People spend billions of dollars during the Christmas period, and every business wants to ensure as many go to them as possible. Knowing what consumers are looking for in their purchases, and how that varies in different situations, is integral to this. By looking at the simple—albeit not very wintry—example of buying ice cream, researchers analyzed the consumer behavior at the heart of this seasonal spending spree.
Yan-Kwang Chen and Pei-Shan Tsai of the National Taichung University of Science and Technology, Taiwan, working with Fei-Rung Chiu of the Overseas Chinese University, Taiwan, interviewed 68 participants in their qualitative study, “A customer value analysis of Taiwan ice cream market: a means-end chain approach across consumption situations”, published on December 8, 2015 in SpringerPlus.
Using answers from a questionnaire, the team determined the means-end chain of each ice-cream-shopper. The means-end chain links the attributes of a product a consumer is looking for (means) to the goals they want to achieve with the purchase (end) via the consequences of consuming that product.
For example, someone buying ice cream might look at the attributes of price to achieve the goal of living economically via the consequence of it being good value for money. The means-end chain in this situation would be price–good-value–economy.
This chain differs depending on the individual and, apparently, the situation they’re in. The group found that when participants were in more social situations, such as on a date or with friends, they placed greater value on the quality of the ice cream with the goal of gaining pleasure. However, participants out alone, or just satisfying an ice-cream-craving, were more interested in convenience than quality.
This may come as no surprise that people change their shopping habits depending on whom they’re with and the situation they’re in. After all, if anyone has ever panic-bought gifts alone on Christmas Eve, it is difficult to claim that one always has quality in mind.