A Recent Study by HBR Reveals Religious Shoppers are Less Impulsive and Frugal when Grocery Shopping

A Recent Study by HBR Reveals Religious Shoppers are Less Impulsive and Frugal when Grocery Shopping
A Recent Study by HBR Reveals Religious Shoppers are Less Impulsive and Frugal when Grocery Shopping

Ever wondered to what extent religious beliefs could dictate mundane activities? For instance, in something as basic as grocery shopping, does being more religious help you keep tabs on unplanned purchases and in pinching your expenditure? Don’t believe us? According to the recent study and survey published by Harvard Business Review, religious inclinations are bound to affect the way people spend on groceries.

The research that was conducted by HBR in a series of five studies revealed that, on an average, three out of four people affiliate grocery shopping with religion. While this research brings a renewed focus on the ways people pick daily consumption items, it also displays a clear picture of the advantage that the retail and consumer goods market can adapt for success.

Curious how HBR reached this conclusion? They conducted a field study across 1,600 U.S. counties factoring in annual grocery store sales per store about the number of reported religious adherents (per 1,000 population) in each county. After reconsidering median factors such as age, household income, etc. they analyzed the dollar volume of this fraction and realized that grocery sales shot down by about $125,000 for every 25% increase of religious followers in a county.

HBR’s study was backed by strong data-set researches from the survey that was conducted by Point of Purchase Advertising International in 2011 and 2012. 2,400 shoppers were analyzed in this survey that spanned 35 stores across ten states. Getting numbers from individual-level grocery spending capacity, the results made it evident that shoppers hailing from the religious U.S. counties were both conservative and mindful while making their purchases. They spent relatively less and were not all that impulsive.

Now, this was a general finding, but HBR wanted to dig deeper, so they conducted a lab experiment that tested the shopping activity of 800 shoppers. On a hypothetical grocery shopping task, they were asked to first choose pictures from grapes, milk, eggs, soda. After making their choices, they were then proposed a picture of a three-pack of chewing gum (priced from 25 cents to $4 in 25-cent increments) and tested upon the willingness to buy it. What came out of this study was clear; the tendency to shop was inversely proportional to religious inclinations. In a sense, the more influence of religion in their life brought down their propensity to spend by 5%.

Based on this crux, HBR conducted another smart survey and this time they used the indirect effect of religion on shoppers. Dividing the participants into two groups, they made one half watch a short video of an artist engulfed in oil painting, whereas the other half was made to watch a man dressed in a suit and tie talking about God’s omnipresence in general. They were then enticed with a magazine at the end of the same grocery shopping task instead of the chewing gum and judged upon their likelihood of making the purchase. Those who watched the unrelated video were more likely to buy the magazine than those who watched the video on the omnipresence of God.

Conducting a similar experiment, but this time on teenagers and college students, it was quite evident that employing religious prime at individual level increased abstinence from frivolous and impulse purchases.

What might be the reason for such frugality? Does the ‘God-factor’ really affect the way you approach life in general? And what’s in it for retailers to deal with such frugality?

Well firstly, retailers may cash out on this opportunity to know their audience and serve them accordingly. By demonstrating respect for their beliefs and making alterations such as promising to donate a small share of revenue to charities may help calm the restless religious shoppers. Radical forms of engagement such as discounts, buy one get one free helps them feel they are being more prudent towards spending money and making a good bargain.

Whether religious or spiritual, satisfying consumer demands while caring about their feelings is an art which needs mindful marketing!