Have you ever been shopping and found a great jacket with a perfect fit? Then you look at the price tag and pause. Should you buy that perfect item now or wait to see if it’s still available during the inevitable end-of-season sale? What if the store told you that it only had a limited number left, or only had two on the rack in your size?
In a recent study I conducted with Prof. Karen Zheng, we found that as consumers have become more strategic about purchases, behavioral motives like regret and availability misperception are significant factors and should play a key role in pricing strategy.
Regret happens when consumers compare the outcome of a chosen action with that of the unchosen one and realize they would have been better off with the latter. In other words, they may regret buying the jacket now at the higher price if it turns out to be available during the sale for 30% off. Similarly, they may regret not buying it now if their size is gone by the time of the sale.
Nearly one fifth of American workers work in retail and fast food, and they have bad jobs. They earn poverty-level wages, have unpredictable schedules that make it hard to hold on to a second job, and have few opportunities for success and growth. These are not just people who are uneducated or unskilled. In 2010 more than a third of all working adults with jobs that did not pay a living wage had at least some college education or a degree.
The conventional wisdom in business is that bad jobs like this are necessary to keep prices low and profits high. If a low-cost retail chain were to pay its cashiers more, then it would either make less money or have to raise its prices. Implicit in this logic is the seemingly self-evident tradeoff between low prices and good jobs. But that is a false tradeoff. Even in highly competitive industries like low-cost retail, it is possible to pay employees decent wages and treat them well while giving customers the low prices they demand.
I studied four retail chains that manage to do this: Costco, Trader Joe’s, QuikTrip (a U.S. chain of convenience stores with gas stations), and Mercadona (Spain’s largest supermarket chain). They offer their employees much better jobs than their competitors, all the while keeping their prices low and performing well in all the ways that matter to any business. They have high productivity, great customer service, healthy growth, and excellent returns to their investors. They compete head-on with companies that spend far less on their employees, and they win.
Cleantech has seen its share of high profile failures over the past year. The bankruptcy of solar cell company Solyndra has been the most public, but there are many others. This has led many to say that the sector is immature, others to say it is doomed or plagued by fickle or unstable state subsidies. It is also true that quite often, Cleantech firms bank on (somebody) introducing changes in infrastructure that need significant momentum (and time) to take hold. But surely Cleantech CEOs are smart people, so the reason they fail must be slightly more complex, perhaps? And is it even so certain that the problem lies with the industry itself and not with other factors? Is failure, in fact, quite evenly distributed across sectors? You may have noticed that strategies sometimes fail. Some would say strategies mostly fail. I know from my own life that intent does not always translate to result. The question is why.Jim Collins, in his book Why The Mighty Fail (2009), believes failures have a 5 stage lifecycle: hubris of success, pursuit of more, denial of risk, grasping at straws, and capitulation. Does his framework apply equally well across all industries? Is it fully relevant to cleantech?