Alone in the aisle

July 18, 2005

The complex dance between consumer and salesperson is at the core of American consumer culture. Consider the bump in blood pressure at the sight of an approaching salesperson on a car lot or the shiny smile of a stereo selling youngster in an appliance store. Yet, what is the effect of a more subtle, even non-interactive consumer experience? This question is the focus of an article in the September 2005 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, which found that while interactive experiences are important, non-interactive ones--even the mere presence of another human--are significant, too.

"While the majority of consumer research that has studied social influences has focused on the impact of an interactive social presence, in this research we demonstrate that a non-interactive social presence (i.e., a mere presence) is also influential," explains Jennifer Argo, of the University of Alberta, and her colleagues.

At the heart of the study is Social Impact Theory, or SIT, which states that people are affected by the presence of other people--whether this presence is real or imagined or an interaction with a group or a single person. The research finds that consumers prefer a balance. That is, consumers want to be around others, but that there is a limit at which point the experience becomes uncomfortable.

"The majority of research in this area has focused on how an interactive social influence, such as being greeted by salespeople or debating a group purchase, impacts a consumer," the authors write. "However, social influence situations in consumption are not limited only to interactive situations but also include those that occur without an interaction."
The Influence of a Mere Social Presence in a Retail Context. Jennifer J. Argo, Darren W. Dahl, and Rajesh V. Manchanda. Journal of Consumer Research. September 2005.

University of Chicago Press Journals

Related Consumers Articles from Brightsurf:

When consumers trust AI recommendations--or resist them
The key factor in deciding how to incorporate AI recommenders is whether consumers are focused on the functional and practical aspects of a product (its utilitarian value) or on the experiential and sensory aspects of a product (its hedonic value).

Do consumers enjoy events more when commenting on them?
Generating content increases people's enjoyment of positive experiences.

Why consumers think pretty food is healthier
People tend to think that pretty-looking food is healthier (e.g., more nutrients, less fat) and more natural (e.g., purer, less processed) than ugly-looking versions of the same food.

How consumers responded to COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for laying out the different threats that consumers face, and that consumers must prepare themselves for a constantly shifting landscape moving forward.

Is less more? How consumers view sustainability claims
Communicating a product's reduced negative attribute might have unintended consequences if consumers approach it with the wrong mindset.

In the sharing economy, consumers see themselves as helpers
Whether you use a taxi or a rideshare app like Uber, you're still going to get a driver who will take you to your destination.

Helping consumers in a crisis
A new study shows that the central bank tool known as quantitative easing helped consumers substantially during the last big economic downturn -- a finding with clear relevance for today's pandemic-hit economy.

'Locally grown' broccoli looks, tastes better to consumers
In tests, consumers in upstate New York were willing to pay more for broccoli grown in New York when they knew where it came from, Cornell University researchers found.

Should patients be considered consumers?
No, and doing so can undermine efforts to promote patient-centered health care, write three Hastings Center scholars in the March issue of Health Affairs.

Consumers choose smartphones mostly because of their appearance
The more attractive the image and design of the telephone, the stronger the emotional relationship that consumers are going to have with the product, which is a clear influence on their purchasing decision.

Read More: Consumers News and Consumers Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to