Saturday, March 28, 2009

Population Pressure

Standing inside the lift going to the ground floor, I have often been faced with a barrage of a human wall on the ground floor. Rushing to get inside the lift!!! And similarly in an airport transit bus, where everyone gets in and crowds around the entrance or rather the exit!

I have mentioned 2 instances to showcases very different scenarios.

I recollect an incident where I called out loudly “Hey guys, this building does not have a basement. The lift stops here. Unless we get off, you can’t get in”
Increasingly I reflect on this incident as also my various interactions with people from out of India who wonder about this phenomenon and have come up with this theory called “Population Pressure”.

As a race, we Indians or rather people from Asia which comprises of a large population are conditioned from childhood to push, shove, elbow, barge in... In short fight for our place in the good ‘Ole Earth.

In the presence of such overwhelming numbers, we can’t afford the niceties of holding a door open or waiting! If one does not MOVE, they are left standing. I remember reading about the Tokyo Metro system, where you have staff to push people inside the compartments so that the doors can close!

What is this population pressure?


Growing up in an environment where there is nothing called as personal space and the least amount of space will be willingly taken up by another human being, the tussle between social grace/ manners and the pressure to get something out of life is an ever present reality in our lives’.
- Rushing into a lift
- Driving in the wrong lane, even though we want to turn right.
- Vehicles blocking the free left turn lane
- Elbowing into a line
The list can go on.

Is there a solution to this?

Not really, because the population explosion that continues is driven largely by people who cant and don’t read blogs. Or rather, can’t read at all. Period!

Is there a solution? NO. This is a social phenomenon and will take its own course to correct/ change/ morph.

So, what does this have to do with retail?

As a customer we don’t mind browsing and shopping for s long as we want. It could be a few minutes or a few hours. But, the billing counter is a barrier to freedom. Ideally, from a psychological perspective we would like to browse, pick and choose and walk out with what we have taken. FREEDOM, in its absolute sense.

Although the self service concept panders to this inherent whim in our minds, the Billing counter is a reality check. A barrier to be crossed. (I shall write about this in detail later)
Going back to the population pressure theory and linking it to this perceived barrier, is a CRUCIAL factor for any retailer.

Typically a cashier faces challenges, such as –
- Customers lining up and a customer’s bill is taking too long, because many products are not found while scanning! One needs to actually manage a cash till to understand the dynamics. Forget, “If looks could kill”, in a line at the cash till, it’s more like “If thoughts could kill”. And the cashier is not immune to it.
- Population pressure kicking in – Regular customers or someone who has purchased a few things, try to elbow themselves out of this barrier by requesting to be billed first.

As a retailer what can one do?
- Make the staff aware of this reality
- Discourage people from line jumping
- Train the staff to manage “Population Pressure” which is all the more evident during the evenings and weekends.

Successful retail is all about creating, managing and meeting expectations. The key being creating the right level of expectation. That’s another topic for another day!

Have a great weekend.


puresunshine said...

this is so true! Especially in a supermarket or a hypermart. And on weekend-evenings. And if the guy on the counter is slow, its painful. Also, now malls are bringin in those consumers who would otherwise prefer shoppin at unorganised retail outlets. Its very easy to identify them, cause they will always say: Bhaiyya mera thoda jaldi kar do!!

Post a Comment