In this blog, in several articles and presentations, I have talked about the Positioning Map and its importance in making business decisions.
Positioning maps are constructed by market research involving the interviewing of consumers and describing their opinions about products and/or brands in a market and in relation to the main factors that generate purchasing decisions.
Unfortunately, as in other sociological surveys, we find many uncertainties about their validity and they are constantly revised. The sources of these “errors” are many and well-known: the cognitive biases of the respondents, the size and quality of the sample, biased opinions, changing tastes, etc.
It is easy to see the bias on the price. Many consumers do not like to mention in a survey that they prefer to buy the cheapest product (whatever it is) and therefore we often find headlines in the press that say things like: “price is the fourth most important factor in the purchase decision of consumers of fruit and vegetables“.
And, of course, when we gullible (production) professionals go to speak to the purchasing managers of supermarkets with the data from the aforementioned study, the least we can expect is a condescending look or smirk.
The perception of these procurement executives is diametrically opposed and with reason. Their facts are supported by (actual) sales figures in their chain stores. They are absolutely confident of knowing what sells (and therefore what consumers want), and no study, positioning map or other marketing gimmick will change this.
But what if we are all wrong?
What if the surveys paint an unrealistic and idealistic map of desires?
What if these actual sales are only the result of the “least bad possible” choice within the range available in physical stores?
Never before, has there been such a density of outlets and such quantity and diversity of fruit and vegetables in these outlets. And yet, the consumer complaint is still present. They complain about the freshness, the taste and even the price to such an extent that per capita consumption is declining.
Consumers do not seem to be completely satisfied with any of the proposals of supermarket chains and become “disloyal”, going to various shops (including traditional commerce) to complete their purchase.
In 2004, the executive Chris Anderson wrote an article (later a book) called “The Long Tail“, in which, referring to the audiovisual industry (cinema, music, etc.) and even the sale of books, he said things like this:
“For too long we have suffered the tyranny of lowest common denominator… Why? Because of the economies (of scale and distribution)”.
“Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply and demand matching. A market response to inefficient distribution“.
In the article, Chris Anderson showed that by overcoming the restrictions of a traditional (in store) sales distribution by selling online, companies selling on-line, quite unexpectedly, managed to sell quantities of articles that had never been reached in physical stores.
In the case of AMAZON, these sales amounted to 57% of the total. That is, in AMAZON at least, 57% of sales were of items that were thought not to be popular and therefore not worth selling. And indeed, that was the case.
These items were not popular and this huge turnover was obtained with very modest sales (a few units) of a high number and diversity of these “unpopular items”. In conclusion, a Long Tail (see Long Tail chart) of products.
This shows that the personal tastes of consumers are extremely heterogeneous and many industries have entered a spiral of customization that threatens to become infinite once production with 3D printers becomes widespread.
In our case (horticulturists) we can also dream about a “Long Tail”. We can dream that the progressive adaptation of business to the online world (with the overcoming of the physical constraints of in-store display and sale) will allow a wide diversification of products to meet real consumer tastes.
If consumers are served more will be sold, consumption will rise and the high (and appropriate) market segmentation will allow us to make our productions more profitable.
Dreaming does not cost anything but we will have to get used to being modern and using “words” like Dropshipping, Click&Collect, Design UX, Digital-Physical Blur, Circular Economy, etc. and any others that appear.