[Pricing Nugget #007] Don’t Show What You Got But What They Need

Imagine you are running a furniture store. A young couple who recently moved into their first apartment enters your store.

How should you arrange your assortment?

You can arrange your assortment with similar products ("substitute-based") and group tables, cupboards, closets, beds, and chairs together.

Or, you organize your assortment by your customers' purchase goals ("complement-based") and group your products by "living room," "bedroom," "office," and "kitchen."

What should you do?

How would the customer journey differ for the young couple shopping for furniture?

Researchers conducted a real-life experiment in a grocery store. They arranged the assortment by

  • breakfast (e.g., milk, cereal, eggs), 
  • main course (e.g., produce, fresh meat, canned food),
  • baking/dessert (e.g., cake mix, baking powder, chocolate chips),
  • snack/candy (e.g., carbonated drinks, chocolate, nuts),
  • sandwich/deli (e.g., bakery, cheese, deli meats),
  • cleaning supplies (e.g., household cleaning, detergents, dishwashing),
  • health/beauty (e.g., shampoo, bar soap, oral care), and
  • stockpiling (everything else).

The researchers found that weekly purchases increased by 9% when the assortment was arranged by complements instead of substitutes.

Other examples besides those mentioned above (furniture retailer and grocer) for which a complement-based assortment organization might also work are apparel retailers (instead of "suits", "shirts" and "jackets" organize by "sportswear", "casual", "office", "wedding & parties") or providers of financial services (instead of "loans", "credit cards", "insurance", "investment advice" organize by "just married", "baby born", "freshman at university" or "fresh retiree").


Sarantopoulos, P., Theotokis, A., Pramatari, K., & Roggeveen, A. L. (2019). The impact of a complement-based assortment organization on purchases. Journal of Marketing Research, 56(3), 459-478.