A Surprising Step Retailers Can Take To Improve The Consumer Shopping Experience

A top prioroty among retailers is enhancing the consumer’s shopping experience. Big investments have gone into enhancing store decor, buying optimal real estate, and even modernizing logos (changing logo signage in the retail space can cost millions of dollars).

In collaboration with Katie Kelting and Adam Duhachek, we conducted research to investigate the effect of a small, inexpensive decision that retailers can make that can have a significant, positive impact on their most experienced and knowledgeable consumers' shopping experience.

Specifically, we wanted to better understand how the clash of two phenomena--the growth in private label product sales occurring at the same time that many retailers are reducing the number of products shelved--impact the consumer shopping experience. Many might expect that copycat private label products (those designed to look similar to a leading national brand) would cause confusion at the shelf, impairing the decision making process, and creating a more complex shopping experience.

However, we actually found the opposite. When copycat private labels are included in a shelf set, they help experienced and knowledgeable consumers make an easier decision and this translates into a more favorable opinion of the product chosen. In short, private labels can simplify decision making which leads to a more positive opinion of their choice--a better consumer shopping experience (see here for research by Siegel+Gale regarding the importance of creating simpler experiences). Interestingly, this positive experience only held for those consumers with the most knowledge about the category (there was no effect on low category knowledge consumers), suggesting that these consumers use the private label products to better help understand category structure.

Many retail efforts designed to improve the consumer’s shopping experience are focused on big, expensive, changes (e.g., the overall store layout, simplicity of overall store navigation, overall service, etc.). However, this research is a reminder that even something simple, like the types of products included in a shelf set, can impact the consumer's ability to make an easier decision, which translates into a better (or worse) shopping experience. Most of us can relate to an experience where we stood in front of a category of products and it took forever to make a decision. That negative decision-making experience then translates into a bigger perception of the shopping experience and in the case of this research, the feelings that consumers have about their purchases.