The Risk of Believing Customers Stated Preferences

When you are running market research projects of any size one of the biggest risks can be taking what customers say at face value.

This might seem seem counterintuitive but the reason being is customers often unintentionally say they want something different from what they really desire.

For instance, they might state that they only buy eco friendly products but when it comes to their purchasing behaviour when there is no one watching they just buy whatever is on offer.

Or on the other hand, people might buy more expensive products or services as they believe that the conspicuous consumption will give them more status in their social group.

Whatever the issue it is better to actually observe what customers are buying than what they say they want to buy as this shows their revealed preferences when they are asked to buy.

This phenomenon in research was explored by researchers who got customers to evaluate a clock radio and it received glowing reports with the research subjects thinking it was excellent, they all told the researchers that they would buy it if the opportunity arose.

The challenge came at the end of the interview when the researchers asked the subjects if they wanted $5 or to have the clock radio that they thought was so excellent – they all took the $5.

This is one (slightly dated) example of consumers saying one thing but ‘voting’ differently when it comes to how they want to spend their own money.

The risk to your business is, if you are creating market research projects to ensure that you are finding out customers revealed preferences rather than their stated preferences.

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