Who’s Picking up the Puffed Rice

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On Saturday, November 4, 2017, I chose to go to my favorite grocery shop, Trader Joe’s. Here is where I decided to undertake my task of analyzing consumer behavior in grocery shopping. I decided to observe from 11 am to 2 pm daytime. The plan was to make observations while doing my shopping to avoid awkwardly staring at buyers. My shopping was an errand from my mother on some house items that we needed. This decision was great as it would allow me to observe more people in different aisles. On the weekend, the grocery store seemed busier than weekdays. I watched customers varying from age, gender, and color. 

During my observation, I recognized that there are consumers who quickly grabbed their item of interest without much thought while others dwelled on certain aisles. My attention was on five customers whom I named C1, C2, C3, C4, and C5. Customer C1 was shopping in the dairy product aisle. This customer was a young girl, probably in her teen years. Customer C2 was a mother with her child shopping in the frozen foods section. Customer C3 was a senior woman in the produce aisle. Customer C4 was a young man, seemingly in his twenties, who was shopping in the beverages aisle. The final customer, C5, was a senior man in the dairy product aisle. Definitely, the reason why the consumers were in the store was that they identified a need that they wanted to satisfy. This is typically the first stage of consumer behavior, problem recognition (Solomon et al, 2013). 

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The young girl in the dairy product aisle and the young man in the beverage aisle seemed not to know what exactly they wanted. They picked up the different brands in the aisles and viewed them. It almost seemed that they wanted to explore new brands maybe out of adventure. This behavior satisfies stage two and three of consumer behavior, information search and evaluation of alternatives. This was different from the mother in the frozen foods section, elderly woman in the produce aisle and the elderly man in the dairy section. They seemed to know exactly what they wanted maybe out of experience and habit. However, for the elderly man in the dairy section, he seemed to want opt out of Selecta Fortified Milk for Organic Valley whole milk. The decision was maybe driven by the cost or health preferences. Similarly, the young girl and young man struggled to decide between brands. Nonetheless, all the customers reached stage four, purchase. The purchase involved dropping their item of choice in the shopping basket and paying through the cashier. Stage six of consumer behavior was a bit difficult to determine because only after the consumers used the product in their own homes would they know if it served them well.

The observation made me realize that the consumers did not just pick their products blindly. Even for the customers who were sure of what they desired, they were keen with choosing the particular item. Determining the value of their purchase is important to avoid the buyer form incurring a loss (Almquist et al, 2016). For instance, the mother in the frozen foods sections. Instinctively, she examines the appearance of the frozen peas and once they look appealing, she investigates the expiry date on the packaging. The mother is aware that the only way to ensure value for her money is by finding out how fresh and how long the peas can last her. Moreover, she seemed to read the packaging for a little while before placing it in the shopping basket. Possibly, she was also concerned about the health aspect and wanted to crosscheck whether there were added artificial preservatives. Another example is the elderly woman in the produce aisle. Just like the mother, she inspected apples she intended to buy. Firstly, the appearance had to be inviting. The apples had to be bright red, looking fresh, not shriveled. The smell was also a factor, which was noticeable without necessarily sniffing the fruit. The skin of the apple had to be smooth without dents. All these factors enabled the elderly woman to ensure that the value of the purchase matched the pricing. 

Consumer behavior is usually similar to most customers. However, two buyers stood out because of the different behavior they displayed during their shopping. The young man in the beverage aisle and the elderly man in the dairy section. They both obviously had identified a need to come to the grocery store. For the young man, he hastily read through the different beverage brands to figure out which was best. He grabbed the beverage that seemed to have the coolest graffiti on the packaging. Additionally, he took energy drinks and juices as he left. In some way, it looked as if the young man was impulse buying because he seemed unsure of what he wanted, barely read through them and then headed off to the cashier. On the other hand, the elderly man seemed to know what he wanted and marched directly to the type of milk he desired. However, he took his time evaluating the products possibly according to cost and health. Relatively, the young man somewhat skipped the second stage of consumer behavior, information search. Stage three was well covered because he evaluated the alternatives but it must have been hectic. This is probably why he bought some of the products out of impulse. The elderly man followed every stage of consumer behavior and so did the customers. The young girl in the dairy section took longer, seemingly trying to gain more information on the various brands.

There are several tactics that manufacturers and grocery shop owners use to push products. In this grocery shop, there were many customers crowded on an area that had a sale bin. There were big signs that attracted the buyers over without putting much thought to whether they wanted the product or not. In fact, I was also tempted to look in fear of a good deal passing me by. This tactic is used by grocery shop owner to push products that are probably about to expire. It targets the social psychology of the consumer. Another tactic used was in the pricing. From research it has been discovered that the figure 9 is associated to discounts by many consumers (Boachie, 2016). For instance a customer is likely to buy a 39 dollars products compared to a 34 dollars product. This tactic was used in this grocery shop. In general, the experience confirmed that human beings don’t just buy products randomly, instead there is a certain way they behave.

Did you like this sample?
  1. Almquist, E., Senior, J., & Bloch, N. (2016). The Elements of Value. 
  2. Boachie, P. (2016). 5 Strategies of ‘Psychological Pricing’. 
  3. Solomon, M., Bennet, R., & Previte, J. (2013). Consumer Behaviour (10th.). Malaysia, AS: Pearson Australia.
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