Sense of Progress 

Friday, October 7, 2022

Lay Out Your Politically Liberal Stances

Consumers who are political liberals are more likely than consumers who are political conservatives to want companies with which they do business to publicly declare a stance on political issues with which the consumer agrees. The University of North Texas and Virginia Tech researchers who demonstrated this found that the difference influences patronage intentions and willingness to pay.
     The researchers also use prior study results to characterize conservative and liberal political stands and to explain the degree of attention to corporate political stance-taking. Conservatives place relatively high importance on order and structure. Their focus on free market principles results in them attending less to social stands a company takes. Liberals place relatively high importance on caring and equity. Because these ideologies affect how consumers view company's roles in society, company stances influence liberals' responses to a greater extent than conservatives' responses.
     A New York University summary provides other insights about relationships between political affiliation and consumer behavior: 
  • Liberals pay more attention than do conservatives to the logical and emotional quality of a sales argument, while conservatives pay relatively more attention to the reputation of the argument source. 
  • Conservatives are sensitive to statements of stability, like “We’ve been here for 100 years,” while liberals are sensitive to statements of growth, like “We’ve been changing for 100 years.” 
  • In marketing to conservatives, highlight the concepts of tradition, conformity, security, power, and materialism. With liberals, highlight harmony, benevolence, universalism, and egalitarianism.
     The examples of political stance-taking given by the University of Texas and Virginia Tech researchers are all of large corporations such as Chick-Fil-A and Nike. Studies at California Polytechnic State University and Georgetown University make a case for small companies loudly taking a stand on controversial political issues.
     You might think a major risk is that your strong stand will alienate those in your target markets who disagree with you. Pipsqueak-size enterprises can’t afford to lose bunches of customers. They lack the revenue cushion and market momentum enjoyed by major players. So pick your argument topic from those where people could recognize legitimate points on both sides. Then, the research indicates, the chief benefit becomes the attention to your business your strong advocacy garners. The net effect proves to be an influx of potential customers which more than compensates for the exit of angry current customers.
     If the position the small company proclaims aligns with political liberalism, there should be an extra margin of safety.

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Market by Political Propensity 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Down or Right Lines for Limitation Effects

On websites or store signage, retailers may use horizontal and/or vertical lines to divide offerings into categories. Shoppers appreciate categorization. It heads off being mentally overloaded by all the alternatives.
     But researchers at Minnan Normal University and Xiamen University discovered a downside of the dividing lines: Their use can cause shoppers to perceive a lower quantity of total alternatives available. This, in turn, can lower satisfaction with the purchase. A related effect is that, when there is a dividing line on the page, viewers devote outsized attention to what is delineated as the topmost or leftmost category. The shopper might miss out on spotting the available alternative which would best satisfy their needs.
     These effects were seen in studies of verbal listings—food items on a menu—and pictorial images—profile photos on a dating website—and with Chinese consumers as well as consumers from an American culture.
     One of the studies also demonstrated a way to minimize the downsides when using lines: A color block highlighting the area below a horizontal dividing line reduced the tendency to underestimate the total number of running shoe items in a catalog.
     Another of the studies showed an upside of the downside when using dividing lines: People perceiving a lower quantity of flower bouquet alternatives because of use of a dividing line were more interested in purchasing a bouquet than were those people viewing the assortment without a dividing line. The researchers attribute this to consumers associating limited quantity with higher quality.
     Other research results recommend consideration of how categories are defined by the dividing lines. Most shoppers appreciate categorization by price, and some appreciate categorization by brand name. However, beyond that, novices and experts have different preferences for how you set up the categories. Novices—people less familiar with the product category—prefer the items to be categorized by what the alternatives can do for them. Experts—people who consider themselves to be highly knowledgeable about the product category—prefer items to be categorized by technical specifications.
     Research at University of Pittsburgh and University of South Carolina finds that experts also are attracted to categorization in ways that surprise them. Sporting equipment might be categorized by the sizes of the items. Power tools might be categorized by the type of job they could be used to complete. Clothing might be categorized by color. Foods might be categorized by country of origin.

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Give Experts Novel Product Categories