Unit pricing matters more when consumers are under time pressure

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


PurposeThis paper aims to first investigate how unit pricing affects consumers’ grocery purchase decisions and perceptions of the shopping task’s information load. The second goal is to test how time pressure enhances the behavioural and perceptual effects of displaying unit prices. Design/methodology/approachTwo on-line experiments were conducted using national samples of shoppers. In Study 1, participants indicated their choices and perceptions in an inter-brand shopping scenario where prepackaged products have conflicting positions on retail price and unit price. In Study 2, participants conducted the same shopping task but now under a condition of time pressure. FindingsStudy 1 shows that unit pricing shifts consumer choices towards the lower unit priced options and improves their perceptions of task information load. Study 2 shows that when consumers are under time pressure, unit pricing shows stronger effects on choices but not on perceptions. Research limitations/implicationsThe study comprised a fairly homogenous set of low involvement categories and relatively small assortments in a hypothetical purchase setting. Exploration of the role of unit pricing in more complex and more realistic purchase environments pose suitable avenues for future research. Practical implicationsThis study shows that consumers benefit from unit pricing because it makes it easier for them to find the lower unit priced items and to more quickly complete their shopping task. Retailers will benefit from increased customer satisfaction and possibly an improved store image. Social implicationsThe study shows that consumers generally benefit from the presence of unit pricing and that unit price information does not create harmful effects in terms of increasing their information load. Originality/valueThis study uses a specifically designed and controlled but nevertheless realistic grocery choice task to study the effects of unit pricing in an inter-brand context where there are only small differences in size and price. The study contributes to the literature by showing that in such conditions, unit prices help consumers compare the economic losses associated with product options. Their heuristic role is more pronounced when consumers are under time pressure. The study shows that consumers generally benefit from the presence of unit prices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1094-1114
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2016


  • Consumer behaviour
  • Consumer protection
  • Grocery
  • Information processing
  • Pricing
  • Retail marketing

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