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Did you read the fine print?
How visualizing your service offerings impacts consumer choices
When working with clients to build an effective service portfolio in markets like telecommunications or financial services, we test which products, product characteristics and bundles will make for an optimal portfolio. When analyzing your audience's choice behavior, we always show all aspects in a neutral way to avoid biasing respondents.
SKIM is leading the way into a new area of conjoint research at ART 2012
However, as a marketer you have full freedom to leverage attractive product aspects more prominently. To show how it could work in a quantitative research approach, we did an experiment to understand how design impacts consumer choices in a study of credit card offers. We presented the results of our study at the AMA's Annual Advanced Research Techniques (ART) Forum on June 25 in Seattle (WA, USA)*. Read this article to learn about some of the outcomes.
"Give me the most important details only!"
When testing fees or benefits, we usually represent them using a neutral and clear text. However in the real market we often see providers using concise but enticing text focusing on a few positive aspects, putting additional details or the "small print" in the terms and conditions.
In our experiment we showed a choice set consisting of two credit card offerings. One showed all information in a single screen, while the other pushed "less relevant" information (e.g., details about balance transfer and late payments fees) to a separate screen accessible through a link ("full terms and conditions").
The result? We hardly saw any impact on choice behavior, suggesting that consumers do not disregard the separated information, essentially forming the same opinions as with full concepts. We believe that this result is driven by the fact that the separated information was indeed less pertinent to drive choices. Ethically, it is only correct to "hide" aspects that are of little relevance. But keeping this in mind, we suggest keeping the information on the main screen short and relevant.
"Bigger is better"
We also often see that ads play with font size to emphasize more favorable aspects, aiming to steer consumer choices based on aspects shown in larger font sizes. If true, it means that it would be "easy" to lead –or even mislead– consumer choices by playing with font size. We tested this idea by varying font sizes to convey various aspects of the credit card offerings.
The results exceeded our expectations. A larger font made consumers gravitate to offerings showing more relevant aspects. By the same token, the effect was reversed for less relevant aspects. Consumers seemed to appreciate the guidance of font size when making choices, namely showing relevant elements in a larger font and less important ones in a smaller font.
Improve external validity
The study has shown that it is not only important what you say but also how you say it. It holds true for wording, visualization and for the way to make information accessible. This will not be a surprise to marketers but it may be to market researchers: there is no such thing as a neutral way of displaying information. It is a design parameter that impacts choices in experimental studies as much as in reality; ignoring it may limit the external validity of study results, especially in a world of that is dominated by online shopping and related comparative behavior.
Want to know more about what we presented at ART? Read the summary and view our presentation here or contact our presenter Carlo Borghi.
Want to know more? Don't hesitate to give us a call or drop an email!
* The examples in this article were created for the sake of this study. They may deviate from communication aspects used by brands in the example, and exaggerate or dramatize the effects found in practice.
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Menu-Based Choice modeling case studies
To provide you with ideas on how MBC could be relevant to your company, we have developed a series of MBC case studies.