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Relaxed Shoppers Spend More Money

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Want to get your customers to spend more? Relax them first. That's the finding of new research that states of relaxation consistently increase customers' sense of what a product is worth — often by as much as 10 percent.

The researchers conducted six experiments involving two different methods of inducing relaxation — videos and music — and then asked participants to value products of different types. The researchers found that study participants who were put into a relaxed state reported higher monetary valuations than participants who were put into an equally pleasant but less relaxed state.

The effect was observed across a large variety of products in other studies. Not only did relaxed participants believe that relaxing, luxury products and services such as a spa treatment or a cruise were worth more, they also thought that exciting products and services (such as bungee jumping sessions) and indulgent products and services (for example, an ice cream sundae) were worth more as well. The influence of relaxation on monetary valuation thus appears to apply to a wide range of products.

"The study reveals a psychological reaction to the biology of being relaxed: Your system thinks there is no threat in the environment. As a result, you tend to perceive various things as more desirable. Shoppers should be aware of how this impacts their decision-making," said one of the researchers, Michel Tuan Pham, a professor of business and marketing at Columbia Business School.

According to the researchers, relaxed consumers think products are worth more than less-relaxed consumers because relaxed individuals tend to think about the value of products at a more abstract level. For example, when bidding for a camera, relaxed participants focused more on what the camera would enable them to do (for example, collect memories) and how desirable and advantageous it was to own it, whereas the less-relaxed participants focused more on the concrete features of the camera itself (such as the number of megapixels it had and the shutter speed).

The study helps explain why luxury products and services, such as high-end boutiques and luxury hotels, are often sold or provided in relaxing environments. Everything else being equal, consumers will be willing to pay higher prices if marketers are able to relax them first, which has important implications for marketers, researchers said.

The paper will appear in the American Marketing Association's Journal of Marketing Research.

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