Do Perceived Time Pressure, Life Cycle Stage and Demographic Characteristics Affect the Demand For Convenience?

ABSTRACT - Although convenience is a buzzword in marketing, it has received relatively little research attention. In this study, the researchers analyzed the relationship between life cycle, age, gender, income and perceived time pressure and the purchase of convenience-type products. Income and, to a lesser extent, age were related to purchase of convenience goods. An attempt to relate these same factors to convenience-oriented attitudinal statements was unsuccessful. The researchers conclude that the purchase price may be a moderating variable between consumer characteristics and purchase of convenience goods and that further development of convenience-oriented attitudinal statements is necessary.



Citation:

Martha R. McEnally and Lew G. Brown (1998) ,"Do Perceived Time Pressure, Life Cycle Stage and Demographic Characteristics Affect the Demand For Convenience?", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, eds. Basil G. Englis and Anna Olofsson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 155-161.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, 1998      Pages 155-161

DO PERCEIVED TIME PRESSURE, LIFE CYCLE STAGE AND DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS AFFECT THE DEMAND FOR CONVENIENCE?

Martha R. McEnally, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, U.S.A.

Lew G. Brown, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, U.S.A.

ABSTRACT -

Although convenience is a buzzword in marketing, it has received relatively little research attention. In this study, the researchers analyzed the relationship between life cycle, age, gender, income and perceived time pressure and the purchase of convenience-type products. Income and, to a lesser extent, age were related to purchase of convenience goods. An attempt to relate these same factors to convenience-oriented attitudinal statements was unsuccessful. The researchers conclude that the purchase price may be a moderating variable between consumer characteristics and purchase of convenience goods and that further development of convenience-oriented attitudinal statements is necessary.

Convenience is the marketing buzzword of the 1980s and 1990s, but how much do marketers really know who wants convenience, in what form they want it, and how it affects consumer decision making? Although the trade and popular press are replete with articles extolling the importance of convenience, the academic press offers relatively few articles on the subject.

Most academicians have focused on factors that are hypothesized to increase consumers’ desire for convenience. Prime among these are time pressure and the employment status of women. Conventional wisdom would suggest that both of these factors might explain the increasing demand for convenience, but most of the research to date has failed to support these contentions. (Brown and McEnally, 1992).

What is missing in many of these studies is an understanding of what convenience means to consumers, what they are seeking in purchasing "convenience" goods, and why they desire that form of cnvenience. Rather than asking consumers why they want convenience and in what form, researchers made assumptions about what Constitutes convenience goods and what factors induced a demand for convenience (Darian and Cohen, 1995). Further, researchers have assumed that time pressure existed; they never gave respondents an opportunity to indicate whether or not they felt time pressure (Darian and Cohen, 1995).

This paper attempts to provide some tentative answers to the questions of whether consumers feel time pressure, whether that pressure leads to the purchase of more convenience goods, and what forms of convenience consumers most desire.

LITERATURE REVIEW

As indicated in the introduction, researchers’ previous attempts to prove how external factors such as employment status of the wife, socioeconomic status, consumer values, and consumers’ use of time affect the demand for convenience have produced limited support for the hypothesized relationships between these factors and purchase of convenience goods (Brown and McEnally, 1992).

Rather than focusing on external factors, researchers should begin with internal factorsChow consumers view convenience. A few researchers have attempted to define convenience (Yale and Venkatesh, 1985; Kaufman, 1986; and Brown and McEnally, 1991). Brown and McEnally provided the most comprehensive definition of convenience published to date was provided by Brown and McEnally. They derived a definition of convenience from a series of focus groups in which respondents identified a number of convenience products and discussed why those products were convenient. Using content analysis and the repertory grid technique, they isolated two major dimensions of convenience: time and energy (1992). Energy can be subdivided into mental energy and physical energy. For example, patronizing a fast-food restaurant reduces the mental energy (effort) necessary to obtain a meal; the consumer does not have to plan ahead in order to have the necessary ingredients for a meal. To further enhance fast-food convenience, one can reduce the physical energy (effort) required by ordering this food at the drive-in window.

Further, these dimensions of convenience will vary across the consumption phases of acquisition, use and disposal. The basic concept of fast food implicitly contains use and disposal convenience because one avoids cooking and cleaning. However, clever marketers can make fast food even more convenient by focusing on acquisitionCchoosing convenient locations, providing drive-in windows, locating more than one type of fast-food store in the same building, and accepting credit cards. Conceptualizing convenience as a multi-dimensional concept that one can enhance in different ways in these three stages enables marketers to think systematically about how to improve their products’ or services’ convenience.

Recently, Darian and Cohen (1995) focused on employed wives who purchased fast food. They chose fast foods because previous research indicated that one "convenience good" that working wives purchase is fast food. Their hypothesis was that employed wives would feel more time pressure and would therefore be more likely to purchase fast food. In their study, they asked consumers to indicate their agreement with the statement "I have very little spare time." Based on their answers, respondents were classified as very time poor, somewhat time poor, and not time-poor. For each segment, they examined the importance of various benefits sought, perception of the extent to which fast foods and convenience foods provide these benefits, and the use of the products. They found that the very-time-poor placed a premium on saving mental energy (not having to plan). The very-time-poor also considered saving time and physical energy to be important, but less so than mental energy. Further, they found that time shortage did not significantly affect respondents’ perceptions of the benefits of fat foods. What differentiates this study from earlier ones is the authors’ attention to gleaning perceptions from respondents and using a multi-dimensional conception of convenience.

The study described in this paper extends Darian and Cohen’s research by investigating a broader spectrum of products and examining consumer attitudes toward the importance of energy and time in the consumption process’ three phases. In addition, the study classifies respondents into groups using life cycle information that would imply more or less time pressure and compares that classification with perceived time pressure.

METHODOLOGY

The researchers conducted a nationwide mail survey in the United States. The sample consisted of four groups (retirees, single heads of households with children, single-income households and dual-income households)Cmembers of which were randomly selected from the large national data base of a mailing list service. The researchers chose the four groups on the basis of hypothesized time pressure, using life-cycle variables of marital status, presence or absence of children, and employment status. The group with the lowest hypothesized time pressure were households of retired individuals. They were believed to benefit from less time pressure due to a lack of work demands and the absence of children in the household. The groups with the most hypothesized time pressure were single heads of households and dual-income households. Theoretically, the most time pressured were the single heads of households who have both work and family demands and no spouse to help with meeting those demands. Dual-income households may also experience significant time pressure as they must meet the demands of dual careers as well as children. The final group which would fall between the retired households and the single and dual income households were households with only one adult working. These households experience lower outside work demands and have one adult who can focus on taking care of family demands.

TABLE 1A

CROSS TABULATIONS OF PERCEIVED TIME PRESSURE AND LIFE CYCLE, AGE, GENDER AND INCOME

The questionnaire contained questions about ownership of various products and attitudes toward the quantity of one’s non-work time; a series of Likert-type statements about convenience; and demographic questions about gender, age, marital status, employment and income. Recipients were asked if they owned one of eight convenience products: a telephone answering machine, a cordless telephone, a cellular telephone, a cordless vacuum cleaner, a microwave oven, remote controls for televisions and stereos and a universal remote control. The researchers chose these products based on the results of previous focus groups in which they asked participants to name convenient products. Following the focus groups, the researchers developed a pilot questionnaire containing a longer list of products and tested it using undergraduate and graduate students. The list was pared by eliminating products if every respondent or very few respondents owned the product.

A cover letter accompanied each questionnaire explaining who the researchers were and the purpose of the research. It also assured respondents that the results would be both anonymous and confidential. In addition, each recipient was urged to respond in order to win a cash prize. Four prizes of $25 were awarded to randomly selected respondents.

The cash prize seemed to increase the response rate. Of the 1,600 questionnaires mailed, 710 usable questionnaires were returned for a response rate of 44.4%.

RESULTS

To determine respondents’ perceived time pressure, one question asked them to indicate whether they had adequate, too little or too much non-work time. These three groups (defined by their perceived time pressure) ere cross classified with the four groups defined using life cycle criteria. Table IA shows the results of a Chi-Square test of the distribution among these groups.

The researchers anticipated that retirees would believe that they had adequate or too much non-work time and that single or dual income households would believe that they had significantly less non-work time. Although the Chi Square test is significant, the results are not exactly what the researchers anticipated. Retirees did perceive that they had an adequate amount of non-work time, but households with one adult working were more likely to believe that they had too little non-work time than single heads of households and dual-income households. Fifty one percent of the one-adult working group reported having too little non-work time versus 43.7% of the dual-income group, 38% of single households and 79 % of the retirees. These results indicate strongly that researchers cannot assume that increased employment leads to perceptions of increased time pressure.

In addition, Table 1A contains the results of cross-tabulating perceived time pressure with age, gender, and income. Both age and income are significantly related with perceived time pressure. Respondents in the 25-45 age range perceived that they had too little non-work time. Because these are the primary child-rearing years, one can readily understand why respondents in that age range would feel time pressured. As income increases, respondents also tended to think that they had too little non-work time. Increased income could be associated with increased job pressures, responsibility, and/or longer hours.

Are there differences in product ownership across the four groups? Chi-square tests were used to test for differences in product ownership across the life-cycle groups as well as groups based on gender, age, income, and time pressure. The results are shown in Table lB.

There are significant differences among the life cycle groups for all products except for television and universal remote controls. The dual-income household and the household with only one person working were more likely to own these convenience products. The retired group may have less need of the products or may have older technology products or may not feel comfortable with using remote controls; whereas the single heads of households may be less able to afford them. Grouping by perceptions of time pressure produced only one significant difference for product ownershipCanswering machines. Those households with too little non-work time were more likely to own an answering machine. Income also accounted for a number of significant differences. As income increased, so did the tendency of the household to own convenience products. Income considerations may explain why single heads of households do not exhibit greater ownership of convenience goods as these items may be too expensive given their budget.

TABLE 1B

CROSS TABS OF CONVENIENCE PRODUCTS BY DEMOGRAPHICS AND LIFE CYCLE GROUP

To determine which factors are associated with purchase of a variety of convenience products, the researchers used analysis of variance to test for significant differences in the extent of convenience product ownership across the four life-cycle groups and groups defined by age, gender, income, and perceived time pressure. The extent of convenience product ownership was calculated as the total number of convenience products owned. Table 2 contains the results of the analysis. The overall model was significant at the .01 level. Examination of the Type III Sums of Squares indicates that only income is significantly related to extent of convenience product ownership. As income increases, so does ownership of convenience goods. So far, it appears that income affects perceived time pressure, ownership of individual convenience products and the extent of convenience product ownership.

To examine the impact of energy (physical and mental) and time on respondents’ attitudes toward convenience, the researchers used a series of Likert-type statements which are shown in Table 3. The first half of Table 3 contains statements related to acquisition, use, and disposal of products; whereas the second half of the Table contans general statements that could reflect either energy or time or both. These statements were taken from previous studies or developed from the focus group discussions and were pre-tested with students.

Analysis of variance was used to determine the relationship between each statement and the life cycle variable, gender, age, income and perception of time pressure. The results are shown in Table 4. If the overall Anova model was not significant, the Type III Sums of Squares (which measure the effect of individual variables holding the other variables constant) are not shown.

Analysis of Table 4 produces several conclusions. First, it is notable that life cycle was significantly related to only one statement; whereas gender was related to three statements, age to six statements, income to eight statements and perceived time pressure to no statements. As in the previous analyses, income seems to be the major variable associated with a convenience orientation. As income increases, generally the respondent indicated a higher orientation to convenience. The exception to that is the statement involving disposal of shoes. As income increased, respondents were less likely to throw shoes away. Perhaps at higher incomes, respondents buy more expensive shoes which are perceived as being worth repairing. At lower incomes, respondents may purchase cheaper shoes which are not perceived to be worth repairing. In general, younger consumers exhibited a stronger convenience orientation, as did men.

Second, most of the acquisition statements were not significantly related to any of the variables.

Third, the general statements, as a group, seem to be related to age and income, but the dimensions of energy and time do not exhibit any pattern of significant relationships. The failure of the analysis to support any significant relationships between various demographic variables and energy and time could be a function of poorly worded statements, an insufficient number of statements or the type of analysis used. More work is needed to develop a valid and reliable scale for measuring these dimensions.

TABLE 2

EFFECT OF LIFE CYCLE GROUP, DEMOGRAPHIC VARIABLES AND PERCEIVED TIME PRESSURE ON EXTENT OF CONVENIENCE PRODUCT OWNERSHIP

DISCUSSION

In this study, both life cycle and the demographic variables of age and income exhibited a relationship with perceived time pressure. This was in line with the researchers’ expectations and supports the belief that factors such as presence or absence of children or the employment of one or both adults in the household will contribute to perceived time pressure.

Univariate analyses indicated life cycle, age, income, gender and perceived time pressure were significantly related to ownership of individual convenience products. When ownership of convenience products was summed over the list of products on the questionnaire, only income seemed to be related to ownership of convenience products. At first glance, these two findings might appear to be inconsistent; however, that is not necessarily the case. The demand for a particular convenience product may be motivated by a number of factors. Ownership of a lot of convenience goods will necessitate more income. For many respondents, only a few of the convenience goods may be affordable. In addition, respondents may have owned convenience goods that were not on the questionnaire. So, the extent of convenience product ownership variable may not be valid; it may only measure the extent of convenience product ownership of a limited set of products, rather than being an average measure of ownership of convenience products.

The finding that income is strongly related to a convenience orientation appears to contradict the research of Darian and Cohen. One must remember, however, that the products included in this study were much more expensive than the fast food studied by Darian and Cohen. Thus, income may become more important in determining purchase of convenience products as the price of convenience products an services rises. While everyone can afford fast food, not all households can afford to buy a lot of convenience goods such as cordless telephones and microwave ovens. The results clearly indicate that the relationship between income, life cycle, and ownership of convenience products is more complicated than expected and may not be a linear relationship.

Univariate analyses for individual products revealed a relationship between perceived time pressure and ownership of some products. This relationship did not hold when ownership of convenience products was totaled. This finding is very surprising and clearly not consistent with the research of Darian and Cohen (1995).

There could be multiple explanations for this result. Sampling differences may be partially responsible. Darian and Cohen’s sample was skewed toward higher income, suburban consumers and concentrated in the 35-54 year old age bracket (65%)- 65.6% of this sample had incomes under $35,000; so the sample may be skewed in the opposite direction than the Darian and Cohen sample. Also, only 31.6% of the sample were in the 35-54 age bracket with nearly 50% being over 54. Darian and Cohen’s sample is concentrated in the baby boom generation; whereas this sample had more older consumers who may be beyond the busy career-building and family-rearing years.

Another explanation for the lack of association between perceived time pressure and product ownership and attitudes may be the difference in ways of measuring time perception. Darian and Cohen explicitly asked about spare time. We avoided the terms leisure and spare time as these terms may have different meanings to different individuals. By dividing time into work and non-work, we hoped to create a more consistent frame of reference across all respondents. Clearly, however, non-work does not equate with spare time. Further, we asked about the respondent’s perception of non-work time rather than the head of the household’s perception. If the respondent does not work, then their perception might be different from the household head who does work.

Another finding of the study was the lack of consistent patterns of relationships between the convenience attitudinal statements and demographic variables. This result indicates that more conceptual work is necessary to construct and refine a convenience scale. Perhaps more interviews with consumers would shed light on how they think about the different aspects of convenience. Alternatively, more sophisticated analyses might be able to uncover what appear to be highly complex relationships between attitudes toward convenience and consumer characteristics.

TABLE 3

CONVENIENCE STATEMENTS

Another possibility for future research is an exploration of the impact of measuring perceived time pressure using multiple measurement techniques or to ensure that the perceptions measured are those of the relevant individual, e.g. the head of the household. Corrections such as these may indicate that perceived time pressure is related to a convenience orientation, after all.

The importance of convenience will not decline in the future. Therefore, marketing practitioners and academics need a better understanding of this subject in order to segment markets and provide value-added products and services that offer the forms of convenience with the most appeal to consumers.

TABLE 4

TEST OF RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CONVENIENCE ATTITUDINAL STATEMENTS AND LIFE CYCLE, GENDER, AGE, INCOME AND PERCEIVED TIME PRESSURE

REFERENCES

Berry, L. L. (1979), "The Time-Buying Consumer," Journal of Retailing, Vol. 55 (Winter), pp. 58-69.

Brown, L. G. and McEnally, M. R. (1992), "Convenience: definition, structure, and application," Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 6, Summer, pp. 13-9.

Darian, J and Cohen, J. (1995), "Segmenting by consumer time shortage," Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 12, No. 1, 1995, pp. 32-44.

Darian, J. C. (1987), "In-Home Shopping: Are There Consumer Segments?", Journal of Retailing, Vol. 63, No. 2, Summer 1987, pp. 163-186.

Kaufman, C. J. (1986), "The concept of convenience in marketing: a definition and suggested approach in the study of household time-savings," in Malhotra, N. K. (Ed.), Developments in Marketing Science, Vol. 9, pp. 11-5.

McEnally, M. R. and Brown, L. G. (1989), "Exploring the Construct of Convenience," in Marketing: Positioning for the 1990s, Robert L. King, (Ed.), Charleston, SC Southern Marketing Association.

Morganosky, M. A. (1986), "Cost-Versus Convenience-Oriented Consumers: Demographic, Lifestyle, and Value Perspectives," Psychology and Marketing, Vol. 3, pp. 35-46.

Yale, L. and Venkatesh, A. (1985), "Toward the construct of convenience in consumer behavior", in Lutz, R. J. (Ed.), Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 13, Fall, pp. 403-8.

----------------------------------------

Authors

Martha R. McEnally, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, U.S.A.
Lew G. Brown, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, U.S.A.



Volume

E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3 | 1998



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