Store brands in hard discounters : the psychological processes underpinning consumer evaluation

Jones, Kate (2022) Store brands in hard discounters : the psychological processes underpinning consumer evaluation. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis examines the evaluation of grocery store brands from a consumer perspective, with a particular focus on the value end of the market and Hard Discounters (HDs), with an investigation of the psychological processes leading to purchase preferences. Grocery store brands represent a rapidly evolving landscape and account for over half of all grocery sales in the UK and some other European markets. Recent share gains in the UK by HDs, Aldi and Lidl, have fuelled store brand growth, as they sell ranges which consist almost entirely of their own brands. HD products are popular and well-liked by consumers but are distinct from other store brands as they are ‘copycats’ of leading national brands and do not carry the name of the parent store. Although store brands are well-researched, only a handful of recent studies have included HDs, and little is known about how consumers appraise the own-brand products they sell. The purpose of this research is to establish the underpinning psychological processes of store brand evaluation, extending the investigation to HDs through a series of three interrelated studies. A review of marketing literature specifically looking at grocery store brands (GSBs). revealed the importance of extrinsic cues in GSB evaluation, including the image of the parent store, the price, and the packaging. Furthermore, characteristic psychological traits of some consumers lead to increased likelihood of store band purchasing, known as store brand proneness. Using the Persuasion Knowledge Model and self-construal as a theoretical basis, a conceptual framework was developed to examine store brand evaluation in three separate studies. The first study focussed on store image, investigating the effect of self-construal on implicit and explicit consumer perceptions, using an implicit association test (IAT). In the second study, price, and the similarity of GSB packaging to the national brand were interrogated. Again, the impact of self-construal on outcomes was reviewed on data collected from an online consumer panel. A further examination of packaging was undertaken in a final study which investigated the effect self-construal on how GSB packaging designs are visually assessed by consumers. Data were collected using remote eye tracking. Findings from the three studies in this thesis make a contribution to knowledge regarding the psychological processes underpinning consumer GSB perceptions. In particular, the influence of self-construal on store brand evaluation is demonstrated across each of the studies. The first study highlights how social bias impacts upon store image preferences stated by individuals, acknowledging the importance of implicit measures in 3 future studies. The key contribution from the second study outlines a decision-making process for store brand evaluation, detailing the relationship between heuristics, persuasion knowledge and self-construal. Findings demonstrate that when self-construal is a dominant influence in making store brand choices, preferences made based on persuasion knowledge are reversed. The final study offers a first known insight into the impact of self-construal on patterns of visual attention. The characteristic cognitive processes aligned to interdependent self-construal lead to an increase in the visual attention being paid by individuals. This adds a new dimension for investigation to the emerging field of eye-tracking studies and visual attention domain. For practitioners in the grocery retail industry, findings from this thesis enhance understanding of consumer store brand preferences and importantly the influence of self-construal. The opportunity to use primes for self-construal to amplify GSB interest presents itself. In addition to this, the use of implicit measures such as an IAT test or eye tracking to capture visual attention, enable deeper insights into shopper preferences to be collected which can be used for commercial advantage.

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