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Hands-on Shopping: More Likely to Buy if You Can Give It a Try?

Difficulty
Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety No issues

Abstract

Did you know that the average child sees 20,000 30-second TV commercials in just one year? That's a lot of encouragement to buy new toys, clothes, entertainment, and food. In this behavioral science fair project, you'll find out some other ways (besides commercials) that marketers use to try and get adults to buy products, like having them touch or hold an item. You'll find out if these methods work with kids, too, and if they increase how much people are willing to pay for a product. It's a hands-on/hands-off experiment!

Objective

To determine if holding a product before you buy it affects interest in the product or in how valuable you think it is.

Credits

Kristin Strong, Science Buddies

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Hands-on Shopping: More Likely to Buy if You Can Give It a Try?" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 2 Oct. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/HumBeh_p045.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2012, December 7). Hands-on Shopping: More Likely to Buy if You Can Give It a Try?. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/HumBeh_p045.shtml

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Last edit date: 2012-12-07

Introduction

Have you ever seen a commercial for a cool action figure or a new fashion look that you just had to have? Maybe you begged your parents to buy it for you, or saved up your money so that you could get it yourself. If you think back to the commercial, what was it that made you want that new toy or clothing so badly? Was it that everyone else seemed to have it, too, or that you could imagine what it would be like to own it? Did it just look cool? Marketing is the way companies try to get people to buy goods (like toys and clothing) and services (like hair cutting, car repair, or medical care). Marketers use a variety of creative techniques to get you (the consumer) to buy their product. They focus on the four P's of marketing:

  1. Product: How the product will function and what brand name, style, quality, safety, packaging, accessories, repairs, warranties, and support it will have.
  2. Price: What the product's price will be, if that price should change during holiday seasons, how the price will change if the product is "bundled" with other products, and if there is any flexibility in pricing.
  3. Placement: How the product will get to the consumer, which involves transportation, order processing, and store and warehouse storage of the product.
  4. Promotion: How the product will be advertised and what kinds of sales promotions it will have.

In promoting a product by advertising it in TV commercials, online, or in stores, marketing researchers have found that getting you, the consumer, to visualize yourself owning the product is a big step toward getting you to buy it. For instance, commercials might show a kid who looks a lot like kids in your neighborhood, and who is taking a ride on a scooter or a skateboard. It makes it easy to picture yourself taking this same ride. This kind of visualization increases your perception (view) of ownership of the product. It also increases how much you are willing to pay for the product.

Marketing researchers have also found that simply holding or touching a product increases a sense of ownership of the product and if the product feels good or feels neutral (meaning neither good, nor bad) to the touch, that increases the perceived value of the product, or how much you think it is worth. Consequently, that affects how much a consumer is willing to pay for it. In fact, in 2003, the main lawyer for the state of Illinois, who is called the attorney general, actually warned holiday shoppers to be careful about retailers (sellers), who encourage them to hold merchandise or to imagine owning it. Why? Because touching a product or imagining ownership may lead to impulsive buying, when people buy things that they don't really need, can't afford, or may not even really want.

The branch of the social sciences that studies why people spend money in ways that don't make sense is called behavioral economics. In this behavioral science fair project, you're going to see if behavioral economics also applies to children. You'll have children compare two similar toys—one that they can touch and one that they can't—and see which one interests them more, and which one they think costs more. It's both hands-on and hands-off science!

Terms and Concepts

  • Marketing
  • Goods
  • Services
  • Consumer
  • Four P's of marketing
  • Perception
  • Impulsive buying
  • Behavioral economics

Questions

  • What is the difference between goods and services?
  • What are the four P's of marketing?
  • How is impulse buying encouraged?

Bibliography

This source describes a study in which marketing researchers investigated what happens when people visualize ownership or touch merchandise:

This source describes what behavioral economics is:

This source describes the classic four P's of marketing:

For help creating graphs, try this website:

Materials and Equipment

  • Volunteers (at least 30). Possible volunteers include your friends, brothers and sisters of your friends, or friends of your siblings. If you have trouble finding enough volunteers of the appropriate age, then consider trying the project variation (described in the Variations section, below) where volunteers are broken up by gender instead of age.
    • At least 10 in elementary school
    • At least 10 in middle school
    • At least 10 in high school
  • Shoe boxes or other small boxes, with lids (3)
  • Scissors
  • Hand-held mechanical puzzles, like a Rubik's cube (not electronic hand-held games) (2)
    • The puzzles should each be different.
    • The puzzles should have the same or a similar price and size.
    • The puzzles should be made out of similar materials.
    • Only remove one of the puzzles from its packaging.
  • Small pieces of paper, approximately 3–4 inches (in.) square (enough for each volunteer)
  • Note cards, 3.5 x 5 in. (2)
  • Small table with two chairs
  • Pencil or pen
  • Lab notebook
  • Graph paper

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Experimental Procedure

Preparing Your Boxes

  1. Cut a slit in the top of each box lid that is big enough for the small pieces of paper to fit through.
  2. Label the bottom of the box with a pen or a pencil, as follows:
    1. Box 1: Elementary school
    2. Box 2: Middle school
    3. Box 3: High school
  3. Set the boxes aside, with their lids on.

Preparing to Test Your Volunteers

  1. Read about each of the puzzles that you have bought and make notes about their features or characteristics in your lab notebook. You can get information about your puzzles from online toy stores, from the packaging, or from the instructions that came with the toys.
  2. Write down three details about both of your puzzles that you will read to the volunteers. Example: This puzzle is made out of wood. It has four levels of difficulty. It first became popular 600 years ago.
  3. On each small piece of paper, write down the following questions. Or you could type and print them out.
    1. If you were going to buy one of these puzzles, which one would you choose (A or B)?
    2. Which puzzle do you think costs more (A or B)?

Preparing Your Test Table

  1. Leave one puzzle in its packaging and set it on the table beside your chair, about where your right hand can comfortably reach it, without stretching.
  2. Take the other puzzle out of its packaging and place it on the table 1–2 feet away from the other puzzle, about where your left hand can comfortably reach it, without stretching. Hide this puzzle's packaging so it is not visible to your volunteers.
  3. Write a capital letter "A" on one of the note cards. Place the note card in front of the puzzle that is still in its packaging.
  4. Write a capital letter "B" on the second note card. Place the second note card in front of the puzzle that has been taken out of its packaging.
  5. Have your three boxes ready to go, with their lids on, on the floor beside your chair.
  6. Have your lab notebook, with your puzzle descriptions, on the table in front of your chair.
  7. Have your small pieces of paper and a pen or pencil on the table in front of your chair.

Testing Your Volunteers

  1. You should interview each volunteer individually, where the other volunteers can't see or hear your setup or conversation. Ask one volunteer to please sit down in a chair across the table from you.
  2. If you don't know already, ask the volunteer what grade he or she is in and record the information in your lab notebook.
  3. Put the box that is appropriate for your volunteer's grade on the table, off to the side.
  4. Tell the volunteer that:
    1. You are doing marketing research on different puzzles for your science fair project.
    2. You are going to tell him or her about the two puzzles on the table.
    3. You would like the volunteer to listen to the descriptions, and then decide which puzzle he or she would buy, if he or she had to choose between the two.
    4. You would also like the volunteer to think about which puzzle costs more.
    5. Do not tell the volunteer that you are studying how handling merchandise affects interest and perceived cost.
  5. Tell the volunteer that you are going to read him or her details about Puzzle A. Read your descriptions of Puzzle A from your lab notebook (without giving Puzzle A to your volunteer to touch or hold). For example, say:
    1. Puzzle A is made of wood.
    2. Puzzle A has four levels of difficulty
    3. Puzzle A became popular as a game 600 years ago.
  6. Tell the volunteer that you are now going to read him or her details about Puzzle B. Give Puzzle B to the volunteer and let him or her hold it while you read the description of Puzzle B from your lab notebook.
  7. Ask your volunteer to please put Puzzle B back on the table.
  8. Give your volunteer a small piece of paper and a pen or a pencil and ask him or her to answer the two questions on the paper:
    1. If you were going to buy one of these puzzles, which one would you choose (A or B)?
    2. Which puzzle do you think costs more (A or B)?
  9. Ask your volunteer to fold up the piece of paper and place it in the shoebox.
  10. Remove the shoebox from the table and repeat steps 1–9 until all of your volunteers have been tested.

Analyzing Your Data

  1. Calculate the percentage of volunteers from the elementary-school box that would buy Puzzle B, the puzzle that was taken out of the packaging and that was held, using Equation 1, below.
    1. First count up the number of responses to the first question in the elementary-school box that have a "B" response.
    2. Then count up the total number of volunteers in the elementary-school box.


Equation 1:

% of volunteers who would buy puzzle B =   (number of responses for the first question that have a "B" in the elementary school box)
(total number of volunteers for the elementary school box)
  × 100


    Record your calculation in a percentages data table, like this one.


Percentages Data Table

Box Percentage of volunteers who would buy the puzzle that was held Percentage of volunteers who thought the puzzle that was held cost more
Elementary school    
Middle school    
High school    


  1. Calculate the percentage of volunteers from the elementary-school box who thought that Puzzle B cost more, using Equation 2, below.
    1. First count up the number of responses to the second question in the elementary-school box that have a "B" response.
    2. Then count up the total number of volunteers in the elementary-school box.


Equation 2:

% of volunteers who thought puzzle B cost more =   (number of responses to the second question that have a "B" in the elementary school box)
(total number of volunteers for the elementary school box)
  × 100


    Record your calculation in the percentages data table.

  1. Repeat steps 1–2 for the middle-school box and the high-school box.
  2. Make a bar chart that plots the school type on the x-axis, and the percentage of volunteers who would buy the puzzle that was held on the y-axis. You can make the bar chart by hand or use a website like Create a Graph to make the graph on the computer and print it.
  3. Make a bar chart that plots the school type on the x-axis, and the percentage of volunteers who thought the puzzle that was held cost more on the y-axis.
  4. Make three pie charts, one for each school type, that show the percentage of volunteers who would buy the puzzle that was held, and the percentage of volunteers who would buy the puzzle that was left in its packaging.
  5. Make three pie charts, one for each school type, that show the percentage of volunteers who think the puzzle that was held costs more, and the percentage of volunteers who think that the puzzle that was left in its packaging costs more.
  6. Did holding the puzzle influence interest in buying it? Did holding the puzzle affect the perceived value (cost)? What age group of children was most affected by holding the puzzle? What age group was least affected?

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Variations

  • Instead of separating your volunteers by grade or age, separate them by gender. Make one box for girls and one box for boys. Is one gender more affected by handling the merchandise than another?
  • Have two groups of volunteers score, on a scale of 1–5, how a product feels to them, and then have them estimate its cost (from $10 to $30). One group will feel a product taken out of its package and at room temperature. The other group will feel the same product that has been made to feel more unpleasant, either by putting it in a freezer, or by rubbing tape on it to make it slightly sticky. Does a product that feels unpleasant to the touch decrease its perceived value? If so, by how much?

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