Monday, December 25, 2023

Gut Discrimination Using Commonalities

People are most comfortable associating with others who share their social identity. One example is that retail salespeople whose religious beliefs disparage lesbian and gay marriage relationships might hesitate interacting with lesbian or gay shoppers purchasing wedding-related services.
     A set of University of Texas at El Paso and University of Wyoming studies indicates that the consequence of this gut reaction is flawed service. This pattern was seen most clearly in study scenarios where the identity relevance of the service was high. It was seen with a retail transaction for a wedding ring, but not with one for a birthday gift ring.
     Flawed service corrupts retail profitability. The operator of the business may have little or no prejudice toward shoppers who present as lesbian or gay. But if the salespeople discriminate against these groups, the operator benefits from easing the salesperson-shopper interaction discomfort. Fortunately, the researchers find how the remedy to the problem resides in its cause. If we show these religiously conservative salespeople aspects of social identity they have in common with the lesbian and gay consumers, service quality should improve. Successful interventions in the studies included asking study participants to “write about the commonalities that you and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals hold. Some similarities that you could focus on are that both are human beings, both seek to love others, both have families and friends, etc.”
     The researchers point to how such interventions go beyond the usual diversity, sensitivity, and empathy training methods. Feedback to identify discriminatory service is important in the researchers’ suggested system. It would be prejudicial in itself to assume that every religious salesperson will provide poor service to every lesbian or gay shopper. For one thing, the researchers found that the problem arose with those reporting intrinsic religiosity (“I try to live all my life according to religious beliefs”) more than with those reporting extrinsic religiosity (“I go to church because it helps me to make friends”).
     Other research also finds advantages to surfacing commonalities with shoppers. Researchers at University of British Columbia and INSEAD Singapore set up a study in which a personal trainer offered a trial fitness program. Participants who believed the fitness instructor was born on the same day as them were more likely to buy a membership. Dental patients who believed they were born in the same place as their dentist were more likely to schedule future appointments.

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Go Over the Rainbow for LGBT Retailing 

Monday, December 18, 2023

Embed Politically Hot Facts in Personal Stories

Political opinions resist change. New information which confirms previously held beliefs is attended to and remembered well. Any new information which contradicts beliefs is ignored or forgotten. The result is political polarization or even dehumanization of those whose views oppose our own.
     Based on their study results, researchers at University of Kaiserslautern-Landau and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggest that telling stories can dissolve the dehumanization. True stories of personal experiences in which true facts about the political issues are embedded. This is consistent with the broader finding of consumer research that with disagreements such as political positions, where emotional engagement is high, personal stories are more persuasive than impersonal numbers. But better yet is a synergistic combination of tales and facts.
     The researchers were interested in how news media and social media can improve partisan relations and not inflame partisan tensions. They conclude that the best stories for reporters to tell describe ways strongly held political beliefs led to or avoided personal harm. The result is that people with opposing views are considered less as an enemy. Sharing personal experiences mentally transports listeners into the narrative, which curbs counterarguing. Talking about harm facilitates empathy because we all fear harm.
     Prior research identifies four additional characteristics of persuasive stories
  • Authenticity. Keep important details the same each time you tell the tale. Reports of outrageous outcomes in bizarre circumstances are not influential. 
  • Conciseness. Keep it short. Make the point of each story crystal clear. 
  • Reversal. Use contrast to highlight differences among points of view. If the contrast is good versus bad, though, be careful not to portray an opponent’s views as evil. 
  • Humor. Like narrative transportation, humor heads off counterarguments. Your audience is too busy chuckling to challenge points of your story. Check that the humor doesn’t ridicule the target’s point of view. A touch of self-deprecation in the humor portrays humility, which people in many cultures find endearing.
     Starting off by asking about the experiences of your targets of political persuasion is another validated tactic. Listen to stories of life experiences told by the partisan which have led to mistaken beliefs and then share true stories that illustrate a more accurate worldview. All this should be conducted with the exchange of tales in ways which sidestep personal judgments of each other. The objective is to let others know they’ve been fooled without making them think they’re fools.

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Craft Powerful Stories 

Monday, December 11, 2023

Voice Persuasion from a Number of Speakers

Up to a point, the more persuasive messages I hear for a course of action, the more likely I will be persuaded. What researchers at Singapore Management University, Cornell University, and INSEAD, France add to this commonsense formula is that, up to a point, the greater the number of distinctive voices presenting the messages, the more compelling will be the persuasion.
     Analysis of Kickstarter fundraising campaigns showed that adding another voice while keeping the length of the appeal the same increased by almost 40% both the tally of people making any pledge and the average amount pledged. In a laboratory study, the more voices included in a brief video advertising a cell phone charger, the greater the dollar amount people said they’d be willing to pay for the charger.
     Certainly, one explanation for the advantage of an additional voice is that it implies the appeal of the persuasive messages is more widespread. Additionally, the researchers’ explanation for the effect is that a change in voice restores attention which may have drifted away from the messages. Analysis of the study data suggests that having an additional voice or voices is best when the messages are relatively simple so that less effort is needed for comprehension, and even with simple messages, the effect works best when the speakers talk at a moderate rather than rushed pace.
     The characteristics of voices also make a difference. Duke University researchers found that if the announcer advertising a retail service is a man, the women listening to the ad are more likely to purchase the service when that announcer uses a creaky voice rather than a smooth voice. When the announcer in the advertisement was a woman, female listeners were more likely to make a buy if they heard a smooth voice instead of a creaky voice. Female consumers go for smooth in women and angular in men.
     Researchers at California State University Bakersfield centered their inquiry about voice assistant personality on the principle that the main objective of a persuasive voice should be to flow us through the transaction. The researchers asked a total of 275 consumers to rate on seventy personality traits the voices of Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Assistant. Among the characteristics found to clearly enhance a prospect’s flow state were intelligence, defined as how competent and confident the voice sounds, and sincerity, defined as how friendly and agreeable the voice sounds. 

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Visualize Beyond Three Claims 

Monday, December 4, 2023

Free Constrained from Self-Gifting Constraint

An important way in which consumer psychology research assists both marketers and shoppers is by exposing mistaken assumptions. For example, both sellers interested in targeting their advertising and buyers interested in peace of mind are likely to assume that financial strains cause people to lose benefits from buying gifts for themselves.
     Researchers at Cornell University, Indiana University, and Duke University verify that not just financial constraints but also perceived time and mental energy constraints reduce interest in self-gifting and that one reason is consumers’ belief that feeling constrained will necessarily stymie post-purchase enjoyment of the gift. The researchers also present evidence that this belief is mistaken. In actuality, the self-gift generally repairs mood.
     In their studies, the researchers defined self-gifting as a process of invoking a hedonic consumption experience, with the a priori intention of boosting one’s emotional well-being. The gift is the consumption, not the acquisition. Not the purchase of a bar of luxury soap in itself, but rather the use of the soap, which was intended before purchase as providing a way to improve the purchaser’s mood. It’s relevant that acquisition of the gifts described in the studies—headphones, biscotti, soap—would be unlikely to substantially increase the user’s financial, time, or mental energy stresses. In my opinion, the results might well be different for self-gifts which are extraordinarily expensive or require extensive time commitments to master.
     For the type of modest gifts used as examples in the studies, the researchers recommend to marketers techniques for combatting consumers’ mistaken belief that feeling constrained will necessarily stymie post-purchase enjoyment of a self-gift: Avoid featuring resource constraints such as a one-day sale or a short-term rental. Position the potential self-gifts as distinctively beneficial for people feeling time-crunched or money-crunched and as assisting with self-care.
     A related finding is that retail therapy—the intentional use of shopping by people who are feeling sad in order to improve their mood—works. Researchers at University of Michigan say the mechanism of action is restoration of control. Sadness generally arises from perceptions that situations are controlling one’s life. Deciding to go shopping and then doing it verifies to the person that they can assert themselves in the face of difficult situations. Having salespeople strive to please us, making choices among alternatives, and spending money are all signals to ourselves of being in control. Retail therapy works best in sales situations with those characteristics.

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Present Self-Gifting 

Monday, November 27, 2023

Head Off Rejection of the Handmade

Handcrafted items appeal to shoppers because they seem to incorporate the essence of the creator more than do machine-produced items. But researchers at University of Liverpool Management School, Lingnan University, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University identify a circumstance in which the perceived presence of the essence instead turns prospects against the handcrafted. This occurs when the prospect feels their personal control is at risk.
     Some study participants were asked to describe an incident in which they’d lost personal control of a situation. Such an incident might be the breakup of a romantic relationship when the other party pulls away or the need to move from an apartment when the rent is raised. The other study participants were asked to describe a typical day. Each participant was then asked to evaluate a coffee mug. For some participants the mug was described as handcrafted, while for the others, it was not.
     Among those participants asked to describe a typical day, favorability ratings were higher when handcrafted was in the product description. Among those participants asked to recall the loss of control, a handcrafted description led to lower overall ratings. Additional experiments in the set showed this effect with other items you might find at craft fairs—a scarf and a woven coaster.
     Shoppers who lack confidence in their personal control aim to restore that confidence by establishing psychological ownership over their products. This effort is more challenging when the shopper perceives that a craftsperson has contaminated the product's ownership.
     Other studies have analyzed additional explanations for the general attraction to the handmade: 
  • More effort to produce than the machine-made, so greater significance 
  • Increased authenticity 
  • Greater creator pride in production, which deserves to be rewarded 
  • Unavoidable variations, so item uniqueness 
  • Closer attention to detail, so higher quality
     When researchers at Cornell University, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, and Technische Universität München statistically controlled for these five, yet another factor emerged: Shoppers intending to show love to recipients prefer handcrafted to machine-produced. This shows in stronger purchase intentions for handmade products when buying gifts for loved ones.
     If an item is intended to express love, highlight the handcrafted aspects. In times of widespread consumer doubts about personal control, such as during a natural disaster or pandemic, deemphasize the handcrafted aspects. Also stay aware that even in stable times, some individuals may feel low personal control.

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Monday, November 20, 2023

Fix Responsibility on Whoever’s Representative


It seems that during each university sports season, we learn that at least a few players and coaches have been accused of unethical behavior. Researchers at Kennesaw State University, Murray State University, and University of Memphis explored effects these accusations have on fan interest in watching subsequent games of the team.
     Their study results provided no evidence student athlete misconduct significantly influenced game attendance. However, news of a coach’s misconduct did influence attendance intentions. The researchers explain the difference as reflecting how consumers have higher expectations of the coach to be a representative of the organization. More leeway is granted to the student athletes not only because they are younger and less experienced in the world, but also because they carry less leadership responsibility.
     The difference held when the data were analyzed taking account of the team’s win-loss record. The researchers conclude with a recommendation to punish in a fair way ethical transgressions of both coaches and student athletes, with greater tolerance toward the student athletes. The result should be more robust game attendance in the face of transgressions.
     In a separate body of research, a University of Oregon paper used principles of increasing game attendance to suggest ways to increase retail store traffic. How nice it would be to have your customers chanting about your retail business throughout their conversations as would devoted fans who are expressing their sentiments about a favorite football team. That’s more likely when consumers are fans of shopping with you. It has to do with interior décor, the merchandise you carry, and most of all, the interpersonal interactions. When it all comes together, shopping gives a positive emotional charge approaching that from attending an exciting sports event.
     Attention to the difference between the coach and the players can apply here. It is the supervisor more than the front-line employees who is viewed by consumers as representing the organization. And if the front-line employees are robotic devices instead of humans, let's say, the humans are considered more representative and more responsive.
     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.

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Generate the Excitement of a Football Game 

Monday, November 13, 2023

Notice How Your Discounts Help Competitors

You might offer a discount on your brand to woo customers away from a competing brand. You’d be in good company, since this is an extremely common tactic. Researchers at Texas A&M University, University of Alabama, Bentley University, and Clemson University say that price promotions constitute as much as 55% of a firm’s marketing budget.
     The researchers then document a danger: A consumer’s rejection of the promotion builds subsequent loyalty to and spending on the competing brand. In a laboratory setting, Coke drinkers offered a discount of almost 50% on a Pepsi showed a greater growth in loyalty to Coke than did participants not presented the Pepsi offer. In a field study, participants choosing an undiscounted Starbucks coffee drink over a Dunkin’ discounted by $1.00 spent more on Starbucks products than did participants not shown the Dunkin’ promotion.
     The chance of a marketer’s promotional price discount inadvertently boosting loyalty to a competitor is worth you noting. The researchers point to prior studies showing that fewer than 16% of shoppers who are presented a brand’s price promotion will switch brands to get the discount. My advice, though, is not to forgo price discounting. The basis for its popularity is that it brings in new customers.
     The better takeaway is to avoid depending solely on a price discount to change minds. An integral part of successful promotions is a compelling portrayal of the benefits of product or service use.
     Another takeaway is a better understanding of the dynamics of shoppers making selections. Researchers at University of Miami and Babson College noticed that when asked to begin the choice process by eliminating alternatives, shoppers became more likely to end up selecting one of those alternatives they were considering for rejection. This happens because attention to any item makes it more likely people notice characteristics of the item they find attractive. Along with this, the process of deciding what to reject brings concern about missed opportunities, a concern people ease by selecting rather than rejecting. But once the rejection occurs, the rejected item becomes even less likely to be subsequently selected.
     After choosing one brand over another, the consumer is now effectively neglecting the other brand. What happens if the consumer is later asked to express a preference between the previously neglected brand and a neutral brand which had not been seen before? Yes, the neutral brand is more likely to be favored.

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Use Rejection to Learn About Shoppers 

Monday, November 6, 2023

Contract with Near-Term Use via Contractions

When choosing among alternatives, consumers balance an item’s ease of use against the number and attractiveness of the item’s features. Feasibility versus desirability. Ample research says the balance is influenced by how soon the item is to be used. When people plan to put the item to work close in time, they're especially interested in feasibility. When people are shopping for items for the future, they'll generally pay substantial attention to desirability.
     Now researchers at Toronto Metropolitan University and Grenoble Ecole de Management say that grammatical contractions also play a role. A group of consumers were presented La-Z-Boy ad copy which used contractions such as “There’s always a wide selection” and “You’ll be surprised.” An equivalent group of consumers were presented equivalent ad copy, except without the contractions: “There is always a wide selection” and “You will be surprised.”
     All participants were then asked to imagine choosing between two La-Z-Boy office chairs for their home office. One chair was described as high on feasibility and low on desirability (Easy to assemble. In a color you do not prefer) and the other chair as low on feasibility and high on desirability (Difficult to assemble. In a color that you prefer).
     People who had been exposed to the ad copy with contractions were more likely to select the chair higher on feasibility versus desirability. There were parallel findings with a companion study involving choosing between apartments. That and other studies in the set also yielded an explanation: Exposure to grammatical contractions conveys a sense of informality which, in turn, guides the audience to think about close others and closeness in time.
     The researchers caution that their findings are novel, so call for further investigation. But the implication for marketers in the meantime, as I see it, is to use contractions in ad copy when the shopper is aiming for or would otherwise benefit from near-term use of the item. A formal tone is often the better choice when the shopper is considering consequential purchases.
     Beyond influencing the feasibility-desirability balance, an informal tone stimulates consumers to share embarrassing information. A Carnegie Mellon University study saw how admissions of personal shortcomings grew when a questionnaire was titled “How BAD Are U???” in a bright red font alongside a devil logo compared to when the questionnaire was titled “Survey on Strengths & Weaknesses” in a black font accompanied by a well-known organizational logo.

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Accent the Emotions when Imminent Usage 

Monday, October 30, 2023

Customize for Prospects Who Use Smartphones

When shopping online via their personal smartphone rather than their personal computer, people are more likely to select options they perceive as fitting their distinctive characteristics and less likely to select options described as the most popular choice. City University of Hong Kong and University of Florida researchers observed this when asking study participant to choose among lifestyle products, chocolate truffles, wine, or even charitable contributions.
     The researchers explain the effect using evidence that, compared to the owner’s personal computer, the smartphone they own feels more personal and private, so using it directs more attention to the distinctive aspects of the self. We hold the smartphone close as we talk into it or type words and symbols. We don’t do that with a PC. When using a smartphone, we narrow our attention and experience a sense of privacy. Consistent with this explanation, the distinctive-preference effect was weaker or disappeared if the smartphone used by the consumer in the studies belonged to somebody else.
     An implication for retailers and fund raisers is for you to encourage marketing prospects to choose by using their personal smartphone and then for you to highlight the fit between what you know of the prospect’s distinctive characteristics and the option you prefer they select.
     Personalization appeal applies not only to a marketed item, but also to payment. For example, the tariffs offered to a smartphone user might be flat fee for unlimited usage with a label of “Worry-free,” for others pay-per-use with a label of “You’re in control,” and for still others a barebones plus add-on options with a label of “Getting started.”
     A corresponding difference between smartphone and larger computer device is seen when collecting marketing information rather than presenting marketing statements. Social media posts, product and service reviews, and open-ended responses to survey questions all show extra candor on the smartphone.
     One University of Pennsylvania study analyzed tweets which, by a tag on the item, could be identified as coming either from a smartphone or from a personal computer. The linguistic markers of self-disclosure included expression of strong emotions, references to family and friends, use of the first-person pronouns “I” and “me,” and self-focused storytelling. Additional studies analyzed TripAdvisor reviews and responses to survey requests for potentially embarrassing information. In all these, content entered via smartphone showed greater self-disclosure than did content entered via a personal computer.

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Wise Up by Tapping Smartphones 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Employ Older Workers’ Interest in Influencing

The elderly want to leave a legacy. For example, University of Washington researchers say motivation arises to create an oral history, write an autobiography, or discuss prized possessions with younger family members.
     This desire helps explain the finding by Stanford University researchers that, compared to younger employees, older ones are more interested in assisting colleagues. In the study, participants were asked to report their work-period helping activities for five typical days. Instructions were, “Some examples of helping include but are not limited to: providing advice or information, listening to others’ problems, and helping someone complete a work task.”
     Participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 78 years. Data analysis showed that older age was associated with more time spent on helping activities. Other data collection and analyses indicated that older workers derive more emotional satisfaction from helping coworkers than do younger workers. Because experienced employees would be expected to have thorough knowledge of their jobs, an implication for managers is to allow older workers to serve in training and mentorship roles.
     The study findings are true in the aggregate. Among older workers, there are surely those who you’d choose not to assign training duties because they lack skills in or enthusiasm for training adults. In addition, you might be concerned that the older workers lack the latest job skills. Moreover, the elderly tend to reject ideas and practices differing from their own to a greater extent than do younger adults.
     Relevant to this, participants in the Stanford study had been asked to report their work-period learning activities, described as including, but not limited to, “working alone or with others to develop new ideas, performing new tasks, and receiving feedback from colleagues.”
     Analysis of these responses indicated that older workers were as likely as younger workers to keep learning on the job. However, the evidence is that they enjoy the learning less than do their younger counterparts. These findings can be understood in the context of older workers feeling a loyalty to their organization—so they continue to learn what’s required—but having less enthusiasm about mastering what will be most useful in the relatively distant future, since they perceive that the duration of their life is limited.
     Here, too, assigning training responsibilities to the older employees helps. They are then learning not so much for their own distant future as for the distant future of their trainees, developing a legacy.

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Resolve Identity Crises for the Elderly 

Monday, October 16, 2023

Shut Eyes Wide So Shoppers See Whys

“Before looking at the rest of this ad,” reads the message at the top, “close your eyes for a minute to reminisce about a pleasant event you’ve experienced.”
     What effect would this have on a consumer’s receptivity to the ad’s persuasion? A pair of studies at Korea University, University of Minnesota Duluth, and Bryant University provides evidence that if the ad emphasizes practical benefits, the eye closure prelude boosts favorability impressions.
     In one of the studies, participants were asked to evaluate a hotel gift basket featured in an ad for a travel package. The basket was described as including, “a massage ticket to recover from your fatigue, a best-selling nonfiction book, a DVD about global warming, a GPS for road trips, and a protective sun cream.” Prior to being shown the ad, some participants were asked to close their eyes and recall a nostalgic event. The other participants were asked to recall a nostalgic event while looking at a target displayed on a computer screen.
     Those asked to reminisce with eyes closed subsequently gave a higher favorability rating to the basket than did those reminiscing with eyes open. The researchers attribute this effect to eye closure encouraging higher level thinking—in this case, why a utilitarian item, such as a protective sun cream, is worthwhile. When another set of participants were told the basket contained, “a refreshing massage ticket, a best-selling fiction book, a DVD about world-famous mountains, champagne for your rest, and an aromatic cream,” this pleasure-oriented bundle was rated marginally more favorably by those who first kept their eyes open rather then closed.
     Other studies indicate that the reminiscing itself, whether with eyes open or closed and whether for utilitarian or hedonic items, assists persuasion. Researchers at University of Minnesota, University of Southampton, and Grenoble École de Management asked each study participant in one group, selected at random, to think about their past. The remaining study participants were asked to think about recent or future events. Then each study participant was asked how much they’d pay for a set of items which were described by the researchers. The group who’d been asked to think about their personal past came in with higher bids overall.
     In additional studies by the researchers, activating nostalgic thoughts resulted in a higher willingness to spend money to stop an annoying noise, to share rewards with others, and to otherwise loosen purse strings.

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Appeal to Nostalgia 

Monday, October 9, 2023

Graph Multiple Risks to Guide Decisions

Sometimes more is less. Potential hypertension patients considered a drug with reported side effects of seizures, congestion, and fatigue to be less dangerous than did another set of potential hypertension patients told of a reported side effect of just seizures.
     An explanation is that when presented bunches of information about possibilities of risk, our brains often remember the gist—the general magnitude—rather than details. Related to this, people average the impressions. This means that adding a low- to a high-risk consideration will lower the overall perceived risk. Risk can arise from a side effect’s severity and/or its likelihood.
     A duo of University of Calgary and Miami University researchers found this effect with risk assessments of rheumatoid arthritis medication, a dietary supplement to aid sleep, and an eye massager device. The researchers than went on to identify a way marketers might lessen these judgment distortions by consumers: Present the probability of side effects using a pictograph. For each side effect described, the risk was portrayed by a corresponding number of symbols in a column.
     Note that this graphical presentation technique did not result in a treatment option with multiple side effects being judged as more risky than a treatment option with a single side effect. It instead prevented the one with multiple side effects from being judged as less risky than the one with a single side effect. There is still a judgment distortion.
     Also note that the severity of the risk plays into all this. In the studies, the gist-averaging was often overridden when the risk of one treatment side effect was extremely high.
     And in a University of Texas and Northwestern University study, a single highly-risky consequence overwhelmed consideration of other consequences: The researchers asked people to say which of two cars they’d be more likely to purchase. The first car was equipped with an airbag which was less likely to ultimately save a life in the event of a serious accident. The other car had an airbag that was more likely to save a life, but it also had a miniscule chance of causing death because of the force of airbag deployment.
     Most of the study participants chose the first car, thereby accepting a far greater chance of being harmed in an accident. In this study, too, presenting the information graphically led to participants’ more rational decisions.

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Add Risk Notices to Dilute Risk Opinion 

Monday, October 2, 2023

Slam Cabinets & Colleagues with Caring

How a salesperson closes a display cabinet influences the likelihood of closing a sale with a shopper who’s watching.
     Researchers at University of Wyoming, University of Kentucky, and Georgia Institute of Technology collected customer reports of what the researchers call secondary selling, defined as the degree to which a salesperson interacts with secondary entities in a manner indicating to the focal customer that the salesperson respects these entities.
     Examples of flawed secondary selling: “The salesperson was showing me a hard drive that he'd just gotten out of the cabinet, and when I decided that it wasn't the one I wanted, he slammed it back in the cabinet.” “She tossed some of the products pretty carelessly into the bins.”
     Examples of good secondary selling: “They were careful when they put the key in the glass door to unlock it. They slid the door gently and carefully sorted through merchandise to find a product.” “[The salesperson] was cleaning the fish tanks and clearly cared about keeping them clean. She explained how to clean them without using harsh chemicals.”
     The researchers then found that good secondary selling boosts sales revenues and customer satisfaction. Their set of studies included data from automotive service centers, retail electronics stores, and furniture shops. The researchers point out that secondary selling encompasses how the salesperson treats not just store property, but also shoppers beyond the focal one.
     Flawed: “They were short with them and didn't make much eye contact.”
     Good: “I watched a salesperson go out of their way to help a woman find items in another location in the store. I thought it was respectful.”
     The implication for salesmanship is to remember how people are more likely to be persuaded by those who show them respect and that evidence of respectfulness comes from how store property and other customers are treated.
     Florida State University studies provide evidence secondary selling applies to how store colleagues are dealt with. A customer who encounters defective merchandise or service from your business often yearns for the person who is responsible to be bawled out. In fact, these researchers found that a promise the employee will be reprimanded is among the most effective ways to keep from losing a snubbed customer. However, the researchers also saw how customers want reprimands delivered out of the customer’s presence. They want harshness, but also want the employee to be granted the respect of privacy.

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Build Up Bawl Outs When Telling Complainers 

Monday, September 25, 2023

Power Up People Before Selling Experiences

Why is it that people get greater happiness from experiences they purchase, such as a cruise or a concert, than from material acquisitions, such as a camera or a chair? Researchers at Sungkyunkwan University, University of Akron, and University of Technology Sydney cite prior studies to attribute the difference to considerations of socializing, distinctiveness, and self-identity.
     Experiences are often consumed with others, and past experiences are discussed with others. Friends show greater interest in hearing about our recent cruise than about our new camera. Happiness derives from distinctiveness, and experiences differ among themselves in content and context. A series of concerts reflects a broader range of characteristics than does a collection of chairs. And experiences shape our identity, while we shape experiences to fit our identity. It’s weaker with merchandise. We strengthen the self-identity by remembering our many experiences with the material goods.
     After citing the prior studies, the researchers hypothesize that consumers perceiving more personal power will enjoy experiences relative to material items to a greater extent. Socializing allows people to show and shape their power. Powerful people prefer purchases which differentiate them from others. And they’re highly interested in expressing themselves through their consumption.
     A set of experiments supports the hypotheses. The researchers conclude by recommending that marketers of experiential offerings target people already in powerful positions and cultivate feelings of power in potential customers.
     As to the targeting, wealth can bring a sense of power. Researchers at New York University, University of Southern California, and UCLA found that the experience economy does best when consumers feel financially confident. If the consumers instead feel highly financially constrained, their preferences shift to buying material goods that will last for a while. This is true even if the material items to be purchased are frivolous and indulgent. Emphasizing to prospects that fun experiences give enduring memories was not sufficient to overcome the effect.
     As to the cultivating feelings of power, use advertisements and store signage which emphasize the power possessed by the shopper (“At our business, you’re the boss”) rather than messages which deemphasize the power (“At our business, we take care of you”). Treating the shopper with deference instead of authority reinforces this impression. Studies at Stanford University and Tilburg University raised participants’ sense of personal power by having them sit on a tall chair and lowered it by having them sit on an ottoman.

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Leapfrog Generations to Sell Experiences 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Examine How Sharing Exaggerates Knowledge

When I recommend to you an article about retail pricing, your estimate of my knowledge about that topic increases. My recommending also increases my self-impression that I know a lot about retail pricing.
     These University of Texas findings seem trivial until you hear the rest: It happens even if I’ve read nothing at all in the body of the article I’m recommending to you. The act of sharing based on my seeing only the article title, for instance, misleadingly exaggerates my confidence in the depth of expertise about the topic.
     Considering the widespread online sharing of links among consumers, these findings argue for staying alert to your customers and clients making inadequately informed decisions. This holds true not only for those receiving links, but also for those sending out recommendations.
     One of the researchers’ studies found that consumers who share investment advice subsequently choose riskier investments. This may not be bad. A prior study by a different set of researchers concluded that subjective overestimation of financial literacy can have beneficial effects. Given the proper support, those self-confident consumers are more likely to plan well for retirement than are those who accurately assess their financial literacy. The degree of self-perceived financial ability was a better predictor of financial wellbeing than was actual financial skills.
     But this is an exception. For most consumer decisions, overconfidence is a liability. As you guide these shoppers toward properly informed choices, embrace their self-perceptions of expertise: 
  • Respect them. Do your floor staff know where all the merchandise is located? Are they aware of the comparative features of brands in their department? Can they explain them to the customer if asked? Customers want sales staff who know it all, but without acting like stuffy know-it-alls. 
  • Surprise them. Experts 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. 
  • Impress them. Experts want to know technical specifications. At the same time, they often make product selections without prolonged thought. They don’t request features lists because the experts think they already know what the products can do for them. Experts are interested in technical specifications largely to justify to themselves and others that they’ve made the right choices.

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Invest in Financial Literacy Overconfidence 

Monday, September 11, 2023

Launch Items Which Arouse Competitiveness

Being among the first to own a just-released iPhone or Nike sneaker bestows honor in the iPhone or Nike sneaker community. People will wait in long lines at the store or will jockey to be early in the internet queue.
     These and other brands with rabid fan bases can benefit from the consumer competition at product launches. It’s true that in-store, the competition could get dangerously aggressive. Shoppers shove each other, wrench items from each other, or worse. But if managed properly, the competition boosts initial sales revenues—valuable for marketers, who want to quickly recoup product development costs—and for retailers, when they recognize the demand lets them set premium prices on the items.
     Researchers at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies developed a statistical model to identify which product characteristics arouse the desire to compete to be the first to own. A basic is item uniqueness. A product perceived as better than any other in that category is more than distinctive. It’s one-of-a-kind. At least until the next version is released. The Hankuk researchers also identified in their model the importance of the consumer’s need for uniqueness. If the prospective purchaser wants to be one-of-a-kind, they’ll be attracted to a product with this characteristic.
     Factoring in is item scarcity. People are willing to exert more effort to obtain desired items which are in short supply. This is true whether or not the item is newly introduced to the marketplace. But when a new introduction is a limited release, a fear of missing out triggers the sort of competitiveness necessary to awaken at 3 AM to be in the front of the queue.
     This relates to the more general theme of self-enhancement. New releases which enable the purchaser to claim authority or exert influence over others are more likely to lead to competitiveness. Here, too, there are individual differences. Self-enhancement is associated with personal gain at the expense of others’ welfare. The race to acquire is seen as producing winners and losers.
     For the owner to claim the prestige of a winner, the item needs perceived popularity. The perception can come from the queue itself. A large group competing to be among the first further fuels the competition to be among the first. This ties back into the drive arising from scarcity. Unless the new release is perceived by the individual as popular, the competitive spirit will be compromised.

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Navigate Shoppers Toward Distinctiveness 

Monday, September 4, 2023

Cancel Culture About Negations Selectively

Including negators such as “not” and “never” in marketing messages risks confounding audiences. Consumers given a list of toothpaste dispenser characteristics which included “not difficult to use” liked the dispenser less than did another group given a list of the dispenser’s characteristics identical except that it read “not easy to use.” The participants had little trouble remembering what the phrasing said. It wasn’t as if they failed to see the “not.” Instead, it was that the “easy” or the “difficult” had much greater emphasis in the decision making than did the “not.” One group was evaluating the toothpaste dispenser with “easy” in mind, while the other had “difficult” in mind.
     The recommendation for marketers: To smooth the cognitive flow when you have the objective of persuading a prospect, avoid the speed bumps of negations.
     But researchers at University of Adolfo Ibáñez and University of Nevada-Reno identify an advantage of using negations in marketing via social media—enhanced consumer engagement. In one of their studies, Facebook messages for 18 brands, including Lululemon and Monster Energy, with a greater use of negation words, such as “don’t” and “none,” had higher numbers of likes, comments, and shares. Parallel results were found with Twitter message likes, retweets, and replies and with word-of-mouth intentions of recipients of direct email marketing.
     Results from the set of studies led the researchers to explain the effect in terms of brand power: From childhood, culture shapes us to maintain positivity in interpersonal communications. Use of negations by an adult implies the power of social confidence because the adult is violating a norm. The association between negations and power carries over to brand image. People like to portray social influence, which they aim to gain by engaging with brands they find to be powerful.
     This explanation for the role of negation is supported by the researchers’ finding that the effect was stronger for consumers expressing a need for status, measured by items like, “I want to improve my social standing as compared to others.”
     The recommendation for marketers: To build consumer engagement with your brand, incorporate negations into messages.
     In navigating between these two opposite recommendations, you’ll be determining the situations in which to cancel traditional cultural expectations of positivity for interpersonal communications. To help with this, assess the probabilities of shopper confusion and need for status in your intended audiences. Also attend to the appeal among consumers of the low-status underdog at times.

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Unknot Distortions from Using “Not” 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Please the Defensive by Asking a Favor

It might seem that a salesperson asking for a favor would only add to a shopper’s suspiciousness when facing a negotiation. But researchers at Old Dominion University, Baylor University, and Auburn University find that asking for the right sort of favor actually relaxes sales resistance.
     In the studies, the favor requested was minimally intrusive, such as asking the shopper to share their opinions of the store showroom or briefly watch the salesperson’s friendly dog. Compared to responses from participants not presented with a scenario including the request, those considering the scenario which included the request were more likely to express positive feelings about negotiations with the salesperson and the outcome of sales transactions.
     The researchers explain this effect as the favor request indicating the salesperson wants an equitable, caring relationship with the shopper, and this indication is evidence to the shopper that the salesperson is trustworthy.
     A related explanation is that people are more willing to believe they’re getting a good deal in a transaction when they conclude that they’ve earned it. An action worthy of reward could be doing a requested favor for the retailer. In a set of studies at Georgetown University and Pennsylvania State University across a range of shopping situations, consumers were offered discounts on a purchase. In some cases, the offer was accompanied by a request for a favor to be done by the shopper. Those consumers asked to do the favor were more likely to accept the discounted offer than were those not presented the request.
     Yet a third explanation involves shared experiences. People who successfully collaborate build mutual trust. When the salesperson requests a favor and the shopper honors the request, they are sharing the experience of collaboration: Aiming to improve the showroom. Assuring that the dog and the dog’s surroundings are properly monitored. 
     In a tasty extension of this, when you and your customer eat sweet foods together, the potential for mutual persuasion grows. People are more open to being convinced when they’re feeling good, and sweet foods are pleasant. The act of eating slows down time, so there’s more opportunity for the salesperson to make sales points. Chewing food potentiates a desire to talk things over. Still, it’s the shared experiences which form the core of the University of Chicago researchers’ explanation—the shared experience of consuming the same food. Shoppers trust salespeople who they believe are similar to them.

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Augment Discount Appeal with Requests 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Think Better Than Saying It Could Be Better

Suppose you want to sell a Bird of Paradise house plant to a prospective buyer. Unfortunately, the plant looks a bit withered. Your sales pitch is, “It is easy to care for and will add style and vitality to any setting.” You’re also thinking of saying, in addition, “Unfortunately, the plant looks a bit withered now due to insufficient sunlight. It would look fresher and livelier if it received sufficient sunlight.”
     In a study using this situation, conducted by researchers at China Europe International Business School and University of Chicago, about 60% of participants chose to add the “it could be better” phrasing. But the study results also indicated that people were less likely to purchase the plant when hearing this. Other studies in the set verified this effect with a range of items and in a range of situations.
     The study results also developed an explanation: When there is a defect, the salesperson is more likely to be thinking about the untarnished item performance than is the shopper. In saying how it could be better, the salesperson brings attention to a defect the shopper might not have otherwise noticed. The implication for persuasion agents: Present the item as it is without explaining how it could potentially be better.
     The research results also point to an exception to this advice: If the shopper is quite likely to recognize there’s a defect, it can be wise for the salesperson to acknowledge the shortfall and explain the potential for correcting the blemish. This could occur if the shopper is an expert with this type of item—such as Bird of Paradise house plants—or if the defect would be obvious even to a shopper naïve about this type of item.
     When persuading others, we want to present our case in the best light. Also, consumers pay more attention to potential than to past or present performance. Refraining from “it could be better” explanations requires a purposeful effort.
     On the other hand, there might sometimes be value in explaining how it could have been worse. The scenario in these studies involved delivery of a restaurant order delayed so long that the diner missed the first part of a movie. The waiter strongly apologizes. If the waiter added that he recently had a similar situation and missed the entire movie, this lowered the ratings by study participants of anger the diner would feel.

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Tell Some Complainers It Could Be Worse 

Monday, August 14, 2023

Strike Up Motivation with Streaks

When consumers view themselves as being on a streak of successful performance, their motivation to continue increases. A set of University of Delaware and University of Colorado studies found this to be true for goal achievement in fitness activities, learning a language, and playing games. Gamification is widely used in marketing a broad range of items.
     The studies also found that when a consumer views a streak as broken because of their own shortfall, commitment to continuing efforts fades. To keep motivation high, define streaks in ways which fit what the consumer has actually accomplished, describe broken streaks in ways which minimize the consumer’s perceived responsibility for the break, and provide ways for the consumer to redo a task to repair a broken streak.
     The researchers also point out how recognition of a streak requires conscientious logging of performance and comparison with a standard of success, and how a multitude of computer apps provide for this process. The checkmarks, stars, and badges bestowed by these apps come to be valued as rewards beyond the reward of accomplishment. Streaks, too, are rewards in themselves as evidence of mastery of the environment and consistency in self-identity. Consumers are more likely to engage in a desired behavior when that behavior contributes to an existing streak than when that identical behavior follows a broken streak in the consumer’s behavioral log.
     The continuing motivation engendered by the definitions of success and behavioral logs is related to what’s seen in a flow state, which is characterized by: 
  • Highly focused attention, so the person blocks out distractions to reaching the benchmark 
  • Playfulness, so the person devises and implements novel ways of achieving success 
  • Enjoyment of activities, so the person resists giving up 
  • A distorted sense of time in a way that makes the person less concerned about how long the effort will take 
  • Confidence in overcoming any difficulties
     The last of these is, in turn, relates to consumer self-efficacy, which is both necessary for and generated by a winning streak. Self-efficacy refers to a person’s belief in their capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments. Self-esteem relates to a general impression of capabilities, while self-efficacy concerns confidence about a specific skill. Persuade shoppers they are capable of achieving what you’re proposing. Bringing it full circle, this is accomplished by selecting achievable challenges for the individual consumer.

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Game On with Consumer Competition 

Monday, August 7, 2023

Spot Partisan Recall of What Never Happened

A pair of University of Mississippi and University of Louisville researchers find that people with strong political beliefs are more likely to remember those incidents which support their politics. Even if those incidents never occurred.
     Our human brains are designed to make sense of what happens to us and around us. One consequence of this is that we may see patterns which don’t really exist and create stories from those patterns. This phenomenon is stronger when the stories help us avoid danger. Because strongly partisan people fear the intentions of their political opponents, the false memories are compelling.
     An example of the vignettes used in the studies is, “In 2016, in response to a June mass shooting, President Obama issued an executive order which banned the sale of ‘bump stocks,’ an accessory that allows a semiautomatic rifle to mimic an automatic one.” The fact is that President Trump enacted the bump stock ban.
     False memories occur more often among people with a strong interest in politics and active participation in political activities. A narcissistic personality sharpens the tendency. This suggests another driver of the phenomenon: Narcissists find pleasure in showing off to others. The false memories can augment the accurate ones when impressing associates.
     In aiming to persuade people who hold strong political opinions, discover what false memories they have which are buttressing their opinions. It’s not that you’ll achieve great success in changing those memories. These false memories support the individual’s politics, and chances are that the individual is regularly interacting with other partisans harboring similar false memories. Instead of challenging those memories head-on, present other evidence. Spotting the false memories lets you know what you’re working with and against.
     Among the strongest predictors of these false memories was a person’s belief in what the researchers called “pseudo-profound bullshit,” defined as considering gibberish to have significant meaning. This was measured with a scale previously developed by other researchers which asked respondents to rate the profundity of sayings like “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena” and “Transcendence explains intrinsic silence.”
     Many political slogans qualify as gibberish, and voters subject to false memories are sensing something which isn’t really there.
     In my email exchange about the study with Prof. Miles T. Armaly, the principal researcher, he wrote, “I think it's worth pointing out that several factors--notably, cognitive ability, knowledge of politics, and being a female--reduce false memory susceptibility.”

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Drive Personalization by Fostering Narcissism 

Monday, July 31, 2023

Dedicate Marketing to Dedicated Authenticity

With the burgeoning of deepfakes enabled by artificial intelligence and fashion knockoffs inspired by 3D printing, the distinctive value to consumers of a real deal grows greater. A University of Nevada-Reno study verified that people favor purchasing products from brands they view as authentic.
     Based on their experiments, the researchers suggest marketers feature a combination of two brand characteristics to establish shopper perceptions of authenticity: 
  • Congruity. Ensure that all marketing messages are consistent with what the brand represents. Considering a brand of sunglasses advertised for use on the beach, high congruity was established using text and images about sailing races and surfing plus a list of water-sport athletes as being sponsored by the brand. Another group of study participants were instead presented marketing messages concerning ski races and cross-country skiing plus sponsorship of a list of winter snow events. This second group judged this beach-focused sunglasses brand to be less authentic and, compared to the high-congruity group participants, were less likely to express interest in purchasing the brand. 
  • Intrinsic motivation. Describe how the people responsible for brand items are chiefly motivated by pride in quality. In the studies, high intrinsic motivation for a brand of chocolates—a hedonic item—was established with marketing text like, “We started making chocolates because of the enjoyment that we feel knowing that we are creating a delicious treat,” and low intrinsic motivation with text like, “We are committed to fulfilling consumer needs because we want to increase market share and reach new heights.” Study participants’ ratings of brand authenticity and actual choice of the brand were stronger when associated with high intrinsic motivation marketing. Data analysis indicated this was because the authentic brand was judged to be of higher quality. Parallel results were obtained when the product considered by study participants was a hand sanitizer—a utilitarian item.
     In my email exchange about the studies with Prof. Jessica Rixom, the principal researcher, she asked that I emphasize there is an interaction between congruity and motivation: “To be perceived as authentic, brands need to be seen as both congruent and intrinsically motivated. Congruity isn’t enough on its own (i.e., congruent but extrinsically motivated) and neither is an intrinsic motivation (i.e., intrinsic motivation but incongruent).”
     Along with projecting authenticity, don’t project inauthenticity. Inauthenticity is generated when the brand meaning shifts. This triggers suspicions of moral failings. As a consequence, consumers experience betrayal and express contempt.

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Distinguish Seniors’ Photo-Falsehood Training