Nav: Home

Privacy, please: Why surveiling shoppers can inhibit sales, and how to fix it

July 19, 2017

No shopper likes being watched closely, especially if they're buying an item they find very personal and potentially embarrassing - for instance, foot fungus cream or hemorrhoid cream. Three marketing professors recently conducted research on this phenomenon and concluded that the problem is real and is relatively easy for retailers to address.

In "I'll Be Watching You: Shoppers' Reactions to Perceptions of Being Watched by Employees," Carol L. Esmark and Michael J. Breazeale of Mississippi State University and Stephanie M. Noble of the University of Tennessee attribute the reluctance of shoppers to make a sensitive purchase under watchful eyes to reactance theory, which explains that when shoppers feel that their privacy or freedom of behavior is threatened, they will back off, either permanently or temporarily. Retailers must balance their need to control shoplifting with their customers' need for privacy. The article is forthcoming in the September issue of the Journal of Retailing.

The authors designed a series of studies and field experiments that tested shoppers' reaction to being watched while shopping for foot fungal cream and hemorrhoid cream. A researcher dressed as a retail employee purposely made eye contact - or not - as customers were surveying the shelves for these items. When eye contact was made, almost two thirds of the customers abandoned the purchase; when it was not made, nearly three quarters completed the buy.

In further studies, the authors tested solutions that would ease customers' concerns over privacy and yet be easy to implement for retailers - for instance, providing a shopping basket or opaque bag to hide the embarrassing selection. Based on their observations, the authors concluded that retailers who were able to provide shoppers with at least some privacy - even a shopping basket - could circumvent shoppers' perceptions of being watched and made so uncomfortable that they walked away empty-handed.
-end-


Journal of Retailing at New York University

Related Behavior Articles:

I won't have what he's having: The brain and socially motivated behavior
Monkeys devalue rewards when they anticipate that another monkey will get them instead.
Unlocking animal behavior through motion
Using physics to study different types of animal motion, such as burrowing worms or flying flocks, can reveal how animals behave in different settings.
AI to help monitor behavior
Algorithms based on artificial intelligence do better at supporting educational and clinical decision-making, according to a new study.
Increasing opportunities for sustainable behavior
To mitigate climate change and safeguard ecosystems, we need to make drastic changes in our consumption and transport behaviors.
Predicting a protein's behavior from its appearance
Researchers at EPFL have developed a new way to predict a protein's interactions with other proteins and biomolecules, and its biochemical activity, merely by observing its surface.
Spirituality affects the behavior of mortgagers
According to Olga Miroshnichenko, a Sc.D in Economics, and a Professor at the Department of Economics and Finance, Tyumen State University, morals affect the thinking of mortgage payers and help them avoid past due payments.
Asking if behavior can be changed on climate crisis
One of the more complex problems facing social psychologists today is whether any intervention can move people to change their behavior about climate change and protecting the environment for the sake of future generations.
Is Instagram behavior motivated by a desire to belong?
Does a desire to belong and perceived social support drive a person's frequency of Instagram use?
A 3D view of climatic behavior at the third pole
Research across several areas of the 'Third Pole' -- the high-mountain region centered on the Tibetan Plateau -- shows a seasonal cycle in how near-surface temperature changes with elevation.
Witnessing uncivil behavior
When people witness poor customer service, a manager's intervention can help reduce hostility toward the company or brand, according to WSU research.
More Behavior News and Behavior Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.