The science of picky shoppers
3. May 2021 | News, Retail Marketing, Shopping Today

What picky shoppers mean for businesses

There are hard-to-please customers in almost every industry, with certain people being picky about which clothes, houses and even romantic partners they will consider.

A new series of studies has found that shopper pickiness can go beyond shopping for the “best” option. The researchers define what it means to be “picky” and also developed a scale for measuring shopper pickiness.

Margaret Meloy, professor of marketing at Penn State, said the findings could help companies devise the best strategies for satisfying their pickier customers.

“If a company knows they have a lot of picky customers, they may need to change the way they reward salespeople or dedicate specific salespeople to their pickiest customers, because picky shoppers have very narrow preferences and they see perceived flaws in products others wouldn’t notice,” Meloy said. “Alternatively, a company may allow picky shoppers to customize their products to satisfy their idiosyncratic preferences. It’s not just about offering the best products, but offering the products that are best for the picky customers.”

Meloy added that even the most robust promotional strategies, like offering a free gift with purchase, may fail with picky customers.

The researchers said it might be helpful for retailers to have a better understanding of what being “picky” means for their customer base, and what those customers may need from a product or shopping experience. “In marketing, we call customers who want the absolute best version of a product ‘maximizers,'” Meloy said. “But with picky customers, the best is more idiosyncratic. For them, it might not be about getting the best quality, but getting the precise version of a product they have in their head – a shirt in a very precise shade of black, for example.”

The researchers found that people who scored higher on the picky shopper scale tend to have a small window of what they consider acceptable. These shoppers were more likely to reject a free gift when offered as a thank you for participating in a survey.

Additionally, the researchers found that picky people didn’t change their opinions based on a product’s popularity. When they were informed that their top choice of a product was less popular than other options, people who scored high on the picky scale weren’t swayed by that information. They stuck with their original selection.

“Individuals who were picky in one domain were picky in other domains. For example, if you tend to be picky while shopping for groceries, you’ll probably be picky shopping for clothes, as well,” Meloy said.

Meloy said the findings also illustrate the importance of a company understanding and tailoring their business practices to their customer base. “If you know you have a lot of picky customers, you might not want to bother with offering free products or promoting products by saying how popular they are with other people,” Meloy said. “It’s just not going to work as well with picky customers. These companies will need to come up with strategies that give customers more control to better align their idiosyncratic preferences with the company’s offerings.”

Source: Penn State

Tags: consumer research, customer behavior, customer loyalty, sales promotion, shopping behavior
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