Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rituals that target customers not always good for business

08.07.2010
Businesses make an impression when they sing “Happy Birthday” to customers or cook up entrees right at diners’ tables, but the impression’s not always a good one, new research led by a University of Illinois marketing expert has found.

Cele Otnes says businesses create rituals that center on consumers to set themselves apart, but the push for a competitive edge can also backfire, leaving customers feeling put upon, trapped or embarrassed.

“Not all customers want to be entertained,” she said. “Some just want to escape and be left alone. So the bottom line here is that businesses really need to consider their target audience before creating rituals that are effectively forced on people.”

The study examined rituals that are embedded into sales and service practices, creating a virtually mandatory branding tool that seeks to deal businesses a unique drawing card but gives customers little chance to opt out.

Researchers analyzed how customers are swayed by the sights, sounds and other frills of those nearly inescapable business rituals, from at-the-table food preparation at Teppanyaki-style restaurants to eateries that serenade diners celebrating birthdays.

For some, the trappings make rituals memorable and provide an incentive to come back, according to findings Otnes presented last week during the European Association for Consumer Research Conference at Royal Holloway University of London.

Workers in costume, polished performances and glitzy accouterments were among ritual aesthetics that made customers feel special and cemented a positive impression of the business, surveys of more than 150 college-aged consumers found.

For others, though, rituals can leave a bad enough taste to chase away return business, according to the study, co-written by doctoral students Elizabeth Crosby, Mina Kwon and Sydney Chinchanachokchai.

Some consumers surveyed said that being forced to participate in rituals violated their sense of privacy and left them feeling hemmed in, embarrassed or even resentful, the study found.

“Those are really strong negatives,” said Otnes, a business administration professor who studies rituals ranging from weddings to at-home holiday celebrations. “While rituals can make some consumers embrace the business, there’s also a huge risk. People use words like ‘annoying’ or ‘irritating’ to describe the experience and some say it definitely makes them rethink whether they’ll come back.”

The potential hazards of rituals can go beyond the obvious examples such as singing, line dancing and chopping up meals in restaurants or elaborate ceremonies for new-car buyers and customers whose spending earns bonus awards in stores, she said.

Otnes cites a scene from the 2003 film “Love Actually,” in which a character played by Alan Rickman tries frantically and unsuccessfully to halt a scripted gift-wrapping ritual in a department store as he rushes to buy a gift for his girlfriend before his wife catches him.

She says the findings suggest that businesses need to carefully consider whether rituals are optional or embedded into the business model, making them a standard practice that customers have little chance to avoid.

“In truth, all rituals are optional, but customers may fear there’s a cost to them if they try to get out of embedded rituals,” Otnes said. “For example, opting out could be considered rude and jeopardize the service they receive.”

Optional rituals offer leeway to satisfy customers’ comfort zones, but could wither efforts to build a brand image that differentiates businesses from their competitors, she said.

“Which solution is best depends completely on the business,” Otnes said. “How much do you care about repeat business? Do you rely on a local market or are you in a tourist area where customers don’t necessarily come back regularly?”

Retailers and service providers also should seek feedback from customers to gauge response to the ritual, including reaction to nuances such as whether musical serenades are too noisy or if cooking at tables is too smoky.

“Businesses should not just be on autopilot when they’re creating rituals,” she said. “They really need to understand the difference between optional and embedded, and the potential consequences of forcing customers to sit through certain rituals.”

Jan Dennis | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>