Consumer behavior blows my mind

From the lack of posts, you can see grad school caught up with me a bit. This last class  – consumer behavior – was especially challenging. Why people do what they do has always fascinated me, but I never really put much stock into how that plays into marketing.

The part of the class that stuck with me the most was watching a (sadly, very old) video about a market research firm that tracked consumers as they moved throughout different stores. Once the firm watched videos of consumers moving through the store, they made recommendations about where to place products, how to set up lines (especially important for banks) and where to place promotional material.

In one store they moved an ad kiosk by 20 feet and could directly attribute that to a 20 percent increase in sales. In a bank, they helped clearly define the lines and placed brochures about mortgages and other offerings toward the back of the line. This way, consumers had something to do while they were in line.

On a large scale, this made me think about the layout of a newer Meijer (for those of you not from Mich., Meijer is like a super Target – one stop shopping). Instead of having one “food” side and one “not food” side, the store was laid out so that you started in the produce section on one side and once you ended up in the dairy – boom, you were on the other side of the store. They did it by laying the aisles open. Normally, the aisles run “sideways” but these aisles faced you straight on, so you could see down the whole length of them as soon as you walked in. The “main” aisle ran the width of the store instead of the length of it.

When I am grocery shopping in a normal Meijer, I always stick to the “food” side, so that I’m not tempted by other items. However, since the food ran the whole length of the store, while I was grocery shopping I also passed by all of the “non food” items. I remember thinking how smart the layout was – and I did buy more. Passing by, I was reminded that oh yes, we did need a humidifier and some candles and a card for someone’s birthday. It didn’t make me buy things I didn’t need, but it did make more things top of mind.

Consumer behavior is something many businesses research – restaurants use certain colors, for example, and a clothing store might use a particular kind of mirror or lighting. Have you noticed what kinds of marketing make a difference in your shopping?

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