Wine Scarcity Drives Consumers to Drink
Recently we’ve been writing about nuggets of gold discovered in the ivory tower – that is, market research insights we find by reading academic journals. As luck would have it, we stumbled upon one such nugget this week. It answered a question posed by Diana Hamann, aka the wine goddess, purveyor of a favorite local wine shop in Evanston by that same name.
The wine goddess wanted to know: Should my shelves be fully stocked and organized? Or should I let stocks deplete so that shoppers can see what’s popular? Well, big grocery stores have fully stocked, perfectly faced shelves. They’ve done boatloads of research into driving consumer purchase, and they probably know what they’re doing, right? But it is also true that most shoppers in wine shops know little about wines, so they are looking for clues about what’s good and what they might like.
Along came the July 2013 issue of Journal of Marketing with an article entitled, “The Influence of Disorganized Shelf Displays and Limited Product Quantity on Consumer Purchase.” Here is the gist of the findings:
1. Food and drink sell better if shelves are fully stocked and nicely organized, unless
2. The brands being sold are unfamiliar, in which case, shelf scarcity may boost sales.
What are the mechanisms at work here? If people know what’s on the shelves, they avoid buying food items that seem touched and picked over by others—so they eagerly reach for items on fully stocked, neat shelves. But if they don’t know the products well, then scarcity comes into play as a clue that other customers like the product, and so shoppers may reach for that item instead.
Given how little shoppers know about the specific wines on her shelves, our advice to the wine goddess is to avoid immediate re-stocking and offer other clues that certain wines are well-liked and delicious (through signage, for example). But keep those shelves tidy and organized because you still want to avoid shoppers believing that lots of others before them have touched and examined each bottle.
Here’s a toast to another interesting and relevant insight from one of those heavy, mostly boring academic journals full of turgid prose about market research!