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if you're good at math, consider yourself blessed

I struggled all my studying years with MATH (Mental Abuse to Humans). I was so bad at math that I had even developed a method of memorizing patterns to solve problems, so that I could apply them in case a similar question came up in the exam paper. If you were and are good at math, I have very high regards for you, because most of the human race is simply bad at it.

Consider these two promotions. One is a flat ‘33% off’ on the MRP. The other is 33% more quantity of the product free. In short – ‘33% extra free’. Are both similar? Which one seems more attractive to you?

If both are similar in terms of a proposition to you, but you still prefer ‘33% extra free’, you’re in the majority. In a study, Akshay Rao, the General Mills Chair in Marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, asked undergraduate students to evaluate two deals on loose coffee beans — one with 33% more beans for free, the other at 33% off the price. All the participants chose ‘33% extra free’, inspite of ‘33% off’ being a quantitatively bigger and better offer favouring the customer. (33% off = 50% extra free)

The reason why we opt for ‘33% extra free’ is not just that we suck at math, but we are also infatuated with the idea of getting something for free. It seems as if the power of ‘free’ makes us worse at math.

Now, how you take advantage of this will depend on whether you are a consumer or a marketer.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

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The way you make me move

 

This is a story from my days at Lowe Lintas. We were invited to make a communication pitch for Reliance Fresh. So I flew the next day to Hyderabad to Reliance Fresh’s first retail outlet at Banjara Hills. The newly opened swanky 3,500 sq. ft. store was a wide store with two openings – one for entry and the other for exit. But the entry to the store was on the right hand side and the exit on the left hand side. Which meant that people had to move inside the store in an anti-clockwise direction. What I saw inside the store was chaos. Not the kind we see everyday in the vegetable markets in Mumbai. It was different. There were mostly women in the store at that point in time. And they were walking around like zombies. Something had gone terribly wrong, but none had figured what was going on. Women kept going back and forth as if they had forgotten that the only way was to move forward. But I don’t blame the women, well at least not this time.

If you stay in India, I’m sure you’ve visualized what had gone wrong. Because we in India drive on the left hand side of the road, we write from left to right, we have gotten used to the habit of moving from the left to the right. As far as the store was concerned, the same principle applied too – enter, move in a clockwise direction from left to right. But it wasn’t the case for the American consultant who designed the store for Reliance Fresh!

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

Music by design

Music they say has healing powers. True that. It can lift your spirit. It can relax you. It can set your heart pumping faster. But could music influence you to buy wine from a particular country?

In a study of exactly that question, four French and four German wines, matched for price and dryness, were placed on the shelves of a supermarket in England. French and German music were played on alternate days from a deck on the top shelf of the display. And indeed, on days when the French music played, 77 percent of the wine purchased was French, while on the days of German music, 73 percent of the wine purchased was German. (Source: Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow)

As people strolled down the aisle they looked at different wines, pondering on each label concerning the grapes each wine is made from, the wine’s vintage, cost, etc. They consciously weighed all that information, and in addition they’d probably considered what they’ll be eating with the wine. But what worked on their sub-conscious mind was the music. And a little nudge like music turned out to be key in influencing their decision of the origin of wine.

When asked whether the music influenced their choice, only one shopper in seven said that it had, while the truth was just the opposite. And that’s because we don’t realize the extent of influence our environment has in our decision- making.

The next time you visit McDonalds, notice the pace of music. Greater the crowd, faster the music. Faster the music, quicker the food consumption. Quicker the food consumption, quicker the tables turn free. I’m not sure if they play slow music when the restaurant is relatively empty. Though that could make people eat slower and sit longer, creating the perception that the restaurant has a good number of visitors and is therefore doing well.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

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