Categories of Consumer Products

In addition to categorizing by type of offering, most products intended for consumer use can be further categorized by how frequently and where they are purchased.

Convenience Products

These are products that appeal to an extremely large market segment. These product tend to be consumed regularly and purchased frequently. Examples include most household items such as food, cleaning products, and personal care products. Because of the high purchase volume, pricing per item tends to be relatively low and consumers often see little value in shopping around for a better deal since additional effort yields minimal savings. From the marketer’s perspective, the low price of convenience products means that profit per unit sold is very low. In order to make high profits, marketers must sell in large volume. Consequently, marketers attempt to distribute these products in mass through as many retail outlets as possible (see Mass Coverage).

Shopping Products

These are products consumers purchase and consume on a less frequent schedule compared to convenience products. Consumers are willing to spend more time locating shopping products since these are relatively more expensive than convenience products and because these may possess additional psychological benefits for the purchaser, such as raising their perceived status level within their social group. Examples include many clothing products, personal services, electronic products, and household furnishings. Because consumers are purchasing less frequently and are willing to shop to locate these products, the target market is much smaller than for convenience goods. Consequently, marketers often are more selective when choosing distribution outlets to sell their products (see Selective Coverage).

Specialty Products

These are products that tend to carry a high price tag relative to convenience and shopping products. Consumption may occur at about the same rate as shopping products but consumers are much more selective. In fact, in many cases consumers know in advance which product they prefer and will not shop to compare products. But they may shop at retailers that provide the best value. Examples include high-end luxury automobiles, expensive champagne, and celebrity hairstylists. The target markets are generally very small and outlets selling the products are very limited to the point of being exclusive (see Exclusive Coverage).

In addition to the three main categories above, products are classified in at least two additional ways:

Emergency Products

These are products a customer seeks due to sudden events and for which pre-purchase planning is not considered. Often the decision is one of convenience (e.g., whatever works to fix a problem) or personal fulfillment (e.g., perceived to improve purchaser’s image in an unplanned situation).

Unsought Products

These are products whose purchase is unplanned by the consumer but occur as a result of marketer’s actions. Such purchase decisions are made when the customer is exposed to promotional activity, such as a salesperson’s persuasion or purchase incentives, including appealing pricing discounts. These promotional activities often lead customers to engage in impulse purchasing.