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Market Lessons

A Lesson in Marketing Psychology

A Lesson in Marketing Psychology

My parents and I went into town one Saturday to do the weekly shopping. At the age of 12, I got my first lesson in Marketing Psychology. We'd got into town early and the farmers and merchants were still setting up their stalls while others were already unloading their fruit and vegetables from their vans, and were in the process of putting them on display.

One farmer caught my attention and I watched him in amazement.  He was taking cabbages from a large grate and putting them on display in two different trays that were positioned side by side in his stall.  The displayed prices of each tray of cabbages were slightly different, despite them all coming out of the same crate.

I told my dad what I saw.

My dad explained that people like to compare.  If the farmer had only one tray of cabbages, people would look at them and then go to another stall to view its cabbages. My dad went on to explain, by having two sets of cabbages at the one stall, people had the opportunity to compare the cabbages side-by-side without having to go elsewhere. Consequently, they would most likely buy one or the other.  But they were all the same I protested.  That’s neither here nor there, explained my dad. By comparing, customers are being given a choice.

Later that day

Just before we headed home I noticed at the very same stall, all the ‘expensive’ cabbages had been sold, but some of the ‘less expensive’ ones still remained.

Then, something really surprising happened.  I watched the man take away both trays, and in the back of his van, I saw him divide the remaining cabbages between the two trays which he then returned to stall. It occurred to me he did this because no one would buy the cheaper cabbages because who wants to buy second rate produce!? It seemed that people were willing to pay more on the expectation of getting something better.

Nobody wants a reject

Over the years, I have witnessed single items of produce left on display. When a display tray is full, people are eager to buy up produce, but nobody buys the last item.  There is nothing wrong with the last one – it just happens to be the last one. The reason for this phenomenon is simple. Subconsciously, people assume that every other item MUST have been better and therefore, there MUST be something inferior about this last one – and nobody is going to buy a reject.

If you are the vendor, never leave one item on display.  Instead, it’s better to leave the empty tray on display. This will now trigger another psychological effect. People tend to want what they can’t have and when all the items are gone – evidenced by an empty tray – they will feel left out. This is when you have to act fast. You tell them that you think you may happen to have another one, and if they are interested, you’ll go and look. By offering to look, and for them to appreciate your extra effort, you will have generated a commitment. Now, that last one is no longer a reject.  It’s now a very special item – the last one available!

– 30 –

Good luck with your Business
Michael

© Copyright 2020 – Michael A. Coates – All Rights Reserved

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