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The psychology of consumption

http://finance.sina.com.cn 2004年04月13日 16:04 新浪财经



Body: Imagine you are in a supermarket and are just about to drop an item you have selected from the shelves into your shopping basket. Someone who looks like a store employee steps forward and asks you how how much the item costs. Would you know?

如果你怀疑自己不知道,那你有伴了。佛罗里达国际大学彼得•迪克松(Peter Dickson)和佛罗里达大学阿兰•索耶(Alan Sawyer)领导的一项研究发现,当受到装扮成商店盘点员的研究人员询问时,知道自己刚挑选物品价格的顾客还不到一半。大多数购物者低估了自己所取物品的价格。有高达20%的人甚至没有信心去猜一下。

If you doubt that you would, you are not alone. A study led by Peter Dickson of Florida International University and Alan Sawyer of the University of Florida found that fewer than half of customers knew the price of the article they had just selected when they were asked by researchers posing as store stock-takers. Most shoppers under-estimated the prices of their products. As many as 20 per cent did not even have the confidence to venture a guess.


Some commentators believe the increasing range of goods on offer, and the rise of cut-price retailers such as Wal-Mart, have made consumers more price conscious than ever.


The internet, which has made quick price comparisons even easier, has added to the view that consumers these days will not overpay. But the Florida study, cited in an article in the September 2003 edition of the Harvard Business Review, indicates that consumer attitudes to price remain as complicated as ever.


Take the trade-off between price and quality. Some who were previously high spenders are no longer prepared to pay large sums for certain goods and services. This is true, for example, of short airline trips. The low-cost airlines, such as Southwest in the US and Ryanair and EasyJet in Europe, attract business travellers who would previously have flown on one of the more expensive carriers. Even when people continue to invest in top-of-the-range products, such as cars, they often shop around for the best price.

但珠宝之类的奢侈品情况又如何呢?西北大学凯洛格商学院访问助理教授埃里克•安德松(Eric Anderson)与麻省理工学院斯隆商学院副教授邓肯•西梅斯特(Duncan Simester)是上述《哈佛商业评论》文章的作者。他们发现,珠宝买家未必喜欢低价。“顾客往往把折扣解读为需求疲软的信号,这可能引起他们对质量的怀疑,”他们表示。

But what about luxury goods such as jewellery? The authors of the Harvard Business Review article Eric Anderson, a visiting assistant professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and Duncan Simester, an associate professor at MIT Sloan School of Management found that jewellery buyers did not necessarily like low prices. "Customers often interpret discounts as a signal of weak demand, which may raise doubts about quality," they say.


The researchers conducted a study with a company that sells high-quality gifts and jewellery. The company was considering allowing customers to pay for its products in instalments, without incurring financing charges. Evidence from other retailing sectors suggested this would increase sales.


To test whether the same would happen to its sales, the company sent 1,000 of its customers a catalogue containing the interest-free instalments offer. They sent another 1,000 customers catalogues without the instalment offer. Which customers ordered more jewellery? The ones who did not receive the instalment offer. The customers who were asked to pay cash, in full, ordered 13 per cent more jewellery. Why? One customer told the researchers that offering the instalment plan made the jewellery company look "tacky".


Where else would companies not be advised to cut prices? The Harvard Business Review writers cite laser eye surgery as an example of a service where it would be unwise to advertise discount sales. One eye surgeon said: "Good medicine never goes on sale."


They add that a speciality women's clothing store in Atlanta offered similar reasons for not using "sale" signs to promote new items. She feared customers would see clothes with "sale" signs on them either as leftovers from previous seasons or as new designs that other customers had decided were not for them.


So while some luxury products and services, such as air travel and cars, are susceptible to price competition, others are not. But persuading customers to part with their cash is not the end of the affair; companies should make sure they make use of their purchases too.


Why? Surely it is enough for sellers to get their hands on the money, preferably in full and upfront? Not always. Persuading customers to consume what they have bought is often the key to persuading them to make repeat purchases and to recommend the goods or services to their friends.

这就是从前《哈佛商业评论》上一篇文章的核心观点,这篇文章题为《定价和消费心理》,作者是哈佛商学院的约翰•古维尔(John Gourville)和香港科技大学商学院的迪利普•索曼(Dilip Soman)。在这篇发表于2002年9月的文章中,作者认为,买来产品后并不使用的通常都是些短期顾客。

This was the central argument of an earlier Harvard Business Review article, "Pricing and the Psychology of Consumption", by John Gourville of Harvard Business School and Dilip Soman of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's business school. In the article, published in September 2002, the authors argue that people who fail to make use of their purchases are often short-term customers.


Most magazines, they say, achieve renewal rates of only 60 per cent, or less. Only half of health club members renew their subscriptions each year. It is not just that it is cheaper to hang on to existing customers than going hunting for new ones. Companies can also persuade existing customers to buy upgrades. "In the software business, for example, companies often make more money selling upgrades than selling the initial application," the writers say.


How can companies persuade existing customers to stay on? Experiments have repeatedly established that the more people pay for something, the more likely they are to use it. So, someone who has paid $500 for a skiing holiday is less likely to cancel it if they fall ill than someone who has paid $100.


When someone pays, say, $600 for a yearly health club membership, they will certainly go to the gym for the first few weeks. But after that, their attendance often tails off.


By the time their membership comes up for renewal, that $600 is a distant memory. In cases such as these, encouraging members to pay $50 a month may make them more likely to become long-term customers. Each month that they pay will make them more likely to keep coming in renewing their membership at the end of the year.


While instalment plans might not work for jewellery buyers, it can be a useful way of hanging on to purchasers of other relatively expensive services.

作者简介:迈克•斯卡平克尔(Michael Skapinker)是《金融时报》的管理专栏主编编辑。他在管理和组织研究问题上论著述颇丰。他经常赴美国和欧洲就管理和与商业专题发表演讲。他曾担任美国哥伦比亚广播公司驻雅典记者。之后,他加盟《金融时报》并担任一系列职务,其中包括管理记者、电子业作家、娱乐业记者和航天航空记者。在此期间,他对许多行业获得了深刻独到的见解。迈克•斯卡平克尔毕业于剑桥大学。





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