Why do Shoppers Crave Variety?

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Understanding why shoppers seek variety, reveals key behavioral insights that can be leveraged in-store. To drive in-store trial of new products, it helps to understand what influences a discovery mindset for shoppers. We have found that there are 3 main influences on why shoppers seek out variety. These include:

  1. Pleasure – we derive greater pleasure from trying something new instead of choosing the same old thing. Variety is the spice of life.
  2. Social – we will be viewed more favorably by others by seeking out variety. Our peers will hold us in higher regard if they see we like to try new things.
  3. Freedom and Control – seeking out variety is an expression of our sense of freedom and personal control. It feels good to exercise our freedom.

One of the important influences on shopper behavior is shopper mindset. At Explorer, we have measured shopper mindsets across a range of categories and can measure which categories are more likely to drive impulse and variety seeking behavior. Whether shoppers are making a considered purchase, such as cough and cold medicine or are in a discovery mindset such as shopping for cosmetics and trying new products, it is important to understand what are the triggers that will drive variety seeking behavior.

We have found that by making a section easier and more efficient to shop, there is a high correlation to increased basket size. If shoppers are not spending valuable time navigating they can spend more time browsing.

We have also found that shoppers’ propensity to seek out variety in small ticket items is related to their socioeconomic status. Low socioeconomic status consumers tend to exhibit more variety-seeking behavior than high socioeconomic status consumers. Another way to look at this is that lower income consumers might be using variety seeking as a way to express control or freedom.

There is also a connection between variety seeking and where shoppers are in their shopping trip. Variety seeking behavior tends to be most prominent towards the end of the trip where impulse purchases are the highest and shoppers are more likely to try something new. This is driven by a mindset shift in the final third of a shopping trip where most of the task driven behavior has already occurred.

Most shoppers seek variety if the cost of switching is low. Among those who seek variety, a slightly less familiar brand may have a psychological advantage over a well-established brand. To combat this, well established brands need to release new flavors and limited editions of existing products. Special seasonal releases (eg. pumpkin spiced latte) and time sensitive offers are other ways to drive variety-seeking behavior.

Understanding the drivers of variety seeking behavior and how these behaviors can be triggered in-store can help with effective retail, section or product design strategies.

Anne Stephenson
Partner, Explorer Research

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Consumer Decision Making