Friday, December 30, 2022

Zoom In on Using Zoom Out for Luxury

“You want to buy this item I just showed you? Well, you will need to reach for it. After all, we both recognize it’s an exclusive piece, and you’re smart, so you know how exclusivity does not come easy!”
     That’s my version of Sophia University researchers’ explanation for a video zoom effect they identified: When a video ad starts with a closeup of a luxury product and then zooms out, viewers’ interest in product purchase is greater than if the video had zoomed in from overview to closeup. The zoom-out portrays the exclusivity of distance, and so reinforces the perception of luxury.
     The zoom-out advantages weren’t seen if the product was positioned as a non-luxury purchase. Nor did the effect appear with static presentations, that is, when showing a photo of a closeup and then a photo of a more distant view. The animation enhances the perception of moving away.
     The researchers checked for other possible explanations of the effect. Video ads that are more interesting, arouse suspense, or indicate scarcity can all generate perceptions of luxury. None of these three characteristics were rated by consumers as greater in the zoom-out than in the zoom-in ad. But other studies do verify the value of you using interestingness, suspense, and scarcity signals in your video advertising.
     Also, other research demonstrates benefits, as well as liabilities, in generating perceptions of distance. Researchers at University of Chicago found that shoppers who characterized themselves as smart rather than not smart expressed a higher preference for products they’d have to travel across town to purchase compared to preference for equivalent products they could purchase nearby. These shoppers also evaluated products more positively when the products had been pushed back on the shelves rather than being in easy reach.
     Emotional reactions become less intense when a prospective purchase is perceived to be at a distance. According to studies at University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Oviedo in Spain, and Lieberman Research Worldwide, this is true for highly positive emotions—such as the thrill in having the item—and for highly negative emotions—such as anger at flawed product performance—and for all the emotions in-between. In these studies, distance could come from selecting an item to be used in the future rather than starting now, selecting an item for use by someone else rather than one’s own use, or considering an item after reading an ad rather than in the store.

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Look Lively! 

Monday, December 26, 2022

Program Service Robots to Socialize

Consumers value receiving services from people who demonstrate social skills. So as robotic devices take on consumer service functions, let’s equip those robots with social intelligence. Researchers at University of Bristol and University of Bologna define social intelligence in a robot as the ability to understand human emotions, respond to social cues, and in other ways maintain rapport with a person.
     This definition came from the researchers’ statistically-supported distinction among types of artificial intelligence. Verbal-linguistic intelligence allows a robot to accurately interpret instructions and information provided by the consumer and to respond in readily understandable ways to the consumer. Logic-mathematical intelligence is required for the robot to solve complex problems presented by the consumer. If the robot will be moving through space, such as to retrieve items for a customer’s store merchandise exchange or transport a disabled patient in a long-term care facility, visual-spatial intelligence is essential. And the researchers give the label processing-speed intelligence to a robot’s ability to promptly complete basic repetitive tasks.
     People’s emotional responses differ by the type of AI the robot is called upon to demonstrate. High social intelligence is the most influential of the five types in generating emotional attachment to a service provider. High processing-speed intelligence makes the most difference in avoiding negative consumer emotions such as frustration.
     High social intelligence is the most expensive of the five to build into a robot, so build it in only when necessary. This depends on both task demands and stakeholder expectations. In a limited-service setting, customers expect efficient operations and might perceive a robot which attends to their feelings as interfering with productivity. At the same time, intelligences like verbal-linguistic and logic-mathematical might be necessary for even the low-cost provider to meet the expectations of efficiency.
     When empathy is called for, developing social intelligence in a robot is worthwhile. Empathy exhausts the humans who practice it. Psychologist Adam Waytz reported a survey of nurses which shows compassion fatigue is strongly associated with job turnover. Robots don’t get tired. Programming into a service robot the language of empathy is challenging. But surely it can be done. Consider how decades ago, common opinion was that computer translation among foreign languages was a vain hope. The pessimism was misplaced.

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Emphasize Empathy in Providing Services 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Mull Moral Disgust’s Effect in Consumption

The cupcakes with the Halloween ghost design looked exactly like the cupcakes with the Ku Klux Klan design. Which was precisely the point for the researchers at Israel’s College of Law and Business and Ono Academic College. Their objective was to evaluate the influence of moral associations on the consumer-reported tastiness of food products. The researchers predicted that the racist associations of the KKK would disgust consumers, and disgust disrupts the sweet pleasure of a cupcake.
     That’s what happened. College students served cupcakes described as having been decorated to look like KKK Klansmen rated the cupcakes as less tasty than did college students served identical cupcakes instead described as having a Halloween ghost design. Companion studies, using a broader sample of American adults, supported attributing the effect to moral disgust and showed it was limited to sensory dimensions. The KKK label substantially depressed ratings of cupcake attractiveness, sweetness, and freshness, but not ratings of caloricity or healthfulness.
     Notice that the relationship between moral disgust and physical disgust in the studies is not just metaphorical. Being morally disgusted generates physical sensations of disgust. It’s a relationship seen in other studies, too. After watching a film portraying incest, shoppers drank less chocolate milk than did shoppers who watched a morally inoffensive film. The choking off of chocolate milk consumption also happened when shoppers were asked to think about instances of fraud or cheating.
     The researchers at University of Pennsylvania, University of Colorado-Boulder, Duke University, and Fundação Getúlio Vargas looked at consumption of chocolate milk and water, but they say their conclusions apply to all sorts of eating and drinking. When people are morally disgusted, the disgust generalizes psychologically so that the people are less interested in buying foods and beverages.
     But since I don’t expect you’ll be showing flicks on incest, fraud, or cheating real often to your shoppers, what does all this mean for you?
     It means that it’s worthwhile to keep your enterprise morally clean.
     It also means that we might reduce consumers’ physical disgust by changing their moral perspective. For instance, entomophagy—including insects in diets—has been promoted as a way to address world hunger. But many people in Western food cultures get physically repulsed about gulping down bugs. Let’s consider how we can increase acceptance of entomophagy by persuading consumers it would be immoral to reject the practice out of hand when considering its societal advantages.

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Clean Up By Cleaning Up 

Monday, December 19, 2022

Can Innovations Lacking Benefits Explanations

In 1990, A.G. Lafley, general manager of laundry products for Procter & Gamble, announced his bold decision. He directed that P&G laundry detergents be henceforth manufactured in denser formulations and sold in smaller containers. The upsides were obvious. Lower package, warehousing, and transportation costs. Easier to persuade retailers to allocate shelf space for the products. What made Mr. Lafley’s decision courageous is that consumer surveys indicated only a small percentage of laundry detergent shoppers said they’d prefer the format. He proceeded anyway, depending on reports that most of those surveyed were indifferent to the change.
     The decision paid off for P&G. Customers liked the packaging innovation once they experienced the results. The decision also probably contributed to Mr. Lafley later being chosen as P&G’s CEO.
     I’m aware of no evidence that consumers considered the laundry detergent to be inferior because of the smaller package. But laundry detergent is a commodity product with high substitutability potential. What about consumer reactions to packaging innovations with wine, where the choice process is more complex? The answer from studies at University of Central Florida and Murray State University is that non-traditional packaging tends to lower purchase intentions.
     The researchers’ explanation is that shoppers expected the wine to taste worse. This held true when people were shown pictures of the wine sold in a can compared to wine sold in the traditional 750 ml bottle. The effect was also seen when people tasted the wine and were led to believe it had been poured from a can compared to taste judgments from people led to believe the wine had been poured from a bottle.
     An aluminum can doesn’t look anything like a glass bottle, while a compact laundry detergent container looks like a large laundry detergent container. The parallel for a 750 ml wine bottle would be a miniature bottle. The researchers surmise that the further the deviation in wine packaging from the traditional, the higher the probability consumers will consider the product to be inferior to the traditional.
     Build innovation acceptance by articulating benefits of the change for the consumer. Also make the unfamiliar familiar by starting with innovations which resemble the traditional, then guide customers toward the even less traditional. Radical innovations carrying clear benefits are better accepted when introduced by a dominant brand. The dominant brand introduction changes people’s perceptions of what an alternative in that product category should be like.

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Dominate Anxiety Around Radical Innovations 

Friday, December 16, 2022

Damn Positive Item Reviews

After sharing their findings, the University of Lethbridge and University of Alberta researchers wanted us to know how positively they regard the assistance given to them by their colleagues. They’re more than simply grateful. They write in the Acknowledgments paragraph that they’re “fucking grateful.”
     Such adverbial enthusiasm in an academic paper does stand out. Indeed, the article is prefaced with, “This article contains strong language that some readers may consider offensive.” But as the researchers report, such profanities are not so unusual in consumers’ daily conversations, and standing out can be a distinctive advantage when communicating with consumers. In their studies, use of swear words in item reviews from Yelp and Amazon increased the probability readers of the reviews would consider the reviews helpful.
     Another of their studies found that a product was rated by review readers more positively when a positive review contained a swear word as a qualifier (“the dishwasher is damn quiet”) than when an equivalent genteel word was used (“the dishwasher is super quiet”). Similarly, use of a swear word as a qualifier in a negative review leads to the item being rated more negatively. However, swear words make more of a difference with highly positive than with negative reviews.
     The researchers’ explanation for the effect is that the swear word usage amplifies both the description of item quality (“damn boring” is significantly more boring than “darn boring”) and the feelings of the reviewer (“I found it to be damn boring” is a substantially stronger reaction than “I found it to be darn boring.”) The dual impact doubles the persuasion potential.
     In you selecting item reviews to feature, consider the advantages of including some with swear words. In claims for your offerings, you might want to give a damn or, depending on the nature of your audience and item, maybe even give a fuck or two.
     Swear words’ effectiveness comes from challenging a taboo. The degree of challenge and the results depend on context. University of Auckland researchers analyzed reactions to a fictitious condom ad featuring a photo of a woman sucking a Dole banana. It turned out that shock was greater, but condom purchase intentions lower, among men shown that ad compared to reactions of men shown an ad with just the Dole banana. Yet with a less prominent brand, Nature’s Gem, it didn’t make a difference. The men demanded dignity from Dole.

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Impassion Your Shoppers 

Monday, December 12, 2022

Chop Shopping Cart Abandonment

More than 80% of online shopping carts end up abandoned, defined as the consumer placing one or more items into the cart, then ending up not buying anything in the cart. That startling statistic motivated researchers at University of Richmond, Clemson University, University of Southampton, and Shenzhen University to identify tips for lowering the cart abandonment rate.
     The researchers acknowledge the limitations of their project. They depended on only analyses of shoppers’ clickstream data, which leaves out the influences of search engine advertising and product reviews on shopping cart abandonment, for example. Still, that clickstream data was for more than 179,000 shoppers, with the number of shopping sessions ranging from 1 to 20 for each customer. Another limitation is that all the clicks analyzed were for one ecommerce retailer. But it was a multinational retailer which sold a range of products. Also, supporting the value of the tips is that they’re compatible with advice from other studies.
     Here are some of those tips, along with cautions: 
  • Encourage smartphone shopping, especially when featuring clearance items or other sorts of deep discounts. Shopping cart abandonment rates were lower with smartphone shopping than when other devices were used. 
  • Make item reviews easy to access, read, and navigate. Keep the reviews brief. Excessive detail or too many reviews results in deferring the choices and so abandoning the cart. 
  • Build purchase certainty for items placed in the cart by maintaining and publicizing liberal return policies, including free return shipping. 
  • When a customer removes an item from the cart, suggest an alternative to them. 
  • When a consumer leaves an item in the cart and exits the shopping site, send a follow-up message encouraging them to complete the purchase. However, sending the message immediately can spook the shopper. Wait a day or two.
     Shopping cart abandonment can become an issue in physical store selling, too, especially with self-checkout kiosks. Researchers at Oregon State University and Rutgers University found that an underappreciated cause of this is mistrust in the performance of the device. The researchers then identified a simple way to increase the trust: Give sounds of confirmation as the transaction progresses. Silence generates annoying uncertainty, while a brief series of tones tells the customer that the device is carrying out their wishes. This relaxes the customer’s concerns about tabulation accuracy and security of payment information. In the studies, the use of confirmation tones increased purchase intentions.

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Abstract Shoppers to Avoid Choice Overload 

Friday, December 9, 2022

Be Careful What You Have Customers Wish For

An unmet expectation has a more negative influence on a customer than a satisfied expectation has a positive effect. An example of this repeated consumer psychology finding, in terms of entitlement rather than expectation, appears from researchers at Macquarie University in Australia and Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Argentina. They found that while a bonus reward delivered regularly by a marketer can delight a customer who feels they’re receiving the reward because they’re valuable to the business, the marketer discontinuing the reward in that situation risks revenge against the business.
     The study was inspired by an incident in which one of the researchers received on her birthday for three years in a row from an online retailer a voucher to be used on her next purchase. She came to feel entitled to the voucher. She believed the retailer considered her valuable to the business, as evidenced by her birthday being commemorated. When the voucher didn’t arrive one year, she cancelled the order she’d planned to make using the voucher, and she decided not to purchase from that retailer again.
     The reaction was not unusual. In their studies about disappearing delights, the researchers saw ample evidence of revenge intentions. In explaining why, the researchers distinguish between expectations and entitlement. The desire for revenge derives from the recipient believing they’re entitled to the bonus because they consider themselves to be of special value to the marketer.
     Based on their findings, the researchers recommend marketers avoid regularity in the gifts. The studies also indicate that the revenge intentions are more pronounced when the monetary value of the delightful treat is large. For this reason, they recommend that, if a marketer chooses to give a bonus at regular intervals, such as for each birthday, they keep the monetary value of the bonus modest. Also, explaining to recipients that they’re getting the bonus because they’ve been chosen randomly, when this is true, can dampen the desire for revenge. Again, entitlement is different from expectation.
     Loyalty program rewards can bring a related, but different, problem. Members come to feel entitled, experiencing joy only when the reward amount is increased, and only until they again become accustomed to the increased amount. In one study, this effect was so strong that when the loyalty program reward was decreased, the disruption to store loyalty was greater than if the participant was told the program had been discontinued altogether.

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Change Up with Entitled Customers 

Monday, December 5, 2022

Ease Away to Avoid Violation Backlash

There are dangers in having close business relationships with customers. A study at University of Southern Indiana, Louisiana Tech University, and Kennesaw State University shows this to be true with persuading customers to share with you private information to help you better personalize what you’re offering.
     A group of the study participants was asked to think of a retailer with whom they’d had both a “great online shopping experience” and “the best relationship.” Another group was asked to think of a retailer with whom they’d had both a “poor online shopping experience” and “the worst relationship.”
     Then all the participants were told to imagine they’d learned, via a news article, about a privacy breach in which several online companies had sold their customer databases to a data analysis firm without permission of the customers. In addition, some of the participants were told to imagine they were upset to read that the retailer they’d named was among the companies having breached privacy. The other participants were told to imagine they were relieved to read that their named retailer was not among those breaching privacy.
     The participants’ reactions to this indicate that an excellent relationship with a retailer increases a  consumer’s willingness to share personal information. However, the results also suggest that if the consumer’s privacy is subsequently violated, those having enjoyed an excellent relationship might retaliate against the retailer, such as by withholding personal information. This undesirable retaliation is less likely with those having had a weak relationship.
     Close relationships with customers offer so many advantages that it’s best not to stay distant. An effective way to do this is to honor your commitments. But if a commitment, such as protecting privacy, is violated, you’ll need to work more diligently to correct for the problem with those customers in a close business relationship with you.
     Another study points to a preventative tactic: You’ve asked the owner of a restaurant with whom you have a close business relationship to hold an ocean-view table for your birthday bash. When you arrive, the owner explains, with a tone of regret, that all the ocean-view tables are taken. How would you react?
     What made the difference for study participants was whether the customer and retailer had clarified in advance their respective expectations and obligations. With this, there was more customer empathy for the owner’s needs. Without this clarification, several study participants reported feeling betrayed.

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Keep Up On Your Promises 

Friday, December 2, 2022

Vie for Attention to Vice on Hot Afternoons

Twitter users engage with tweets about vices later in the day to a greater extent than earlier in day, says a Rutgers University study. Virtue tweets get better engagement in mornings.
     These were relatively mild vices and virtues. Vice tweets were defined as those which promise immediate pleasure now with limited long-term benefit. Celebrity gossip, for instance. Virtue tweets are less titillating but offer longer-term benefits. Personal finance tips, for instance.
     The article cites prior studies yielding similar results. People wash their hands less diligently and tell lies more frequently as the day progresses. The current studies enriched understanding of the effect by showing that daily temperature plays into it. Likes by users in three metropolitan cities in India were tabulated for tweets on The Times of India account. Analysis of data showed engagement moving from virtue to vice earlier in the day when the weather was hot. The article references research showing that high temperatures melt consumer self-control.
     Marketers can use findings like these to frame and schedule messages to consumers depending on the time of day the person is likely to be exposed to the message, with a further refinement available by considering the outside temperature in the location where the person will be exposed to the message.
     Another consideration is how people aim for balance in vice and virtue. Then, it might be words rather than time of day which serve as a subconscious prompt. University of Miami researchers assigned participants to unscramble sentences containing words like “delicious” and “delightful,” which suggest vice, or words like “healthy” and “exercises,” which suggest virtue. Participants were then asked to choose between a granola bar and a chocolate bar, one to be consumed immediately and the other to be consumed later.
     The people who had completed the sentence unscrambling with the vice words were more likely to choose the chocolate bar now and the granola bar for later. Those people unscrambling with the virtue words were more likely to choose the granola bar now and the chocolate bar for later.
     The implication for marketers here is to make fun items available when the consumer has chosen a serious item. After acting holy, shoppers tend to get naughty. When people put a healthy food item into their grocery shopping cart, they become more likely to select a fun food item next. Consumer researchers call the phenomenon “licensing.”

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Bear with Care When Wanting Self-Control