Changing Consumer Behavior
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 Changing Consumer BehaviorChanging Consumer Behavior

The Three Requirements of Changing Consumer Behavior


Cl;aire Dorotik M.A..

            Many years in the field of weight loss have taught me several things about people. As you know, people come in all shapes and sizes, and with all different types of personalities. While these personalities always illuminate themselves over time, what becomes clear, is the person’s behaviors around exercise, food, and lifestyle habits. One of the habits is what they buy. For the person who is attempting to lose weight, what they buy is incredibly important. If the person comes to the gym and works out like a maniac, but then goes to the grocery store and buys cookies and ice cream, her weight loss attempts are going to be sabotaged. Even when I may become aware of this, and confront this issue with my client, if I do not know why my client is buying the cookies and ice cream, I will not be able to help her change her behavior. Therefore, more than anything, why they buy the products they do is the real issue. Because without an understanding of why someone does something, it is difficult to change it. And, as we know, in order to lose weight, several things about the person will have to change.

            In researching why people make the purchasing decisions that they do, several experts in the field have weighed in on the issue. Studies conducted by researchers at Harvard University have been watching the purchasing habits of consumers for many years. While the previous understanding was that people purchase products largely as a result of price, or brand recognition, actually, the decisions people make are influenced by many other factors. In attempting to delineate what these factors may be, the researchers posted an identifiable nutrition score on several products at the Hanneford grocery store chain. This scoring, developed with the help of several nutritionists and registered dietitians, use a rating system for all of the ingredients in the products evaluated. This system gave positive values for ingredients such as fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates, and negative values for ingredients such as sugar, trans-fats, hydrogenated fats, and preservatives. Each product was given a rating from five stars for very healthy to one star for unhealthy. The scores were posted right on the front of the products. When consumers were given the opportunity to view this information readily, their purchasing decisions changed drastically. When the healthy products were priced exactly the same as the unhealthy products, consumers favored the healthy to unhealthy versions two to one. Interestingly, when the healthy versions were priced higher, that ratio went up: the consumers favored the pricier, healthy products more. On the other hand, when the healthy products were priced less expensively than the unhealthy products, the reverse was true: the consumers favored the less pricey, healthy products less. It seems that the increased price lent credibility to the healthy scoring rating.

            From this study, and others like it, we can ascertain that consumers will readily purchase healthier products when the information is readily available. However, there are several other parts to this story. Not only was the information readily available to the consumers, it made sense to them. The ratings were done on something that all people can relate to, which is health. Had the ratings been done on something such as environmental impact, the results may not have been the same. To be sure, similar studies on consumer behavior have revealed that the “greenness” of a product does not significantly influence consumer behavior. Much of the hypothesis done has pointed to the fact that why greenness matters remains unclear to the average consumer. As there are several ways to rate greenness, the relative importance and impact of this information had been not clearly disseminated to the consumers who may purchase these products. On the other hand, the amount of information that has been published on the negative health effects of trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, and sugar has provided an a very clear reason as to why this matters to the average consumer. So in looking at the ratings of the variety of purchases they were considering, the reason as to why this information matters had already been established.

            The second part of this story was that the “right” choice, was just as easy for the consumers to make as the “wrong” choice. Had the wrong choice involved going to another store, the consumer’s behavior might have been different. This explains why, when consumers are given the choice to say, purchase alternative energy sources, such as wind power, they may hesitate. The right decision involves moving to another energy provider, and is therefore, is not as easy for the consumer to make. However, when the right choice involves no more effort than the choice, consumers will readily make the switch. What this tells us is that when consumer’s decisions involve making more effort, regardless of the reason, they typically will not change their purchasing habits.

            What this tells me, in terms of weight loss, is that if I want to change the purchasing habits of my clients, I have to do three things: tell them why this information matters to them, make the information readily accessible to them, and make the right choice as easy as the wrong choice.

As a recovering anorexic, and a licensed clinical therapist (MFT), with a B.S. in Kinesiology, Claire possesses the pivotal life experience combined with the clinical understanding of the debilitating effects of chronic dieting, restricting, overeating, and the resultant feelings of guilt, shame, and self hate.  Because recovery is a lifelong journey, Claire has made it her passion to provide the understanding and guidance that was so vital to her recovery.  Claire recognizes that in a thin obsessed society traditional diet programs chronically fail as they neglect to address the underlying emotional etiology of eating behavior.  Claire was drawn to Live In Fitness because of the comprehensive approach that she believes imperative in overcoming the cycle of dieting and overeating.  Claire holds a B.S. in Kinesiology, and an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy, and is licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.  Additionally, Claire is a certified personal trainer (ACSM, ACE, ISSA, AFFA) and has worked for over 13 years in the fitness field as a certified personal trainer, wellness consultant, biomechanics consultant, and rehabilitation specialist.  Claire has developed programs for many organizations, including Nokia, Bally’s, Miracles For Moms, Prototypes Women’s Center, and Fitness Together.  Claire has been a featured author for several publications including Trail Runner, Her Sports, and Ride magazines.  Additionally, Claire also writes continuing education courses for International Sports Science Association, in the field of improving the education and knowledge of personal trainers.  Claire has spent the last four years focusing on the substance abuse recovery population and possesses a comprehensive understanding of chemical dependence and addictions, and the effect they have on weight, metabolism, and eating behavior. For more information on Claire Dorotik, go to her website