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The Meaning of Liff

The Meaning of Liff

Jerry is the Retail lead in the Commonwealth Bank’s Business and Private Banking division where he harnesses and develops the bank’s resources for the benefit of its retail clients. He is well-known for delivering thought-leadership, insights and analysis that help retailers succeed.

Douglas Adams is well known as the author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy of five books .  Less well known is that he turned his unique view of life to things that don’t have words to describe them.  In ‘The Meaning of Liff’, Adams and co-author John Lloyd appropriate placenames and apply them to common feelings or objects that have no quick way to describe them .

So, a Bodmin is ‘the irrational and inevitable discrepancy between the amount pooled and the amount needed when a large group of people try to pay a bill together after a meal’. 

A Kibblesworth is ‘the footling amount of money by which the price of a given article in a shop is less than a sensible number … for instance, the kibblesworth on a pair of shoes priced at £19.99 is 1p’ (I know – it was published in 1983!).

Whilst these definitions might seem whimsical and amusing, Adams hits upon a serious point – it’s easier to engage with something if you name it.

Take the annoyance you feel when, after returning home from a day at the shops, you find your purchase cheaper online.  Many of us experience this, but there’s no name for it, which makes it tricky to deal with.  So, in the spirit of The Meaning of Liff, let’s name these things after English place names.

The difference between the amount you pay for an item in store and the price you subsequently find it for online would be a Watford Gap.   And Ilkley would be the feeling of annoyance, resentment and self-recrimination you experience when you find out that you’ve experienced a Watford Gap.  

CommBank’s research has shown that consumers strongly dislike encountering a Watford Gap, with 72% agreeing that it’s important for retailers to set prices consistently[1].  Bargain Hunters – those strongly attracted to sales and who often buy on impulse based on finding a good price – are particularly annoyed by Watford Gaps.

We’ve become conditioned to think that prices may be cheaper online, with 44% of us show-rooming (researching in-store, then buying online) at least sometimes[2].  A quarter of us show-room regularly.  Why?  Because a third of us think we can get a better price online2.

So what can retailers do? Well, a massive 60% of consumers surveyed by CommBank say that matching online prices would make them purchase in-store2.  This is clearly an area for retailers to focus on, yet only a quarter of surveyed retailers actively price match2.

Offering to price match is a strong tactic for preventing the loss of a sale from customers buying online … from another retailer offering a better price.    

As a consumer, the next time you are keen to buy an item that has a Kibblesworth of a cent or two, take the time to check in with the retailer that you won’t feel Ilkley when you get home and find you have a Watford Gap. 

And if you are in a restaurant that has a CommBank Albert terminal, use the ‘split the bill’ functionality to avoid a Bodmin!

For more information on our Retail Insights visit commbank.com.au/retailinsights

[1] Pan Books, 1979-1992

[2] Pan Books, 1983

[3] CommBank Retail Insights Report Edition 3 2016  https://www.commbank.com.au/content/dam/commbank/business/pds/retail-insights-report-edition-3.pdf

[4] CommBank Retail Insights Report Edition 5 2017 https://www.commbank.com.au/content/dam/commbank/business/pds/retail-insights-report-edition-5.pdf

Head of Retail

Jerry is the Retail lead in the Commonwealth Bank’s Business and Private Banking division where he harnesses and develops the bank’s resources for the benefit of its retail clients. He is well-known for delivering thought-leadership, insights and analysis that help retailers succeed.

Things you should know: This blog is published solely for information purposes. As this blog has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on the information in this blog, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances and if necessary seek the appropriate professional advice. Any opinions, views of contributors, conclusions or recommendations are reasonably held or made, based on the information available at the time of the blog. Compilation, but no representation or warranty, either expressed or implied, is made or provided as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of any statement made in this blog. Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL and Australian credit licence 234 945.