Is that new BMW a needless expense or a smart investment? For a hyperopic shopper (one who is more than usually adverse to luxury spending), it’s an important question: The way a marketer frames a luxury item is the key to making a sale to a hyperopic shopper, says new research from Kelly Haws, assistant professor of marketing at Mays. Hyperopic shoppers are more interested in long-term goals than instant gratification, so to reach this demographic, a retailer must make luxury products more appealing by trumpeting the value of higher-cost items.
According to Mays marketing professor Kelly Haws, hyperopic shoppers are willing to sacrifice short-term pleasure or profit for perceived long-term benefits.
The value touted may be long-term cost savings, such as a high-end appliance that will be more reliable over the years than the cheaper competition, or it may be less tangible, like generosity. A marketer could make the pitch that buying their higher priced item to share with others makes the shopper seem less like a miser and more like a benefactor, thus appealing to the shopper’s long-term aspiration to be altruistic.
This research is especially pertinent in light of today’s economic turmoil, as luxury marketers have struggled along with other retailers to stay profitable amid lessening demand. Haws says marketers of any product that can be viewed as indulgent or pleasurable should evaluate their pitch to emphasize long-term value, reminding shoppers to not merely spend well, but live well.
Hyperopic shoppers are “excessively farsighted” when it comes to their financial goals, says Haws. That means they consistently sacrifice short-term pleasure or profit for perceived long-term benefits. It’s a complicated label, as Haws says a person can be hyperopic about one area of budgeting but not another. Her example: a collector, who’s willing to spend hundreds on a sought-after item, but who refuses to take a vacation because he doesn’t think he can afford it.
Another finding from Haws’ research is that luxury is in the eye of the purse-holder. To some consumers, name-brand cereal is considered a wanton expense, while others view fine jewelry in that category. Understanding hyperopia and perceptions about luxury can help marketers reach tough customers, says Haws.
The economy is shifting buyer perceptions about luxury, as smaller items (such as gourmet coffee) seem more luxurious when cutbacks on spending are being made in other areas. An effective message from marketers Haws says she’s seeing is, “You can’t afford everything, but buying this small item can enhance your life.”
It’s important to recognize hyperopia is different from simply being a tightwad, as hyperopics are aware that a change in their spending habits could be beneficial or would help them to enjoy life more. Haws notes that others’ research on the topic has shown that tightwads outnumber spendthrifts three to two in the U.S.
While the exact percentage of hyperopic shoppers is unknown, Haws believes that its safe to infer from the tightwad and spendthrift study that it is a fairly significant segment of the population.
Haws conducted this research with Cait Poynor, assistant professor of marketing at Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh.
For more information
Haws, Kelly and Cait Poynor. “Seize the day! Encouraging indulgence for the hyperopic consumer.” Journal of Consumer Research December 2008, Vol 35.