The Psychology of Categories: How to increase shopper satisfaction

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The Psychology of Categories: How to increase shopper satisfaction

We as humans need to categorise everything; whether it’s animals, colours, or products, categorisation is an innate part of our behaviour. Being able to chunk large amounts of information into groups gives us the ability to process and understand concepts faster, allowing us to make better decisions.

While grocery shopping, we’re presented with 1000’s of choices in a single trip, and categories on the shelves have long been a method for making decisions simpler for both shoppers and brands alike.

But it’s only recently that psychology is actually understanding why this is the case.

A classic piece of consumer research by Mogilner, Rudnick & Iyengar (2008) found that even the mere existence of a category, regardless of its content, positively influences the satisfaction of shoppers when given an unfamiliar choice.  This is called the “Mere categorisation effect”.

The study looked at both the magazine and coffee categories in both a laboratory and field environments, varying the amount of categories, and the information presented within them.

By providing categories, shoppers feel they are being given more choice, therefore making them feel more control over their purchase. This increases their overall satisfaction.

However, this effect is less pronounced for regular shoppers.

The research indicates that it’s not the number of available options, but the differences between them that lead to greater purchase satisfaction.

From a brand and retailer perspective, sub-category signage in-store is a guaranteed win/win initiative. It helps with navigation, and increases the perceived number of categories available from that store.