Products seem less expensive to consumers when grouped with inexpensive ones — even if they're not, suggests new research about the way people shop.
When items are sold alongside cheaper items, they create a "generalization mindset" in shoppers, a study in the Journal of Consumer Research has found. That means a person perceives the product to be in line with the other prices, even if it isn't.
But if a product's uniqueness is emphasized, then the opposite will occur.
"The opposite price perceptions will occur if a marketer's action encourages consumers to think about the uniqueness of a product in the set," say authors Marcus Cunha and Jeffrey Shulman, both marketing professors at the University of Washington in Seattle. "Our research shows that this puts consumers in a discrimination mindset."
In this case, a product will seem less expensive if placed alongside more costly items, and more expensive in the context of lower-priced items.
Cunha and Shulman conducted three experiments to determine the reactions of consumers. Their study will appear in next February's issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.