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Research Series #4: Revisiting the Age Construct – Implications for Service Research

Academic

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11.18.2020

A groundbreaking study in the Journal of Service Research by Prof. Dr. Volker Kuppelwieser (NEOMA Business School) and Prof. Dr. Phil Klaus (International University of Monaco) provides the answer to this important question.


Measuring age is one of the most popular tools for helping managers with their marketing, branding, and communication efforts.

Age is used as a key measurement for all segmentation practices and is often strategically important for determining the target of a firm’s offering.

However, using age in the classic way by measuring a customer’s chronological age to determine and forecast this person’s consumer behavior is a widely spread, flawed practice.

Researcher’s insights

Some firms are aware that they need to consider cognitive age, i.e. how old a consumer feels, in their segmentation efforts. Researchers point out that managers also need to consider consumers’ perceptions of how long they believe they have left to live, i.e. their future time perspective (FTP).

But the question is: which construct is the best for which firm under which circumstances?

“A common challenge is that managers simply do not know which age concept best explains consumer behavior in which context. This lack of understanding often leads to managers either reverting to chronological age or to guessing which of the two could provide them with the insights they are looking for,” says Volker Kuppelwieser.

Our study highlights the importance of managers not only understanding older consumers’ cognitive or subjective age but also how their age perception influences their interactions with the firm. Without this knowledge, misconceptions and age-based stereotypes, which may be culturally entrenched in staff, could influence how they engage with older consumers. Prof. Klaus mentions that “failure to do so due to, for example, practices based on chronological age could, as our data and example indicate, lead to widespread negative associations.”

We reveal four key findings and guidelines for choosing the ‘right’ age measurement.

1) What do you want to achieve? Chronological age is suitable for rough estimates but won’t do if you require more sophisticated segment analysis.

2) Consumer responses and chronological aging, while easy to collect, only provide ambiguous results.

3) If firms seek insights into the drivers of behavior, more sophisticated measures, such as FTP, will provide these.

4) Different outcomes require different measurements. One might be suitable for exploring what drives value perceptions, while another explains purchasing behavior better.

Applying these guidelines, allows managers to deliver the insights they crave for their market research,” explains Phil Klaus. Prof. Kuppelwieser concludes, “Our research is an excellent starting point for choosing the right construct for the insights that managers desire. If in doubt, FTP is the preferred choice to explain what matters most to your customers.”

***

Kuppelwieser, V. and Klaus, Ph. (2020), “REVISITING THE AGE CONSTRUCT:  IMPLICATIONS FOR SERVICE RESEARCH,” Journal of Service Research.

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