Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Home Ec at the Faster Times

In the most recent edition of her Home Ec column at the Faster Times, Sarah Sliwa considers Mark Bittman's vision of how on-line shopping services, such as PeaPod, could evolve to provide much more information about ethical and local sourcing for food.
I think Mr. Bittman sees online shopping as a way to correct informational asymmetries in retail. He seems to be saying ‘There are people who would pay to know this stuff. Why don’t we let them.’ Our food system is wanting for greater transparency. But what preparation would consumers need to sift through that onslaught of information? Would those willing to chip in for traceback merely be the same individuals who pay attention to that anyway?
But Sliwa has some doubts:
Even if online shopping emerges as a means to control unplanned food purchasing, I fear this will be undermined as manufacturers grow savvy to online shoppers’ behaviors. For years, marketing researchers have been studying ’shelf-effects’ online and the relationship between relative screen placement, sequence, and shopping behavior. Virtual store layouts also matter. The more we learn about consumer behaviors online, the more tactical placement of ads and products we’ll see.
Sliwa is a graduate student at the Friedman School at Tufts.

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