Are donation requests at the checkout worth the shopper anxiety they cause?
A new university study finds being asked to donate at cash registers heightens anxiety for shoppers, despite good intentions.
Interviews with 60 shoppers conducted by researchers led by Ohio University probing how they felt about being asked checkout solicitations found:
- About 40 percent expressed negative feelings associated with anxiety, such as feeling “pressured,” “annoyed” and “concerned about being judged.”
- Another seven percent conveying negative sentiments from a mental standpoint, including feeling “guilty” or “bad.”
- About a third were neutral, expressing sentiments such as “indifferent.”
- Only about 20 percent described positive feelings, such as “nice” or “compassionate.”
An online survey found a similar pattern.
The study found such anxiety decreases during solicitation episodes when customers agree to donate, however, this occurs only when requests are made by frontline employees rather than self-checkout technologies.
Researchers noted that surveys show that consumers want brands to support causes. Engage For Good found that U.S. checkout charity campaigns raised $605 million for assorted causes in 2020.
A 2014 survey from Good Scout that found 55 percent of respondents liked being asked to give charity at checkout, although 60 percent of Boomers didn’t like being asked. Of the respondents who didn’t like being asked, the top reasons they still gave was feeling guilty, 35 percent; “the cashier asked me,” 21 percent; and peer pressure, 12 percent.
Studies conducted in 2020 by Howard University found altruistic people may react negatively to point-of-sale solicitations because consumers see it as “a violation of their social contract with the retailer — a contract built on the principle of reciprocity, whereby the two parties equally contribute to and benefit from the exchange,” according to the Harvard Business Review.
Retailers could rebalance the exchange by strongly publicizing their commitment to the charity through in-store signage and by training associates as charity ambassadors, offering high customer service overall, and by making donations simple, such as rounding up a bill.
Efua Obeng, a professor at Howard University, told HBR. “Rather than haphazardly launching campaigns, retailers must strategically craft them to ensure success.”
- ‘Checkout charity’ can increase a shopper’s anxiety, especially when asks are automated – The Conversation
- Feeling anxious: The dark side of checkout charity solicitations (study) – Journal of Business Research
- 2021 America’s Charity Checkout Champions – Engage For Good
- Change At The Checkout – Good Scout
- Why Soliciting Donations at the Cash Register Can Backfire – Harvard Business Review
- New Study Reveals Cause Marketing an Effective Business Investment – Barkley
- Gen Z & Millennials Want Brands To Support Causes — Here Are the 10 They’re Most Passionate About – Ypulse
- 71 Percent of Consumers Will Spend More Money to Support a Cause. Here’s How to Pick the Right One for Your Company – INC
- Do you like or loathe being asked for a donation at checkout? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see donation requests at checkout as more of a positive or negative to the in-store shopping experience? What suggestions would you have to reduce the anxiety some shoppers feel about being asked?