Cumulative Effect Details

For most situations, when you repeatedly perform an activity, the effects magnify over time. If you measure the total effect of the series of actions, it will be more than the marginal effect (whether benefit or loss) of performing that same action. This cumulative effect is what we refer to when we say the adage “one step at a time.” Taking a step at a time may not produce any significant result, but consistent steps will produce far greater results than the sum of the individual steps you have taken.

Sometimes, the total effects are not limited to the sum of past events' effects, but may also include present actions, and any foreseeable future events. It is mostly for environmental impact assessments, where the goal is to determine the effect of a project on the environment. Such an assessment considers the effects of other unrelated events that might influence the effects of the current project.

Cumulative effects also apply to businesses. Businesses plan and execute a series of actions to reap the benefits of cumulative effects. For example, a company may improve its customer handling experience by training one or two of their customer support staff in customer service. This action of treating one customer better at a time will result in increased sales for the company.

In business, advertising is one of the key areas where cumulative effects are employed. Advertising experts have established that a well-designed, targeted advert will certainly have cumulative effects on the consumers continuously exposed to the advert. If you own a business and are looking to grow, advertise aggressively. When you run a well-designed advert, consumers may not immediately rush to buy your products; however, when consumers continuously view your advert, they become familiar with your service or product over time. The consumer may not immediately need your services, but when the need arises, you will be the first on the consumer's mind because of the familiarity.

Cumulative Effects Example

Imagine you own a rug-cleaning company. As a start-up, you have told your friends about the business and they advised you to place adverts in the city mall and run some on the various social media groups you belong to. For the online social media groups, you may have to continuously post your adverts, to refresh the minds of those in the groups. Now it's two weeks later and you haven’t seen any change in your number of customers, and you are thinking: were my friends right about advertising? Did you wrongly spend money on placing the advert in the mall? If the advert targeted well, then the answer to your questions is NO.

For your rug-cleaning business, you have waited patiently after the advert and after six months, you are seeing a steady increase in your customers, and you now have a new challenge. You want to verify if the increase in customers came from the advertising, and what percentage of new customers through the ads. One way to estimate this is to attach a coupon to your adverts. When someone requests your services with the coupon, you will know and record such a person to have seen your ad. At the end of a period, you can count the number of coupons used and estimate the number of customers who have seen your advert.

Significance of Cumulative Effects

Cumulative effects have both advantages and disadvantages. In a positive sense, it is an aggregator that makes the total output better than the sum of individual inputs. Cumulative effects encourage people and businesses to be consistent in taking small steps to bring big results in the future. Examples include little but consistent exercises to maintain body shape and weight; advertising, reading a book one page at a time, etc. The world’s transitioning to sustainable energy is a gradual process that will enjoy the benefits of cumulative effects. Tesla and other electric vehicle manufacturers' efforts will cumulate into bigger positive results for the environment and economy.

In the negative sense, cumulative effects are evident in drug usage and substance abuse. In health, the repeated administration of a drug will produce a cumulative effect that is more than the first dose. The first-case abuse of a drug may not produce immediate noticeable results, however, over time, if the abuse continues, the cumulative effect of using the drug will show. Such cumulative effects are difficult to treat, as the body has already changed and conformed to the new situation.

Smoking is another activity that produces cumulative effects as a person ages. Continuous consumption of trace elements such as lead will lead to a gradual increase in blood pressure due to cardiovascular constrictions. In all the negative situations, the effects will not appear immediately. They will start to manifest when the cumulative effect has done irreparable damage.