While research has recognized the role of haptic sensations in influencing various aspects of consumer behavior, the association between haptically based experiences and social judgments in a retail encounter has not been explored. Based on the results of one field study, we showed a positive effect for both heavy and soft haptic cues on purchase behavior. Two follow-up lab experiments demonstrate that haptic attributes of retailer promotional materials affect social judgments of retailer competence and warmth. Furthermore, the relative accessibility of these two dimensions is contingent on the salience of environmental haptic cues (weight vs. softness). Additionally, we show that weight and softness influence recommendation intentions through competence and warmth, respectively. Compared to a lighter weight haptic cue, a retailer using a heavier haptic cue is perceived as more competent. In contrast, a retailer using a soft haptic cue is perceived as being warmer. Further, we demonstrate that retailer image moderates the impact of haptic cues on social judgment, such that these effects are mitigated for retailers with a more positive image.
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