1. Study suggests teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

    January 20, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Cancer Research UK press release:

    Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

    Being bombarded by TV ads for unhealthy, high calorie food could lead teens to eat more than 500 extra snacks like crisps, biscuits and fizzy drinks throughout the course of a single year compared to those who watch less TV.

    Energy and other fizzy drinks high in sugar, takeaways and chips were some of the foods which were more likely to be eaten by teens who watched a lot of TV with adverts.

    The report, based on a YouGov survey, questioned 3,348 young people in the UK between the ages of 11-19 on their TV viewing habits and diet.

    When teens watched TV without adverts researchers found no link between screen time and likelihood of eating more junk food. This suggests that the adverts on commercial TV may be driving youngsters to snack on more unhealthy food.

    The report is also the biggest ever UK study to assess the association of TV streaming on diet.

    It found that teens who said they regularly streamed TV shows with ads were more than twice as likely (139%) to drink fizzy drinks compared to someone with low advert exposure from streaming TV, and 65% more likely to eat more ready meals than those who streamed less TV.

    Regularly eating high calorie food and drink – which usually has higher levels of fat and sugar- increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

    Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking, and is linked to 13 types of cancer including bowel, breast, and pancreatic.

    Dr Jyotsna Vohra, a lead author on the study from Cancer Research UK, said: “This is the strongest evidence yet that junk food adverts could increase how much teens choose to eat. We’re not claiming that every teenager who watches commercial TV will gorge on junk food but this research suggests there is a strong association between advertisements and eating habits.

    “It’s been 10 years since the first, and only, TV junk food marketing regulations were introduced by Ofcom and they’re seriously out of date. Ofcom must stop junk food adverts being shown during programmes that are popular with young people, such as talent shows and football matches, where there’s currently no regulation.

    “Our report suggests that reducing junk food TV marketing could help to halt the obesity crisis.”

    The Obesity Health Alliance recently published a report which found that almost 60% of food and drink adverts shown during programmes popular with adults and 4-16 year olds were for unhealthy foods which would be banned from children’s TV channels.

    Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “Obese children are five times more likely to remain obese as adults which can increase their risk of cancer later in life.

    “The food industry will continue to push their products into the minds of teens if they’re allowed to do so. The Government needs to work with Ofcom to protect the health of the next generation.”


  2. Study suggests consumers less likely to go through with purchases when on mobile devices

    January 11, 2018 by Ashley

    From the University of East Anglia press release:

    Shoppers hoping to bag a bargain in the post-Christmas sales are much less likely to go through with their purchases if they are using phones and tablets to buy goods online.

    This is because consumers often worry they are not seeing the full picture on a mobile app or that they could be missing out on special offers or overlooking hidden costs, according to new research. Concerns about privacy and security can also motivate people to put items into their shopping baskets but then quit without paying.

    Although mobile apps are rapidly becoming among the most popular ways to shop online, the phenomenon of shopping cart abandonment is much higher than for desktop-based online shopping. According to Market Research firm Criteo , the share of e-commerce traffic from mobile devices increased to 46% of global e-commerce traffic in Q2 2016 however, only 27% of purchases initiated on this channel were finalized and conversion rates significantly lagged behind desktop initiated purchases.

    Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) investigating why this is so say it represents a huge challenge for online retailers, who are investing heavily in mobile shopping, but not reaping the rewards in successful sales.

    “Our study results revealed a paradox,” said Dr Nikolaos Korfiatis, of Norwich Business School at UEA. “Mobile shopping is supposed to make the process easier, and yet concerns about making the right choice, or about whether the site is secure enough leads to an ‘emotional ambivalence’  about the transaction – and that mean customers are much more likely to simply abandon their shopping carts without completing a purchase.”

    The researchers studied online shopping data from 2016-2017 from consumers in Taiwan and the US. They found that the reasons for hesitation at the checkout stage were broadly the same in both countries. In addition, shoppers are much more likely use mobile apps as a way of researching and organising goods, rather than as a purchasing tool, and this also contributes to checkout hesitation.

    “People think differently when they use their mobile phones to make purchases,” said Dr Korfiatis. “The smaller screen size and uncertainty about missing important details about the purchase make you much more ambivalent about completing the transaction than when you are looking at a big screen.”

    Flora Huang, the study’s lead author, added: “This is a phenomenon that has not been well researched, yet it represents a huge opportunity for retailers. Companies spend a lot of money on tactics such as pay-per-click advertising to bring consumers into online stores – but if those consumers come in via mobile apps and then are not finalising their purchases, a lot of that money will be wasted.”

    The team’s results, published in the Journal of Business Research, showed that consumers are much less likely to abandon their shopping baskets if they are satisfied with the choice process. App designers can help by minimising clutter to include only necessary elements on the device’s limited screen space and organising sites via effective product categorisation or filter options so consumers can find products more easily.

    Other strategies that might prompt a shopper to complete a purchase include adding special offers, or coupons for a nearby store at the checkout stage.

    “Retailers need to invest in technology, but they need to do it in the right way, so the investment pays off,” added Dr Korfiatis. “Customers are becoming more and more demanding and, with mobile shopping in particular, they don’t forgive failures so offering a streamlined, integrated service is really important.”

    The article ‘Mobile shopping cart abandonment: the roles of conflicts, ambivalence and hesitation’, by GH Huang, N Korfiatis, CT Chang, appears in the Journal of Business Research, published by Elsevier.

     


  3. Study suggests frequent payments can make consumers feel better about their purchase

    January 8, 2018 by Ashley

    From the University of Chicago Booth School of Business press release:

    Merchants and charities alike understand that advertising their product for “just pennies a day” is an effective way to convince consumers to make a purchase.

    New research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business finds that frequent payments can also make consumers feel better about the benefits they are receiving from their purchase.

    In the study, “Periodic Pricing and Perceived Contract Benefits,” forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research, Chicago Booth Associate Professor Daniel Bartels and University of Rhode Island’s Stephen Atlas find that the payment frequency of a contract affects how consumers imagine the benefits they would receive over time. In sum, periodic prices — dividing the purchase price into daily payments instead of one yearly payment — can increase perceived benefits.

    “More frequent payments can help people appreciate recurring pleasures and increase the likelihood of purchasing,” the study said.

    The researchers also find evidence that consumers respond positively to per-day pricing even for costly goods, such as automobiles and meal delivery subscription services. The finding contrasts longstanding views that marketers should never subdivide an expensive product into a collection of payments.

    To examine how periodic pricing influences purchase decisions, the researchers conducted nine experiments. The studies asked participants to consider either a daily cost or a yearly cost of items including charitable donations, newspaper subscriptions, music streaming services, car leases, and meal deliveries.

    In one study, participants were given a scenario in which they could lease a luxury car for the periodic price of $20 a day or the aggregate price of $7,250 a year. The participants were not only more likely to agree to the lease when presented with the periodic price, but they also reported greater perceived benefits.

    In another study, the researchers found periodic pricing produced a 77 percent increase in sales for a meal delivery service.

    “Our framework and results suggest that periodic pricing can help people appreciate the benefits they accrue from a purchase,” the researchers said in the paper. “So, under the right conditions, marketers can encourage purchase with periodic pricing, even for significant sums of money.”


  4. Study suggests bargain hunting affects perceptions of customer service workers

    January 6, 2018 by Ashley

    From the University of British Columbia press release:

    Everyone loves a bargain, but new research suggests some employees may be getting short-changed when it comes to how consumers perceive them when they are price-conscious.

    The UBC Sauder School of Business study, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, found that bargain-hunters who adopt a “price-conscious mentality” — meaning their main goal is to save money and get the cheapest deal — tend to see employees who they interact with as less human.

    “When shoppers focus only on paying the lowest price, they become less attuned to understanding the human needs of others, or even recognizing them,” said Johannes Boegershausen, a UBC Sauder PhD student who co-authored the study.

    For the study, the researchers conducted several studies. One study showed that consumers used fewer humanizing trait words in reviews of the discount carrier Ryanair than in reviews of the higher-end airline Lufthansa, even after accounting for quality differences between brands.

    In another experiment, study participants were either shown photos of a flight attendant wearing uniforms from Ryanair, Lufthansa, or one wearing a neutral uniform. The researchers found that respondents saw the flight attendants from Lufthansa and the non-employee as relatively equally human, but the Ryanair employee was seen in a poorer light.

    “We simply varied the brand, and found that people ascribed lower capabilities for experiencing emotions and feelings to the Ryanair flight attendant,” said Boegershausen, adding that this subtle dehumanization can take many forms and is not necessarily intentional.

    Another experiment had participants interact in a live chat with a rude customer service representative. They were then given the chance to punish the employee through a complaint. The researchers found participants were 18 per cent more likely to give a rating that would lead to disciplinary actions against the employee when shoppers were adopting a price conscious mentality than when they were not.

    The researchers say the findings could have implications for owners and management of discount stores, as the problem could affect employee retention.

    Previous research has also found employees who experience rude and inconsiderate customer behaviors report higher levels of emotional exhaustion, job dissatisfaction, and burnout. Potentially, those unhappy employees subsequently might mistreat the next customer, who in turn gets angry and mistreats employees, creating a vicious circle for companies and employees alike.

    Since discount-based companies such as Walmart and Ryanair are experiencing unprecedented growth, it’s important to pinpoint what’s going on, said Boegershausen.

    “I think most consumers, myself included, are guilty of this at some point. When you really drill down, you don’t really recognize that someone is fully human anymore,” said Boegershausen. “But it doesn’t take much to be human and to let others know you recognize them as human. Everyone has the right to be considered human.”


  5. Study suggests consumers wilfully “forget” when products have ethical issues

    January 5, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University press release:

    Many consumers have found a way to cope with the knowledge that products they like have been made unethically: They simply forget they ever knew it.

    In a series of studies, researchers found that consumers conveniently “forgot” that brands of desks were made with wood from rainforests or that jeans may have been made with child labor.

    In fact, consumers not only forget the uncomfortable truth, but sometimes misremember the facts and believe that the offending product was made ethically.

    “It’s not necessarily a conscious decision by consumers to forget what they don’t want to know,” said Rebecca Reczek, co-author of the study and associate professor of marketing at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

    “It is a learned coping mechanism to tune out uncomfortable information because it makes their lives easier.”

    The study appears online in the Journal of Consumer Research and will be published in a future print edition.

    In one study, 236 college students were asked to read and memorize descriptions of six made-up brands of desks. The descriptions discussed quality, price and an ethical dimension — the source of the wood. Participants read that the wood either came from sustainable tree farms or endangered rainforests.

    When asked immediately after memorization, participants accurately recalled whether the wood came from rainforests or tree farms in 94 percent of the cases.

    But those memories faded quickly. After the participants completed 15 to 20 minutes of tasks meant to distract them, they were then given a sheet of paper with all six desk brand names and were asked to write down as much as they could remember about each desk.

    Participants were right 60 percent of the time about desks made from tree farms, but right only 45 percent of the time about desks made of rainforest wood.

    “It is not that the participants didn’t pay attention to where the wood came from. We know that they successfully memorized that information,” said study co-author Daniel Zane, a doctoral student in marketing at Ohio State.

    “But they forget it in this systematic pattern. They remembered the quality and price attributes of the desks. It is only the ethical attributes that cause people to be willfully ignorant.”

    A second study involved a national sample of 402 people who participated online. Here, participants were asked to put together an outfit that included a pair of jeans. About half of the participants saw a brand of jeans that was described as being made with child labor while the other half saw a brand of jeans made ethically, with no child labor.

    Results were similar to the first study: People who saw the jeans made with child labor were much less likely to remember this information than people who saw a brand of jeans made with adult labor.

    Why is forgetting ethical information so popular with consumers? Well, another study suggested that it makes people feel a little better about themselves.

    In this study, the researchers had participants consider a hypothetical person named Chris who bought a pair of jeans made with child labor. In some cases, participants were told Chris had earlier learned that the jeans were made with child labor, but forgot when making the purchase. In other cases, participants were told Chris remembered the information, but ignored it when buying the jeans.

    “What we found is that people judged the person who forgot the ethical information as more moral than the person who ignored the information,” Reczek said.

    “So, for most people, forgetting is seen as the more acceptable coping strategy.”

    If you really want to be an ethical consumer, there are steps you can take, Zane said.

    “You need to realize that this memory bias exists and eliminate memory from your buying process,” he said.

    “Don’t put something in your online shopping cart that you know was made unethically and say you’ll think about it. By the time you come back, there is a good chance you will have forgotten what troubled you in the first place.”

    There’s a lesson for ethical companies too, Reczek said.

    Don’t make your customers rely on memory. Make sure you have reminders at the point of purchase that you’re an ethical brand,” she said.


  6. How errors affect credibility of online reviews

    December 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Indiana University press release:

    Shoppers increasingly consult online reviews before making holiday purchases. But how do they decide which reviewers to trust?


  7. Study suggests perceptions of company being harmful may make consumers feel justified in unethical behaviour aimed at it

    December 10, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Society for Consumer Psychology press release:

    While many people consider themselves generally moral and honest, even the most upstanding citizens will likely become willing to lie, cheat and steal under certain circumstances, according to evidence from a new study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

    If consumers believe that a company is harmful in some way — to the environment or to people — then they feel justified participating in illegal activities, such as shoplifting, piracy or hacking, according to findings in the study.

    “People are much more willing to do something that risks their own integrity if they believe a company is unethical,” says Jeffrey Rotman, a professor in the business school at Deakin University in Australia. “And this desire to punish a harmful brand occurs even when the consumer has not personally had a bad experience with the company.”

    Rotman’s team discovered this effect in one study in which participants were introduced to a fictitious pharmaceutical company that produced drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease and a bacterial infection called Brucellosis. Some of the participants learned that the company planned to increase the price of the drug by 300 percent to generate considerably more profit, even if it meant that certain customers could no longer afford the medication. Other participants learned that the company would not raise prices despite the profit benefits.

    The researchers discovered that the participants who were told that the company was raising prices were significantly more willing to punish the company via unethical means, such as lying, cheating or stealing. To better understand why consumers violate their personal code of ethics in these situations, the researchers conducted another experiment in which participants read a report stating that on average, Internet speeds in the United States are consistently below advertised speeds. The federal report explained that this occurs because many ISPs intentionally cap speeds at 20 percent lower than advertised speeds. One group of participants was told that their Internet speeds had in fact underperformed, and they were asked to sign a letter to the ISP asking for a 10 percent discount on monthly fees. The other group was told that their Internet speeds were as advertised, but they should still sign the letter based on the findings in the federal report. Even though their Internet speeds were good, they were encouraged to lie to justify the discount and capture the company’s attention.

    Typically, people feel emotional consequences when they engage in unethical behavior, but the researchers found that negative feelings, such as guilt, were absent because people felt that the company was cheating customers. “People felt morally justified lying to the ISP because the report claimed that the company was not delivering promised speeds,” Rotman says.

    The researchers discovered that this desire to punish companies perceived as harmful is also reflected in the real world. Participants rated how harmful they perceived a variety of different industries, such as pharmacies, supermarkets and home improvement stores. On average, the more harmful the ratings, the greater the rates of theft were in these industries.

    “There is growing distrust among the public of certain aspects of business and government, and these findings suggest that if people perceive these entities as harmful, they might feel justified in being unethical,” Rotman says. “My hope is that organizations will make it a priority to build a reputation that allows consumers and businesses to be on the same side.”


  8. How displaying real-time sales and stock levels online affects shoppers

    December 8, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Journal of Retailing at New York University press release:

    In “See How Much We’ve Sold Already! Effects of Displaying Sales and Stock Level Information on Consumers’ Online Product Choices,” Marketing Professors Yongfu He and Harmen Oppewal describe online studies designed to test consumers’ purchase decisions when presented with ostensibly real-time sales and stock data. The paper will be published in the December 2017 issue of the Journal of Retailing.

    In one study, 405 participants were asked to decide between two unfamiliar but identically priced statistics textbooks and explain their reasoning on an 11-point scale. The various scenarios showed different combinations of the sales levels (no sales information, equal sales, different sales levels) and stock levels (no stock information, equal stock, different stock levels). In the condition where only sales levels were shown, the book displayed as having sold more was chosen 89 percent of the time, versus 50 percent of the time when no information was provided. When the stock level was displayed, the book showing fewer copies left was chosen 74 percent of the time, versus 50 percent when no stock data was provided. When sales and stock information were both presented, the book with higher sales and also fewer copies remaining was chosen 84 percent of the time. Additional, similar studies were done using unfamiliar chocolate brands versus a well-known brand, which was perceived as more popular and of higher quality because of its familiarity.

    The authors found that across studies, sales level had a significant effect on choice, but that when brand was factored in, the effect of stock level data was often diminished. “In general, though,” they write, “our findings show that when participants become more familiar with a brand, sales and stock level information start to play a lesser role as cues in the decision process.”

    The managerial implications are especially significant for online retailers, as online shoppers face more uncertainty about the quality of products on offer. “Displaying sales and stock level information can be an effective tool to influence consumer choice of a brand,” the authors write. “Retailers should carefully consider when to display either type of information.”


  9. Study suggests food cues entice consumers to overeat

    December 2, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Michigan press release:

    The mouth-watering aroma of juicy burgers and crispy fries, and the eye-catching menu signs with delicious food pictures can tempt many hungry patrons to stop at fast-food restaurants.

    But these food cues, which stimulate brain activity, can nudge some customers to overeat due to increased cravings and hunger, a new University of Michigan study suggests.

    “Food-related cues can make people want or crave food more, but don’t have as much of an impact on their liking, or the pleasure they get from eating the food,” said Michelle Joyner, a U-M psychology graduate student and study’s lead author.

    The study involved 112 college participants, who disclosed their weight, race, gender and other demographics. All were randomly assigned to a fast-food laboratory — designed like an actual restaurant with tables/chairs, booths and low background music — or a neutral lab.

    Participants, who ate lunch one hour before the study’s trial, could receive tokens to acquire foods typically available at fast-food restaurants, such as a cheeseburger, French fries, milkshake and soft drink. Tokens could also buy time for an alternate activity, such as playing video games on a tablet. Both the food and game choices appeared on large TV screens.

    The study questions focused on wanting, liking and hunger. Wanting is a strong motivation while liking involves pleasure.

    When exposed to food-related cues, participants felt more hungry in the fast-food lab than the neutral environment. The cues, however, did not make a difference in participants liking the food’s taste in either environment.

    People consumed 220 more calories in fast-food environments that have food-related cues than those who ate in non-cue locations, the study indicated. Joyner said food cues did not impact wanting or liking for games, suggesting the effect is specific to food.

    Joyner and colleagues said it’s important for people to arm themselves with knowledge about how food cues can trick them into thinking they are hungry and increasing their desire for food.

    “It is hard it is to avoid food cues in our current environment, but people can try some strategies to minimize their exposure by not going into restaurants and using technology to skip food advertisements in TV shows,” Joyner said.


  10. When vegetables are closer in price to chips, people eat healthier

    November 27, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Drexel University press release:

    When healthier food, like vegetables and dairy products, is pricier compared to unhealthy items, like salty snacks and sugary sweets, Americans are significantly less likely to have a high-quality diet, a new Drexel University study found.

    The research, led by David Kern, PhD, an adjunct faculty member at Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health, and Amy Auchincloss, PhD, an associate professor in the school, sought to find out the real effect that price difference has on the quality of diets in the United States.

    “We found that, on average, healthier perishable foods were nearly twice as expensive as unhealthy packaged foods: 60 cents vs. 31 cents per serving, respectively,” said Kern, lead author of the study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. “As the gap between neighborhood prices of healthier and unhealthier foods got wider, study participants had lower odds of having a healthier diet.”

    For example, the study found that for every 14 percent increase in the healthy-to-unhealthy price ratio (the standard deviation in this study), the odds of having a healthy diet dropped by 24 percent. This was even after controlling for personal characteristics, like age, sex, income, education and other factors.

    “We are consuming way too many sugary foods like cookies, candies and pastries, and sugary drinks, like soda and fruit drinks,” Auchincloss said. “Nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese and less than 20 percent attain recommendations for fruits and vegetables. Cheap prices of unhealthy foods relative to healthier foods may be contributing to obesity and low-quality diet.”

    To delve into price impacts, Kern and Auchincloss used cross-sectional data from 2,765 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Participants were recruited from six urban areas in the U.S.: New York, Chicago, St. Paul, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Winston-Salem in North Carolina. Each participant’s diet data was linked to food prices at supermarkets in their neighborhood.

    Grocery prices were broken down into categories of “healthier” and “unhealthy.” Healthier foods included:

    • Dairy products — milk, yogurt and cottage cheese
    • Fruits and vegetables — frozen vegetables and orange juice, since fresh produce prices were not attainable

    Meanwhile, among the unhealthy foods were:

    • Soda
    • Sweets — chocolate candy and cookies
    • Salty snacks — potato chips

    The researchers used the Healthy Eating Index-2010 (HEI-2010), developed by the United States Department of Agriculture, to assess the study participants’ dietary quality.

    “A well-balanced diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat milk and lean protein, with a minimal consumption of sodium and sugary foods and drinks — like soda and junk food — would receive an optimal score on the HEI-2010,” Kern said.

    The adverse impact of increasing healthy food prices compared to unhealthy food prices was particularly strong for people in the middle ranges of income/wealth in the study, and those with higher education.

    “We originally expected to find the largest impact among individuals in the lowest wealth/income group. However, given the price gap that we found, healthy food may be too expensive for the lowest socioeconomic status group even at its most affordable,” Kern said. “So the impact of the price ratio is weaker for this group.”

    A lot of research in public health has been devoted to changing food environments for the purpose of encouraging healthier eating. This is one of the few studies that takes a hard look at prices between foods, compares them, and tries to link them back to their dietary implications.

    Kern and Auchincloss believe more work needs to be done in this arena. In fact, they recently did work (published in Preventive Medicine) that found the price ratio of healthy-to-unhealthy food had a significant association with insulin resistance.

    “Prospective studies that examine interventions effecting food prices — such as taxes on soda and junk food or subsidies for fruits and vegetables — would be vital to understand how food prices influence purchasing decisions and subsequent diet quality,” Kern concluded. “Improving diet quality in the U.S., especially for the most vulnerable populations, is a large public health concern and future research could help address this issue.”