Monday, September 9, 2013

On Balance, Consumers Act Differently

I couldn't help but be intrigued by this headline making the rounds in a research press release:

'Shopping in High Heels Could Curb Overspending'



Say what?

Now check out this little checklist:   

When shopping for a big ticket item, such as a television, there is a checklist of things you should always do:

  1. Read reviews
  2. Compare prices
  3. Wear high heels
Options 1 and 2 are obvious, but how to explain option 3?   According to a new study conducted at Brigham Young University in the US, consumers experiencing a heightened sense of balance are more likely to weigh the options and go with a product that falls in the middle of the scale between high-end and low-end.  In other words, wear high heels.  Or, for those like myself who can't abide high heels (particularly males),  ride up and down the escalator, pretend a cop has just pulled you over and asked you to walk a straight line, stand on one foot when you're pausing in front of product alternatives, or just go shopping immediately following your yoga class.  BYU researchers Jeffrey Larson and  Darron Billeter found that almost anything that forces your mind to focus on balance affects your shopping choices as well.  Balancing consumers, for example,  are more likely to go with a  42-inch TV for $450 rather than a $300 32-inch set or a 50-inch screen for $650.  In other words, balance equals moderation. The moral of this story, according to Larson is this: "If you're someone who tends to overspend, or you're kind of an extreme person, then maybe you ought to consider shopping in high heels."

The bigger picture here pertains to the relationship between physical sensations and decision making, and reveals that people should be aware of how physical forces can change the way they think about things.  As Billeter suggests,  "We need to sit back for a minute and consider, 'Is this really what I want, or are the shoes I'm wearing influencing my choice?'  We need to be more aware of what is influencing our choices."

Source:   Jeffrey S. Larson, Darron M. Billeter. Consumer Behavior in “Equilibrium”: How Experiencing Physical Balance Increases Compromise Choice. Journal of Marketing Research, 2013; 50 (4): 535 DOI: 10.1509/jmr.11.0455

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