Prediction Power: Asking Gets Results


Prediction PowerAre you telling customers to buy your product? Maybe you should be asking them about their intentions instead. Research shows that if you want to get people to do something, you should ask them to predict if they will do it. An affirmative answer greatly increases the probability that they will follow through.

Researchers Jonathan Levav and Gavin Fitzsimons ran a series of experiments involving behavior prediction of activities like flossing, reading, and eating healthier foods. In each case, the subjects were more likely to engage in the behavior if they predicted they would do so. In addition, the researchers found that being able to visualize the behavior bolstered the effect.

Mere Measurement

There’s actually a large body of research on this topic. Other investigators have found that a statement of intent to purchase a car increases the probability of such a purchase in the ensuing months. One set of experiments performed by Chris Janiszewski and Elise Chandon showed that merely asking people about their intentions (dubbed “mere measurement” by social scientists) caused an increase in behaviors which were considered positive or pleasurable by the subjects and related the effects to “response fluency.” Perhaps the most relevant work for Neuromarketing readers is a paper published by Pierre Chandon, Vicki Morwitz, and Werner Reinartz, which found,

Measuring intentions increases the likelihood of repeat purchase incidence and shortens the time until the first repeat purchase but that these two mere measurement effects decay rapidly after 3 mo. Still, we find persisting gains in customer profitability over time because the accelerated purchases of the first 3 mo. lead to faster subsequent purchases in the remainder of the period. [Journal of Consumer Research – The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Measuring Intent to Repurchase.]

Prediction Prescription

Other research has found that the more visible or tangible a commitment is, the more likely it is to be acted on. Here’s my prescription for marketers wanting boost sales:

  1. Ask customers about their intent to buy your brand or product. Even this small step (mere measurement) will have a positive effect.
  2. Get an affirmative answer. Plenty of studies show that if a person states a positive intention, they are more likely to act on it.
  3. If possible, get a public or tangible commitment. This may not always be possible or even appropriate, but if it happens it will further increase the probability of future action.

In short, instead of TELLING your customers to buy your brand or product, ASK them whether they will buy it!

  1. Geoff Frewin says

    A fascinating article, and I must admit after 30 years in Sales and Training, asking for an affirmative, even sometime well in advance of the Sale/Market pitch will normally assist in gaining a likelihood of a more positive outcome.
    The prediction prescription ties up any loose ends nicely and creates a simple format for future propositions.
    As usual simple and informative.

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Thanks for stopping by, Geoff, and sharing your real-world perspective!


  2. Jerry says

    A long time ago I found an article that mentioned that a good technique to increase sales was to ask your customers questions related to the needs that your product would satisfy for them. After the customers respond most of the times with a “YES” the would understand much better why would they should buy their product.

    This is kind of similar to the article, must of the time we are always asking people to buy our product, instead, we should put attention to their needs and their intentions so that we can understand them better and make them know about the need we are going to satisfy for them.

    1. Roger Dooley says

      I’m sure the combination of visualizing the solution and affirming it with a “yes” was a great combination, Jerry. Thanks for sharing that!


  3. Robin Jennings says

    In my experience as an ex-retailer in the art world a statement of intent really solidified that potential customers decision.

    Often they didn’t buy that day but i noticed when they mentioned to their partner or friend that they wanted to buy a particular peice of artwork they were much more likely to come back and seek that exact peice out even if it wasn’t on display anymore.

    1. Roger Dooley says

      You are right, Robin, the effects of the statement of intent can be quite long-lived – the car study measured purchases over six months!


  4. Geoff Frewin says

    Roger, I’ve added this article/stroke discussion to a discussion I have running on Linkedin in the Abnormal Marketing group, entitled ‘Understanding the Client’
    I hope you don’t mind ? Naturally with a link back to here !
    Thanks Geoff

  5. Rusty says

    Very interesting study, not too surprising once you really think about it though. If you can create a positive feeling associated with a product and people admit that they could see themselves owning it you’ve come a long way toward making the sale. I would imagine this would work very well for luxury items, if one can imagine themselves owning it it is only a matter of time before they take the next step to do so.

  6. May says

    There are times where the potential customers does not actually know themselves if they are ready for that purchase so getting them to ‘check the box’ helps them also. And if they are not ready for purchase but willing to give valid feedback on why, it gives you a good opportunity to learn about your customers and their needs.

  7. David Brains says

    Gonna give this a try, cheers for the quality stuff once gain!

  8. […] Your practice could benefit in a couple ways by asking a client (or potential client) what their intentions are, according to research discussed in a blog in Neuromarketing. […]

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