In a comfortably warm room, a chocolate chip cookie seems to be closer than it actually is, and potential buyers are willing to pay more for it than if the room was colder. Purchasing behaviors are influenced by real-world environmental factors, like temperature. So much so, that moderately warmer temperature increases both product valuation and physical closeness perception.
Research from Columbia Business School professor Leonard Lee focuses on how consumers shop in real world environments and how environmental factors affect their shopping behavior and preferences. His latest work with Jacob Goldberg of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, and Yonat Zwebner of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, focuses on the important connection between physical warmth and product valuation.
They found that “warming temperatures increased the probability that shoppers would buy a product, even after controlling for seasonality and factors specific to individual products, and despite the fact that shoppers were hunting for bargains.” Findings apply both to brick and mortar and online retailers and to a variety of products, from cameras and watches, to books and chocolate cake. “We found that physical warmth, despite being product irrelevant, can shape consumer’s purchase decisions.” Furthermore, “the studies suggest that exposure to physical warmth activates the concept of emotional warmth, eliciting positive reactions and increasing product valuation.”
How warm is too warm? Lee’s experiments showed that an eight degree increase to the standard room temperature (71.6°F), or 79°F, would make participants “more willing to pay significantly more – at least ten percent- for a given product, compared to participants sitting in a cooler room (64°F).” However, “as the temperature increases, its effect on purchase intent diminishes.”