A family of four could save $1,000 to $1,700 on their annual total of weekly grocery shops each year by using unit pricing, but many fail to do so.
Drs Gary Mortimer and Clinton Weeks from QUT Business School conducted a real-world study with 400 shoppers across Australia on using unit pricing to save on groceries.
Dr Mortimer says grocery shopping is a “low-involvement, mundane activity” so shoppers often use either price or brand to inform their choice and miss out on savings.
“Unit pricing makes price comparison easy by removing the need to calculate price differences across similar products sold in packages of varying shapes and sizes, giving shoppers a ready reckoner for getting the best value for money,” he said.
“The problem is, many shoppers overlook this information, can’t see it, don’t understand how to use it or simply see no value in it.”
Drs Mortimer and Weeks studied the grocery purchases of 400 shoppers across Australia over 25 weeks. They found that once shoppers were educated on unit pricing, they began saving money immediately.
“The group which received unit price information each week for the first five weeks saved 18 per cent by week six, which settled back to 13 per cent after that,” Dr Mortimer said.
“The shoppers who received unit pricing information every fortnight for 10 weeks saved 17 per cent by week six and then returned to a consistent 11 per cent a week saving, and the group which received no information made no significant increase or decrease in cost of their weekly shop.”
Dr Mortimer said the study was the first to demonstrate that consumer education on unit pricing could lead to real savings.
“Previous research has shown that shoppers mostly respond in a positive manner when asked if they use unit pricing, even when they don’t,” he said.
“For example, one study found almost half the participants in a condition where unit prices were not present, claimed to have seen and used this non-existent information in their purchase decisions.
“These are important findings because, for the first time, we have empirically demonstrated consumers need education on unit pricing to be able to use it for their benefit.”