Marketers should match selling cues to products as well as to customers

March 6, 2018, New York University

Describing a toothpaste as "limited edition" or a Rolls Royce as a "best-seller" would sound off-key or even confusing to most consumers and could well steer them away from making a purchase. That's because, new research shows, individuals are inclined to have different mindsets depending on their consumption goals, and marketers should tailor their messages accordingly.

In "The Perfect Fit: The Moderating Role of Selling Cues on Hedonic and Utilitarian Product Types," three researchers - Gopal Das of the Indian Institute of Management, Amaradri Mukherjee of Portland State University, and Ronn J. Smith of the University of Arkansas - explore the impact of popularity versus scarcity cues and product types on consumers' perceptions of risk, product uniqueness, and purchase intentions. Their paper is forthcoming in the March issue of the Journal of Retailing.

In a series of studies, the authors probe how individuals' inclinations - whether they are more risk-averse or more aspirational—relate to how likely they are to buy a product. Sales cues like "limited edition" or "best-seller" play to these inclinations: limited edition connotes exclusivity to those seeking an achievement of sorts, while a best-seller implies that a product is dependable. As such, these cues are important guardrails in guiding how a product would be most effectively marketed.

In one study, undergraduate participants were surveyed to determine their particular focus, then randomly shown two different print ads for a digital SLR camera. One ad promoted the camera as a best-seller, the other as a limited edition. How dependable either version was mattered little to individuals more focused on achievement, whereas risk-averse individuals were almost twice as wary of buying the limited-edition camera. However, the reverse was true for the best-seller: risk-averse buyers preferred it by a factor of two compared to the aspirational buyers, who were indifferent to that quality.

Savvy retailers, both online and bricks-and-mortar, might consider mining this insight via data analytics and loyalty programs that decode their customers' mindsets, the authors suggest: "When the selling cues are properly aligned with product types, it leads to better goal fulfillment of the shopper."

Explore further: Different strokes for different folks

More information: Gopal Das et al, The Perfect Fit: The Moderating Role of Selling Cues on Hedonic and Utilitarian Product Types, Journal of Retailing (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.jretai.2017.12.002

Related Stories

Different strokes for different folks

November 14, 2016

People use different criteria when they're searching for a gift than when they are buying for themselves. New research identifies the cues that encourage purchases in each situation.

Size doesn't matter (to everyone) when discounting pre-orders

February 15, 2017

Introducing new products through pre-order price promotions is a time-honored strategy, but how deep should those discounts be and what factors induce consumers to make the leap of faith needed to plunk down money for a brand-new ...

Squaring the circle: Merchandising embarrassing products

March 5, 2018

Buying an intimate personal care product can be embarrassing, especially if the act is observed by acquaintances or perfect strangers. From selecting the product to carrying it to a register, to placing it on the counter ...

How off-line retailers can fight back

July 19, 2017

For retailers, the era of the online marketplace brings previously unimaginable opportunity and risk: on one hand, the universe of customers has expanded exponentially, and with it the amount of information available on individuals' ...

Recommended for you

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

Levitating objects with light

March 19, 2019

Researchers at Caltech have designed a way to levitate and propel objects using only light, by creating specific nanoscale patterning on the objects' surfaces.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.