It’s been fifteen years now since the Global Mobile Commerce Forum launched in 1997, at a hotel in Heathrow Airport. They talked about “the delivery of electronic commerce capabilities directly into the consumer’s hand, anywhere, via wireless technology” and “a retail outlet in your best customer’s pocket”. In a rather quaint and rare example of a forecast that was horribly understated as the dot com boom got underway, they even predicted that there would be as many as 150 million mobile telephony users by the year 2000. Ah, we were innocent then!
Every time I walk through Tesco‘s, I get angry. Maybe it’s because I’m a numbers guy, but I hate when they have a chocolate bar for a buck one week, and the following week it’s two for the price of one, at $1.10. It’s clearly not free. And Coca-cola, so productized you could probably buy ten cokes for different prices in one store. Two bottles for the price of one. a twin pack “economy rate”. A slab of cans. A six pack of small bottles. And what freaks me out is where they put these things. How many times to you go to the biscuit aisle and find stray packets of bourbon cremes from the promotions stack near the cured ham counter, dumped on top of the custard cremes when a wandering shopper realises that the offer ain’t all it’s cracked up to be when they analyse the other offers that were not beside the bourbon cremes (near the cured ham). Humbug.
Of course, what this shows is that retailer have thought about this stuff. They don’t stack shelves in order of price, because like on any good wine list in a restaurant, no one buys the most expensive stuff, and few people buy the cheapest stuff, but many buy the second cheapest option. This is what academics call behavioural economics, an understanding that the psychology of buying is important in considering how to structure offers, and – generally speaking – how to price stuff.