Consumer Behaviour- Waitrose

With over 37,000 employees across 280 branches, and a total turnover of £2.8 billion in 2011, its no surprise Waitrose has become one the country’s leading food retailers. As a large organization with a reputation built on quality and exceptional customer service, it is essential that we have an understanding of customer’s attitudes towards, and perceptions of the business. It is also important to know what it is that motivates customers to shop at Waitrose over our competitors.

What is an attitude?

“A consumer’s evaluative response to an object or person; their feelings or affective reaction towards it.” – (Consumer Behaviour, 2009). With regards Waitrose, this evaluative response could come as a result of a prior experience with the organisation. “Consumer attitudes formed through direct experience of a product are apparently held with greater conviction than those based on other sources” (Understanding the Consumer, 1997). For example, If a customer receives good customer service they will evaluate their experience and in response leave with a favourable attitude towards the company, however if they are unsatisfied with the quality of the food or service provided, their evaluative response to the experience leave them with an adverse attitude towards the situation and company.

As Different customers have varying attitudes, it is important we tailor our communication strategy accordingly. To create a positive attitude with customers, it is important that every Waitrose partner prides themselves and their store with providing the best customer service.

What is a perception?

“The process of selecting, organising, and interpreting sensory data into usable mental representations of the world.” (Consumer behaviour, 2006). Perception is how we make sense of data, which results in the formation of an opinion. The same goes for organisations, through marketing and advertising, customers come to create a perception of a company.  It is important to remember that perception is subjective, despite being exposed to the same sensations (Information) it will be interpreted differently depending on the customer. This interpretation is how a perception is created.

An example of this is the customer’s perception that Waitrose is expensive. Prices aside, Waitrose very rarely advertise price cuts for products, unlike their competitors, who often advertise low prices and price comparisons. This perception of Waitrose may be seen as an advantage to competitors, however it actually emphasises a perception Waitrose intentionally creates, an enviable reputation for quality. As a result giving them an edge over competitors.


What is Motivation

“An internal state that activates goal-orientated behaviour.” (Consumer Behaviour, a European Perspective, 2006) Motivation is a process that starts with a need, moves onto the drive to satisfy that need, and results in the fulfillment of the need. An example of this at Waitrose is the consumer’s need for food. Waitrose creates a means, which allows the consumer to obtain what is required to fulfill that need.

 Motive or need           >>>                    Action or Drive               >>>               Need fulfilment 

The need for food.                          Seeks out source aka Waitrose.                        Obtains Food

Image 1, Fulfilment of needs

However this is a very basic need, and there are many potential sources of fulfilling the need for food available, these are our competitors, for example, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s. The variation in customer motivations is a vital aspect that needs addressing in the Waitrose communication strategy. So that during the ‘pre purchase evaluation of alternatives’ (Blackwell et al, 2006) stage of the decision making process, Waitrose comes out on top.

For many consumers, the motivation is quality and or impeccable customer service, for this reason it is important to continue to build a reputation synonymous with quality, so that Waitrose is the only option when seeking sources to for fill these motivations.

What is Word of mouth (WOM)?

“Communications with others over, for example, positive or negative experiences with brands or companies. Often, today we can use ‘WOM’ to refer to ‘word of mouse’ because so much of this sort of communication is via computer/internet channels.”- (Consumer Behaviour, 2009) Word of mouth or WOM, is a powerful marketing tool with the ability to permanently change to common view of a product, service or organisation. Research shows “that as many as 75% of consumers never complain about shoddy goods or services, they just tell many others and don’t come back” (Cartwright and Greene 1997). For this reason, it is important for Waitrose to create as much positive word of mouth as possible. One means of doing so could be the exploitation of Opinion Leaders.

What are Opinion Leaders?

To have an impact on the opinion of the majority of consumers, it is important to have a positive impact on those who help lead and form the opinions of current and potential Waitrose customers.  An Opinion leader is “a person who informally gives product information and advice to others.” (Consumer Behaviour; A European outlook, 2008). While trusted, the opinion of an opinion leader usually comes as a result of experience. An example of this is a group of friends, If the opinion leader within a group of friends has an adverse experience with the customer service at Waitrose, it is likely that this opinion will influence the attitude of their friends, even if they have never shopped in Waitrose or experienced this for themselves.

What are Opinion Formers?

“individuals who actively and deliberately shape and form the thoughts of others, from a (usually impersonal) position of some perceived level of expertise, for example, motoring journalists or TV personalities.” (Consumer Behaviour, 2009). Opinion formers will usually have professional knowledge regarding the topic on which they are expressing their opinion. An example of this at Waitrose is the huge success of celebrity food ambassadors, Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal. Having well known celebrity chefs endorsing the Waitrose brand meant that customers trusted their judgement and wanted to be a part of it.

What is Involvement and Perceived Risk?

Involvement is “The degree to which an individual is attracted to, and defined by, a product or brand.” (Consumer Behaviour, 2008.) This means that the consumers perception of the importance of a product or service, determines their level of involvement. Consumption with low involvement is called Innertia, this is “The process whereby purchase decisions are made out of habit because the consumer lacks the motivation to consider alternatives” (Consumer Behaviour; a European perspective, 2006). In contrast, consumption with high involvement is usually reticent of products and services of great meaning to the consumer. The decision making process attached to the purchase of these products or services will be longer than low involvement purchases, this could be due to price and the potential financial risk involved with high involvement purchases. Waitrose products will tend to be of low involvement, as the majority of products are fast moving consumer goods and comparatively low in price.

Perceived risk “Is where consumers see some less desirable consequences of a purchaser product and can often, but not always, be greater when the purchase is expensive and the product more complex.” (Consumer Behaviour,2009).

There are many different types of risk including physical, financial and performance, with the majority relating primarily to services rather than products, however all affect the consumer decision-making process. As generally, fast moving consumer goods have low involvement, they also have low perceived risk attached compared to products or services with high involvement. This is because they tend to be low in price and the decision making process is fast. It is important that organisations including Waitrose aim to reduce perceived risk associated with the purchase of products where possible. By providing information and ensuring staff are knowledgeable in products and services, the perceived risk to customers will be reduced. Customers will also perceive risk as lower if they have had a previous positive experience, for this reason it is imperative that good customer service is communicated at all times. This is linked closely to positive word of mouth is also a means of reducing perceived risk for consumers, If one customer has a good experience and tells another, the perceived risk is already reduced.


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ENYIOKO, C., 2012. Clerkenwell Waitrose to raise money for city future fund [Online] [Viewed 7th March 2013] Available from:

EVANS, M., A. JAMAL and G. FOXALL, 2009. Consumer Behaviour. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

SCHIFFMAN, L.G., L. LAZAR KANUK and H. HANSEN, 2008. Consumer behaviour; a European outlook. Essex: Pearson education limited.

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