Marketing To Reinforce Previous Choices


Recent research shows that consumers often think the grass is greener somewhere else.

There are many consumer decisions that we have to make over and over again, such as selecting a restaurant to eat at in our neighborhood or deciding which store to shop at for groceries. The repetitive nature of these decisions provides us with the opportunity to learn from past choices and improve our future choices. However, new research from the August issue of the Journal of Consumer Research shows that our quest for improvement may result in a failure to appreciate the value of our current choice.

In a series of eight experiments, Tom Meyvis (New York University) and Alan Cooke (University of Florida) find that when consumers expect to make similar choices in the future, they selectively pay attention to information that suggests that an alternative would be better. These consumers also tend to disregard information that indicates their current choice is the best possible choice.

This is one of the reasons you often see advertising that isn't really designed to attract new customers as much as it is designed to reinforce the decisions of existing/previous customers. Sometimes it's the little things that make a difference, and following up with buyers to make them feel like they made a good choice is a good way to keep them coming back.

  • W

    This post is concerning repeat purchase for small items, and there is a similar cognitive impact that happens for more costly items, also.

    There is a negative cognitive response when purchasing a large- ticket item such as a house, car, washing machine, or furniture sets. If the weeks immediately after the purchase, the many customers may start to doubt their purchase. One reason is that it sinks in that they just spent a lot of money, this may create some cognitive dissonance as they start to think they perhaps would rather have the money than the item. Also, a certain amount of cognitive dissonance occurs when, over the next few months, people see competitors’ cars, washing machines, etc.. at lower prices or better features.

    A good marketing move is to follow up by making contact and perhaps offering free stuff about a month after purchase (gift certificates to local restaurants, etc) – this lowers the amount of uneasiness. This will increase the likelihood of future large-ticket purchases, and gives the buyer a better feeling about the purchase decision when discussing with others. A good follow up can be worth it for the business. Don’t think your job is done after the sale is completed, in my opinion.