What Is a Consumer Preference?

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    Definition

    • Many consumers choose to buy white cars instead of red or blue no matter what brand the car is, where it was built or how many cup holders it has. This is a consumer preference. Why is white the most popular car color? Some people say it is because it signifies purity or even technology. The color of a car has nothing to do with how the car functions, so logic would say that all colors would sell the same amount or car manufacturers would only produce one color. However, this is not the case. Those manufacturers produce many colors, including twice as many in white, or whichever color is trendy or popular at the time.

    Difference of Opinion

    • Sometimes, consumer preferences may lead to negative results. Shampoo companies found that their customers associate suds with cleanliness, leading them to add sudsing agents to their products even though the amount of suds has nothing to do with how well the shampoos clean hair. The first company to add more suds to their formula was able to use it as a marketing and promotional advantage. Other companies followed suit, leading to a sudsiness competition.

      Unfortunately, the more sudsy the lather, the worse the shampoo will clean. This is true for two reasons. According to the Fox Avenue Salon website, "First, the extremely sudsy shampoo takes much longer to rinse out of your hair, resulting in excessive use of water. Secondly, with so many suds the hair doesn't seem to get as clean." So, instead of manufacturers educating customers on how shampoo works, they add chemicals to adjust their products to the consumer preference.

    How Companies Find Consumer Preferences

    • Companies routinely test the market to find out what customers like and dislike about their products and competitors' products. This is usually done by an internal marketing department or outsourced to a market research firm. Phone interviews, paper surveys, electronic surveys, focus groups and consumer samplings are common methods for gathering information.

    Market Research Example

    • Here is a popular example of market research: A customer has finished shopping and paying for merchandise at a local grocery store. Before handing the receipt to her, the cashier points to and explains that she has been invited to participate in a short survey about her visit. If she chooses to participate, she will receive $5 off her next visit and a chance to win a large monetary grand prize.

    How Companies Use This Information

    • After gathering information, the next step for the company is to determine what it means. Analysis of the information may lead the company to change the formula, packaging, color, size or some other feature of the product. In the case of the suds in the shampoo, the manufacturers may find that customers are continuing to prefer and associate the foamy lather with high quality cleanliness, leading them to keep the same formula or decide to add even more of the sudsing agent.

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