Monthly Archives: July 2019

Rent Furniture instead of Buying

Most college students likely have furniture that includes hand-me-downs from family and friends, or purchases from garage sales and Craig’s List. The sofa in their living room was probably once used by Aunt Helen in Kentucky, transported by Cousin Patrick to New York, sold to his friend Alan who moved to New Jersey, and who knows who else as it made its way around the country! And that is fine for young millennials who are just starting out. But eventually, their longing turns to new furniture that they view regularly on social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest.

But it’s hard to swallow that high-priced new furniture. New furniture buyers are likely shocked by the price for that brand-new West Elm sofa. How can they afford that thousand-dollar sofa when they have to pay student loans, car payments, rent, and everything else?

Enter: Services that let you rent furniture through a monthly membership, giving you the option to swap out furniture when tastes and trends change. For example, a popular West Elm sofa may cost $899 in stores, but it can be rented from Feather at $52/month (12-month subscription), and then swapped out, renewed, or returned. Individual pieces as well as full-rooms can be rented in certain cities. It’s a new way to live more upscale without having to pay out the entire fee at once.

Shall we redecorate?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students. Where is their furniture from? Family, friends, neighbors, Craigs List?
  2. What would be their interest level to rent new furniture once they graduate and begin working? How much would they be willing to pay?
  3. Show furniture rental sites:

West Elm: https://www.renttherunway.com/westelm

Casa One: https://www.casaone.com/

Fernish: https://fernish.co/

Feather: https://www.livefeather.com/

  1. Divide students into teams. Have each team examine the information for a different furniture rental company.
  2. Discuss the importance of clearly defining a target market.
  3. Divide students into teams and have each team develop a profile of a target market. Include demographics, psychographics, behaviors, values, attitudes, etc.
  4. Based on the target market profile, what makes this service unique for these customers?
  5. Debrief the exercise.

Source: Carefoot, H. (25 April 2019). Can’t afford that West Elm sofa? Rent it instead. Washington Post.

 

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Are You Being Manipulated by E-Commerce Sites?

As on-line shoppers we often depend on the reviews, comments, and purchases by other shoppers to help guide our decision-making. We see how many “likes” a product has received, and if it performed according to the promised description. We might even like to score a great deal on a hot trend that others are snapping up. What does Suzy from San Francisco know that I don’t know?

A common message on shopping sites is that “four other people are looking at this offer right now” or “Suzy from San Francisco just saved $202 on her order!” or “You just missed this great deal!” As it turns out, there often is no “Suzy from San Francisco” online scoping out the same deal as you. The messages are often fake; these are an example of something called “dark patterns,” which are online tactics that manipulate users into doing things that might not otherwise do.

These dark patterns directly benefit the company, not the consumer, and can be regarded by many people as fraud. (This happened to me recently when updating a standard software program – I kept clicking “next” without realizing that it was modifying my computer preferences!)

Lest we regard ourselves as lazy, consider that people do not read every word on every page all the time. We pick up on patterns and make assumptions. A “dark pattern” makes it difficult for the user to do something that does not benefit the company (such as cancelling an account). Companies can use color and design to mislead or trick users. A recent study from Princeton University used software to scan more than 10,000 sites. They found that more than 1,200 of the sites used tactics identified as “dark patterns.”

Here are some examples of dark patterns:

  • Sneak into basket – something is added to your basket because you didn’t opt-out
  • Roach motel – trying to get out of something such as a subscription service
  • Price comparison prevention – that makes it hard to compare the price of an item with another item
  • Disguised ads – that appear as content or navigation in order to gain clicks

Consumers need transparency from companies, not tricks to make us buy more.

Which dark pattern have you experienced?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students. Who checks review prior to buying something online?
  2. View video at Dark Patterns: https://www.darkpatterns.org/
  3. What have been the students’ experiences with dark patterns?
  4. Discuss the ethical considerations of marketing.
  5. Are dark patterns legal? Are dark patterns ethical?
  6. Divide students into teams. Have each team select an e-commerce site and review how to set up an account, cancel an account, and more.
  7. How many of the dark patterns can they find?

Source: Valentino-DeVries, J. (24 June 2019). How e-commerce sites manipulate you into buying things you may not want. New York Times.

 

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Designer Toothpaste, Anyone?

Some products have become so ubiquitous in our lives that we seldom consider how they might be updated to reflect current trends. Consider products such as hand soap, detergent, and toothpaste. After all, when was the last time you truly examined your toothpaste and thought about design and innovation? And what exactly are the ingredients in toothpaste? Go ahead, read the ingredient list and you are likely to uncover it contains components such as triclosan and saccharin. (The FDA has banned triclosan for hand soap, but it is ok to put those ingredients in our mouths? Huh?)

Given how nearly every product seems to be undergoing a make-over, it just seems logical for toothpaste to get an update for today’s consumers. Packaging and ingredients can both be updated, as well as how and where consumers buy it. Today’s newer toothpastes take lessons from the beauty product world, where design and price points vary and make the products more appealing as well.

Of course, revisions may not come cheaply. French company Buly 1803 sells $29 toothpaste in artfully designed packaging and in flavors including orange-clove-cinnamon. Sephora carries a coconut oil dental floss ($8) and a Lush sells a charcoal, kaolin clay, and gunpowder tea tablet that is chewed before brushing. Twice, a brand from musician/artist Lenny Kravitz, has a two-pack of toothpaste (one for morning, another for evening) that sells at $17 for the pair with proceeds going to help Bahama communities.

Go ahead. Read the labels and make your choice.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Review key aspects of developing a product positioning map, including determining the axis labels for positioning.
  2. Show examples of new toothpaste:

Hello: https://www.hello-products.com/

Revolve: https://www.revolve.com/marvis/br/2677a2/?srcType=dp_des2

Sephora: https://www.sephora.com/product/cocofloss-P421244

Lush: https://www.lushusa.com/face/teeth/boom%21/04342.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI1-6V-LP33wIVA4vICh1cJAaeEAQYBSABEgIiFvD_BwE

Twice: https://www.smiletwice.com/

APA Beauty: https://apabeauty.com/apa-white-toothpaste.html

  1. Review toothpaste products. What other products are competitors?
  2. Divide students into teams and have each team develop a positioning map for one of the new companies.
  3. Have each team draw their map on the board.
  4. Debrief exercise.

Source: Shapiro, B. (4 April 2019). Is that chic toothpaste worth the price? New York Times.

 

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