An S-O-R Model of the Purchase of an Item in a Store

Patrick G. Buckley, Queen's University
ABSTRACT - An S-O-R model is developed for consumers' purchases of items in stores. Part of the model is tested with the BehaviorScan panel data of Information Resources Incorporated. The results show significant influences on consumers' item purchases and store patronage. There are important influences of store attributes, item characteristics, and consumer characteristics. The selection of a store is not found to be significantly related to which item is purchased by a consumer. The results imply that brands' marketing strategies should include stores' attributes as well as item and consumer characteristics.
[ to cite ]:
Patrick G. Buckley (1991) ,"An S-O-R Model of the Purchase of an Item in a Store", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, eds. Rebecca H. Holman and Michael R. Solomon, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 491-500.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, 1991       Pages 491-500

AN S-O-R MODEL OF THE PURCHASE OF AN ITEM IN A STORE

Patrick G. Buckley, Queen's University

ABSTRACT -

An S-O-R model is developed for consumers' purchases of items in stores. Part of the model is tested with the BehaviorScan panel data of Information Resources Incorporated. The results show significant influences on consumers' item purchases and store patronage. There are important influences of store attributes, item characteristics, and consumer characteristics. The selection of a store is not found to be significantly related to which item is purchased by a consumer. The results imply that brands' marketing strategies should include stores' attributes as well as item and consumer characteristics.

AN S-O-R-MODEL OF THE PURCHASE OF AN ITEM IN A STORE

In this paper, a model is developed for consumers' purchases of items in stores. The acquired item may be a branded good or a generic, may be large or small, and may have a particular flavor. For example, you need some jam. Do you want raspberry or strawberry or blueberry? Which brand? What size? Where will you get it? At which store?

There are many models of the purchases of consumers (e.g., Lilien and Kotler 1983). The present concern is with purchases made in particular contexts in stores. In a later section of the paper, part of the proposed model is tested with data from a consumer panel.

Models have been developed for a consumer's purchase of an item in a store (Lusch 1982; Monroe and Guiltinan 1975). These models are only used to guide the present research because many of their parts have only been hypothesized, not proven. The relationships of two previous models to the variables of the present research are outlined in Table 1.

The basic model of the present study has origins in previous research. The model includes variables for consumers, items, and store attributes. There are variables for the consumers' characteristics since many previous research results show that a person's characteristics have some influence on his or her actions (e.g., Blattberg, Buesing, Peacock and Sen 1978). There are variables for the items for sale since past research results indicate that such variables have some influence on consumers' behaviors (e.g., Monroe and Della Bitta 1978). There are variables for the store attributes because of research results in environmental psychology. These imply that human actions are influenced by the surrounding environment (Fisher, Bell and Baum 1984; Donovan and Rossiter 1982). A store's attributes are part of the environment surrounding a consumer's purchase.

Many of the above variables can be included in a Stimulus-Organism-Response (S-O-R) model of consumer behavior. An S-O-R a model was developed for involvement by Arora (1982) and Slama and Tashchian (1987). Here, an S-O-R model is proposed for a consumer's purchase of an item in a store. The model is outlined in Figure 1. In this model the stimuli are variables which can be controlled by marketing managers. The organism and response sectors of the S-O-R model are more directly controlled by consumers.

The proposed model (Figure 1) has some origins in environmental psychologists' discussions of Brunswick's Lens Model (Brunswick 1943, 1953; Craik 1983; Fisher, Bell and Baum 1984; Holahan 1982). Parts of the S-O-R model are similar to the Lens Model's concepts of ecological validity and cue utilization. The interpretation of physical-store-attributes as perceived-store-attributes is a process of ecological validity. The influence of the perceived-store-attributes on purchasing behavior is a process of cue utilization. Ecological validity is the accuracy with which environmental stimuli are perceived as environmental cues. Cue utilization shows the degree to which the environmental cues influence attitudes and actions. The environmental cues filter the influences of the environmental stimuli on consumers' actions. A probabilistic relationship exists between the physical-store-attributes and the perceived-store-attributes because of ecological validity. A probabilistic relationship exists between the perceived-store-attributes and consumer-behavior because of cue utilization.

Variables in the Proposed Model

The characteristics of the items for sale in the proposed model include price, quality, branding, and promotions. There is evidence that these characteristics have differential impacts on consumers' purchases. Both price and quality have some influence on choice (e.g., Monroe and Della Bitta 1978; Rao 1984). The drop in price of an autonomous brand (i.e., a "branded" good) is perceived as good value for the money since autonomous brands are perceived by consumers for their quality; whereas, the drop in price of a price brand (i.e., a "generic" good) is perceived as a resetting of the fair price, not as an offering of quality at a lower price (Bemmaor 1984; Bliemel 1984; Laroche, Rosenblatt, Wahler and Bliemel 1986). The promotions which influence consumers' behaviors include: special price-reductions, coupons, in-store displays, and advertisements. More consumers respond when the price reduction of a promotion is larger (Blattberg and Sen 1976; Blattberg, Eppen and Lieberman 1981; Chevalier 1975; Eskin and Baron 1977; Guadagni and Little 1983; McKinnon, Kelly and Robison 1981; Moriarty 1983; Strang 1976; Wilkinson, Mason and Paksoy 1982; Wilkinson, Paksoy and Mason 1981; Woodside and Waddle 1975).

TABLE 1

MODELS OF RETAILING

FIGURE 1

S-O-R MODEL OF THE PURCHASE OF AN ITEM IN A STORE

Our research assumes a one-to-one relationship between the item's perceived and physical characteristics. Such an assumption is like much other research (Blattberg ct al 1978; Blattberg, Eppen and Lieberman 1981; Blattberg and Sen 1974 1976; Guadagni and Little 1983; Cotton and Babb 1978; Hackleman and Duker 1980; Winer 1986), and is true when the consumers perceive stimuli accurately.

The perceived store attributes which are included in the proposed model are those which have been found to have a differential impact on consumers' patronage. These attributes are: convenient locations, price levels, merchandise quality, merchandise assortment, atmosphere, service, salespeople, and amount of advertising. These attributes are found in reports of much previous research on store image, store location, and store patronage (e.g., Arnold, Oum and Tigert 1983; Black, Ostlund and Westbrook 1985; Lindquist 1974/5; Martineau 1958; Schuler 1981).

Some of the above perceived store attributes appear related to certain physical store attributes. Such relationships exist if consumers' perceptions of stores are based on the stores' physical attributes. For example, the store's price level appears to be related to the average price per ounce of the items sold in the store; the store's level of merchandise quality appears related to the average quality of the items sold in the store; the store's merchandise assortment appears related to the number of items for sale in the store; the level of advertising of a store appears related to the store's number of newspaper or store flyer advertisements each week.

Characteristics of consumers which are included in the proposed model are those which have been shown to influence consumers' behaviors. These characteristics include: demographics, psychographics, brand loyalty, store loyalty, and the shopping trip's purpose (Bellenger, Robertson and Greenberg 1977; Blattberg, Buesing, Peacock and Sen 1978; Cotton and Babb 1978; Gupta 1988; Lloyd and Jennings 1978; Teel Williams and Bearden 1980; Webster 1965). For example, consumers who do not display as much brand and store loyalty respond more favorably to special price reductions and other promotions. They tend to stock up when a special occurs (Aaker 1973; Blattberg and Sen 1976; Hackleman and Duker 1980; Kuehn and Rohloff 1967; Massy and Frank 1965; Shoemaker and Shoaf 1977; Webster 1965).

The research is concerned with the interactive effects of many variables in the proposed model as well as the simple effects of these variables. For example, results may have significant interactions between the stores' attributes and items' characteristics. Such findings would indicate that different kinds of items are preferred in stores with different kinds of environments. Many environmental psychologists have mentioned the important influence on behavior of interactive effects (Belk 1974 1975 1976; Hansen 1976; Lewin 1936; Punj and Stewart 1983).

TESTING THE MODEL

As noted in the preceding discussion, some parts of the proposed model have been researched extensively. Much research has examined the influence of item characteristics on the purchase of items (paths 1, 2, and 3 in Figure 1) (Bemmaor 1984; Bliemel 1984; Blattberg and Sen 1976; Blattberg, Eppen and Lieberman 1981; Chevalier 1975; Eskin and Baron 1977; Laroche, Rosenblatt, Wahler and Bliemel 1986; McKinnon, Kelly and Robison 1981; Monroe and Della Bitta 1978; Moriarty 1983; Rao 1984; Strang 1976; Wilkinson, Mason and Paksoy 1982; Wilkinson, Paksoy and Mason 1981; Woodside and Waddle 1975).

Some research has examined the influences of consumers'.characteristics on the purchasing of items and the patronizing of stores (paths 5 and 7 in Figure 1) (Aaker 1973; Bellenger, Robertson and Greenberg 1977; Blattberg, Buesing, Peacock and Sen 1978; Blattberg and Sen 1976; Cotton and Babb 1978; Gupta 1988; Hackleman and Duker 1980; Kuehn and Rohloff 1967; Lloyd and Jennings 1978; Massy-and Frank 1965; Shoemaker and Shoaf 1977; Teel Williams and Bearden 1980; Webster 1965).

Much research has also shown the influence of perceived store attributes on store patronage (path 9 in Figure 1) (Arnold, Oum and Tigert 1983; Black, Ostlund and Westbrook 1985; Lindquist 1974/5; Martineau 1958; Schuler 1981).

A question asked by the present study is: Do physical store attributes influence both consumers' purchases and store patronage? (Paths 4 and 11 in Figure 1). The multivariate influences of the physical store attributes are studied along with those of the items and the consumers. The influences of the physical store attributes are tested for after accounting for the influences of the other variables.

Also examined is the influence of store patronage on the purchase of an item (path 10 in Figure 1). In other words, does which store is patronized influence which item is purchased?

Data

The proposed model is tested with data from a consumer panel. The data is from the BehaviorScan panel of Information Resources Incorporated (IRI). The purchases of panel members were recorded with electronic scans of the UPC codes when the purchases occurred. The purchases are linked to panel members' demographic characteristics and each store's attributes. For the present study, a random sample of 1000 purchases is drawn from the 11,319 purchases of ground coffee made by 1000 panel members at six stores in Pittsfield, MA between 24 March 1980 and 5 April 1981. The average panel member who visits more than one store makes a purchase at 3.1 of the 6 stores.

At each purchase occasion there is only a limited number of brands, sizes, types, and stores for the consumers to choose among. In our model, the choice set of a purchase-occasion is like an evoked set (Brisoux and Laroche 1981). Each purchase-occasion's choice set contains those brands, sizes, and types which the consumer purchased over a two year period and those stores which the consumer patronized at least once over the same period.

FIGURE 2

HIERARCHICAL CHOICE OF A GROCERY PRODUCT

The data are quite reliable. A quality control program was constantly run when collecting data. Panelists were encouraged to identify themselves at check-out counters. Check-out clerks were encouraged to scan all items. The in-store information was collected manually. It is estimated 'to have an error rate of about 0.1 percent.

Ratings of the quality of brands of drip coffee were obtained from Consumer Reports (1983). These ratings of relative quality are assumed to apply to all types of coffee and were added to the data set with a four-point scale which corresponds to the major breaks in the quality ratings of Consumer Reports.

The variable for advertising indicates that an item is featured in a store flyer or advertisement during the week when the purchase occurs.

An item is considered to be at a special price reduction when the item initially has a price-reduction of at least five cents and the item has a price increase of at least five cents in one of the four weeks following its price reduction. The item must have a price reduction and a succeeding price-rise to be considered on special. Items with just price reductions are not on special, since their prices fall because of a general decline in market prices.

RESULTS

Purchase of an Item

The purchase of an item of ground coffee involves at least the three choices of brand, size, and type of coffee. A hierarchical choice model of this purchase was developed with nested multinomial logit analysis (Ben-Akiva and Lerman 1985; Berkman, Brownstone and Associates 1979).

The nested multinomial logit solution was calculated with a sequential estimation procedure. The results of this procedure are separate multinomial logit equations for each of the choices of brand, type, and size of coffee container. Inclusive values link these equations. A hierarchical structure is implied if the inclusive values are statistically significant. The inclusive values in the equations for type and brand are significant. This implies that the choice model is hierarchical.

In summary, the model for the choice of an item of coffee has 3 equations: one for size, one for brand, and one for type of coffee (Tables 2, 3, and 4). These three equations are linked in the hierarchical structure shown in Figure 2. Each equation defines one level in this hierarchical choice model. Note that the structure shown in Figure 2 which results from the nested multinomial logit analysis is not the only structure that was examined. Alternative hierarchical structures were examined. The one presented here (in Tables 2, 3 and 4 and Figure 2) is that which fits the data best. Alternative hierarchies are discussed in Buckley (1988, 1989).

The equations for type and size contain alternative specific variables (ASV's). An ASV is like a covariate of an alternative in a regression equation. ASV's are formed since the variables in multinomial logit cannot have the same value for all alternatives. An ASV only varies on the alternative to which it is attached since it has its original value for this alternative. An ASV does not vary on the other alternatives since it is coded zero for all of these. The number of ASV's that can be created for each original variable is the number of alternatives minus one. For example, if there are 3 alternatives (e.g., in the equation for choice of type), only 2 ASV's can be formed for each original variable. For example, the size equation has two ASV's for the Average-Price- Per- Ounce -Paid -by -Consumer (Table 4). The first ASV is for the 16 ounce size. The second is for the 32 ounce size. The ASV for the 16 ounce size has the original value of Average-Price-per-Ounce-Paid-by-Consumer for the 16 ounce size, and values of zero for the other sizes.

TABLE 2

CHOICE OF TYPE

Besides ASV's, multinomial logit equations contain generic variables. An example of a generic variable is "Advertisement" in the equation for choice of brand (Table 3). Generic variables have different raw data values for each alternative on each purchase-occasion.

Elasticities are shown for all of the coefficients of the multinomial logit equations. These elasticities are aggregates of direct point elasticities (Ben-Akiva and Lerman 1985; Hensher and Johnson 1983). The direct point elasticities are computed for each alternative for each individual. A coefficient's elasticity is the change in choice probability which occurs when an independent variable changes one percent. Thus, the elasticities indicate the relative impacts of the variables on the choice probabilities.

In more detail, the elasticities for alternative specific variables (ASV's) are aggregates of direct point elasticities which are weighted by the estimated probability of each individual choosing each alternative. The elasticities for variables which span all alternatives (i.e. generic variables) are aggregates of direct point elasticities across individuals and alternatives -- the sum across individuals is weighted by the estimated probability of each individual choosing each alternative; the sum across alternatives is weighted by the frequency that the alternative is chosen (see p. 59 of Hensher and Johnson (1981) or p. 113 of Ben-Akiva and Lerman (1985) for more details).

TABLE 3

CHOICE OF BRAND

TABLE 4

CHOICE OF SIZE

At each level in the choice model the first variables entered in the equation are product characteristics, promotions, and purchase loyalty. The product characteristics include price and quality. The promotions include special price reductions, advertisements, and in-store displays. The variables for purchase loyalty are the lags of the last rive purchases. The results show: price and promotion variables are in all equations, and variables for quality and purchase loyalty are in the equations for choice of brand and size.

Next, the influences on item choice of the store attributes arc tested. The store attributes indicate the store environment when coffee is sold. The store attributes include the average price and quality of coffee and the numbers of price reductions and advertisements Of coffee. The results show: one variable for the store environment in the size equation, two in the type equation, and four in the brand equation.

There is a variable for average-quality in each of the three equations. This suggests that the level of merchandise quality in a store influences which types, brands, and sizes of products are purchased.

There is a variable for the average-number-of-items-for-sale in both the type and brand equations. This suggests that the level of merchandise assortment in a store influences which brands and types of products are purchased.

The other store attributes in the brand equation are for the number-of-special-price-reductions and the number-of-advertisements. This suggests that which brand of a product is purchased is influenced by the overall level of advertising and promotion carried out by a store.

Store Patronage

A model for store patronage is developed with a multinomial logit equation (Table 5). This equation contains generic variables for some physical store attributes. The variables' relative influences are indicated by the absolute values of the elasticities. The largest influences are for Average-Price-per-ounce and Average-Quality-in-Store. Thus, which store is patronized is influenced by its relative price level and its merchandise quality.

TABLE 5

CHOICE OF STORE

There are significant, secondary influences on store choice of number-of-price-reductions, number-of-displays, and number-of-advertisements. This suggests that store patronage is also influenced by a store's overall levels of advertising, promotions, and displays.

The influence of the store patronized on which item is purchased (path 10 in Figure 1) is tested with a nested multinomial logit model which contains four equations: one for each of the choices of store, type of coffee, brand of coffee, and size of coffee container. The inclusive value linking the choice of store and the sub-hierarchy for the choices of type, brand, and size of coffee is not statistically significant. Thus, the choice of store is not related to the choices of an item of ground coffee.

DISCUSSION

The results confirm much of the proposed model for consumers' purchases in stores (Figure 1). Multivariate influences on these purchases are found for item, consumer, and store attributes. The stores' attributes also influence store patronage.

Store patronage is not found to have a significant influence on which item is purchased. This is not surprising since there are undoubtedly several reasons for choosing a specific grocery store besides the container of coffee that one wishes to purchase. Such a finding agrees with those of Wrigley and Dunn (1984), but is contrary to the models of retailing of Monroe and Guiltinan (1975) and Lusch (1982).

The results imply that brands' strategies should include stores' attributes as well as item and consumer characteristics. The larger elasticities (Tables 2, 3, 4, and 5) indicate the attributes which are the most important influences. These arc the stores' price levels, merchandise quality, and merchandise assortment. For example, the influence on brand choice of the variable "Average number of items for sale BY special price reduction" indicates that it is more important to have price reductions in stores which have a higher level of merchandise assortment.

Support for the proposed model can be expanded with further research. The present study just examines consumers' purchase of one product, ground coffee, in one city's major grocery stores. Would similar results be found with other products? Would the results vary in some systematic fashion for different kinds of products? Can better results be found, for the influences of store attributes, with a larger sample of stores? Perhaps one including both large and medium sized grocery stores and corner stores?

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