What Factors Affect the Perception of Quality?

Mary McMahon

A number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors go into the perception of quality from customers and potential users of services. Intrinsic factors are internal to the product or service, while extrinsic factors are external; a wine’s color, for example, is internal, while the packaging of crackers is external. Understanding how people make quality assessments is important for producers, salespeople, and other parties involved in transactions.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

One factor can be the environment. When people walk into a store, the impressions they form play a role in the perception of quality. Store layout and presentation can have a significant impact. A store with clean, tidy displays can be perceived as higher quality. Lighting and atmospheric factors like the color of the paint on the walls and the fixtures can also be important for customers making judgments.

Loud, cluttered environments tend to decrease the perception of quality. Stores with a quieter environment, not just acoustically but also in terms of design, can project an air of quality that appeals to consumers. Soft colors, gentle lighting, and understated displays can all play a role in this. If stores are too sparse, however, it can degrade the perception of quality, because customers may believe the poorly populated displays are evidence of a failing business or poor organizational skills.

Reputation, including word of mouth and impressions built up through advertising, can also be important factors. Companies that project images of quality and market their products in association with luxury lifestyles, for example, are often perceived to produce products of better quality. Packaging and labeling play a role in the creation and maintenance of an image. Companies may utilize specific color schemes and brand messaging to create subtle suggestion for customers.

Another factor in the perception of quality is pricing. High prices tend to be associated in the minds of consumers with higher quality. They may not necessarily purchase the most expensive items in a store, however. Creating a mix of high-priced items mixed with items at slightly lower price points can lead customers to believe a store’s overall offerings are of high quality, in which case they may purchase items in the more affordable range on the grounds that they are sound buys.

Physical impressions created through intrinsic traits are also important. Someone buying a car, for example, may identify a car that runs quietly, handles well, and has attractive accessories like leather seats and wooden details on the dash as being of higher quality. Conversely, cars that run rough and have simple interiors might not be viewed as favorably.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - It's not always empty words though. I heard once that a car company spent something like 70,000 on research into making their doors shut with just the right sound. They wanted their buyers to be impressed by every single little aspect of their car, even ones they probably wouldn't notice consciously.

I suspect that they actually leaked the information about that research in order to impress people.


@browncoat - I can see why it might increase a perception of quality though, if the price were deliberately left off an expensive item. It has that implication that if you can afford to buy it, you don't really care about the price.

What bothers me is the way that companies tend to manipulate people about food quality. Like recently a supermarket chain near me was fined for claiming that their bread was "fresh baked" when it was actually frozen and just heated up for the shelf.

They will say anything to be able to make their food sound like it's delicious or of higher quality, even if there's nothing differing it from another product.


This can work the wrong way as well. I know that I feel uncomfortable in those ultra-modern stores where they only sell five different products and everything else in the store is in a shade of beige or white. They don't really make me feel like the quality of the clothes or other items is going to be that much better, but they do make me feel like you're going to be paying for every tiny bit of extra quality with your wallet.

I like it when the store is nicely laid out but still a bit cluttered, as if there are too many interesting things to fit in the available space. Also, the main thing for me is that the items should all be labeled. I hate it when you can't find the tag or price of an item. It just makes me feel like the store is dishonest or disorganized.

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