May 14, 2009

Cramped aisles change shopping behavior

If people feel confined, such as in cramped shopping aisles, apparently their shopping habits change, U.S. and Canadian researchers said.

Study authors Jonathan Levav of Columbia University and Rui Zhu of the University of British Columbia said that when consumer's freedom of choice is limited by stock-outs, they might exhibit reluctance by evaluating the unavailable options as more appealing.

The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, said in Western cultures, choice is viewed as a way to exert control over one's environment and and when people feel confined, their shopping habits change.

In one experiment, participants shopped for candy in a space modified to create both wide and narrow aisles. The participants in the narrow aisle chose a greater variety of candy bars than consumers in the wide aisle. In another study, the participants in narrow aisles were more likely to choose unfamiliar and unique brands.

Our results suggest that in larger, less crowded stores, manufacturers should be less keen to deliver a wide variety of products in a category, and should instead focus on stocking a few of their better-known or dominant product offerings, the study authors said.