Something for the weekend

Be careful not to sign your name before you go Christmas shopping, you may spend more than you intended

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00

With the festive season around the corner and retailers eager to part customers from their cash some timely research from two academics might be worth considering before embarking on Christmas shopping.

Gerald Häubl, professor of marketing at the University of Alberta and Keri Kettle, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Miami’s School of Business Administration say that signing your name, on a credit card slip for example, will have an impact on your subsequent shopping behaviour. They suggest that writing your name activates “your sense of self” which means that if you then enter a shop with which you identify you are more likely to linger there, often by as much as 15 minutes. Retailers are well aware that the more a customer lingers, the more inclined they will be to spend their hard earned money.

To test their premise the researchers first discovered what products participants in their field tests found most enticing. Some of these participants were then encouraged to sign their name in a handwriting tasks, before all the participants were sent to a nearby sports shop which emphasised running as a hobby. The academics discovered that those participants who had both signed their name and were interested in running were far more inclined to linger in the store than the self-confessed enthusiastic runners who had not signed their name.

The authors of The signature effect: signing influences consumption-related behaviour by priming self identity-say that retailers could take advantage of this effect and try to influence consumer behaviour. They suggest that retailers ask customers to fill out a survey, or enrol in a loyalty programme which will engage shoppers and possibly encourage them to associate more closely with the shop and ultimately spend money there.

● Is it really vital for you to turn up for that meeting halfway across Europe or would the outcome be very much the same if you just relied on Skype or instant messaging? For many executives, who cut their teeth on face-to-face meetings, the thought of an important conference being conducted virtually is an alarming one. Will the quality of negotiations and the outcome be effected if discussions are entrusted to the internet? But can the time and expense of overseas travel be justified?

According to a group of researchers the decision depends on the quality of existing relationships.

“The success or failure of negotiations and group decision making all depends on people’s attitudes and their history,” says Roderick Swaab, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Insead. Prof Swaab with colleagues from Northwestern University, has found that in certain circumstances the face-to-face approach might not always be the best one for negotiations and in fact instant messaging might be more successful.

The academics says that for a group of individuals who had never met before, face-to-face meetings, where people could pick up non-verbal clues were the most successful in establishing trust and rapport. This was especially relevant for western cultures they say. Once a rapport existed, subsequent meetings - whether in the same room or thousands of miles apart via instant messaging tended to produce the same high-quality results.

However, the authors say that in those situations where individuals had had previous disagreements or were seeking personal gain, it was preferable to have virtual negotiations rather than face-to-face meetings.

The paper, The communication orientation model: explaining the diverse effects of sight, sound and synchronicity on negotiation and group decision making outcomes, will be published shortly in Personality and Social Psychology Review.

It was co-authored by Adam Galinsky, professor of ethics and decision in management, Victoria Medvec, professor of management and organisations and Daniel Diermeier, a professor of regulation and competitive practice. All three are faculty members at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.