1. Why do consumers participate in ‘green’ programs?

    August 11, 2016 by Ashley

    From the Michigan State University media release:

    thinkingFrom recycling to reusing hotel towels, consumers who participate in a company’s “green” program are more satisfied with its service, finds a new study co-led by a Michigan State University researcher.

    Doing good makes customers feel good, and that “warm glow” shapes opinion, said Tomas Hult, Byington Endowed Chair and professor of marketing in the Eli Broad College of Business. But it gets more complicated when companies throw incentives into the mix.

    “Companies are increasingly adopting sustainability initiatives and ultimately these ‘green’ programs are intended to be good for the environment and also increase customers’ satisfaction,” said Hult, who is director of MSU’s International Business Center. “Our research helps strike the right balance between incentivizing customers to participate in green programs and focusing on the bottom-line performance of the company.”

    Hult and researchers from Cornell University and Florida State University conducted four studies in three service settings: restaurants, hotels and online retailing. They found the types of rewards offered by companies to participate in sustainability programs could affect satisfaction.

    The researchers tested two types of incentives: those that benefit solely the consumer (i.e. loyalty points) and those that benefit another organization (i.e. charitable donations).

    For green program participants, rewards that benefit another organization created the highest rate of satisfaction about the business.

    And for those who chose not to participate in a green program, self-benefiting rewards cast doubt about the motive of a program. That scenario offers nonparticipants an opportunity to rationalize their decision to not participate, and lack of guilt translates into feelings of satisfaction about the business, Hult said.

    People will interpret incentives in whatever way best suits their egos, he said. So for both groups to be happiest, a company should allow customers to choose between a reward that benefits themselves or another organization.

    Many managers, particularly in the hospitality industry, are reluctant to introduce sustainability initiatives that might negatively influence the guest experience, Hult said. But this research, one of the first of its kind, provides managers with guidance on how to best design such programs as well as best practices for “green marketing.”


  2. Link between food advertising, child food consumption

    January 25, 2016 by Ashley

    From the University of Liverpool media release:

    sharing childrenNew research by University of Liverpool health expert Dr Emma Boyland has confirmed that unhealthy food advertising does increase food intake in children.

    Researchers, led by Dr Boyland from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health & Society, reviewed and analysed 22 separate studies that had examined the impact of acute, experimental unhealthy food advertising exposure on food consumption. The studies included had exposed children and/or adults to unhealthy food advertising on the television or Internet, measured how much they ate, and compared this to the amount people ate without food advertising.

    The analysis showed that unhealthy food advertising exposure significantly increased food consumption in children, but not adults. Television and Internet advertising were equally impactful.

    Dr Boyland, said: “Through our analysis of these published studies I have shown that food advertising doesn’t just affect brand preference — it drives consumption. Given that almost all children in Westernised societies are exposed to large amounts of unhealthy food advertising on a daily basis this is a real concern.

    “Small, but cumulative increases in energy intake have resulted in the current global childhood obesity epidemic and food marketing plays a critical role in this. We have also shown that the effects are not confined to TV advertising; online marketing by food and beverage brands is now well established and has a similar impact.

    “On the basis of these findings, recommendations for enacting environmental strategies and policy options to reduce children’s exposure to food advertising are evidence-based and warranted.”

    The study has been published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


  3. Study suggests evolutionary take on consumerism

    June 30, 2013 by Ashley

    From the Concordia University press release via EurekAlert!:

    Family TV timeFrom Brad Pitt fighting zombies to Superman falling for Lois Lane, summer blockbuster season is upon us. But while Hollywood keeps trotting out new movies for the masses, plotlines barely change.

    Epic battles, whirlwind romances, family feuds, heroic attempts to save the lives of strangers: these are stories guaranteed to grace the silver screen. According to new research from Concordia University, that’s not lazy scriptwriting, that’s evolutionary consumerism.

    Marketing professor Gad Saad says evolution has hard-wired humans to be naturally drawn toward a specific set of universal narratives within cultural products. His new article in the Journal of Consumer Psychology shows that little in consumer behaviour can be fully understood without the guiding light of evolution.

    The human drive to consume is rooted in a shared biological heritage based around four key Darwinian factors: survival, reproduction, kin selection and reciprocal altruism. These fundamental evolutionary forces shape the narratives that are created by film producers or song writers,” explains Saad, who holds the Concordia University Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioural Sciences and Darwinian Consumption, within the John Molson School of Business.

    That’s true for other pop culture products like song lyrics, which Saad says offer “one of the most direct windows to our evolved mating psychology.” From Bieber to Beyoncé, it’s all about signalling wealth and finding a mate.

    Saad explains that the focus of 90% of songs is on universal sex-specific preferences in the attributes we desire in prospective mates. Male singers show off their wealth and engage in conspicuous consumption via high status brand mentions. On the other hand, female singers refer to their own “bootylicious” physical beauty and call for “no scrubs” in order to denigrate men of low social status.

    “Romance novels, pop songs and movie plotlines always come back to the Darwinian themes of survival (injuries and deaths), reproduction (courtships, sexual assaults, reputational damage), kin selection (the treatment of one’s progeny), and altruistic acts (heroic attempts to save a stranger’s life). Movies, television shows, song lyrics, romance novels, collective wisdoms, and countless other cultural products are a direct window to our biologically based human nature,” says Saad.

    It’s not just cultural products that demonstrate the evolutionary roots of what Saad terms “Homo consumericus.” From the food we eat to the clothing we buy, we’re always under the influence of evolution.

    For Saad, the practical implications are clear: “In order to achieve commercial success, cultural products typically have to offer content that is congruent with our evolved human nature.” That means that Clark Kent will fall for Lois Lane while Superman saves the planet for a long time to come.


  4. Study suggests smiling may boost customer loyalty for small businesses

    June 28, 2013 by Ashley

    From the Kingston University press release via ScienceDaily:

    Retail smilesA simple smile and a friendly greeting can make customers feel much more loyal towards small independent companies, according to new Kingston University research.

    The study, which examined the retail behaviour of 2,006 consumers and the business practices of 1,216 decision makers in small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), reveals that a smile and a friendly hello is the most common reason (59 per cent) why consumers feel loyal towards independent retailers. However, only just over half (54 per cent) of respondents stated their small business employed this practice.

    Three in five consumers are also willing to pay more for a product from a small independent shop rather than deal with a large corporate retailer, the study funded by Barclays Business Banking and carried out by Kingston Business School’s Small Business Research Centre suggested.

    SMEs are in a unique position to embrace these traditional values of personal customer contact and loyalty and should build on their natural competitive advantages to make a real difference to survival and growth,” Professor Robert Blackburn of Kingston Business School said.

    More than a third of loyal consumers said they kept coming back because of excellent customer service and one in five said they valued businesses remembering their usual order — but only around half of businesses involved in the study kept a record of customers’ previous orders.

    The research also discovered that less than a third of SME respondents consider retaining or growing their current customer base to be their main business priority to achieve growth over the next 12 months. Only 50 per cent would encourage word of mouth recommendations by regular customers in order to grow or survive.

    “While the majority of decision makers do recognise the importance of personal relationships with customers, they are failing to develop their own customer loyalty strategies,” Professor Blackburn explained. “This shows a worrying ‘loyalty gap’ among British SMEs, where they could be failing to capitalise on their capability to provide customers with a highly personalised service.

    The study was one of a series of research projects carried out by Kingston Business School for Barclays.


  5. Study suggests consumers more likely to pursue goals when they are ambitious yet flexible

    June 27, 2013 by Ashley

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

    weight loss scale feetConsumers are more likely to pursue goals when they are ambitious yet flexible, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

    “Whether a goal is a high-low range goal (lose 2 to 4 pounds this week) or a single number goal (lose 3 pounds this week) has a systematic effect on goal reengagement. High-low range goals influence consumer goal reengagement through feelings of accomplishment, which itself is driven by the attainability and challenge of the goal,” write authors Maura L. Scott (Florida State University) and Stephen M. Nowlis (Washington University in St. Louis).

    Consumers often have a choice about the types of goals they want to set for themselves, and they may want to repeat various goals over time. For example, consumers often reengage goals such as losing weight, saving money, or improving their exercise or sports performance.

    In one study, consumers in a weight loss program set either high-low range goals or single number goals. At the end of the program, consumers with high-low range goals reenrolled in the program at higher rates even though there was no difference in actual average weight loss across the two groups. In other studies, consumers exhibited similar behaviors with other goals such as resisting tempting foods, solving puzzles, or playing a grocery shopping game.

    A high-low range goal can offer “the best of both worlds” compared to a single number goal due to its flexibility: the high end of the goal (lose 4 pounds) increases the challenge of the goal, while the low end (lose 2 pounds) increases its attainability. On the other hand, a single number goal (lose 3 pounds) may be perceived as a compromise and therefore both less challenging and less attainable.

    Consumers are more likely to pursue a goal when they set a high-low range goal instead of a single number goal. Consumers experience a greater sense of accomplishment when a goal is both attainable and challenging, and this makes them want to continue to pursue or reengage their goal,” the authors conclude.


  6. Study examines how product organization influences consumer choice

    June 26, 2013 by Ashley

    From the Journal of Consumer Research, Inc. press release via AlphaGalileo:

    ShoppingConsumers choose lower-priced products and are more satisfied with their purchase when products are organized by benefits instead of features, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

    “It matters whether products are organized by features or benefits. Simply changing the way the same set of products is organized impacts how consumers process information and make choices,” write authors Cait Poynor Lamberton (University of Pittsburgh) and Kristin Diehl (University of Southern California).

    Consumers frequently shop for products that have been organized by both features and benefits. For example, Crest organizes toothpaste by features (pastes, gels, stripes) or benefits (whitening, flavor, sensitivity).

    In one study, consumers were asked to choose from an assortment of nutrition bars organized either by benefits (muscle-building, fat-burning) or features (fruit bars, nut bars). Consumers perceived the products to be more similar (offering less variety) and therefore interchangeable when they were organized by benefits instead of features. The perception that products organized by benefits are less distinctive led consumers to focus on price and choose cheaper items.

    Consumers should be aware that items organized by benefits might seem to be more similar than they actually are. By focusing solely on price, consumers may end up sacrificing quality to save money when they shouldn’t. On the other hand, consumers should also be aware that they are more likely to notice differences when products are organized by features. This can prevent them from paying more for an item when the difference doesn’t really matter.

    Companies have an almost infinite number of options in setting up their product assortments, especially online. Organizing options makes decision making easier, but the decision about how to organize also matters. As a form of choice architecture, assortment organization shouldn’t be overlooked – it can make a big difference for both consumers and companies,” the authors conclude.

     


  7. Study suggests why appetizers are more important when dining out with friends

    June 24, 2013 by Ashley

    From the Journal of Consumer Research, Inc. press release via AlphaGalileo:

    couple on dateFirst impressions of experiences have a greater impact when consumers share the experience with others, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

    “When consumers consume an experience alone, the end of the experience has a greater effect on their overall evaluations. On the other hand, when consumers consume an experience with others, the beginning has a greater influence on how they judge the entire experience,” write authors Rajesh Bhargave (University of Texas, San Antonio) and Nicole Votolato Montgomery (University of Virginia).

    Experiences (vacations, concerts, meals) often have multiple components that can be judged separately. For example, a consumer visiting a museum might like some paintings but dislike others, or a diner at a restaurant might love the appetizers and main course but hate dessert. How consumers judge experiences may depend on whether they are shared with others or consumed alone.

    In one study, consumers viewed a series of paintings while either seated alone or with companions. One group was shown a series of paintings beginning with the “least enjoyable” painting and ending with the “most enjoyable,” while another group was shown the same paintings in the reverse order. Consumers who were seated alone preferred the series of paintings with the “most enjoyable” painting presented last, while those who viewed the paintings with companions preferred the series with the “most enjoyable” painting presented first.

    The order of events in an experience can greatly influence overall enjoyment. Tour operators, museum curators, event planners, spa and resort managers, and others charged with creating consumption experiences should consider whether consumers tend to engage in the experience alone or with others.

    While consumers sometimes engage in experiences alone, they often share them with others and their overall evaluations are shaped by the social context in which they occur. Companies should consider the social context of a consumption experience, because consumers think differently and form different memories and evaluations when they feel bonded to others,” the authors conclude.


  8. Study examines how seating layouts influence customers

    June 20, 2013 by Ashley

    From the Journal of Consumer Research, Inc. press release via AlphaGalileo:

    new guyConsumers seated in circular arrangements feel a greater need to belong than those seated in angular layouts, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

    “The geometric shape of a seating arrangement can impact consumers by priming one of two fundamental needs: a need to belong or a need to be unique. Consumers will be most favorable toward persuasion material (advertising) that is consistent with the primed need,” write authors Rui (Juliet) Zhu (University of British Columbia) and Jennifer J. Argo (University of Alberta).

    Seating arrangements matter in a wide variety of contexts. There are websites that provide tips on seating etiquette, guidelines on institutional seating policies, information on maximizing educational benefits through classroom chair layouts, and even software designed to create ideal seating arrangements for events such as weddings, political functions, and executive meetings.

    In a series of studies, consumers were asked to sit in either a circular or an angular seating arrangement. They were then asked to evaluate various advertisements. Circular shaped seating arrangements led consumers to evaluate persuasive material more favorably when it conveyed belonging (family- or group-oriented, majority endorsement). In contrast, consumers seated in an angular arrangement responded more favorably to persuasive material related to uniqueness (self-oriented, minority endorsement).

    It is important to understand how seating arrangements influence consumers in a wide range of settings such as restaurants, hotel lobbies, public transit, or waiting areas in airports and doctors’ offices.

    Circular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to belong while angular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to be unique. The shape of a seating arrangement, a subtle environmental cue, can activate fundamental human needs, and these needs in turn affect consumer responses to persuasive messages,” the authors conclude.

     


  9. 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.

     


  10. 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.