Bringing Us Together or Driving Us Apart: The Effect of Soliciting Consumer Input on Consumers’ Propensity to Transact with an Organization

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Citation: Liu, Wendy, Gal, David (The date "aug/2011" was not understood.The date "aug/2011" was not understood.) Bringing Us Together or Driving Us Apart: The Effect of Soliciting Consumer Input on Consumers’ Propensity to Transact with an Organization. Journal of Consumer Research (Volume 38) (RSS)

doi: 10.1086/658884

Download: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/658884

Tagged: consumer behavior (RSS), business (RSS), non profit (RSS), psychology (RSS)


Summary:

The premise of this paper is that companies who ask advice from consumers can generate feelings of empathy, and relationship closeness. Such feeling predict whether a consumer might be willing to donate to a nonprofit or purchase from a company. Thus asking for advice, rather than "opinions" or asking for "expectations" can help a company.

In the first study they found that participants were more likely to donate to a nonprofit if before, they were asked to give advice to the nonprofit, compared to if they just read about the organization. In the second study they found that people were willing to join a "for profit" gym more if they were asked for advice, versus what their expectations would be of the gym. In the third study, they found the same effect of asking for advice vs. asking for opinions, vs. asking expectations (advice was better than opinions or expectations). they found this effect was driven by empathetic feelings (feeling like they could take the perspective of the company), which generated feelings of relationship closeness. These feelings of empathy made them feel closer to company, and accordingly had a higher purchase intention. In the last study, they found that they could eliminate this "advice effect" by making the advice paid. That is, if consumers were paid for the advice, asking for advice no longer helps, presumably because the advice is now in an "exchange" domain vs. a "communal" domain.

Theoretical and practical relevance:

Non-profits and for profit businesses alike may do well by asking people for "advice" rather than opinions or other types of input. More broadly, organizations want to increase perspective taking, and empathetic feelings. The more you can get your customers to "put themselves in your shoes," the more you can increase sales!