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Social-spatial effects in pricing: When and how vertical orientations shape processing of price comparisons

Michael J. Barone, PhD X. Li K.P. Winterich K.B. Lyle
Customer Needs and Solutions. November 1, 2018

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Marketers frequently compare a product’s sale price against its regular price to accentuate perceptions of value. The effectiveness of these price comparisons is predicated on consumers sufficiently processing the deal’s depth (i.e., the regular price − sale price differential). Although research indicates consumers can generally make such assessments, we document an exception when price comparisons are presented in a format that aligns with the vertical orientation of consumers. The correspondence between vertical price comparisons and the mindsets of individuals who value social hierarchies (i.e., who are vertically oriented) induces a sense of “fit” that reduces processing and leads to similar responses to the offer regardless of deal depth. This effect manifests regardless of whether vertical orientations are measured as a chronic state or temporarily primed. Supporting our theorizing, vertically oriented participants report paying less attention and being less motivated to process price comparisons. Theoretical implications of these findings are discussed as are suggestions for future research examining how social views may shape consumer processing of product attribute and point-of-purchase information.