Your perception of a product: Where does it come from & how does it change your purchasing decision?
We purchase the products we like. It is a pretty automatic process -- we don’t spend much time thinking about where our preferences come from. But what creates those thoughts we have, either positive or negative, about the products?
To answer this question, we need to first understand what perception is. Perception is our representation and understanding of the information formed through interpreting the stimuli we gather from our senses. In short, perception can be described as how we see the world around us. Similarly, our perceptions of a product can be considered as how we see the product in our minds. As customers, we collect information about a product and interpret the information to create a comprehensive image of it.
The formation of a shopper’s perception of a product is complex since one can encounter various stimuli and collect information consciously and unconsciously. In this article, I would like to introduce you to some less obvious factors that influence your perceptions of a product, as well as the consequences of these perceptions on your purchasing decision.
1. Package Design
Packaging plays an important role in shaping our perceptions of a given product. While we walk down the aisles of a store, we pass by a large number of products per second. When a package design stands out to one or more of our senses, we are more likely to give our attention to that product, and thus collect more information and set expectations of the product. This process eventually leads to a higher likelihood for us to purchase that product.
As visually dominant beings, we can easily pick up visual packaging cues. For instance, a package with a size or shape different from the other packages on the shelf can quickly grab our attention. Color is another frequently used cue to make the package more visually salient. For instance, brighter and more saturated colors are stronger physiological stimuli to human eyes, so we are more likely to notice packages with those colors. People also associate the packaging colors with specific brands and product categories and give colors cultural meanings. Because of this, packaging colors can induce emotions and attitudes about the product even before consumers start to consciously evaluate the product.
Olfactory cues can also affect consumers’ perceptions of a product. For example, adding smells to a picture of food can increase one’s physiological reaction to food, desire to eat, and thus desire to consume the product. A consistent and distinct scent can also be associated with brand image and remind consumers of the other attributes a product or a brand has.
2. In-Store Shopping Environment
A positive shopping experience, created largely by the shopping environment, can enhance the value consumers get from visiting a store. A good shopping environment can elicit consumers’ positive in-store emotions, which can then increase consumers’ satisfaction with the product and willingness to purchase and repurchase. Below are some factors that construct an internal shopping environment that can make consumers perceive the products more positively.
Ambient factors often influence consumer perception unconsciously. Have you ever hummed along with Christmas songs being played at a store and felt joy growing inside you? Listening to cheerful music can elicit positive emotions. Together with a well-designed lighting system that guides our eyes to key sales points, our chances of buying the product in front of us will be much higher.
Design factors can reduce the stress consumers have during shopping. It can be frustrating if you cannot find the product you want to buy. It can also be disappointing when you cannot find the check-out counter or the restroom. The ease of shopping is largely achieved by having a logical shop layout and sufficient signs in the store. And with the potential stress relieved, people are more likely to hold positive attitudes toward the store and the products.
Social factors include the presence and the efficiency of salespeople. When the staff can offer courteous help and good service without constant surveillance or overexplaining, shoppers feel more relaxed and entertained during their time at the store. These positive feelings, plus the marketing skills the salespeople have, can make the consumers more positively perceive the products and increase their intentions to buy.
3. Online Shopping Environment
Unlike consumers who shop in-store, online shoppers cannot see, touch, or smell the physical products directly. In other words, they cannot rely on their senses to collect information about the physical products. Instead, their perceptions of the products are heavily influenced by how the brands or retailing companies present the products on the websites. Therefore, except for one’s prior knowledge or experience of the given products, a shopper’s perception of the product can also be affected by website quality. To some extent, while the quality of a website has little to do with the quality of a product, website quality is considered by consumers as an indication of product quality.
There are many factors that affect our perceptions of website quality. For instance, having a visually appealing website and aesthetic pictures of the products can make consumers feel more pleasant and excited, and thus encourage them to stay longer on the website to continue shopping. Having a secure website that can protect consumers from fraud and monetary losses can enhance consumers’ trust of the website. These emotions and feelings can stimulate a more positive attitude towards the website and the products creating higher consumer satisfaction which can further increase the chances for consumers to collect information and develop positive perceptions of the products.
We use our senses to collect information about a product, and we interpret the information to create our perceptions of the product. While consumers go through several cognitive and mental stages before they make a purchasing decision, being aware of the product and holding a positive perception of it is the starting point of this process. In addition to our prior knowledge and experience, there are many extrinsic factors that can influence our perceptions. In this article, we mentioned that special designs on the packages can grab our attention and “lure” us to associate the products with things we like. In a physical store, the shopping environment can make us feel happy when we look at the products which helps to release any potential stress we have during shopping. At an online store, our perceptions of a product largely depend on how the website presents it, and we tend to link website quality with product quality.
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