Do we know value when we see it?

In past few articles I wrote about the price consumers pay and the price marketers get to charge. Those explanations depended on the value consumers get from buying the product. In B2B segments and in some  utilitarian product categories (like a light bulb) it is fairly easy to calculate economic value to the consumers.  But how can a marketer find the value added for the rest of the products? Do the consumers even know the value they get? I would like to remind you here that there is no magic value reader that is available.

I was looking at a JCPenney survey that asked, “Did you get value from your purchase?”. If customers do not know the value how can they answer this? Even if they did, this question does not help find what that value was.

There is one advanced analytical method, it is called by an esoteric and not so relevant name – conjoint analysis. Stated in simple terms the method is about

  1. Consumers do not know the absolute value of products they buy but we can deduce that from their preferences and likelihood of purchase. Instead of asking  consumes for how much they value ask them about how likely are they to purchase a given product on a scale of 1 to 100. This is called “Utility” in conjoint analysis. Note that the use of the term Utility does not imply that the product is  utilitarian.
  2. Any product can be modeled as a sum of its components, not just utilitarian features (like price and screen size of a TV) but hedonistic features like 1080 dpi and conspicuous features like diamond studded TV. The price should always be a component in your modeling.
  3. Show consumes a series of products with different feature set and ask for their rating. From these ratings we can deduce not only the  utility values  of different products but also the relative weights they assign to the components.

This explanation barely scratches the surface, you can find more information on this in a SlideShare presentation I published.  The net is that there are analytical methods that can be employed to get consumers to reveal the values and what components go into that value equation.

With this setup and my previous classification of consumption I will try to model consumer behavior with respect to  utilitarian, hedonistic and conspicuous consumptions and the shift in consumer buying patterns from luxury product categories to “premium” or  utilitarian categories.