Power Distance Belief (PDB) is a concept articulated by researchers at University of Texas-San Antonio, Pennsylvania State University, and Rice University. The “power” refers to the degree of influence people have over others. The “distance belief” refers to the degree to which a consumer accepts that there are wide differences in the amount of power possessed by people the consumer knows about.
The researchers analyzed the effects on purchase behavior of PDB in a nationally representative sample of adults in the U.S., where PDB scores are relatively low, as well as in fifteen Asia-Pacific markets, where PDB scores are relatively high.
The study results indicate that when a shopper believes that there are broad differences in the distribution of power, they become less likely to impulsively purchase products like candy bars. These are the sorts of products others might criticize, and the shoppers yield to the assumed power of others. This didn’t hold true with impulsive purchases of granola bars, which could be viewed as healthy rather than indulgent.
Here are shopper psychology tactics suggested by these research findings:
- Know what products your shoppers consider to be indulgent and which they do not. The Texas/Pennsylvania/Rice researchers say that in India, a luxury brand of a staple like tea may be considered indulgent.
- If your customers associate with a culture which assumes broad power differences, position your products as utilitarian rather than indulgent, when possible and with respect for the health consequences on your customers. With products not positioned as utilitarian, don’t expect the same amount of impulse sales as with your customers who associate with a low PDB culture.
- Show advertisements and store signage which emphasize the power possessed by the shopper (“At our store, you’re the boss) or deemphasize the power (“At our store, we take care of you”).
- Treat the shopper with deference or with authority.
Manipulate the Shopper’s Sense of Power