Research News

Feeling lucky? Many loyal consumers do, despite the facts

Consumers who perceive themselves as loyal customers to a particular company often believe that they have better than average odds to win contests and sweepstakes that are entirely random.

Lucky loyalty effect

“We find evidence for a ‘lucky loyalty effect’ in which participants believe that greater effort (e.g. dollars spent at a retailer, nights spent at a hotel) results in greater likelihood of obtaining randomly promotional outcomes,” say three researchers in the new paper “Lucky Loyalty: The Effect of Consumer Effort on Predictions of Randomly Determined Marketing Outcomes.”

“Consider that scratch-and-save card you are handed while checking out at a favorite retailer,” says Kelly Haws, associate professor of management at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management and one of the authors of the study. “[rquote]The more you’ve shopped there in the past, the more likely you think you will be to get the highest possible discount.”[/rquote]

Apparently, loyal customers make the leap on their own that they deserve such consideration, say Haws and her co-authors, Rebecca Reczek, associate professor of marketing at the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, and Christopher Summers, a marketing Ph.D. candidate at Fisher.

The study will be published in December by the Journal of Consumer Research. It suggests that promotional contests with winners selected at random will continue to be a good option for companies, since loyal customers will apparently continue to think they have a better than average chance to win, despite disclaimers that contest results are random.

I deserve to win

kelly haws
Kelly Haws (Daniel Dubois/Vanderbilt)

Loyal consumers’ feelings of deservedness were not easily explained, Haws says.

“Our empirical results suggest that a general belief in a just world or a generalized feeling of luck do not explain this effect, nor does the illusion of control,” she says. “Rather, consumers simply feel that they can ‘earn’ positive outcomes that are not actually earnable through their effort, loyalty or patronage.”

An additional area for further study would be the aftermath of promotional contests, the authors suggest.

“Future research could … explore how consumers who thought they had higher chances of receiving a random outcome react when they do not, in fact, win the giveaway,” the researchers say.