Pleasure, not function drives online buying

Reatilers Embrace "Vivid Marketing"


CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Online shoppers are 79 percent more likely to choose a product focused more on pleasure than function, even if the more pleasurable option is more expensive, when video is used to sell the options according to a new study from the University of Miami School of Business Administration.

For instance, a person shopping online for a hotel room showcased with video instead of photos and text is more likely to choose the more expensive room with the marble bathroom and sunken bathtub than the cheaper one with the standard bathroom with a functional benefit such as free parking. Further, the results of the study, published in the November 2015 issue of the Journal of Marketing, were the same whether the product was an "experiential" product like a hotel room, or a tangible good like a coffee maker or shampoo.

While marketers and researchers are well aware of this type of outcome in stores and present their merchandise accordingly, few studies have focused on online display tactics like the real impact of using still images vs. video when selling online. 

In this study, the researchers built on the "vividness theory," which suggests that when people encounter vivid information, more images are produced in their minds, allowing them to better imagine using the product. First, researchers tested the impact of using still images vs. videos to showcase a hedonic (fun-based) product online and found that people were significantly more likely to buy the product when video was used. They used video to showcase two products within the same product category, one more decadent and less functional than the other - a hotel room with a bath with a massaging showerhead, bathtub with whirlpool jets and a pillow top bed, and a coffee maker with more bells and whistles such as color display options and a fancier stainless steel look.

"It is clear from our study that online retailers, particularly those selling a product that beats the competition less on function and more on attributes about pleasure and enjoyment, can substantially increase their sales and profits by systematically incorporating more dynamic presentation formats like video to convey their product and service offerings," said Claudia Townsend, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Miami School of Business Administration, who conducted the study with Ram Krishan, also from University of Miami, along with professors from Babson College. "Whatever kind of business you are in, there is no question that investing in richer media for your website is an investment that will pay off." 

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