My account planning dilemma:
DePaul Housing Services is having a lot of problems with electricity violations in student housing. Students aren’t using surge protectors and instead are using splitters and extension cords. The University is concerned about safety and fire issues and so this quarter my class is focusing on helping them create a campaign around this issue. This second assignment is an “experiential shopping trip”. I was supposed to take someone shopping after sitting and talking for awhile about their electrical issues to see what sort of things they gravitated towards. The following is my write-up.
Background & Objectives
The experiential Shopping assignment required me to interview a close friend or relative about their daily electrical needs and then accompany them on a shopping trip to find something to solve their electrical problems. The goal of this shopping trip was to uncover the decision making process that the person goes through when making a purchase of electrical items that increase plug availability.
Research Methodology & Location
For this assignment I used a one-on-one in-home interview and local shopping trip to a store of the subjects choice. I needed to know in the consumer’s own words what types of electrical issues they have and what they need to solve them.
My sample was one person because that was the assignment. I decided to use my mother, Pat Denton as my subject. My parents’ house was built in 1952 and my mother has always complained about a lack of electrical outlets and that the few she has are inconveniently located for her modern appliances and gadgets. In the bedrooms of her house she’s solved the problem of plug location by purchasing the power strips shown below.
Pat chose the Home Depot for our excursion (despite it there being numerous similar stores nearby) because in her past experience they have the best quality and selection of items available (she especially likes their online ordering system). Even though the Menards is only a few stores down from the Home Depot, for this shopping trip and other home improvement trips, she goes to Home Depot first and only to Menards if she wants to see more choices or brands Home Depot doesn’t carry. When her fence was damaged she went to Home Depot first to find replacement poles and later discovered Menards had similar products of the same quality for less money. She told me that they’d initially started their shopping process at homedepot.com and once they found that Home Depot had what they wanted, it never even occurred to them to check out what Menards had. Her loyalty to the Home Depot brand is deeply rooted in her belief that they’re going to have what she needs and that the quality will be so good that to her the cost is not very important.
When we arrived at the Home Depot Pat headed straight for the strips pictured above that she’s used before. When she did finally go to look at other options, she immediately went to a splitter that was almost the same as the other item, just in a square shape.
Then she started noticing all the new power strips with surge protectors that have more features than the ones pictured above. Since there are so many places in the house that she has a need for these types of products, Pat’s shopping was based more on picking up a product and thinking about how it would best be used in her house than thinking about a problem area in the house and then trying to find a product to fix it.
She was very drawn to these two pictured below when she realized that they would be perfect for under my Dad’s computer desk. She was most interested in functionality, but was also excited that the one on the left hid the cords and was more aesthetically pleasing than regular surge protectors. In the end though she would choose the one on the right for under the computer because it had better functionality even though the one on the left was better looking.
Pat actually ended up purchasing the surge protector shown below that has a remote switch to turn on and off but also lets you leave some things on all the time. She will be using it behind her TV cabinet where she currently has a regular surge protector that she never switches off because it’s too much of a hassle. When she picked this one up, it was the remote switch that drew her in more than the words about saving and the green on the packaging. Just before leaving the store she stopped to check the box for the Underwriter’s Lab (UL) approval seal. She told me that because her father was an electrician she wouldn’t buy any electrical product that hasn’t been approved. She was even ready to walk back to the aisle and put the product back until she found the seal.
The most important things Pat was looking for were functionality and then appearance of the product in use. I would recommend focusing on all the different things these products can be used for and how they fit into the consumer’s home. Since they’re not a particularly fancy product, the attractiveness of the packaging should not be a focus point unless it is showing the product used in a variety of ways. I would also suggest that the UL approval be emphasized on the product. While electrical items like this are not an emotional purchase, they’re low involvement and so it’s easy for the consumer to stick with what they’re familiar with and not be inclined to change. Advertising for these products needs to increase consumer understanding of the differences in the products that are available.