social sciences

Smart shoppers: more than sales and coupons

There is a lot of different and interesting literature on marketing strategies and sales. For instance, researchers have looked at the consequences of consumers learning about having bought products that went on sale, after they bought it. Thus they weren’t able to profit from the discount. Or, another big part of marketing research is decision-making processes. Do people with certain types of personality traits use different strategies to find out which products to buy and how to compare them? These findings are especially important since we live in a consumer-driven world. Every day, more options exist to choose from, when for example, buying a new smartphone. Garretson and Burton wrote a fascinating article on different types of consumers and how they react to sales.

First, they looked at different variables related to being sales and coupon prone. Price consciousness entails that buyers are actively on the lookout to pay the lowest price. But value consciousness is also imperative, as looking for the lowest price doesn’t mean that buyers are content with inferior quality. These types of consciousness mean spending more time looking for such deals, which coupon and sales prone individuals feel like is time well spent. These types of consumers should be more aware of ongoing sales and are less skeptic of retailers’ intentions behind sales.

In order to measure these variables and ideas, the researchers looked at data collected through questionnaires. They looked at the differences between two types of consumers, people who are sales and coupon prone and those that aren’t. The researchers found that consumers who are more sales and coupon prone tended to be price conscious and value conscious. However, they didn’t find any differences between the two groups of consumers in terms of price-quality associations. Overall, the participants didn’t think that higher prices meant higher quality products.

When looking at shopping enjoyment and market skepticism, those who are sales and coupon prone tended to enjoy shopping more and were less skeptic. They didn’t feel as if the bargain was a ‘scheme’ set up by the retailer to lure them in. These consumers don’t only feel good about paying a lower price, but they enjoy shopping and regard themselves as smart shoppers.

Thus the sale isn’t the only benefit for those actively looking to find the best deal, it also includes the act of shopping and being a smart shopping. The authors of the research article point out that the ego-related dimension is of importance to those who are sales and coupon prone.

Garretson, J. A., & Burton, S. (2003). Highly coupon and sale prone consumer: benefits beyond price savings. Journal of Advertising Research, 43(2), 162-172.

social sciences

Scarcity principle: why we want the limited edition

What we want to have is not only influenced by how much we like the product but also how much others like it. Economics and the market are often explained in terms of demand and supply, which in theory can determine the price of the product. But studying demand and supply is also imperative to psychologists, as there are many underlying cognitive factors in buying products. In this post, I will discuss one of those factors, the scarcity principle.

Running low on supply
Apparently, we use others’ preferences as signals to find out whether a product is good or not. When we walk through the supermarket aisle, we use quick mental heuristics (a rule of thumb). One of those heuristics is the scarcity principle. Seeing that there are only a few products left tells us that the demand is high, therefore the product must be good, right? This is what several experiment settings have found. Not only telling consumers that ‘there are a few left!’ but seeing the visual display of a few more wine bottles left can trigger people to opt for that particular wine type/brand.¹
Unfortunately, I don’t know whether retailers actively put this into practice by intentionally filling aisles with small amounts of products. As supermarkets, for instance, can use this to up the sales by continuously stocking a few items at a time.

But what about limited edition?
Every now and then manufacturers decide to only produce a few product and market it as ‘limited edition’. Big brands will create unique shoes, perfumes, phone designs, or watches which often sell for high prices. However, this is different from the aforementioned wine bottle situation in a supermarket. Consumers that want these types of products probably don’t want it because ‘there’s only a few left, everyone wants them’. But there are more underlying factors at play. Limited editions are often used for conspicuous products.  These are products to show off one’s status. Thus buying limited editions is to display uniqueness, because you’re one of the few who owns a specific product.² But as for the other side of the scarcity principle, people want a product because everyone else wants it, so it must be good.

1. Van Herpen, E., Pieters, R., & Zeelenberg, M. (2014). When less sells more or less: The scarcity principle in wine choice. Food Quality and Preference36, 153-160.
2. Gierl, H., & Huettl, V. (2010). Are scarce products always more attractive? The interaction of different types of scarcity signals with products’ suitability for conspicuous consumption. International Journal of Research in Marketing27(3), 225-235.