Motivation and emotion/Book/2011/Consumerism and emotion
Retailer tactics targeting the senses and impulsive buying
Being consumed by consumption
There are many reasons to shop: wants, needs, boredom, anxiety, and the (shopping) list goes on. For some, shopping can become a problem when they literally consume more than their budget, home or health can cope with. What is presented here is an informative guide as to why people buy impulsively, and specifically how retailers manipulate motivations and emotions through the five senses to make consumers buy more.
This chapter is aimed at the many people who find they return home from a shopping outing with items they never intended to get. These items are hereafter defined as impulse purchases. Perhaps the most commonplace example of this is the last minute checkout chocolate grab. Whilst people with more serious compulsive tendencies may find some interesting insights within the chapter, this information and empirically supported self-help tools are provided to assist rein the average person’s impulsive spending. As such, this chapter is for you if you answer yes to any of the following questions.
- Do you often leave the shops with more items than you had planned on buying?
- Do you 'pop to the shops' only to return home much later than you had hoped?
- Do you go with a focus to only visit certain stores, and end up browsing in others?
- Are you curious how retailers manipulate your behaviour to make you do any of the above?
It’s not just you
It seems from research that the problem of impulse buying is not restricted to a few individuals. Most notably, Inman, Winer, and Ferraro (2009) explored the statistics of unplanned or impulse purchase occurrence across America. They calculated the baseline probability of making such a purchase during a shopping outing is 46%. Furthermore, depending on one’s circumstances this may incrementally increase approximately 10%. For example if the shopper is female and familiar with the store, frequency of unplanned purchases rises to around 66%. To add further complication, they discovered in-store displays and shopping all aisles could (literally) be among the most costly contextual factors. Under the right circumstances, the probability of unplanned purchases is as much as 93% (Inman et al., 2009). From these figures, it is then fair to assess that at one time or another, anyone is vulnerable to impulsive spending. |}
Knowledge is power: The effects of affect
What is the consumer’s goal?
Expectancy-value theories of goal setting
Unless ones earnings are limitless, there is no way to purchase all that the heart may desire. Expectancy-value theories of goal setting may help explain how and why consumers choose to buy some items over others. In their 2008 chapter, Baumgartner and Pieters define goals as being persistent, valuable, and achievable plans, according to the individual. Goals are the mechanism by which people engage in approach or avoidance behaviours. The researchers explain that goals are selected according to a person’s assessment of its desirability and feasibility. This is essentially the premise of the expectancy-value theory: if the goal has an achievable outcome that has highly desirable value to the individual, it will be chosen over others (Baumgartner & Pieters, 2008). Goal selection then provides energy and direction for certain behaviours. However, these ideas only partially explain the underlying processes of consumer goal pursuit.
Expectancy theory does have a shortcoming in this context and that is to describe what occurs when consumers struggle with a purchasing decision. Goals can have simultaneous desirable and undesirable consequences (goal ambivalence) and even compete if both are highly weighed in importance (goal incompatibility; Baumgartner & Pieters, 2008). The competition between goals to take priority adds pressure to consumer decision-making. Worse still, shopping without a clear goal in mind can become characteristic of impulse spending (Peck & Childers, 2006).Therefore selecting a goal is a potentially difficult and yet crucial task for consumers. Whilst there may be many factors to aid in evaluating goal’s suitability, perhaps for the consumer this is where affect steps in.
What is consumer emotion?
Affect, or otherwise referred to as emotion or mood, is defined as an internal feeling state (Cohen, Pham, & Andrade, 2008). When goals compete, one explanation is that affect itself may become the end goal or a motivator throughout the process (Baumgartner & Pieters, 2008). Consider the conflict between the long-term desire to lose weight versus the want of a delicious dessert. The immediate feeling of satisfaction provided by the dessert is easier to anticipate than any future emotional rewards offered by weight loss, hence people often act to achieve immediate positive feelings (Cohen et al., 2008; Pham, 2004). As per expectancy-value theory, affect offers a readily achievable and valuable goal. In doing so it lends itself to the decision-making process and influences goal choice. Knowing this, advertisers and retailers tap in to emotions and aim to make products more attractive and attainable (Baumgartner & Pieters, 2008).
There are three different types of affect and each offers a unique perspective of shopper affective influences. As defined by Cohen et al. (2008), integral affect relates to the feelings aroused by the specific object under purchase scrutiny. They suggest the features of the object, be it the smell and taste of a luscious coffee or the sight of an infuriating advertisement, elicit feelings to add to the product's interpretation of favourability. The experience of integral affects are often so reinforcing that they can hinder impulse control, especially when deciding between satisfying current hedonic needs and the latter consequences (like eating that dessert now and regretting it on the waist-line later, Pham, 2004). Feelings can also be elicited by things other than specific consumer products.
Of the last two terms, incidental affect is the contextual mood under which the item is assessed, including shopper environment influences and shopper temperament (Cohen, et al., 2008). Indeed, for most individuals, there is pleasure to be found in the shopping environment (Cox, Cox, & Anderson, 2005). That retail environment, or ‘servicescape’ as it is sometimes known, is important to shop designers as it can be manipulated to get consumers in the shopping mood (Bitner, 1992).
Alternatively, task-related affect is somewhat harder for the retailer to control. It relates to feelings caused by the process of making purchasing decisions or product evaluations (Cohen, et al., 2008). Consider for example the stress, effort and perhaps disappointment involved in rejecting (or accepting) the dessert. All three kinds of affect; integral, incidental and task-related, have long been acknowledged to aid in the overall appraisal of a purchase target (Pham, 2004). Therefore it is necessary to more closely examine retailer tactics aimed at emotions.
How do retailers manipulate emotion?
There are multiple elements that a retailer could consider adjusting to increase impulse sales. In a very comprehensive fashion, Bitner (1992) proposed the servicescape model in which store layout, ambient conditions and store signage (or symbols) all might be regarded to play a role in manipulating consumer physiological, emotional and cognitive processes. Her work explicitly regarding emotion suggests it exists along two measurable planes: pleasure and arousal. In contrast to expectancy theory, Bitner explains that these are responsible for driving in-store approach or avoidance behaviours. Therefore what is presented here is research supporting this idea of emotions as driving forces for consumer behaviour and what retailers can manipulate within the servicescape to appeal to them. More specifically, the focus concerns the most elementary form of environmental processing an individual can undertake, and that is through the five senses.
Quiz: Making sense of the senses
Think the servicescape image of a JB Hi-Fi store (pictured right): the mayhem of displays, bright yellow signs with bold red writing, and blaring modern music. In analysing the above information, which of the following statements are true or false about that servicescape.
As one researcher stated, it is a logical extension that impulse buying is due to a failure of self-regulation (Verplanken & Sato, 2011). Therefore one may employ self-regulation to adjust psychological processes and subsequent behaviours to keep consuming activities appropriately in check (Vohs, Baumeister, & Tice, 2008). Vohs et al. (2008) describe a four-part recipe for self-regulation:
These steps can be applied to many personal areas requiring self-control, such as dieting and impulse spending, but there are further cautionary notes that Vohs et al (2008) make. Firstly, each element is necessary in maintaining firm, self-regulated behaviour. If one is weak, the rest may fail. However, insufficient monitoring toward goal progress is perhaps the most common reason why goals are not attained. Therefore strengthening this element may aid many people improve self-regulation. Nevertheless, even plans made with the best intentions can go awry.
The fourth element of self-control is perplexing in that the individual may have it in abundance when forming the plan, but over time it seems to fold. Bruyneel, Dewitte, Vohs & Warlop (2006) support previous findings regarding self-control depletion and expands on it by identifying that consumers increasingly become more susceptible to affective or hedonic product features. They believe the sum of prior topic research suggests that the act of shopping and the shopping environment itself, engage cognitive and emotional faculties to the point where they tire. This is when the affective system takes over and eases decision-making (Bruyneel et al., 2006; Pham, 2004). More specifically Bruyneel et al. (2006) report that decreased control increased the likelihood of purchasing more expensive or more attractive products toward the end of shopping. Moreover it increased the rate of impulse purchasing for affective products (like candy) in general.
With regard to self-help, this research has many implications. Vohs et al. (2008) explain this by likening self-control to a muscle: it may tire during use but repeated ‘workouts’ will help strengthen it. In other words, whilst controlling impulse spending may be hard at first, persevere and it will become a readily available asset. At the same time, beware that exerting self-control on a repetitive basis throughout a specific occasion may weaken resolve. For example, the same way feet tire at the end of a grand shopping outing, so too will self-control and this may be when most impulse spending occurs.
To further reduce the pressure on decision-making, and therefore self-control, Bruyneel et al. (2006) also recommend creating clearly written shopping lists. They stipulate to include the preferred brand and even the amounts required. In this way it would not only provide a perfect method to monitor goal progress as advised by self-regulation theory, but would also minimise decisions to be made whilst browsing (Bruyneel et al., 2006).
The take home message...(pun intended)
Whilst self-regulation provides a clear guide to creating, and sticking to a goal, there are other suggestions made by research that may reduce impulse spending. Not only did the study by Inman et al. (2009) discuss impulse purchasing statistics, they recommended several methods used by consumers to successfully reduce their probability of impulse spending. Namely these are shopping with a detailed list, paying with cash rather than cheque or credit, reducing time spent in-store, reducing the number of aisles visited, and increasing the frequency of shopping trips for groceries throughout the week to three or more. Each subscribe to the necessary formula stated by self-regulation. Particularly by creating immediately identifiable feedback of behaviour (using cash or list), and easing the burden of decision-making thereby increasing control (e.g. reducing time spent in-store).
The final element recommended by researchers to reign in impulse spending is to simply provide consumers with background information about their thought processes (e.g. Verplanken & Sato, 2011). Such is the aim of this chapter. Expectancy theory is one method to explain the process how consumers create goals, whereas self-regulation offers a guide with which to do so effectively. In addition, whilst expectancy theory claims goals direct behaviour, Bitner (1992) also offers emotions as a factor. From the evidence it seems both may have relevance to the consumer. However, what is most likely is that with or without goals, consumers do rely on emotions during decision-making. Retailers are aware of this and can target the senses to manipulate integral, incidental, and task-related emotions. Furthermore, it appears that in order for emotions to translate into action the servicescape should portray an emotionally congruent theme and offer the optimum level of arousal for its target audience.
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