The other day, I roamed the aisles of CVS and picked up the same Crest toothpaste I’ve been buying for years.
I didn’t think twice about it. I made the purchase on auto-pilot. I didn’t consider testing out a different brand, or purchasing one from another retailer.
Toothpaste, as it turns out, is known as a “convenience good”, which matches my buying behavior.
Understanding product classification can help you understand your consumers’ general buying behaviors, which will help you market your product more effectively.
There are four types of product classification. Let’s dive into each type, so you can determine where your product falls in the list.
What is product classification?
Product classification organizes products into four categories based on consumers’ buying behavior, and similarity to other products and competing brands. Classifying products into these distinct categories helps marketers implement more effective strategies, and target their efforts based on consumers’ expectations of that product class.
Consumer Product Classification
There are four types of product classification — convenience goods, shopping goods, specialty products, and unsought goods.
Let’s dive into each one in more detail.
1. Convenience Goods
Like the Crest toothpaste example, convenience goods are products that consumers’ purchase repeatedly and without much thought. Once consumers choose their convenience goods’ brand-of-choice, they typically stick to it unless they see a reason to switch — such as an interesting advertisement that compels them to try it, or mere convenience at the checkout aisle.
These products include toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, milk, and other necessities that people buy over and over again.
To market a convenience good, you want to consider that most people will impulse buy these products. Placing your products near the checkout line at a store could be a good idea for these products — which is why you’ll often find candy and gum at the front of a store.
Since most convenience goods are low-price, pricing and discounting isn’t a major factor. I won’t switch my toilet paper brand just to save a few cents. For convenience goods, brand recognition is key, so you’ll want to implement wide-spread campaigns to spread awareness of your company if possible.
For instance, Charmin toilet paper is a popular brand in the United States — likely in part due to the company’s consistent and long-term advertising strategy, dating back to the 1960’s with the invention of “Mr. Whipple”, a Charmin character who appeared on TV, print, and radio.
2. Shopping Goods
Shopping goods are commodities you likely think of when you hear the word “shopping”. They might be higher-end items like cars or houses, or smaller items like clothing and electronics.
Consumers typically spend more time conducting research, comparing prices, and chatting with salespeople when they’re looking to purchase shopping goods. These are more one-off purchases, and are typically more important and higher economic-impact products compared to toilet paper or soap.
For instance, while you will buy toilet paper over and over again for the rest of your life, you’ll likely only purchase a house a few times at most. And, since it’s an expensive and important purchase, you’ll spend a good amount of time deliberating on it, attending different open houses, speaking with various retailers, and comparing pros and cons of your final selection.
The same can be said for smaller products. A nice t-shirt from the Gap, for instance, isn’t typically an “impulse” buy. Instead, you’ll want to try it on, consider whether the price is worth it, and even text a picture of it to a friend.
To market a shopping goods product, then, you’ll want to invest in content that helps persuade your buyer that your product is worth it. It’s important your marketing materials demonstrate how your product differs from the competition, and the unique value-add it provides consumers.
This will vary depending on your industry and product, but ultimately, marketing shopping goods entails helping consumers understand why they should choose your product over others in the marketplace.
3. Specialty Goods
A specialty good is the only product of its kind on the market, which means consumers typically don’t feel the need to compare-and-contrast or deliberate as much as they would with other products.
A good example of this? iPhones.
I’ve been purchasing new iPhones for years, and I haven’t paused to consider other smartphone models — not because an iPhone is an “impulse” buy, but because of the brand recognition and unique quality I feel I’m getting from an iPhone. It’s the same reason people buy Mercedes. There isn’t anything else on the market like it.
For this reason, if you’re marketing a specialty good, you don’t necessarily need to spend too much time convincing consumers that your product is different from competitors. They already know it’s different. Instead, your company should focus on constantly innovating on its previous products and producing the “next best thing”. This will ensure your customers will remain loyal to your brand.
For instance, if Apple stopped making impressive improvements on their iPhones and promoting new features, I might consider switching brands. But since they’ve continued to impress me over the years, I’ve continued to purchase from them.
4. Unsought Goods
Finally, unsought goods — a product that people aren’t typically excited to buy, and also don’t buy on impulse. Good examples of unsought goods include fire extinguishers, batteries, or life insurance.
People will typically buy an unsought good out of a sense of fear or danger. For instance, you wouldn’t go on the market looking for the “new and best” fire extinguisher. You’d only purchase one due to the fear of a potential fire. Alternatively, some unsought goods, like batteries, are bought simply because the old ones ran out.
When marketing an unsought good, you’ll want to focus on reminding consumers of the existence of your product, and convincing consumers that purchasing your product will leave them with a better sense of security.
For instance, Duracell’s Beach x Bear commercial encourages viewers to remember the importance of batteries in life-threatening situations, like impending bear attacks (as well as the everyday importance of batteries, like when using a metal detector … ).
Hopefully, you can find a clear fit with your product in one of these four classifications. Use consumers’ buyer behavior to inspire your next marketing campaign. How can you meet — and exceed — customers’ expectations of your product type?