Consumers Willing to Pay More for Stuff They Can Touch
People are willing to spend more on items they can physically touch, says a new study that has implications for online shopping and digital media.
Unconscious behavioral responses make shoppers prone to spend more on corporal items that appear imminently obtainable, as compared with digital copies, or even identical items sequestered behind glass.
The experiment, conducted at the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech ), offered participants salty and sweet snacks, as well as some small trinkets, in exchange for some form of payment. Researchers presented the snacks and knick-knacks as digital pictures, as physical objects behind a glass barrier, and as objects directly within grasping distance of the participants. On average, the participants paid 50 percent more for both the food and knickknacks they could potentially touch.
“It changes the way we make decisions,” said Antonio Rangle, an associate professor of neuroscience and economics at Cal Tech, and researcher on the study. “Just look at the difference between ordering food at a cafeteria and ordering it by clicking a button. Somehow, there is something about the real physical presence of good that affects how the brain values them.”
Rangle suspected that consumers would pay more for the food , since scent and desire are linked in well understood ways. However, participants paying more for the trinkets surprised the researchers, and opened up the possibility that physical media still had a valuable allure that digital media cannot replicate.
This particular experiment did not measure whether or not the convenience of purchasing a digital item overwhelmed the desire evoked by a physical object.
Additionally, Rangle left open the possibility that in the future, realistic virtual reality representations of food or other products could produce the same effect seen in this experiment.