Sunday 22 July 2018

Banning Plastic Bags And Customer Psychology

The public backlash to the plastic bag ban in supermarkets has raised an interesting dynamic in consumer attitudes and could give lessons for QVM.

The psychology of the plastic bag ban seemed simple enough. Plastic bags are damaging our environment and we need to find alternatives. Public sentiment supported that view but there was a simpler public contract being disturbed in the background. This resulted in supermarkets having to delay their ban and introduce compromises to help customers through the transition.

The “public contract” was explained in an article in The Conversation as customers saying - “I will shop with Supermarket A and they will provide me with free carry bags.” That changed with the ban. Supermarkets were no longer having to pay for bags, the customers were. To add fuel to the fire, if supermarkets were so interested in reducing plastic use, why were they all wrapping small parcels of fruit and vegetables in plastic before placing them on the shelves?

The supermarkets were forced to introduce some changes to the introduction of a plastic bag ban including -
-     Delaying the cut-off date.
-     Selling reusable bags cheaply.
-     Giving away reusable bags in the critical changeover days.
-     Offering free exchanges on reusable bags into the future.
-     It should be noted that the major supermarkets did react very quickly, a sure sign that their data collecting and feedback systems are working well.

We probably learned two things from this exercise -
1.     Never underestimate the complexities of shopper psychology.
2.     Be ready to modify and change very quickly to accommodate unexpected reactions.

Maybe some lessons for QVM.

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