Friday, October 26, 2012

Solidify Consumers by Place or Lifestyle

When the target audience for your retail offerings feels they’re involved with a community, they’ll be more satisfied with their purchases from you.
     Researchers at University of Wyoming explored how this works with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a retail arrangement in which people pay a fixed fee in advance to have delivery of produce for a fixed time. Whistling Train Farm in Washington State’s Green River Valley has a CSA program in which 200 subscribers each paid $385 this year to receive a bag of fruits and vegetables each week for twenty weeks. Organic and local food website LocalHarvest says they know of more than 4,000 CSA farms in the U.S.
     The Wyoming researchers found that once a shopper contracted with a CSA program, the shopper usually became more satisfied with the produce than with similar produce bought at a store. The reason, say the researchers, is that, by paying in advance and viewing themselves as members of the CSA, they’ve a sense of community collaboration. The research findings indicate people are willing to pay more for merchandise of all sorts that bestows a feeling of community.
     One aspect of this I find important for retailers is that the CSA example applies to what we’d think of as commodity items. We accept that with status-oriented or unusual items, feeling like a member of the community of the distinctive is worth paying for. But in the Wyoming research, this also applied to items like spinach, carrots, chard, and onions. What gave these commodities distinction was the Community Supported Agriculture supplier.
     Community adds the benefits of solidarity, commitment, mutuality, and trust.
     The psychology of community can be analyzed from at least two angles:
  • Place. When sociologist C.J. Galpin at University of Wisconsin used the term “community” in the early 1900’s, he referred to the trade and service areas surrounding a central village. Today we can think of community as defined geographically. In doing so, recognize that hills, highways, and other barriers and conduits might cause a store thirty blocks away to be part of my community, but another store a single block away not to be. 
  • Lifestyle. We speak of the “gay community,” the “Hispanic community,” and the “teen community.” We might even speak of an “organic and local food community.” As with the geographically-defined communities, continually find ways to cultivate the benefits of solidarity, commitment, mutuality, and trust for consumers. 
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