Washington, July 16 : For many consumers, when it comes to buying a product, the chief factor which rules their mind is an item's look instead of its price or quality. Now, according to a new study, co-authored by an Indian-origin researcher, touch of a product is an essential criterion for people, before they decide to buy something.
According to the research conducted by Maureen Morrin, an associate professor of marketing at the Rutgers School of Business-Camden, and Aradhna Krishna, a professor of marketing at the University of Michigan, manufacturers and marketers need to consider how their product packaging feels if they want consumers to make the purchase.
In the study, Morrin and Krishna examined how the varying firmness of otherwise identical cups affected the evaluations of taste by more than 1,000 men and women who were served samples of the same mineral water.
The research suggests that companies "should not skimp on the touch-related aspects of their products," says Morrin.
"Touch is an important part of the consumer experience - a benefit that should not be discounted simply because we don't ordinarily consciously process that information," Morrin added.
In their research, Morrin and Krishna focused on how "nondiagnostic haptic cues" - those unrelated to product quality, such as the feel of the container - affect the process of consumer decision-making.
The researchers were especially interested in the effects of cues with negative connotations, such as the flimsy feel of a cup.
Consumers generally fall into one of two categories: Those with a high need for touch (NFT), and those with a lower NFT. Given that high-touchers are more apt to squeeze the grapefruit (or the roll of toilet paper) before making a selection, they would seem more likely to take the quality of the container into account when assessing the taste of the water.
"We had that hypothesis at the outset of our project," Morrin says.
But the Rutgers-Camden researcher found that participants in the experiment who had a higher NFT made taste judgments that were significantly less affected by the feel of the cup than did lower-NFT people.
Members of the latter group were consistently more likely to have less favorable judgments about the taste of the water when it was served in a flimsy cup, and more favorable assessments when the same water was served in a firm cup.
The difference in taste evaluations between high- and low-touchers held even when the research subjects did not touch the cups but were told about the firmness of the bottles in which the water is sold. In this case, the low-NFT people were willing to pay higher prices for the water, simply by being told that bottles were firmer.
"High-NFT shoppers appear to know when the information gained through touch should influence their decisions, such as when trying to buy a soft sweater or a lightweight computer, and when it should not, such as when tasting water served in a firm or flimsy plastic cup," Morrin says.