By Margarita Nahapetyan
If you want to avoid making impulse and unnecessary purchases, then just keep your hands away from the tempting product. According to the new research, individuals who touch possible items in stores, are more likely to have an increased desire to purchase them than those who keep their hands off the merchandise.
When you touch an object, you immediately feel some kind of a connection to it, according to Suzanne B. Shu, a marketing professor at UCLA's Anderson School of Management in Los Angeles, and one of the authors of the new study. "That connection stirs up an emotional reaction - 'Yeah, I like the feel of it. This can be mine.' And that emotion can make people to buy something they never even would consider buying if they had not touched it", she said.
To come up with this conclusion, Suzanne Shu and Joann Peck, a marketing professor at the University of Wisconsin's business school, conducted four studies on the connection between touch and feelings of ownership and the effect of perceived ownership on the value placed on an object. Peck said all four studies were carried out with the help of undergraduate students who held objects for a very short period of time and then answered a series of questions. The objects used included Slinky toys, coffee mugs, pencils, Play foam sculpting beads, and none of them conveyed any information.
For one of the experiments, the experts recruited 231 undergraduate students from the University of Wisconsin, and placed two products, a Slinky and a coffee mug, in front of them. About half of the participants were offered to touch the products, while the other half were asked not to touch or get hold of them. The volunteers then were asked to express their sense of ownership of the products and to report how much money they were willing to pay for each. The results showed that those students who were offered to touch the objects, reported statistically significant increased levels of perceived ownership. They also expressed a desire to pay more money to obtain the products.
If you do not intend to spend more money that you planned to, be careful and don't touch products, says Joann Peck. The expert happily describes herself as an expert in haptics (the science of touch), who has published six other papers on the subject. "Touching something gives you that little sense of control," she says, "and that alone can increase your feeling of ownership."
The investigators also discovered that a sense of very pleasant and neutral feelings when touching a merchandise, determined how much money consumers were willing to pay. However, if the object did not feel pleasant to the touch, it significantly decreased the amount the buyers were willing to pay.
Researchers said that many stores already follow the right path, offering their customers an opportunity to "feel" their products by touching them. And what can be done while shopping online, when touching of an item is not possible? In this case, the experts say, just picturing in mind that they are touching it and then owning it, will cause greater feelings of ownership and hence, the consumers will be more likely to make a purchase.
To find out if it is true, the investigators added an extra layer to their experiment. After the participants either touched or did not touch the Slinky toy and the coffee mug, they were asked to imagine choosing the merchandise and bringing it home. The other half of students were asked to simply evaluate the objects in their minds. As a result, for those students who were asked to touch a product, it did not matter how much money they would be willing to pay after imagining its ownership. However, among those who were not allowed to touch the merchandise - a group that shares the same hands-free experience as online shoppers - imagination of the ownership resulted in significantly higher valuations of the products.
The investigators said that previous research on the subject of touching, has found that there were noticeable differences between the two genders, and that women are more likely to touch possible items during shopping compared to men.
The study has been published this week in the Journal of Consumer Research.