Convenience-Orientation B Consumer Preferences and Measurement With Conjoint Analysis
Bernhard Swoboda (2001) ,"Convenience-Orientation B Consumer Preferences and Measurement With Conjoint Analysis", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Andrea Groeppel-Klien and Frank-Rudolf Esch, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 102-106.
1. INTRODUCTION The term "convenience" does not only refer to characteristics that customers should experience with every product or service. Instead it means the convenient purchase of a product (in particular food) which is easy to prepare and generally available in small quantities. Consumption is quick and immediate. Since the end of the 1970s, convenience has been of enormous significance in the USA and in Japan. Some research was carried out in the early seventies (Anderson 1971) and eighties (Capps et al. 1985); one of the main issues was the link established between convenience and working-wife families (Reilly, 1982; Darian/Klein 1989; Darian/Tucci 1992, Kim 1989 and Yen 1993). In contrast, convenience is a relatively new consumer trend in Europe. This development contrasts with the low level of knowledge about the trend. This paper attempts to fill the gap. The focus is on convenience-oriented storesBshops at service tations and dedicated convenience-storesBwith convenience-products and convenience-services (traditional fast-food and home-delivery services) playing a subordinate role. The analysis concentrates on two main aspects: $
The term "convenience" does not only refer to characteristics that customers should experience with every product or service. Instead it means the convenient purchase of a product (in particular food) which is easy to prepare and generally available in small quantities. Consumption is quick and immediate.
Since the end of the 1970s, convenience has been of enormous significance in the USA and in Japan. Some research was carried out in the early seventies (Anderson 1971) and eighties (Capps et al. 1985); one of the main issues was the link established between convenience and working-wife families (Reilly, 1982; Darian/Klein 1989; Darian/Tucci 1992, Kim 1989 and Yen 1993).
In contrast, convenience is a relatively new consumer trend in Europe. This development contrasts with the low level of knowledge about the trend. This paper attempts to fill the gap. The focus is on convenience-oriented storesBshops at service tations and dedicated convenience-storesBwith convenience-products and convenience-services (traditional fast-food and home-delivery services) playing a subordinate role. The analysis concentrates on two main aspects:
$What do consumers expect from convenience-oriented purchases and to what extent are these expectations satisfied by stores?
$How can the target groups and their preferences be characterised?
2. THEORETICAL AND EMPIRICAL EXPLANATORY APPROACHES
The important factors behind the increased consumer focus on convenience reflect social trends. They are associated with consumer desires to improve their quality of life, expressed as "lightening the burden" and in a general reduction in stress along with demands for more leisure time. A framework for recording these determinants differentiates between socio-demographic, psycho graphical, technological, political and legal developments (Zentes/Swoboda 1998).
In order to analyse convenience-oriented purchasing behaviour, it is useful to identify a separate reference framework which initially goes beyond a deterministic examination, i.e. one that takes into account expectations/conceptions and thus the active role of consumers when selecting convenience-oriented shops. Behaviour theory approaches relevant to this selection process or applicable to relevant sets of marketing problems include dissonance, learning and risk theory etc. Gratification research deals with behaviour motivation as a function of the desire for gratification, in other words the aims, needs and expectations of consumers. Out of the numerous gratification approaches (cf. Altheide 1985), it is possible to revert to one elementary model. Expressed in simple terms, it compares the gratification sought with that received. It therefore indicates superficial parallels to the confirmation/disconfirmation paradigm (cf. Yis overview 1993).
According to this model, the way people perceive individual alternatives and their assessment of these alternatives influence the gratifications sought. This behaviour leads received gratifications to be perceived as a consequence of it; these in turn reinforce or modify individual conceptions of gratification-linked properties of certain products or points of purchase (cf. with reference to mass communications: Palmgreen 1984). One interesting aspect of this approach is that different gratification expectations are assessed for each specific application. Seen within the context of inadequate knowledge about convenience-purchases it is indeed essential, while nevertheless placing special demands on empirical study design.
Overall, the motives behind the expectation dimensions for convenience-purchases are examined on the basis of a research approach that largely reveals structures and subjective perceptions of similar dimensions. As a logical consequence, these are contrasted with conventional purchases, so that the following questions can be answered: to what extent are different dimensions applied to expectations about points of purchase for convenience and weekly (supply) shopping and do convenience-oriented retail formats satisfy convenience-purchase expectations more efficiently than traditional ones. Initial clues to the competitive factors determining convenience-purchases can be deduced from this.
As emphasised earlier, the crucial factors determining convenience-shopping are linked to social trends, which do not apply equally to all consumer groups, however. This prompts the question of the attributes of the target roup for convenience-oriented offers, esp. socio-demographic and psychological attributes.
3. EMPIRICAL FINDINGS
3.1. Results of the preliminary study
In order to determine the factors for rating expectations and assessments vis-a-vis convenience-oriented-offers, consumers were asked in a study to state their reasons (30 items) for selecting particular points of purchase in order of importance. A factor analysis was carried out to select the items relevant for explaining the key attributes. Using the component analysis method, the initial set of items was satisfactorily narrowed down to eight (ct. Swoboda/ Morschett 2001). This result, supplemented with expert interviews, was used as the basis for the main studies.
3.2. Results of the main studies
The main studies were carried out during a one-week period (from Monday to Sunday), so that daily variances were adequately taken into account in the results. They covered customers at 90 convenience-stores. 658 consumers were surveyed using conventional questionnaires and a further 535 were interviewed by means of a laptop-supported conjoint measurement. The respondents were chosen randomly.
3.2.1. Results of the conventional interviews
The first step was to analyse possible differences between consumers expectations about their weekly shopping and about convenience-purchases and then to examine whether, when they make convenience-purchases, their expectations about convenience-shops and traditional retail outlets are satisfied in different ways. The consumer assessments, summarised in Table 1, reveal long opening hours and the fact that purchases can be completed quickly as the dominant expectations of convenience-purchases. As far as weekly shopping is concerned, friendly service and price are more important.
According to the gratification approach, expectations about convenience-purchases then had to be compared with assessments of the convenience-shops. Supermarkets were selected as the traditional format, and the expectation and perception assessments were subtractively linked. The results reveal that (Table 2):
$When convenience-shops are compared with supermarkets, different levels of gratification are found in all expectation dimensions.
$Convenience-shops satisfied consumer expectations about convenience-purchases better than supermarkets in three dimensions.
EXPECTATIONS FROM WEEKLY AND CONVENIENCE-PURCHASES (MEAN VALUES IN T-TESTS)
EXPECTATIONS AND PERCEIVED PERFORMANCES (MEAN VALUES IN T-TESTS)
3.2.2. Results of the conjoint analysis
A conjoint measurement demands "trade-off" decisions from respondents. Based on combined judgements, the conjoint analysis calculates the contribution of each store attribute (partial benefits) to the overall preference judgements vis-a-vis stores. This method is hence more "realistic" than direct interviews. The eight identified attributes were used for the measurement (Table 3).
A total 1728 possible store profiles could be constructed from these manifestations. Preferences were measured by choosing interview rankings specified by Adaptive Conjoint Analysis-according to Wittink et al. (1994), Europes most common program-based on the respondents replies. ACR allows consumers to eliminate right from the outset those store attribute manifestations they reject for shopping purposes. The importance of the attribute dimensions selected by the program was then surveyed and compositionally apportioned before choice decisions between individual and combined store attributes were arrived at in a series of decompositional analyses.
The analysis reveals partial preference functions. Since the benefit values are comparable for all attributes, the benefit ranges shown in Table 4 indicate the relative importance of each one. On that base the overall benefit values of different store type can be determined. Its usefulness for describing customer preferences is limited, though, because information about segment-specific preference structures is lost.
RELEVANT STORE ATTRIBUTES AND THEIR MANIFESTATIONS
RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF STORE ATTRIBUTES
3.3. Segment-specific analysis
3.3.1. General results
A discriminant analysis was carried out in order to gain precise information about the contribution of gratification considerations towards explaining decision-making processes. A comparison was drawn between those who frequently make convenience-oriented purchases (at least once a week) and those who only do so occasionally. All the gratification dimensions listed proved to isolate the groups (Wilks¦ Lambda=0.79; canonical correlation=0.43; chi2=72.51). The standardised discrimination coefficients confirm that long opening hours, additional services and the quickly purchase are the most important variables. The discriminant analysis performed for the conjoint yielded no new results. The respondents were subdivided into three groups by means of a cluster analysis.
The identified customer groups exhibit different preferences (Table 5):
$The persons in cluster 1 rate the goods presentation and service as particularly beneficial, while all other attributes are moderately important.
$To the members of cluster 2 the price level is by far the most important aspect, all other store attributes being comparatively insignificant (26% of respondents).
$Cluster 3 is characterised by a customer group (35% of respondents) that attaches most importance to the purchase duration and to opening hours.
Overall, the clusters differ as regards the store attributes, so that it appears possible to delimit and systematically process customer segments on the basis of the conjoint data.
3.3.2. Attributes of convenience-shoppers
Convenience-shoppers tend to be male and younger (aged under 34), relatively affluent, living in one and two-person households, better educated and self-employed (significant results). Their attitude towards convenience is more positive; they go shopping more often per week; they spend a higher proportion of their household budget on food; they exhibit very little sensitivity to price and they tend to plan their purchases (in convenience-stores) in advance.
On the base of the ACR-solution it was possible to verify the extent to which the evaluated judgements (preferences) are reflected in real purchase behaviour (cf. attitude-behaviour hypothesis). The preference structure is significant for the choice of store (supermarket or convenience-store), as is the frequency with which each customer group shops in the various retail formats.
IMPORTANCE OF THE STORE ATTRIBUTES IN THE THREE CLUSTERS
There is only room here to mention a few of the many conclusionsBconcerning both content and methodBthat could theoretically be drawn from the analysis. Regarding customers gratification considerations when comparing convenience-oriented purchases with weekly shopping, the arguments of long opening hours and fast, convenient-purchasing predominate. Convenience-oriented retail outlets satisfy consumer expectations about purchasing speed and opening hours. These are their key competitive advantages over traditional retail outlets such as supermarkets.
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Bernhard Swoboda, Saarland University, Germany
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