|« Online Qual…What do you think?||2012 Food & Drink Trends »|
The Moment of Truth…or is it?
Exactly when does a shopper decide to purchase your product? I have heard a number of times that about ‘70% of decisions are taken at the shelf’. However, I have also read plenty of other articles, from experts in their respective fields, arguing that a huge amount of brand choice actually happens way before entering the store.
They argue that whilst seemingly ‘spontaneous’ decisions can be observed at the shelf, in many cases the product that ends up in the trolley was already mentally available in that consumer’s mind before entering the store.
That’s not to say they knew the exact brand of every product they were about to purchase. But what we do know, is that the majority of consumers are not entirely loyal to a specific brand, so your customers probably look a lot like your competitors, and theirs like yours. Even if consumers have a preference for a particular product in a category, most will also have a set of acceptable substitute solutions that could be chosen instead, based on availability, price, and other promotions or incentives.
The Auto-Pilot Shopper
Think back to your last supermarket shopping trip. You probably only needed about half an hour to select 30 or so products from the tens of thousands available. Your brain did an amazing job at automatically SCREENING OUT the thousands of brands that you didn’t buy. Out of the 30 or so items you purchased, you probably purchased most with very little awareness into the process. According to Dijksterhuis et al (2005) many of your choices would have been ‘introspectively blank’.
And there’s a good reason for this…we all do an awful lot of buying, so we need to process information effortlessly, continuously and very, very fast. To do this, our brain operates on a system of short cuts, and without these corner-cutting decision-making tools (heuristics) we’d never get anything done in life, let alone finish our grocery shopping. There’s simply no need to look at every pack and scrutinise every ingredient. That’s not to say there are not exceptions…watch a brand new mum shopping in the aisle for baby food and you may see her agonise over every option available (possibly guilty she isn’t making it herself?), but come baby number 3, and something has changed.... those once carefully considered products are now thrown into the trolley in a heartbeat!
Human behaviour is remarkably habitual, and automatic processes drive the bulk of our behaviour. For instance, all of us, at one point or another, have driven to work, school or even home, and realised when we got there that we really didn't know how we did it. In other words, we do it so often that it's second-nature - we do it without even thinking about it. We made that drive with the autopilot on. Supermarket shopping is often no different. It’s a familiar environment requiring a routine behaviour (such as a weekly shop), and therefore a high degree of automaticity (autopilot) will inevitably happen.
So, there is plenty of literature to suggest the brands we notice at the shelf are pre-determined by those in our memory, and that buyers are simply soft-wired to ‘see’ their brands (and to screen out brands they don’t buy). Being physically available on the shelf is one thing, but being mentally available is another, and both are critical.
This book is worth a read – in it the author (Byron Sharp) describes ‘supposedly committed consumers’ as ‘uncaring cognitive misers’!