Serving the Customer

Kevin Lewis

March 05, 2023

Vocalizing Search: How Voice Technologies Alter Consumer Search Processes and Satisfaction 
Shiri Melumad
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming 


The effect of voice technology on how consumers search for information online is explored. Results from a field survey of consumer experiences with voice-assisted search, three controlled experiments involving dictated (vs. typed) Google searches, and a supplemental experiment (N = 10,385) find that vocalizing (vs. typing) a query leads consumers to provide more specific, detailed descriptions of what they are seeking, which in turn yield search results that they are more satisfied with. This occurs because consumers tend to be more concerned about communicating clearly when engaging with voice technology, which prompts them to think more about how they want to convey their query before saying it out loud (vs. typing it). This increased forethought leads consumers to provide more detailed descriptions of what they are searching for in vocalized queries, such as by including brand names and intended purposes of use. Finally, the increased specificity of vocalized (vs. typed) queries results in search returns that better satisfy consumers’ search goals. Implications for research on consumer–technology interactions, as well as for marketers and consumers, are discussed.

Big Is Bad: Stereotypes About Organizational Size, Profit-Seeking, and Corporate Ethicality
Andrea Freund, Francis Flynn & Kieran O’Connor
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming 


Individuals tend to hold a dim view of for-profit corporations, believing that profit-seeking comes at the expense of ethicality. In the present research, we show that this belief is not universal; rather, people associate ethicality with an organization’s size. Across nine experiments (N = 4,796), people stereotyped large companies as less ethical than small companies. This size-ethicality stereotype emerged spontaneously (Study 1), implicitly (Study 2), and across industries (Study 3). Moreover, we find this stereotype can be partly explained by perceptions of profit-seeking behavior (Supplementary Studies A and B), and that people construe profit-seeking and its relationship to ethicality differently when considering large and small companies (Study 4). People attribute greater profit-maximizing motives (relative to profit-satisficing motives) to large companies, and these attributions shape their subsequent judgments of ethicality (Study 5; Supplementary Studies C and D).

Left-Digit Bias at Lyft
John List et al.
Review of Economic Studies, forthcoming 


Left-digit bias (or 99-cent pricing) has been discussed extensively in economics, psychology, and marketing. Despite this, we show that the rideshare company, Lyft, was not using a 99-cent pricing strategy prior to our study. Based on observational data from over 600 million Lyft sessions followed by a field experiment conducted with 21 million Lyft passengers, we provide evidence of large discontinuities in demand at dollar values. Approximately half of the downward slope of the demand curve occurs discontinuously as the price of a ride drops below a dollar value (e.g. $14.00 to $13.99). If our short run estimates persist in the longer run, we calculate that Lyft could increase its profits by roughly $160M per year by employing a left-digit bias pricing strategy. Our results showcase the robustness of an important behavioral bias for a large, modern company and its persistence in a highly-competitive market.

Words for Sale: Linguistic Complexity Associates with Higher Housing Prices in Online Realty Advertisements
David Markowitz
Journal of Language and Social Psychology, forthcoming 


Prior work suggests when instrumental goals are salient, linguistic complexity associates with positive behavioral outcomes compared to linguistic simplicity. The current work tested this idea using descriptions from over 1,000 online realty advertisements to associate with housing prices. The evidence suggested linguistic complexity (e.g., fewer common words, more analytic writing, and less readable writing) indeed associated with higher housing prices. These data explicated the contingent-on-effort hypothesis: linguistic complexity is favored when people value effort in a particular setting.

“Choozing” the Best Spelling: Consumer Response to Unconventionally Spelled Brand Names
John Costello, Jesse Walker & Rebecca Walker Reczek
Journal of Marketing, forthcoming 


An increasingly common strategy when naming new brands is to use an unconventional spelling of an otherwise familiar word (e.g., “Lyft” rather than “Lift”). However, little is known about how this brand naming strategy impacts consumers’ beliefs about the brand and, ultimately, their willingness to support it. Across eight experimental studies, we demonstrate that in general, consumers are less likely to support unfamiliar brands whose names are spelled unconventionally compared to brands that use the conventional spelling of the same word. This occurs because consumers perceive the choice of an unconventionally spelled name as an overt persuasion attempt by the marketer, and thus view the brand as less sincere. We demonstrate these effects are driven by persuasion knowledge using both mediation and moderation and show robustness by employing different types of unconventional spellings. Our studies suggest that, while marketers may choose unconventional spellings for new-to-the-world brands with the goal of positively influencing consumers’ perceptions, doing so may backfire. However, we also find that unconventionally spelled names do not produce a backfire effect when the motive for selecting the name is seen as sincere. Further, unconventionally spelled brand names may even be desirable when consumers are seeking a memorable experience.

Enforcing pragmatic future-mindedness cures the innovator's bias
Andrew Reece et al.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming 


The innovator's bias is defined as the tendency for innovators to focus mainly on the positive potential impact of their inventions and to neglect, ignore, or downplay any potential negative impact. Such bias may help sustain the motivation needed for business success but may create problems by failing to acknowledge and prepare for problematic outcomes. We report three studies (total n = 1608) designed to demonstrate this bias -- and to show how to overcome it (while ideally preserving the innovators' enthusiastic affection for their product). Three studies used hypothetical innovations, all with potential downsides. Feelings of ownership were manipulated by having some participants role-play being marketing manager, including naming the product, devising advertising slogans, and identifying target demographics for potential purchasers. Owners then rated their product, while nonowner controls rated a different product. Study 1 (n = 495) demonstrated the innovator's bias by showing that owners rated the likely consequences of their product more favorably than nonowners did. Owners also displayed more enthusiastic zeal for their product. Study 2 (n = 553) tested interventions aimed at reducing the bias while preserving the zeal. Of six interventions, the most successful was having owners imagine the worst-case scenario involving the most negative outcome that the invention could cause. Study 3 (n = 560) was a preregistered replication of the main findings from Study 2 (

The Effectiveness of Membership-based Free Shipping: An Empirical Investigation on Consumers’ Purchase Behaviors and Revenue Contribution
Fangfei Guo & Yan Liu
Journal of Marketing, forthcoming 


Membership-based free shipping (MFS) has become increasingly adopted by online retailers. However, its effectiveness is understudied. This study leverages a consumer transaction dataset provided by an online retailer and uses a stacked difference-in-differences approach to quantify the enrollment effect of MFS on consumers’ purchase behaviors and their net revenue contribution to the retailer. Interestingly, MFS enrollment does not lift average consumers’ spending at the beginning of the enrollment as they break down large orders into smaller ones. Retailers do not gain incremental net revenue due to the increased shipping costs during this period. However, the free shipping benefit may build a switching barrier that motivates consumers to purchase more often with larger order sizes over time. It eventually leads to increased spending and revenue contribution. MFS also increases members’ purchase variety and impulse purchases. In addition, the authors find that there is a greater increase in net revenue contribution after enrollment for light buyers, variety seekers, and those who are willing to pay shipping fees before enrollment. Surprisingly, MFS has a negative impact on the revenue contribution of heavy buyers, the conventional best-value consumers. Moreover, MFS can effectively strengthen consumer-retailer relationships by reducing customer churn.


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