Specific steps help consumers reach their goals

Making specific plans is an effective way of helping consumers meet their goals, according to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. 

The researchers examined how consumers act when they are given specific steps to reach certain goals, such as those that are included in many customer loyalty programs.

The authors of the study, Liyin Jin, Szu-Chi Huang, and Ying Zhang, said:

“Consumers believe that flexibility increases their chances of achieving a goal. While this is sometimes true, relatively rigid structures can simplify goal pursuit by eliminating the need to make demanding choices, ultimately making a goal less difficult to achieve.”

An example is the bonus that ‘yesmywine.com’ gives its customers when they get a “Country Medal”, which is achieved by buying wines from a certain country every month for a year.

Another study, which enrolled customers in a loyalty program at a yogurt shop, gave them a reward if they purchased products in a specific order.

Even though many people believed that following a specific order of purchasing would be harder, it actually made it easier for them.

Despite consumers being less likely to enroll in the program, there was a greater chance that those who joined followed all the steps necessary to reach the goal.

Consumers tend to believe that following specific steps is harder

Goals that require customers to follow very specific steps tend to make them think that it will make the goal harder to reach. However, people should understand that a strict plan actually makes it easier to achieve the goals.

The authors concluded:

“While greater flexibility is generally thought to increase motivation, restrictions may, ironically, turn out be more productive. Rigidity streamlines goal pursuit by imposing a clear roadmap to reaching a goal. This simplifies the process and makes consumers more likely to achieve their goals.”