Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wearing high heels can change the way you shop

When shopping for a big ticket item, such as a television, there is a checklist of things you should always do:
  1. Read reviews
  2. Compare prices
  3. Wear high heels
If you’re uncomfortable with No. 3, you have other options. You can ride up and down the escalator, play a few games using the Wii Fit, or just go shopping immediately following your yoga class.
A new BYU study finds that consumers experiencing a heightened sense of balance are more likely to weigh the options and go with a product that falls in the middle of the high-end, low-end scale.
“If you’re someone who tends to overspend, or you’re kind of an extreme person, then maybe you ought to consider shopping in high heels,” said study author Jeffrey Larson, a BYU marketing professor.
Larson and BYU coauthor Darron Billeter have discovered that most anything that forces your mind to focus on balance affects your shopping choices as well.
In the example of the TV, balancing consumers are more likely to go with the 42-inch TV for $450 rather than the $300 32-inch set or the 50-inch screen for $650.
The study is part of an emerging area of research that examines the relationship between physical sensations and decision making. Previous studies have looked at the role of warmth, weight and hunger.
For their study, appearing in the current issue of the Journal of Marketing Research, the Marriott School authors set up experiments where balance was introduced to the consumer experience, including:
  • Leaning back on a chair while shopping online
  • Playing a Wii Fit game while simultaneously answering questions about product choices
  • Standing on one foot while considering which printer to purchase
Other elements that could have similar effects but were not included in the experiments include making purchase decisions while on a cruise ship or walking on icy sidewalks during winter shopping.
The authors say the most important takeaway from their study is that people should be aware of how physical forces can change the way we think about things.
“We need to sit back for a minute and consider, ‘Is this really what I want, or are the shoes I’m wearing influencing my choice?’” Billeter said. “We need to be more aware of what is influencing our choices.”
The results of the study, the authors write, demonstrate that influential cognitive processes are at play as people stumble through life, regardless of whether those stumblings are literal or metaphorical.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

When Do Consumers Think a Freebie Is More Valuable than a Discounted Product?

Consumers may value a free gift more than a deeply discounted promotional item, especially if it comes from a prestigious brand, according to a new study in
the Journal of Consumer Research.

“Since consumers believe the value of a free product is likely to be consistent with the value of the purchased product, pairing a free product with a high-end product may very well increase perceptions of its value,” write authors Mauricio M. Palmeira (Monash University) and Joydeep Srivastava (University of Maryland).
These days, companies often offer bonus products for free or at a low discounted price with a required purchase. For example, high-end cosmetics companies like Lancôme or Clinique offer free gifts with the purchase of a full-priced product.
In one study, participants were offered a free or discounted package of spaghetti with the purchase of a jar of organic tomato sauce for $8.95. They were then asked how much they would pay for the spaghetti individually. People offered free spaghetti were willing to pay an average of $2.95 for it, but those offered the spaghetti for $.50 were only willing to pay an average of $1.83.
When a free product is paired with an expensive product, consumers assume it is worth more than if it was offered at a low discounted price. For example, if a luxury jeweler offers a free bottle of wine with a purchase, consumers assume it isn’t cheap. But, according to the authors, customers might assume the same wine is cheaper if the jeweler offers it for $1.
“Promotions with low discounted prices devalue products more than free offers. In fact, free offers may not devalue products at all when they are paired with an expensive purchase, as consumers will use the price of the focal product to estimate the value of the supplementary product,” the authors conclude. “If Mercedes-Benz promotes a car with a free GPS system, we expect the GPS to be high quality,” the authors explain. 

Low Self-Esteem Consumers: When Does Standing Out Help You Fit In?

Consumers who buy brands to stand out may actually be trying to fit in, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
“Our research suggests that seeking differentiation via brands may actually be another tactic to achieve belongingness,” write authors Sara Loughran Dommer (Georgia Institute of Technology), Vanitha Swaminathan (University of Pittsburgh), and Rohini Ahluwalia (University of Minnesota).
The authors explored how and why consumers use brands to stand out within a group. For example, certain brands can help consumers feel like they belong, like a college tennis player who wears Nike to display allegiance to her team. But consumers also use brands to distinguish themselves. The same player might also wear Lacoste to feel superior to her team or Converse to show her distinctive personality.
In a series of studies, the authors found that consumers with low self-esteem work extra hard to distinguish themselves within a group when they feel excluded. They do this by seeking brands that create distinction from typical members of the group based on personality, taste, traits, etc. However, when consumers with low self- esteem feel included, they still seek to distinguish themselves by seeking brands that confer status or demonstrate superiority to others in the group.
Companies often celebrate individuality in their advertising slogans—for example, “Think Different” (Apple), “Off the Wall” (Vans), and “Unlike Any Other” (Mercedes-Benz). According to the authors, companies can utilize strategies to help consumers feel like they fit in. “Brand names that address consumers’ belongingness needs by creating brand communities and engaging in social media (e.g., a Facebook page) may satiate consumers’ need for belongingness while also counterintuitively enhancing certain consumers’ (i.e., low self-esteem consumers) desire to differentiate,” the authors write.
“Companies should understand how their efforts may affect consumer belongingness or differentiation needs and how branding strategies based on differentiation can appeal to various types of consumers,” the authors conclude. 

The Blushing Shopper: Does It Matter What Else You Put in the Basket with the Anti-Gas Medication?

“Shopping basket composition can determine how consumers feel when purchasing embarrassing products. Contrary to conventional wisdom, additional purchases don’t always reduce embarrassment but may worsen it instead,” write authors Sean Blair and Neal J. Roese (both Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University). “And when additional products do reduce embarrassment, it’s not just because they hide the embarrassing product.”
Suppose a consumer needs to buy something embarrassing like a package of anti- gas medication or foot deodorant. He might start thinking about how other shoppers will react to the purchase and try to deflect attention from the product by buying something else. However, this strategy could backfire—or even make him feel more embarrassed if he chooses something that inadvertently reinforces the impression he wants to avoid.
In one study, the authors asked people how embarrassed they would feel if they were purchasing The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Improving Your IQ. Half of the participants were purchasing only the book, but the remaining half were told they were also purchasing an issue of Scientific American and a Rubik’s cube. The results showed that the additional products made participants feel less embarrassed, but not because they hid the embarrassing book. “People felt less embarrassed because they thought the intelligent products would compensate for the book, essentially ‘canceling out’ the unintelligent impression,” the authors write. A follow-up study showed that the more people believed the additional products would balance against the embarrassing book, the more effective the products were at reducing embarrassment.
“Consumers tend to think about the products they buy holistically rather than individually, and a product’s meaning can change depending on what else is being purchased at the same time. An additional purchase can either attenuate or exacerbate embarrassment depending on whether it counterbalances or complements the embarrassing product,” the authors conclude.

Friday, August 16, 2013

People Prefer Products That Help Them ‘Save Face’ in Embarrassing Moments

People who are feeling embarrassed are more likely to choose items that hide or ‘repair’ the face, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The research indicates that feelings of embarrassment can be alleviated by using so-called ‘restorative’ products — effectively helping people to “save face.”
“Previous research on embarrassment mainly documents that embarrassed individuals are motivated to avoid public exposure,” explains Ping Dong, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto and lead author of the new research. “However, little work has been done to examine how they could cope with embarrassment.”
Dong and colleagues Xun (Irene) Huang of Sun Yat-Sen University and Robert S. Wyer, Jr. of the Chinese University of Hong Kong hypothesized that metaphorical reasoning — the idea of “saving face” — might be one tool for coping with embarrassment, a common negative emotion.
In their first experiment, Dong and colleagues asked some participants to describe an embarrassing situation from their past, while others in the control group were simply asked to describe a typical day at school; later, all participants rated various pairs of sunglasses.
The findings showed that participants who relived their embarrassing experience tended to prefer large, darkly-tinted sunglasses. In effect, they favored the options that covered up their faces.
In another experiment, embarrassed participants expressed greater interest in sunglasses and restorative face creams — products that would conceal or cover the faces — than in scarves or shoes.
Additional research revealed that participants who actually used the “restorative” facial cream after re-experiencing an embarrassing moment reported lower embarrassment ratings, and they were more likely to seek out social interaction. Wearing sunglasses, however, did not seem to alleviate feelings of embarrassment.
“Although embarrassment leads people both to hide their face and to restore their face, only by restoring their face can their embarrassment be decreased, as evidenced in their greater desire to participate in social activities,” Dong explains. “It is interesting to speculate that people who wear cosmetics on a daily basis may be more tolerant of potentially embarrassing behavior.”
The findings highlight the unconscious influence that metaphorical thinking can have on everyday behaviors, but Dong notes that this influence may depend on cultural differences not examined in the present studies given that all participants were Hong Kong Chinese.
“The metaphorical concept of ‘hiding one’s face’ is fairly widespread, but the concepts of ‘losing face’ and ‘saving face’ are more pervasive in Asian than in Western cultures,” she observes. “Although the effects of embarrassment on symbolically hiding one’s face are likely to generalize to Western cultures, the effect of symbolically restoring one’s face might not.”
This research was supported by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Future in Store