Commentary: Shoppers don’t mind shrinkflation if they think there’s a discount


SYDNEY: Have you seen that your favorite chocolate is a little smaller, there are fewer biscuits within the same-sized package deal or that your baggage of chips include extra air? If you haven’t, you’re not alone.

What entrepreneurs name a “contents reduction strategy” is extra popularly generally known as “shrinkflation” decreasing the dimensions of a product whereas the worth stays the identical.

It’s a comparatively current phenomenon within the grocery store enterprise, reflecting the strain on producers to maintain costs down. In reality, the phrase “shrinkflation” entered the lexicon solely in 2009.

Since then, producers have “shrunk” every little thing from jars of Vegemite, Maltesers, Tim Tams, Freddo Frogs and Corn Flakes. In the United Kingdom, the Office for National Statistics counted 2,529 examples between 2012 and 2017.

So why does shrinkflation appear preferable when it’s successfully the identical as placing up the worth?

To examine this, we carried out experiments enjoying with client perceptions of modifications in costs and quantity sizes. Our outcomes present the innate cognitive bias that customers have in the direction of specializing in worth, it doesn’t matter what.


In our experiments, we needed to measure the relative effectiveness of various methods to extend a product’s per-unit worth.

We simulated this in real-world situations by manipulating customers’ perceptions of merchandise on the market in a grocery store in Brisbane after which measured the variations in gross sales. The experiment took six weeks and concerned 5 merchandise coconut rolls, confectionery, biscuits, soy milk and coconut water.

We modified neither the worth nor the dimensions of those merchandise. But we did change the shelf tickets, to govern customers into believing the worth or dimension had beforehand been completely different.

Each week over 4 weeks, we modified the shelf tickets to check the next 4 eventualities, all implying an equivalent enhance within the per-unit worth. 

Tactic 1 created the impression that solely the worth had elevated. Tactic 2 created the impression that the worth was the identical however the dimension had been diminished (commonplace shrinkflation).

Tactic 3 created the impression that the dimensions has elevated, but in addition the worth had elevated much more. Tactic 4 created the impression that the product’s worth had been diminished, but in addition the dimensions had been diminished much more (shrinkflation variant).

The product and worth by no means modified however the indicators indicating the earlier worth and dimension did. In every case, the “before” per-unit worth was additionally proven an equivalent 38 cents per 10 grams.

The different two weeks had been used as management weeks. In one week, we displayed a “New Package” shelf ticket. In the opposite management week, we displayed a common shelf ticket with out the phrases “New Package”.

Even although the modifications signalled by the shelf tickets represented an equivalent enhance in per unit worth, the sale outcomes counsel that customers discovered our shrinkflation variant probably the most engaging.

With tactic 4 (our shrinkflation variant) 530 items had been offered. This compares with 448 gross sales with tactic 3, 435 gross sales for tactic 2 (commonplace shrinkflation) and 391 gross sales for tactic 1.


These outcomes reveal the industrial energy of psychological framing.

First, there’s the “silver lining effect” a blended consequence consisting of a small achieve (a lower cost) and a bigger loss (an excellent smaller dimension) is extra beneficial than a internet consequence consisting of simply a smaller loss (worth growing or package deal downsizing) alone.

This impact is tied to the loss aversion idea developed by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, which says folks worth losses and positive aspects in a different way.

Second, worth is extra noticeable and is given extra weight than dimension. Thus customers had been influenced extra by the worth drop than by the discount in package deal dimension. We attribute this to an automated cognitive response folks have an inherent desire for decrease costs.

In most developed international locations, client safety legal guidelines require retailers to show unit costs to allow customers to chop by means of the proliferation of promoting alerts designed to draw consideration. However, there’s no obligation to indicate the “before” unit worth, so it’s tough to gauge unit worth modifications.

It appears to be equally essential for retailers to promote unit worth modifications to assist shoppers make extra knowledgeable purchases.

But our outcomes verify what entrepreneurs have clearly gleaned over the previous decade. Consumers’ cognitive biases are robust. So you may anticipate ever extra shrinkflation and ever extra “price drop”, “discount”, “new price” and “price match” tickets to adorn grocery store cabinets.

Jun Yao and Di Wang are Senior Lecturers in Marketing at Macquarie University and the Queensland University of Technology respectively. Gary Mortimer is a Professor of Marketing and Consumer Behaviour on the Queensland University of Technology. This commentary first appeared in The Conversation.

Commentary: Shoppers don't mind shrinkflation if they think there's a discount

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