Consumer Behavior: Observational
October 27, 2009
10708 Lee Highway, Fairfax, Virginia 22030
Saturday, October 24, 2009
This pet supply store is a moderately sized store that sells supplies such as food, toys and
maintenance products for animals as well as small animals such as birds, fish and hamsters. The
color red is the overwhelmingly dominant color used in the store. All the shelves in the store
are red and there is very little color variety used elsewhere in the store. The color red is used
most likely because of the company’s logo, which is red, rather than as a way to evoke a
particular emotion in the store’s customers. The color red is often used to evoke the feeling of
hunger and is commonly used in restaurants. Therefore, the use of the color red is somewhat
ineffective in driving customer feelings and emotions in the pet supply store and can even been
viewed as counterproductive to overall atmospherics.
The aromas in the store are what are to be expected in any pet supply store. The store
appeared to have different aromas in each section of the store. However, this was obviously
not a conscious decision on the part of the store management simply because each aroma was
attributed to the natural smell given by off by the products found in that section (dog food
smelled like dog food, hamster cage lining smelled like hamster cage lining etc.). There were no
visible measures to make the store smell differently found in the store, such as air fresheners or
air purification units, leaving the store with a generally unpleasant smell.
The music in the store was typical of most large stores that appeal to many different
demographics. The music was an even mix of more mellow Top 40 hits from both the present
and the past. The type of music played in the store does not correlate with the products it sells.
Instead, the music is just used to establish a relaxed atmosphere and allow customers to
browse more comfortably.
Crowding was of most concern in the store. During the observation, Petco was having an
adoption drive for local animal shelters. A temporary display area of cats from local shelters
was present on the right side of the store near the entrance. According to research by Paco
Underhill studied in class, this is the most crucial area for merchandise, and is typically where
most consumers will go first upon entering a store. This point was emphasized during the store
visit. This area was by far the most crowded area of the store, almost to an unpleasant degree.
A customer who entered the store without the intention of adopting a pet and with a utilitarian
consumption purchase would most likely try to avoid this area of the store and may even get
irritated by its excessive crowding. However, despite this crowding, the remainder of the store
was not nearly as crowded and there were also many accessible employees throughout to
assist a customer if needed.
The one major change that would be needed to this store concerns the aisle layout. Instead of
the basic “grocery store” vertical layout of aisles, Petco has a very fragmented aisle layout.
Along the perimeter of the store are horizontal aisles, with a section of large horizontal aisles in
the middle. The store appears cluttered and aesthetically displeasing, making it very difficult to
shop and find desired products and causing customer frustration and dissatisfaction. The
narrowness of the aisles makes it more difficult and uncomfortable for customers to shop. With
the use of a vertical layout of aisles or even a consolidation of aisles to yield more shopping
space for customers, the store would appear more open and conducive to shopping as well as
First Shopper: Demographics
The first shopper observed was a white male, aged 20-29, casually dressed in jeans, a button
down shirt and sneakers. Due to his approximate age, the customer belongs to the Generation
Y age cohort, more specifically, the young adult submarket of this cohort. Common
characteristics of this cohort include higher education level, being more tech savvy and being
more critical of marketing endeavors. This was apparently the case with this consumer, who
spent most of his twenty minute store visit in one particular aisle, careful scrutinizing the
possible options for the dog chew sticks he would eventually purchase as well as using his cell
phone to call someone to assist in his purchase decision. Social status is difficult to classify,
especially when based on a twenty minute observation in a pet supply store without any direct
interpersonal contact. However, based on his appearance, this customer most likely belonged
to the middle class and was most likely a college student or young professional.
First Shopper: Psychographics
This customer is difficult to put into one specific shopping lifestyle segment because he
exhibited characteristics of both a Provider and a Minimalist. Due to the phone conversation
overheard, it was apparent that this customer was shopping for someone else rather than for
himself making him, at least in this instance, a Provider. Also overheard in the phone
conversation was a complaint over the high price for the chew sticks, this value motivation
characteristic makes this customer a Minimalist. During his visit to the store the customer also
browsed the other sections of the store, often stopping to look at the animals. However, this is
not a common characteristic of a Minimalist, thus leading to a mixed assortment of shopping
lifestyle characteristics for this particular customer.
First Shopper: Shopping Orientation
This customer appears to exhibit characteristics of two main shopping orientations:
Collector/Gatherer and Forager. This consumer is a Collector/Gather because of his high price
sensitivity.. However, because the customer was obviously shopping for someone else, this may
be an inaccurate assumption. He might have been price sensitive because of instructions to
purchase the cheapest product and/or using the instructing party’s money to make the
purchase. A more accurate shopping orientation for this customer could be a Forager. The
majority of this customers visit was spent extensively comparing the various chew stick options
in order to purchase the exact desired product. This characteristic was also reinforced by the
phone conversation, which had the specific intention of clarifying the exact product desired.
First Shopper: Need Typology
Because of the evidently helpful nature of this customer, the need for affiliation is being
fulfilled. Through this purchase, the customer was developing his mutually helpful and
satisfying relationship with the person for whom he was doing a favor and purchasing the chew
First Shopper: Types of Purchases
After the extensive scrutiny of dog chew products, the customer proceeded to buy one pack of
them as well as a pack of Skittles for himself in the checkout lane. The dog chew sticks were a
generally planned purchase as the customer directly went to their section in the store, but then
needed assistance (via phone call) in selecting the correct type. The Skittle purchase was a
blatant, unplanned impulse purchase that the customer decided on while waiting in line.
Second Shopper: Demographics
The second shopper observed was a white female, aged 18-25, well dressed in a colorful long
sleeve top, shorts and sandals. This shopper also belongs to the Generation Y age cohort. This
shopper most likely belongs to the Older Teen submarket of this cohort, emphasized by her
shopping style. During her twenty minute visit, this customer moved quickly among the small
fish aisle, buying all the equipment needed (bowl, water cleanser, rocks and decorations for the
bowl etc.) and even a fish. This shows that the customer quickly got bored with each selection
decision and quickly acted upon it. Based on her appearance, this customer is most likely an
older high school student or a younger college student, most likely belonging to the middle to
upper-middle social class.
Second Shopper: Psychographics
This customer was very direct in her shopping approach as she quickly entered the store, found
the aisle where her desired products were located in, and then proceeded to purchase them.
With the exception of the items in the product category purchased, this consumer spent very
little time browsing, establishing herself as a goal-oriented shopper. These shopping
characteristics, therefore, places this customer in the Minimalist shopping lifestyle segment.
Based on similar characteristics to the first shopper, this shopper also belongs to the suburban
social grouping as well as the Younger Years lifestyle group under the PRIZM Geo-Lifestyle
Second Shopper: Shopping Orientation
This customer was very purposeful and speed oriented in her shopping, quickly making
selections based on her various options as well as focusing only on the specific products
desired. She did not browse outside or stray too much out of the small fish section of the store.
Also, this customer was shopping alone. These characteristics most obviously place this
customer in the Predator shopping orientation.
Second Shopper: Need Typology
Due to her speed and decisiveness in shopping, this shopper was most likely fulfilling a need for
assertion with her purchase. Through her speedy transaction, this customer easily achieved a
sense of accomplishment, an important feeling for those with a need for assertion. Also, the
lack of assistance needed by the customer reaffirmed her feeling of being a powerful,
independent individual, another trait important to this need typology.
Second Shopper: Types of Purchases
This shopper’s purchase of small fish products was a generally planned purchase as well.
Despite her speed in both selection and overall shopping experience, this customer did weigh
several options between fish bowls and bowl decorations. This customer obviously did not
enter the store with a specific brand in mind or with a specific idea of the types of decorations
she wanted to buy.