Remember the last time you went shopping?
You knew the product you wanted to buy and how much the product would cost you. Was your decision affected by whether you saw the price or the product first?
According to Uma R Karmakar”considering the price first changed how people thought about the decision process and whether it changed the way the brain coded the value of the product” Karmakar says as they have neuroscience tools at their disposal they had the benefit of exploring both the questions.
Researchers say viewing the price first(price primacy)makes the customers think whether the product is that useful and really needed to be bought. Researchers would help marketers “decide when it is the best to lead with price, which products work best with that strategy and how to frame sales messages to customers
THE BRAIN SHOPPING EXPERIMENT
In a series of exercises, participants were made to lie down on an fMRI “(Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine and were taken shopping. The fMRI uses a giant elect magnetic and often 3teslas strong which can be used to track the blood flow throughout the brain as subjects respond to sensory cues. Here, participants were responding to both pictures of the object and their prices.
The first experiment was conducted at an imaging centre at the Stanford University campus, participants were given $40 before viewing a series of products and their prices on a screen inside the fMRI. According to Karmaker,this technique made the shopping experience more real.
Some participants saw the product first while a few saw their price first, but they saw an image of both the product and price together. At this particular point they choose whether they need the product or no, with a push of a button.
Researchers were more interested in the “medial prefontal cortex which id the area in the brain that deals with estimating decision value and nucleus accemben area that is the pleasure centre, and activity is correlated with whether a product is desirable.
Researchers tell us that the brain activity varied to whether the subject had seen the price or the product first. According to Karmaker”The pattern of activity in the prefrontal cortex suggested to us that sequence matters: At the very simplest, the neural signals looked different when the price came first versus when the product came first,” When the subject sees the product first the question in his mind is “Do I like it” and when he sees the price first the question is to be “Is it worth it”
This tells us that price viewing first does not have a effect on actual purchasing behaviour. Subjects bought the same number of items and reported similar “liking” ratings whether they had seen a product or the price first.
Karmaker says “If you really love something and you can afford the product you are going to buy it” and those kinds of easy decisions it does not matter whether the product or the price comes first. Karmaker team wanted to show that their “research could have real world implications for retailers” direct effect on whether a consumer decided to buy the product.
Karmaker says “The question is not whether the price makes a product seem better, it is whether product is worth the price”
Carmen Nobel is senior editor of Harvard Business School Working Knowledge.