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Holiday Shoppers Warned: Marketing Department Study Says Your Signature Could Cause Splurging if you’re in a Store You Love

November 28, 2011
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With the holiday shopping season now officially underway, new research from the School’s marketing department warns that shoppers could end up splurging on themselves if they step into the wrong store after signing a credit card slip.  According to the research findings, published in the current issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, shoppers who happen to sign their names before visiting a store that sells products they identify with will browse longer in that store than they would have if they had not just signed their name. The study, conducted by Keri Kettle, an assistant professor of marketing at the School, also found that shoppers who visit stores they do not identify with (after signing their name elsewhere) spend less time in that store than if they hadn’t just signed their name.

“Signing your name impacts your subsequent shopping behavior by activating your ‘sense of self,’” says Kettle, who conducted the study with Gerald Haubl of the University of Alberta.  “So if a shopper signs for a credit card purchase in one store when buying something for her husband, for example, and walks into another store that she likes, she is going to linger longer than if she hadn’t just signed her name.  And marketing research suggests that a customer who lingers longer in a store is more likely to buy something.”

To test this 'signature effect,' the researchers conducted a series of lab and field studies that first determined the products their research subjects were attracted to. The subjects were then given a handwriting-task where some were prompted to write or sign their name.  The handwriting task was a cover to ensure that some signed their names and others didn't. The real study started when the researchers sent everyone shopping at a nearby running store.

They found:

  • Those who had signed their names and identified with the store’s products (self-described runners) spent more time shopping (10-15 minutes more) than self-described runners who had not signed their name. 
  • In contrast, non-runners (those who wouldn’t identify with a running store) who had signed their name spent less time in the running store than those who had not signed their name.

“This holiday season will bring many budget-conscience shoppers to stores, and they should be aware of the signature effect and how it can cause unintentional splurging,” said Kettle.  “I guess one could say ‘the power of the pen’ has a whole new meaning!”

A full copy of the article can be found here.

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