A recent experimental survey conducted by marketing experts shows that many people feel negatively when asked to donate at cash counters. While other people do not mind donating, many feel insecure or pressured. This checkout charity can increase shoppers’ anxiety, and lead to the downgrading of their interest in buying from that store again.
The study was undertaken by Na Young Lee, assistant professor of marketing, University of Dayton, and Adam Hepworth, assistant professor of marketing at Ohio University, and co-authored with Alex Zablah. They delved into how customers at stores respond to on-the-spot donation requests made by human cashiers or automated checkout kiosks.
The researchers conducted face-to-face interviews of 60 shoppers, inquiring how they felt when they were asked to make donations at cash counters of a variety of stores.
Approximately 40% of the words which came up were associated with negativity and anxiety, such as “pressured”, “annoyed” and “concerned about being judged”. Another 7% also expressed negative feelings like “guilty” or “bad”.
This shows that quite a lot of people did not appreciate being asked to make donations at cash counters. On the contrary, only 20% of the words used by the interviewees indicated a positive experience, such as “nice” or “compassionate”. The rest of the words were of neutral or indifferent nature.
In a series of online interviews, the researchers questioned 970 people. Half of them were asked to imagine themselves making a simple transaction at grocery stores or drive-thrus. The other half were additionally asked to picture making donations. The results showed that those having to face checkout charity felt more anxiety than others.
Another observation made by the experts demonstrated that the customers’ anxiety can be relieved. This can be achieved only when the human cashier asks for a charitable contribution. But an automated request made by a self-service checkout machine or computer can induce higher levels of anxiety.
Impact On Customers
In such situations of charitable solicitation, some customers may not have the resources to donate. Australian businessman William Fricker said, “If people want donations, they should approach the federal government and the lotteries commission instead of putting the onus on people who may not be able to afford to donate”.
Jana Bowden, marketing professor and consumer psychologist, pointed out some benefits of such point-of-sale donations like they help brands amplify their impact on society while meeting their brand purpose, community and social goals. Also, such charity is quite time-effective for donating customers.
Bowden shows how customers may react positively to such charity requests. “Point-of-sale donations also of course pull at consumer heartstrings. On a checkout screen the cause is put in front of you, so it’s top of mind and prioritized as you are paying. Consumers might even remember the charity after checkout, which provides the charity with longer term recognition, recall and awareness benefits”, she said.
But she also highlighted the negative impact. She said that such donations can “create a sense of both emotional and cognitive dissonance in consumers – that sense of unease that consumers might feel when they are not sure if they are making the right decision or not”.
Also, many consumers feel pressured into giving, and consequently “they feel bad doing good”.
So generally there is a risk that the customers feel annoyed with the specific brand. Bowden says that many consumers do not want to spend money on charity unless they decide to on their own.
“The reality is that a lot of consumers don’t like to be asked overtly to donate money. They want to choose the causes they support on their own terms and on their own time”, she said.
Disclaimer: This article is fact-checked
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