Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

How the Perceptual Fluency of Price Discounts and Promotional Cues Affect Consumer Responses

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

How the Perceptual Fluency of Price Discounts and Promotional Cues Affect Consumer Responses

Article excerpt

Imagine that you are visiting your favorite store to buy daily necessities. When passing by a display stand of body products, you find that body lotions are on sale. However, you have some difficulty processing the discount information because the regular and discount prices are not as clearly marked as usual. In this case, would your response to the price discount differ from a case when the discount was clearly marked?

Research has revealed that it is not only the content of information but also the degree of difficulty individuals experience when processing the information that affects their response to the information (Motyka, Suri, Grewal, & Kohli, 2015; Reber, Schwarz, & Winkielman, 2004; Tsai & Thomas, 2011). With this key finding revealed, researchers began to apply it to the understanding of consumer responses to price discounts. For example, it was found that when the regular price was presented in a larger font than the discount price (Coulter & Coulter, 2005), or when the regular price was printed on the left of the display and the discount price was printed on the right (Biswas, Bhowmick, Guha, & Grewal, 2013), consumers perceived the discount magnitude as larger and evaluated the discounted target more favorably because they were able to process the discount information more easily than either when the regular price was presented in a smaller font than the discount price or when the regular price was printed to the right and the discounted price to the left. In addition, the more easily consumers could calculate a discount price and the amount saved (Coulter & Roggeveen, 2014; Thomas & Morwitz, 2009), the more positive was their response. However, whereas the majority of researchers have suggested the advantages of fluency of discount information processing, Motyka et al. (2015) reported an opposite finding. They asserted that presenting discount price information in a unique font, that is, one that was unfamiliar or not commonly used, made it difficult for people to perceive and this could actually increase preference for discount products because consumers were then likely to go through a deeper and more systematic processing of the discount information.

These researchers have focused on discount information related to actual price, such as regular price, discount price, and the amount saved. However, for many discount promotions, a variety of additional information is presented or inferred, including the duration and frequency of the discount and the reason for the discount. Such additional information has been known to affect consumer responses to price discounts (Lichtenstein & Bearden, 1989; Zielke, 2014). For instance, in previous research it was demonstrated that when discounts were frequent, consumers' trust decreased and their internal reference price dropped, leading to a decline in the effectiveness of the discounts (Lichtenstein & Bearden, 1989). These findings prompted our interest in investigating the combined effect of processing fluency and the additional information about discounts. Consumers are exposed to promotional cues that enable them to infer the duration and frequency of discounts, and the influence of these promotional cues will differ depending on how easy it is for the consumer to process the information. Specifically, we examined whether or not presenting promotional information in a disfluent format can, in fact, elicit positive consumer responses, especially when consumers infer that the duration of the discount is long or the frequency of the discount is high.

Theoretical Background

The Effects of Processing Fluency

Processing fluency refers to the subjective difficulty experienced when processing information, and has three distinctive effects. First, processing fluency elicits a positive emotion, which develops into preference for the target. If information processing is easy, the individual experiences a hedonic feeling because he/she feels that he or she has understood the information well. …

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