Research Highlights - October 2019

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According to new Washington State University research, round numbers can be powerful marketing tools, increasing people’s sense of accomplishment as they work towards goals in areas like finances or weight loss.

Most people have a preference for round numbers.  Hitting a round number makes us feel more complete.  This happens when we’re taking tests, getting paid, leaving tips or pumping gas.”

Many of us, for instance, would be more excited about receiving a $2,000 paycheck in Canadian currency than the U.S equivalent of $1,521.  And, being told that we’ve lost 10 kilograms might give us a greater feeling of achievement than hearing the identical amount expressed as 22 pounds.

New research published in the journal Marketing Letters, demonstrates how effective round numbers can be in consumer marketing campaigns.  This research measured how consumers’ feelings of accomplishment were influenced by changing the scales used to track progress.

It found that reaching a goal expressed in round numbers results in higher levels of customer satisfaction.  That was particularly true when the final goal was still distant.  Hitting intermediate targets expressed as round numbers increased customers’ feeling of progress at low levels of achievement.

The researchers tested their theory in laboratory scenarios related to wages, loyalty programs, and video games.  In the scenarios, they manipulated the scales used to track progress. 

People who were working towards a monthly earnings target felt better about their paychecks when their wages were expressed in round numbers.

Another scenario tracked customers’ progress toward a free international flight through an airline loyalty program. People felt closer to earning the free flight when the currency tracking the rewards points were switched from British pounds to euros, allowing customers to hit a round number for an intermediate target toward the flight.

A third scenario looked at video games where participants were trying to earn up to 100 points. After three games, participants felt a greater sense of satisfaction from reaching 50 points than they did when they ended at 51 points.

For marketers, the implications are...

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