Innovating Context: Sizing

(This post is a part of a series on creating new contexts to retail coffee. See the first post here.)

Let’s think about offering different sizes of a product. Sizing is integral to some products; clothing springs to mind, as well as things like flat screen TVs. More specifically, let’s think about food and drink that comes in different sizes, and what kind of pattern sized offerings are most likely to fit within.

All food and drink that we consume come in a particular size; namely, the size that they actually are. When you order steamed asparagus, they come in a size – you just didn’t choose the size. What I’m mostly concerned with here is taking apart that choosing – what it means to the consumer and her psychology to offer a choice beyond simply “coffee” or “burger” or whatever.

It’s easy to think of things that we commonly order in different sizes; fountain sodas, french fries, ice cream, and so forth. The real question is this: in what context do you generally order a food item that you also choose the size of? We can and do buy soda without choosing a size, mostly in bottles or in sit-down restaurants. When we choose the size of a soda, we’re usually in a fast food joint or highway rest area. We can buy french fries without a size choice, but when we buy french fries WITH a size, where are we? Again, QSRs, rest areas, etc.

Our customers do not exclusively visit our establishments – we as humans like to roam around, and try different things, different places, etc. What that means is that we as humans recognize patterns and then associate outcomes with those patterns. One pattern that exists is eateries offering multiple consistent sizes of different beverages. This is incredibly common, and is a part of the larger world that we are trying to sell coffee in.

I would suggest that if we want to innovate the context in which we serve progressive coffee, we need to consider the effect that offering multiple sizes of beverages can have on our customers. When we see multiple sizes of an offering, especially multiple sizes of every offering, that reminds us, worldly though we may be, of places that are not like our progressive shops. If we want to catch our customers off-guard, to build space for them to be pleasantly surprised by our products, we need to present those products in a context that is not highly reminiscent of places serving a product with the same name (coffee) in the same way (multiple sizes, paper cup). If we sell a cup with the same name, at similar prices, in the same way as folks serving low-grade coffee, then it is irresponsible to expect our customers to spot the excellence in the cup – it’s hidden by the larger patterns at play, like small, medium and large.

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