Physically fit employees and restrictions make us buy more2017-05-03
Competition in the form of athletic employees and products that can be seen but not touched. These are some factors that influence our purchase behavior according to a new dissertation from Karlstad University in Sweden.
Tobias Otterbring has studied how different factors in the shopping environment can activate feelings linked to rivalry and arousal in customers, and how such feelings in turn can influence customers' purchase behavior.
- We often think that we make rational purchase decisions without being influenced by external factors, but this is not always the case. In situations where our self-view or identity is threatened, we tend to spend more money than planned; for example, when men enter a store with an athletic male employee present or when customers are not allowed to touch a particular set of products early on in a store, says Tobias Otterbring.
Male compensatory consumption
His research shows, among other things, that male customers spend more than twice as much money and purchase almost twice as expensive products compared to female customers in the presence of a muscular male employee.
- Men who meet or watch other muscular men are more likely to consume products that signal status through price or size because they perceive the men's athletic apparance as a threat to their own status, especially if they are short or lack other markers of physical dominance. The explanation for this behavior is that men who are exposed to other muscular men become more competitive, with their elevated feelings of competitiveness driving them to spend more money on status-signaling goods as a way to regain their own sense of status.
Do not touch!
Another study in the dissertation is about restrictions and how customers are influenced when their freedom to touch has been limited. More specifically, the study examined what happens with customers' purchase behavior when they were not allowed to touch a particular set of products during a product demonstration that took place early on in a store.
- The results of this study show that customers compensate by touching, and ultimately purchasing, a larger number of products when their freedom to touch has been restricted, says Tobias Otterbring and continue:
- When our freedom to act in a certain way has been threatened, it seems as we can do almost anything to regain our sense of freedom, show that we are in charge of our destiny, and act how we want. Apparently, this may have costly consequences.
Compensatory consumption to take back control
The conclusion in the dissertation is that factors in the shopping environment that customers may perceive as threats lead to compensatory consumption, not only in the specific domain of the threat, but also in other unrelated domains. For example, one of the papers shows that when people's self-control has been put out of play in a domain associated with sexual desire, they become more pleasure-seeking in their food choices, and prefer chocolate cake rather than fruit salad.
For more information
Contact Tobias Otterbring, Ph. D in Psychology at CTF, Service Research Center, Karlstad University, Sweden, +46 54 700 2593 or +46 7 2536 6500, or firstname.lastname@example.org