1. Study suggests unearned upgrades can sometimes be embarrassing for consumers

    June 17, 2013 by Ashley

    From the UBC press release via HealthCanal:

    shoppingNew research from UBC’s Sauder School of Business reveals that giving a free bump in service can backfire for retailers if the perk is given randomly in front of others.

    The new paper shows that consumers experience social discomfort when singled out for spontaneous special treatment, which may cause them to close their wallets.

    “Managerial wisdom guiding service and retail industries assumes that consumers get an uptick in esteem when they’re allowed to skip a queue or get an upgrade,” says Assistant Professor JoAndrea Hoegg, a co-author of the forthcoming study to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research. “But our research shows that when people get unearned freebies in front of others they experience a social awkwardness that makes them less inclined to consume.”

    In one of a series of experiments, researchers treated participants at a product booth in two different ways. One group received free personal care products in return for “customer loyalty” and another received free products with no explanation. Some bonus transactions were witnessed, and some were private.

    Results show that when the free samples were received with no explanation in front of observers, participants were less satisfied with them. The research also shows that the decline in satisfaction was driven by feelings of social discomfort, and that those who received extra samples without reason browsed for a shorter time at the booth.

    “Our research suggests that if a firm is randomly selecting people to receive perks, they should make sure they receive them in private. If doing it in public, it’s best that everyone knows the customer earned the upgrade to avoid unwanted embarrassment,” says Hoegg.

    The study, Consumer Reaction to Unearned Preferential Treatment, was co-authored by Assistant Professor Hoegg and Professor Darren Dahl from the Sauder School of Business, and Assistant Professor Lan Jiang from the University of Oregon.


  2. Study suggests retailers should referee customer conflict

    June 14, 2013 by Ashley

    From the UBC press release via EurekAlert!:

    storeA new study by UBC’s Sauder School of Business says retailers should consider admonishing queue jumpers and thoughtless store browsers to ease aggression between shoppers.

    “Our study shows that retailers can play a key role in mitigating conflict by calling shoppers on bad shopping etiquette,” says Lily Lin, a recent graduate of the Sauder PhD program about her study published in June’s Journal of Consumer Research. “This is important because research shows retailers can get part of the blame for their badly behaved customers.”

    In an experiment, the researcher set up a shop display of neatly folded clothing to test if consumers would punish planted shoppers who left it in disarray and how reprimanded messy shoppers are treated.

    The researchers had their “shoppers” knock over a large stack of paper after browsing the clothing. Those who left the clothing tidy and those who left it untidy but were reprimanded received the same amount of help picking up the paper from fellow customers. But the messy shoppers who received no reprimanding received almost no help at all.

    “The study indicates that if someone acts badly in a shopping environment and their behaviour goes unchecked, they’re more likely to receive ill treatment from fellow consumers,” says Lin. “Managers need to think about how they can alleviate this friction.”

    This means ensuring there is enough room for customers to browse and that lineups are orderly and obvious, says Lin. “But retail managers also need to consider empowering their staff to step in when the rules of shopping are broken.”

    The study, Do the Crime, Always Do the Time? Insights into Consumer-to-Consumer Punishment Decisions, co-authored by Sauder marketing Professor Darren Dahl and University of Alberta Professor Jennifer Argo, also found that consumers are less likely to punish rude shoppers who suffer from a physical ailment or who are perceived to be of a higher status.


  3. Study examines how consumers assess online reviews

    May 30, 2013 by Ashley

    From the Alpen-Adria-Universität press release via AlphaGalileo:

    tablet computerIncreasingly, consumers are using online reviews prior to purchasing products or booking holidays. A new study reveals which factors affect the assessment of the trustworthiness and usefulness of online reviews.

    For many, going on holiday and staying in a hotel is a special experience: But how individuals tend to perceive the available offer can vary widely. In order to minimize the risk of disappointment, many consumers have started to rely on the opinions of others, which are published on online platforms.

    It is not unusual to come across the opinion of one guest, who feels that the rooms of a certain hotel are clearly too small, while another guest staying at the same hotel is perfectly satisfied with the size of the rooms. Sonja Grabner-Kräuter (Department of Marketing and International Management, Alpen-Adria-Universität) and Martin Waiguny (Marketing, Advertising, Retailing and Sales, Auckland University of Technology) have systematically investigated and recorded which online reviews are perceived as trustworthy and useful.

    “In conducting this study, what we endeavoured to discover was how the similarity between the writer and the reader, as well as the style of the review, affect the perceived trustworthiness and usefulness”, Sonja Grabner-Kräuter describes the central research question. Working with students enrolled in the Applied Business Administration degree, the researchers carried out two experimental investigations: 174 students and graduates were interviewed in the course of the first investigation, a total of 130 were surveyed for the second investigation. These investigations yielded a number of relevant results: On the whole, negative reviews were regarded as being more trustworthy and more useful than positive reviews.

    “We also explored the interactions between the factors objectivity/emotionality, similarity of writer/reader, positive/negative review”, Grabner-Kräuter goes on to explain. Researchers were able to determine a series of interconnections. Sonja Grabner-Kräuter provides the following summary: “Generally, factual written reviews are evaluated better. However, in cases where writer and reader are not alike, the emotions and experiences contained within the reviews play a crucial role in the assessment of their trustworthiness.”


  4. Study examines why sports fans prefer ‘lucky’ products

    May 27, 2013 by Ashley

    From the University of Chicago Press Journals press release via EurekAlert!:

    Sports WatchingConsumers engage in superstitious behavior when they want to achieve something but don’t have the power to make it happen, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

    “Preference for lucky products (those associated with positive outcomes) increases when a strong desire for control is combined with lower perceived ability to exert control. Consumers who make superstitious choices believe they will be effective in helping them achieve the desired outcome,” write authors Eric J. Hamerman (Tulane University) and Gita V. Johar (Columbia University).

    Sports fans are well known for their superstitious behavior. A current Bud Light commercial with the tag line of “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work” shows the odd ways in which NFL fans root for their teams. Robert De Niro’s character in Silver Linings Playbook engages in deeply superstitious behavior that will supposedly help the Philadelphia Eagles win.

    In one study, right-handed consumers played rock-paper-scissors. Those who won more often using their left (vs. right) hand preferred to continue playing with their left hand. This was more likely to occur among consumers with a stronger desire for control, and those who preferred to play left-handed after associating this hand with victory tended to believe they were more likely to win in the future.

    Consumers can become conditioned to associate certain products with success or failure. For example, a sports fan who was drinking a Dr. Pepper while watching his favorite team win a game might later drink Dr. Pepper—even if he would actually prefer a Coke—while watching future games in the hope that he’s giving his team an extra edge.

    Conditioned superstitions are formed when consumers associate products with success or failure. Depending on how much they wish to control their environment—and their perception of whether they can do so—consumers who make these associations may be more likely to act on them, thereby creating an illusion of control over future outcomes,” the authors conclude.


  5. Study suggests people ignore their own moral standards when acting as market participants

    May 26, 2013 by Ashley

    From the press release via ScienceDaily:

    tablet computerMany people express objections against child labor, exploitation of the workforce or meat production involving cruelty against animals. At the same time, however, people ignore their own moral standards when acting as market participants, searching for the cheapest electronics, fashion or food.

    Thus, markets reduce moral concerns. This is the main result of an experiment conducted by economists from the Universities of Bonn and Bamberg.

    The results are presented in the latest issue of the journal Science.

    Prof. Dr. Armin Falk from the University of Bonn and Prof. Dr. Nora Szech from the University of Bamberg, both economists, have shown in an experiment that markets erode moral concerns. In comparison to non-market decisions, moral standards are significantly lower if people participate in markets.

    In markets, people ignore their individual moral standards

    “Our results show that market participants violate their own moral standards,” says Prof. Falk. In a number of different experiments, several hundred subjects were confronted with the moral decision between receiving a monetary amount and killing a mouse versus saving the life of a mouse and foregoing the monetary amount. “It is important to understand what role markets and other institutions play in moral decision making. This is a question economists have to deal with,” says Prof. Szech.

    To study immoral outcomes, we studied whether people are willing to harm a third party in exchange to receiving money. Harming others in an intentional and unjustified way is typically considered unethical,” says Prof. Falk.

    The animals involved in the study were so-called “surplus mice,” raised in laboratories outside Germany. These mice are no longer needed for research purposes. Without the experiment, they would have all been killed. As a consequence of the study many hundreds of young mice that would otherwise all have died were saved. If a subject decided to save a mouse, the experimenters bought the animal. The saved mice are perfectly healthy and live under best possible lab conditions and medical care.

    Simple bilateral markets affect moral decisions

    A subgroup of subjects decided between life and money in a non-market decision context (individual condition). This condition allows for eliciting moral standards held by individuals. The condition was compared to two market conditions in which either only one buyer and one seller (bilateral market) or a larger number of buyers and sellers (multilateral market) could trade with each other. If a market offer was accepted a trade was completed, resulting in the death of a mouse.

    Compared to the individual condition, a significantly higher number of subjects were willing to accept the killing of a mouse in both market conditions. This is the main result of the study. Thus markets result in an erosion of moral values. “In markets, people face several mechanisms that may lower their feelings of guilt and responsibility,” explains Nora Szech. In market situations, people focus on competition and profits rather than on moral concerns. Guilt can be shared with other traders. In addition, people see that others violate moral norms as well.

    “If I don’t buy or sell, someone else will.”

    In addition, in markets with many buyers and sellers, subjects may justify their behavior by stressing that their impact on outcomes is negligible. “This logic is a general characteristic of markets,” says Prof. Falk. Excuses or justifications appeal to the saying, “If I don’t buy or sell now, someone else will.” For morally neutral goods, however, such effects are of minor importance.

    Nora Szech explains: “For goods without moral relevance, differences in decisions between the individual and the market conditions are small. The reason is simply that in such cases the need to share guilt or excuse behavior is absent.”

  6. Study suggests people with relationship woes may prefer sad music

    by Ashley

    From the University of Chicago Press Journals press release via EurekAlert!:

    Brain MusicConsumers experiencing relationship problems are more likely to prefer aesthetic experiences that reflect their negative mood, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

    “Emotional experiences of aesthetic products are important to our happiness and well-being. Music, movies, paintings, or novels that are compatible with our current mood and feelings, akin to an empathic friend, are more appreciated when we experience broken or failing relationships,” write authors Chan Jean Lee (KAIST Business School), Eduardo B. Andrade (FGV School of Administration), and Stephen E. Palmer (University of California, Berkeley).

    Consumers experience serious emotional distress when intimate relationships are broken, and look for a surrogate to replace the lost personal bond. Prior research has reported that consumers in a negative mood prefer pleasant, positive aesthetic experiences (cheerful music; fun comedies) to counter their negative feelings. However, under certain circumstances, consumers in negative moods might choose aesthetic experiences consistent with their mood (sad music; tear-jerking dramas) even when more pleasant alternatives are also available.

    In one study, consumers were presented with various frustrating situations and asked to rate angry music relative to joyful or relaxing music. Consumers liked angry music more when they were frustrated by interpersonal violations (being interrupted; someone always being late) than by impersonal hassles (no internet connection; natural disaster).

    In another study, consumers were asked to recall experiences involving loss. Preference for sad music was significantly higher when they had experienced an interpersonal loss (losing a personal relationship) versus an impersonal loss (losing a competition).

    “Interpersonal relationships influence consumer preference for aesthetic experiences. Consumers seek and experience emotional companionship with music, films, novels, and the fine arts as a substitute for lost and troubled relationships,” the authors conclude.


  7. Study examines reasons for brand affinity and aversion

    May 25, 2013 by Ashley

    From the USC Marshall School of Business press release via EurekAlert!:

    stern businessWhy do brands such as Manchester United and Apple capture hearts and minds? When consumers feel a strong emotional attachment to a brand, there is seemingly nothing we would not do–from paying more for it to defending it against detractors. For all the millions of dollars spent on advertising and other efforts, however, consumers rarely feel an affinity for brands.

    So how do marketers make consumers develop a strong attachment for a product or service? According to a recent study from USC Marshall School of Business, it is achieved by appealing to people’s aesthetic needs (enticing/annoying to the self), functional needs (enabling/disabling for the self) and spiritual needs (whether something is enriching/impoverishing). In short, brands to which we are loyal, evoke warm feelings and provide pleasure, speak to who we are and help manage the problems we have in daily life.

    “Attachment-aversion (AA) model of customer-brand relationships,” published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology and co-authored by USC Marshall’s C. Whan Park, Joseph A. DeBell Chair in Business Administration and professor of marketing; Andreas B. Eisingerich, associate professor of marketing, Imperial College (London) Business School; and Jason Whan Park, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, identifies three factors that must be in place in order to build strong emotional attachment to brands and, conversely, limit aversion to a product or service.

    Marketers who want to build emotional affinity for their brands need to appeal to consumers on three fronts: strong aesthetics or self-enticing properties such as the taste of deep chocolate or the sleek design of a European car, have self-enabling benefits or the ability to solve customer problems (such as Swiss Army Knife, which allows one to feel power over one’s environment) and self-enriching benefits or those that resonate with customers’ beliefs or values and support their self-identities (activated for example, by location brands such as one’s hometown, a membership to nonprofit or a luxury brand such as Rolex that is aspirational).

    These factors, the three E’s—enticement, enablement and enrichment—are critical for all brands and their interplay determines our distance to the brand: whether we are more attached or have an aversion.

    “There are many cases these days where people are very adverse to certain brands. This is a serious issue,” said Park. “Why people become so antagonistic toward a brand is based on these three reasons, when it displeases them aesthetically or doesn’t help them solve their daily problems or is contrary to their personal beliefs.

    To test their attachment-aversion model, the researchers carefully developed the four-item scale of the attachment-aversion measure and conducted three studies, assessing consumer purchasing behavior over time, based on carefully chosen products: Apple, a product brand that draws strong consumer loyalty from their compelling design and emphasis on creativity; Manchester United, a soccer franchise that tends to generate extreme reactions in Great Britain (both positive and negative); and a grocery store chain in Austria. The scholars measured attachment and aversion by looking at attitudes and actions: what consumers would do for these brands, including defending them against criticism, participating in an affiliated charity event and feeling happy (sad) when good (bad) things happened to a brand. The researchers found that their model was better able to predict consumer reactions through not only their stated future intentions, but actual purchasing behavior during the final study.

    Whether a brand was self-enriching was the stronger predictor of whether there would be a small distance/attachment or a larger distance/aversion to a brand. The researchers cite the strength of Nike’s “Just Do It” as an example. In addition, the researchers also found that the older consumers were more motivated by self-enriching qualities of brands versus self-enticing benefits (aesthetic appeal), while the opposite was true for younger consumers.

    The study also distinguished two other attitudes towards brands that marketers need to address quite differently: the mixed (both positive and negative) perceptions of a brand and indifference. Brand managers need to focus on reducing the distance between customers and a brand, by examining how much value customers perceive from the current offering of a brand with respect to those three E’s.

    Great brands simultaneously offer sensory pleasure and self-pride. Sensory pleasure comes from the self-enticing product cues (e.g., product design, package design, color, brand logo, etc.). Self-pride comes from two different sources: self-enabling benefits of a product and self-enriching message of a brand,” said Park.

    Self-enabling benefits provide a boost of self-efficacy and self-confidence. “That’s when you feel proud of yourself—when you can deal with daily problems without difficulty and feel secure,” said Park. “Self-enriching messages of a brand makes you feel good about yourself because you relate yourself to its moral values and philosophies.”


  8. Study suggests poor translations may cause bias in multilingual survey research

    May 17, 2013 by Ashley

    From the University of Chicago Press Journals press release via EurekAlert!:

    ClipboardSurvey results may be biased in multilingual research if consumers are unfamiliar with translated terms, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

    “Consumers are influenced by the specific labels used to mark the endpoints of a survey response scale. This is particularly important in multilingual research. If the response category labels used in different languages are not equivalent, this could bias survey results,” write authors Bert Weijters, Maggie Geuens (both Ghent University and Vlerick Business School), and Hans Baumgartner (Pennsylvania State University).

    Many surveys use response scales asking consumers to indicate their agreement or disagreement with certain statements. These agreement rating scales are typically anchored by category labels such as “strongly (dis)agree” or “completely (dis)agree.”

    In a study with English and French speaking consumers in the US, UK, Canada, and France, differences in familiarity with labels led to different endorsement rates for the endpoints of agreement scales. In both English and French, response categories received more responses when the associated labels were more commonly used in day-to-day language (completely agree or tout à fait d’accord versus extremely agree or extrêmement d’accord).

    In another study, self-reported awareness of the cholesterol level of various foods was significantly stronger when using the Dutch equivalent of a scale ranging from “completely disagree” to “completely agree” than when using a scale ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

    “Survey researchers should pay more attention to the labels assigned to response categories on rating scales and make sure that the response category labels used in different languages are equivalent in terms of familiarity. Differences in the category labels used in different languages may lead to differences in responses resulting from poor translation,” the authors conclude.


  9. Study suggests proximity of images affects perception of product effectiveness

    May 16, 2013 by Ashley

    From the University of Chicago Press Journals press release via EurekAlert!:

    senior_asian_manConsumers believe a product is more effective when images of the product and its desired outcome are placed closer together in advertisements, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

    Merely changing the spatial proximity between the image of a product and its desired effect in an advertisement influences judgment of product effectiveness. Consumers tend to judge the product to be more effective when the two images are closer versus farther apart,” write authors Boyoun (Grace) Chae (University of British Columbia), Xiuping Li (National University of Singapore), and Rui (Juliet) Zhu (University of British Columbia).

    Many advertisements promoting the effectiveness of a product show both a product image (anti-wrinkle cream) and an image of the promised results (a face without wrinkles). Objectively, the distance between the two images should not affect how consumers judge the product’s quality.

    In a series of studies, consumers were asked to judge the effectiveness of a variety of products promising specific results (acne cream, pain reliever, nasal allergy spray, bug spray, fabric softener). Consumers tended to assume a product was more effective when its image was placed closer to that of its promised effect. The proximity of the images was more influential when consumers were less knowledgeable about a product category or when the results were expected sooner rather than later.

    Companies should understand the subtle effect that spatial proximity between images has on consumer judgment of product effectiveness. When companies want to promote the immediate effects of their products, images of the product and its desired effect should be put closer to each other in an advertisement.

    “The spatial proximity between visual representations of cause and effect in an advertisement can influence consumer judgments of product effectiveness. The closer the distance between an image of a product (an acne treatment) and that of its potential effect (a smooth face), the more effective consumers will judge the product to be,” the authors conclude.


  10. Study suggests skipping meals and shopping sabotages diets

    May 8, 2013 by Ashley

    From the Cornell University press release via EurekAlert!:

    groceriesSkipping meals can sabotage your shopping – and your diet, according to a new Cornell study. Even short term food deprivation not only increases overall grocery shopping, but leads shoppers to buy 31% more high calorie foods.

    “People skip meals for all sorts of reasons – dieting, fasting, insane schedules that make you forget to eat,” says Aner Tal, PhD, from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, lead author of the study. “But it doesn’t matter why you skipped a meal, it can still make your nutritionist cry – making you buy more potato chips and ice-cream and less baby carrots and skim milk.”

    Don’t shop hungry!

    In one study, 68 meal skippers were either given food (wheat thins) to reduce their fasting-induced hunger or not given any food to keep them hungry following the fast, and then asked to make purchases at a simulated grocery store. The hungry shoppers that did not eat the wheat thins bought 18.6% more food – including 31% more high calorie snacks.

    At a follow-up study researchers observed late afternoon shoppers at an actual grocery store during the hours between lunch and dinner –the hungriest hours—and the hours just after lunch, when people tend to be satiated. Late-afternoon shoppers purchased fewer low-calorie foods proportionate to their overall purchases, than those shopping after lunch.

    The best advice to avoid this from happening? “Make sure you don’t skip a meal, or at least have a snack like apples or string cheese in your office,” says Brian Wansink PhD, co-author of the paper. “Breakfast is the most skipped meal, and even having something for lunch that has protein will cut your hunger edge.”