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How 💪🏼 powerful (or not) people feel has an unexpected impact on how they shop

Harvard Business Review (Oct ’22) research finds interesting, counter-intuitive learning on how our “need for variety” when shopping is tied to our sense of “power”.

Consumers may feel “less powerful” in a variety of situations, e.g., when having low income or high debt, being in a more junior job, during an economic downturn, or even when sitting in a lower (vs taller) height chair.

Evidently, when we feel:


↬ we have a need to compensate for that feeling by wanting MORE VARIETY of options when shopping; this helps us subconsciously “restore our sense of autonomy” and that we can be in control.


↬ we have high confidence in getting what we want and don’t feel need to flaunt our power by needing to see a variety of products. Few or single choice options work fine.


HBR's study authors’ suggest that

"if a retailer has reason to think that its customer base is likely to feel relatively powerless, then it may benefit from showcasing a wider range of products."

but ....

"if offering a range of products is infeasible may be worth pursuing strategies to intentionally boost customers’ sense of autonomy, such as focusing on empowering messaging and offering customization options, to reduce less-powerful customers’ need for variety and thus increase the chances that they’ll make a purchase."

They noted examples of “Burger King’s slogan “Have it your way” and L’Oreal’s “Because you’re worth it” that both emphasize customers’ freedom and autonomy”.


Businesses need to have a deep understanding of their consumers, including how “powerful” they feel. They can fine tune their product variety (even by a small amount can work) and message accordingly,

“Feeding a lower-power customer’s desire for variety can increase the chances that they will make a purchase”.

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