This study examines purchasing patterns of consumers in urban Hyderabad, by comparing the influence of purchasing out of pressure, rather than a genuine demand for the product, on product usage.
Many poor individuals engage heavily with non-governmental organizations to learn about and purchase positive externality products such as mosquito nets, clean cooking stoves, or water treatment technologies such as chlorine tablets. These interactions typically take place door-to-door, however, where individuals may face pressure to purchase the product being sold perhaps due to guilt at saying “no”, wanting to maintain a positive relationship with the marketer, or other such concerns.
The study was conducted across neighboring central-urban blocks in Hyderabad, a large city in southern India. These blocks are socially recognized as low-income localities by the municipal authorities and are registered as ‘notified slums’, defined by the 2011 Indian Census as “compact areas of at least 300 population or about 60-70 households of poorly built congested tenements, in an unhygienic environment, usually with inadequate infrastructure and lacking in proper sanitary and drinking water facilities.” The evaluation was conducted in partnership with Safa, a local NGO which operates a range of programs aimed at income generation and female empowerment among disadvantaged families in the areas we studied. Using a randomized evaluation, the study examines the influence of purchasing out of pressure, rather than genuine demand for the product alone, on product usage.
Consistent with this hypothesis, the study finds that the total chlorine use is nearly double in the second condition compared to the other two conditions. Results suggest that household valuation of a new product is shaped by both the presence and the price of a side good due to marketing pressure. The study shows that marketing a target good alongside a second side good helps increase the total use of the target good. This increase in usage only occurs if the second good is sold at its retail price, however, as promotions or discounts on this good may reintroduce other unintended behaviors.
There are many avenues for future work. The concept of marketing pressure is inextricably linked to implementer identity, which has been shown to matter in scaling up efforts (Cameron et al. 2019). Potentially, varying the implementer identity would yield different levels of marketing pressure that then impact product purchase and use. Future work could also examine the effect of different side goods, building on the work by Ashraf et al. (2013) in which the authors increase take-up of a chlorine tablets by leveraging the interaction of price and information effects. Improving the purchase and use of socially beneficial goods in developing countries is an important effort that requires continued refinement, and we hope that the present analysis helps push forward the design in door-to-door marketing for these goods.