Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Boohoo are little rascals

I know what you’re thinking, ANOTHER blog about online shopping…

And all I have to say to that is…
 yes, you are right.

Last week, I realised this cold weather is not a joke and the cold air freezing my moisturised hands into shrivelled nanny fingers reminded me that not only do I need gloves, but I need a COAT. And what better time to buy a coat than on, BLACK FRIDAY week(end) yhhhhhhh boiiiiii.

So, I went on my usual websites and then ended up on boohoo, and well there is nothing that gets my attention like free food, free parking and FREE NEXT DAY DELIVERY, especially when it is written right next to RED CAPITAL WRITING.

In my old, dire, non-informed days, this would have made me rush my purchase, feeling as though I need to decide on something quick and that there is no other option but to leave this website having bought something.

But with the behaviour change module comes tranquillity (no seriously, that system 1 system 2 lecture made me decide I don’t want to system 1 my life away!). Anywaaaaaaaaaaay, I was feeling such beautiful tranquillity despite the anxiety/stress inducing sales tactic, because I knew that I didn’t need to rush because as I just said, I was aware it was a tactic. Tactics are only used when the opponent has a high chance of losing (Deanne Hay, 2016), so in this case I felt that boohoo are aware they may lose (defined by people visiting their website but not buying anything) so they used this tactic, having it bold at the top of the page but also having the reminder shop with you (left hand side and bottom of the page). They did this to make the customer have to continually and subconsciously make the decision of whether they want to be a part of this offer, again and again and, again – with the hope that they eventually, crumble.

But each time I saw the words free next day delivery I didn’t light up with glee like I usually do or think about whether I should divulge in the offer straight away, instead I thought - I MUST WRITE ABOUT THIS. This coat is probably going to last me 4 months, maybe even years and now that I’m a system 2 person, I wasn’t going to rush and decide right now, instead I went on different websites, made lists of everything I liked and kept sieving this list until I reached a small number. However, I nearly fell out of my seat when I went back to boohoo the next day and found…



Yet, ANOTHER deal that customers should be hurrying to get.
It made me question: does boohoo think I’m stupid?
 And as each day went by (between my first visit and writing this post) I would check back to their website and there was ALWAYS, something to be in a hurry for, whether it be FREE NEXT DAY DELIVERY, FREE STANDARD DELIVERY, NEXT DAY DELIVERY FOR 99P (a discounted price). The psychologist in me knows this isn’t 1) because they want to be genuinely nice to customers and 2) is not an accident or “mistake”.
Instead it is a very thought out promotional tactic and even has evidence to back its’ effectiveness.

System 1 and System 2
Although us crazy homo-sapiens are very complex creatures, (yes creatures, I was raised with two older brothers). In the renowned Thinking, Fast and Slow book (Kahneman, 2011) the author put forward the idea that choices that us creatures make, behaviour that we exhibit and well, essentially, everything we think or do is put through/aligned with one of two systems, system 1 (fast and thoughtless) or system 2 (slow and effortful). Take driving for example, when I learnt I was SCARED, I thought WOW my mum said "drivers are usually stupid" but here I am having to do and remember so many things at one time, this is so HARD, so the drivers I see MUST be smart. Learning did not come naturally to me, I was not the next Vin Diesel like I thought I would be, instead I was Mrs Magoo (if you don’t know, get to know), operating in a system 2 way. However now that I have held my licence for nearly a year and a half, no one and I mean no one can tell me I’m not the best driver. I know the size of my car (and trust me, this is a big deal because many don’t - oh person driving your little Peugeot why can’t you see that you can fit through the gap????) and I can do many things at once whilst not crashing (I know that isn’t the standard but you get me). Point is, I am know operating in a system 1 manner.
BACK to boohoo.

When people are, anxious or feel led to be rushed in to something, their following actions tend to be through system 1. For example, without the RED CAPITAL WRITING inducing anxiety, someone may have read FREE NEXT DAY DELIVERY and if they were typically a system 1 thinker, they would have been likely to be tempted and buy something. Whereas if said person was typically a system 2 thinker, due to being less likely to feel anxious (no red writing) they would be more likely to effortfully think about the offer at hand.
Boohoo cleverly induced urgency/anxiety and with reminders plastered all over the website, they made a system 1 environment and hoped for the best, and the fact that this tactic is still being used on their website, suggests that it must be working in their favour.

We want things that a running low, we want things nearly out of stock and we want to get things that are on a limited time frame, this is the crux of the theory of scarcity. Researchers have found empirical evidence for both limited-time scarcity and limited-quantity scarcity, demonstrating their effectiveness in influencing (future and current) customers, (Aggarwal, Jun& Huh, 2011).
Parker (2011) did an experimental study on scarcity based in a simulated store, participants were asked to explain their choices from the store and the study found that people significantly selected more scarce items than those which had plenty in stock (see figure from study below).

 Although the above study is done on limited quantity and that research has found limited-quantity to be slightly more effective (i.e. boohoo saying they can only offer 500 people FREE NEXT DAY DELIVERY and then having a live status of that), limited time like explained earlier is also effective.

The reasoning why scarcity of both kinds are so effective is because we tend to attach more value to things when we know other people are competing for ( Even though there wasn’t a limited amount, customers could have felt as though they were in a speed buying competition and that winning this competition would be defined as having an online shopping cart ready before the deal in the countdown ends. When engaging in this competition the customer is likely to add more value to it and want these items more than ever - even if they only came to the website to browse (this is why losing EBay bids is so distressing, when you lose, that added value asks you how on earth will you live without this item in your life).

This phenomenon is a part of social proof. Although boohoo doesn’t let you explicitly see other people’s buying habits (like Misguided), customers may feel as though other logical people like themselves would have lapped up the chance of FREE NEXT DAY DELIVERY and that they should too, acting as a trigger for this speed buying competition to begin.

Mere Exposure

Boohoo’s mere exposure was not exposure of an item as typically used by other brands but instead their FREE NEXT DAY DELIVERY, Boohoo were aware that if they could “sell” this to customers then they can rope in other profits with it.
As seen by the three pictures taken from Boohoo’s website, FREE NEXT DAY DELIVERY and HURRY were not words that a customer could escape, even if consciously ignoring it their subconscious would see it each time. Constantly seeing this offer could tempt many customers, as researchers have found that mere exposure (through banner ads) induces liking (Fang, 2007).

Other research found that whatever we are exposed to on a more frequent basis is deemed more favourable compared to things that we barely see. Zajonc (1968) studied differential exposure to faces for “visual memory” and then asked participants what they thought of the man they saw. When assessing the manipulation of the differential exposure to Chinese characters they were then asked how good they think the meaning of the character might be. The study found that exposure effects: those which were exposed more frequently were rated to have a good character meaning more often than those who had a low frequency of exposure.

These effects can be applied to retail and customer behaviour too. As based on the findings of Zajonc’s study, being exposed to the FREE NEXT DAY DELIVERY so frequently was likely to imply to customers that this FREE NEXT DAY DELIVERY is an absolute necessity. IF customers only saw 'FREE NEXT DAY DELIVERY'  once when first visiting the page and then never again, they may have been able to think about whether the offer will be beneficial to them in a system 2 way.

So how do you feel now? Ready to take on this online shopping world and not be a fool to their money-making schemes?

I sure AM!

Aggarwal, P., Jun, S. Y., & Huh, J. H. (2011). Scarcity messages. Journal of Advertising, 40, 19-30.

Fang, X., Singh, S., & Ahluwalia, R. (2007). An examination of different explanations for the mere exposure effect. Journal of consumer research, 34, 97-103.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Parker, J. R., & Lehmann, D. R. (2011). When shelf-based scarcity impacts consumer preferences. Journal of Retailing, 87, 142-155.

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of personality and social psychology, 9, 1.

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