Study Shows Consumers’ Buying Habits Change As Deadlines Approach
Consumers buying habits can change rapidly as gift-giving times approach, according to a forthcoming report in the Journal of Consumer Research. The report shows that when time is short, products that are safe and sure appear more attractive to consumers than those billed as having that special zing.
Market researchers recruited hundreds of college students for a series of experiments to see how their tastes changed as deadlines approached. One such experiment was to demonstrate that consumers’ perspective of time to decide affects purchasing decisions.
In the experiment, students facing midterm examinations received sales pitches from a fictitious tutoring service with one of two messages — either that exams were “soon,” “only a week away” or “still a full week away.” The tutoring service gave them two choices: avoid failure, or more ambitious goals with the catch phrase “Ace every class!”
Consumers caught in a bind of having to buy something as soon as possible worried about failing to reach their goal, the report says. This concern led them to settle for products that had “just the right features” they knew they needed. Conversely, with more time to make a decision, consumers tend to go for items that sellers present as having desirable features, or products that are “promotion-framed” — sold under such slogans as, “You desire the best!” the report points out.
“Under a time constraint, consumers are motivated to purchase a product that helps achieve the minimal goal of preventing a negative outcome than they are to purchase a product that helps achieve the maximum goal of promoting a positive outcome,” researcher Cassie Theriault says of the survey.
More Time = Opposite Effect
The opposite occurs when consumers have more time to decide. In this case, consumers are willing to pay more for a product advertised as having more advanced features, the report concludes. With time, consumers became more confident that they can reach “higher goals” in their purchase. So a “good” product will likely appeal more than one that is merely “not bad.” Given more time, consumers are more likely to seek goods and services that promise positive outcomes — namely, the perfect gift.
Looking into the mind of the consumer, the findings of this report can lead marketers to wonder if they worry that their standards decline when time is running out. And if they have more time to decide, should they think about setting overambitious goals, even asking themselves: “Would I really buy this if I had a decision to make tomorrow?”