Buyer beware: Touching something increases perceived ownership

Mar 31, 2009

To avoid unwanted or unnecessary purchases, keep your hands off the goods. That's the conclusion of a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Authors Joann Peck (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Suzanne B. Shu (UCLA) cite a 2003 warning from the Illinois state attorney general's office that warned holiday shoppers to be cautious of retailers who encourage them to hold objects and imagine the objects as their own when shopping. The authors wondered whether the warning was valid and, more generally, if touch influences the feeling of ownership and valuation of an object.

"In our research, we have evidence that the warning from the attorney general is valid. In four studies, we find that merely touching an object increases the feelings of ownership a person has for the object. This, in turn, results in a person being willing to pay more for most objects that they touch versus objects that they cannot touch," the authors write. "We also find that when touch is unavailable, such as shopping online, having people imagine owning a product increases their perception of ownership and how much they are willing to pay for a product."

If people have a positive or neutral response to touching an object, they are willing to pay more for it, the authors explain. However, if an object does not feel particularly pleasant to the touch, it decreases the amount are willing to pay. "For most products, the touch experience is positive or neutral so merely touching a product usually increases how much a person is willing to pay for an object," the authors write.

The research may help explain the link between touch and impulse purchasing, the authors explain. "Encouraging touch in a retail store, as Apple does for products like the , may increase the feelings of perceived ownership and influence the amount a customer is willing to pay for a product." Likewise, offers of "free trials" for a certain time before the consumer is obligated to pay are likely to increase perceived ownership and product valuation.

Encouraging ownership imagery can be an effective way for online retailers to increase sales, even when touch isn't possible, the authors write. "Our findings that consumers respond effectively to the combination of no-touch and ownership imagery suggests a remarkable opportunity for online retailers to increase perceived ownership and purchase."

More information: Joann Peck and Suzanne B. Shu. "The Effect of Mere Touch on Perceived Ownership." Journal of Consumer Research: October 2009.

Source: University of Chicago (news : web)

Explore further: Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

You can look -- but don't touch

Jan 07, 2009

Consumers are often told that if they break an item, they buy it. But a new study suggests that if they just touch an item for more than a few seconds, they may also end up buying it.

Touch can trump taste, says Rutgers retail scholar

Jul 15, 2008

For some consumers, the way a cup of mineral water tastes has more to do with the container than the contents. Especially for consumers who are less likely to enjoy touching items or products before deciding to buy them.

The high cost of low status

Jun 26, 2008

Feeling powerless can trigger strong desires to purchase products that convey high status, according to new research in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

4 hours ago

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Husky
not rated yet Mar 31, 2009
That's why the carsalesman always invites you to feel the "luxurious" leather chairs and "magnificent" steering handling

More news stories

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...