Prediction Power: Asking Gets Results

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Are you telling customers to buy your product? Maybe you should be asking them about their intentions instead. Research shows that if you want to get people to do something, you should ask them to predict if they will do it. An affirmative answer greatly increases the probability that they will follow through.

Researchers Jonathan Levav and Gavin Fitzsimons ran a series of experiments involving behavior prediction of activities like flossing, reading, and eating healthier foods. In each case, the subjects were more likely to engage in the behavior if they predicted they would do so. In addition, the researchers found that being able to visualize the behavior bolstered the effect.

Mere Measurement

There’s actually a large body of research on this topic. Other investigators have found that a statement of intent to purchase a car increases the probability of such a purchase in the ensuing months. One set of experiments performed by Chris Janiszewski and Elise Chandon showed that merely asking people about their intentions (dubbed “mere measurement” by social scientists) caused an increase in behaviors which were considered positive or pleasurable by the subjects and related the effects to “response fluency.” Perhaps the most relevant work for Neuromarketing readers is a paper published by Pierre Chandon, Vicki Morwitz, and Werner Reinartz, which found,

Measuring intentions increases the likelihood of repeat purchase incidence and shortens the time until the first repeat purchase but that these two mere measurement effects decay rapidly after 3 mo. Still, we find persisting gains in customer profitability over time because the accelerated purchases of the first 3 mo. lead to faster subsequent purchases in the remainder of the period. [Journal of Consumer Research – The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Measuring Intent to Repurchase.]

Prediction Prescription

Other research has found that the more visible or tangible a commitment is, the more likely it is to be acted on. Here’s my prescription for marketers wanting boost sales:

  1. Ask customers about their intent to buy your brand or product. Even this small step (mere measurement) will have a positive effect.
  2. Get an affirmative answer. Plenty of studies show that if a person states a positive intention, they are more likely to act on it.
  3. If possible, get a public or tangible commitment. This may not always be possible or even appropriate, but if it happens it will further increase the probability of future action.

In short, instead of TELLING your customers to buy your brand or product, ASK them whether they will buy it!

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