Sunday, September 27, 2009

Expect Shopper Conformity & Variety Seeking

When you dine at a restaurant with friends, do you want to know what everybody else is ordering before deciding what you'll order? Do you do that because you're simply too lazy to look through the menu? Or is it either because you want to be sure you fit in by ordering what others are ordering or be sure to order another selection to demonstrate your independent nature?
     When people in a group are all buying and each person's selection is announced in sequence to the others, there are some people who will seek out what's different from what others are selecting. Therefore, it's useful for you to have sufficient variety in each of the product types you carry. But other shoppers will want to buy exactly what others in the group are buying, so it's useful for you to have enough stock of the particular items.
     Whether a shopper is a variety seeker or conformist depends in part on the degree of conformity of others in the group. Again using the restaurant experience as an example, consider the findings of an observational study conducted with diners at Flam's in Paris by researchers from Sorbonne-Assas in France and University of Adelaide in Australia.
     The researchers found that when about 30% to 80% of a group had ordered the same choice, people placing their orders next tended to go along with ordering this choice for themselves. But once the conformity exceeded 80%, subsequent orders were much more likely to show variety seeking.
     If you're selling socks or socket wrenches instead of steaks, and if you're doing business in Paris, Texas, not Paris, France, the percentages will probably be different. But in any case, do your merchandising and selling with the expectation you'll be having both conformists and variety seekers as shoppers.

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