Previous touch literature cannot answer whether prior touching of a new product (i.e. a new watch) can facilitate consumers’ evaluation of another extremely incongruent product (i.e. a new camera). The present research posits that asking consumers to previously touch (versus not touch) an extremely new product (i.e. a new computer mouse) can offer them an opportunity to transfer their learning of the touched new product to understanding another target product’s extremely incongruity, which consequently leads to incongruity resolution and increased evaluation of the target product (H1-H2). This research further posits that the prior-touch strategy will be ineffective when the prior-touched product is conceptually different from the target product (i.e., it is common) (H3), as conceptual disparity inhibits the occurrence of near transfer of learning. We conduct four lab experiments to test these hypotheses.
Experiment 1 examined H1-H2 and further tested other alternative explanations including arousal and moods which might affect consumers’ new product evaluation. College students completed a randomly-assigned 3 (form incongruity: congruent vs. moderate vs. extreme) × 2 (prior-touch: touch vs. no touch) two-way between-subjects design, with product evaluation as the DV. This experiment found that prior-touch (versus no such touch) only increased evaluations of the extremely incongruent camera, supporting H1. A bootstrap analysis showed that incongruity resolution rather than arousal or positive mood mediated the effect demonstrated in H1, supporting H2. Experiment 2 examined consumers’ real choices, finding that compared to no prior touching, prior touching an extremely incongruent mug can increase consumers’ subsequent choices of an extremely incongruent computer mouse. Experiment 3 adopted a 2 (prior-evaluated product’s form incongruity: extremely common vs. extremely new) × 2 (prior-touch) × 2 (target product’s form incongruity: congruent vs. extremely incongruent) three-way between-subjects design, using similar procedures of previous experiments. As expected, prior touching an extremely common computer mouse did not change participants’ ability in resolving the extreme incongruity of and did not increase evaluations of the subsequent target watch, supporting H3. In Experiment 4, participants were randomly assigned to one of four type of senses (both touch and see vs. just touch with eyes closed vs. just see without touch vs. no-see, no-touch) conditions to evaluate the target soft drink. This experiment found that it was prior-touching the mouse rather than prior-seeing the mouse that drove the effect observed across Experiments 1-3.
Theoretically, this research observes for the first time the carry-over effect of product touch, thus extending existing research on product touch. This research further enriches existing new product research, showing that prior touching an extremely incongruent product can enhance consumers’ evaluations of the subsequent extremely incongruent target product. Managerially, this research has rich implications to new product’s launch and promotion.
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