Shopper Journey Research & 5 ways to Improve In-Store
Love it, hate it, or occasionally enjoy it, nearly everyone has a perspective on shopping. Numerous studies have tried to explain the different types of shoppers. I have spent more than 30 years studying the shopper journey along with the psychology of shopping and shopper decision making.
Based on my comprehensive experience regarding shopper journey research, here are my top 5 considerations for brands and retailers: Each has been psychologically proven to improve brand and retailer performance through making subtle alterations to the shopper journey.
1, Shopper Journey Processing Fluency
Humans prefer things that are easy to think about rather than things that are difficult to think about. This feeling of ease or difficulty is known as processing fluency. Processing fluency refers to the subjective experience of the ease or difficulty of completing a mental task, such as shopping.
Here’s the important bit: Our brains misattribute ease of processing (thinking about something) with liking it more. So, the easier it is to think about your brand and store, the more shoppers will like you.
Specific aspects that improve processing fluency include round £ pricing, repeated exposure to the same product in different locations in-store and familiarity. By familiarity, if shoppers are used to seeing a certain brand with a familiar appearance in the same location in-store, then this is good for processing fluency. If, on the other hand, products and ranges are relocated in-store or there are dramatic changes to pack design, this hinders processing fluency. It may drive up attention and awareness, but it also makes a brand harder to think about, mentally process or buy.
2, The Shopper Journey Right-Hand rule
85% - 90% of humans are right-handed. That means, that as a species most of us find it easier to shop with our right hand. Whether you are a retailer or a brand, are you as ‘right-hand friendly' as you could be? From shopping baskets to the right-hand side of shoppers as they enter a store, to FSDUs strategically placed so that shoppers pass by to the left of them making it easier to grab and go with their right hand. These small changes all help optimise the shopper journey.
3, Emotional Engagement Along the Shopper Journey
As a species, we are emotional. We’ve been experiencing emotions for around 300,000,000 years. But rational thought is a much more recent mental ability. Emotional responses are 3,000X faster than rational consideration. They are 24X more persuasive too. In a nutshell, getting shoppers to emotionally engage with you is far, far more effective than focussing on rational reasoning.
Speaking with shoppers using text-based communication is much less impactful than using imagery. To quantify this, humans have relied on emotion for 300,000,000 years, as previously said. But language has only been around for 100,000 years and numbers just 50,000 years. In summary, our brains naturally think in pictures. When it comes to in-store, a picture really does say 1,000 words.
Whenever you get the chance, go for images over words. And if you can humanise any lifestyle imagery then better still.
4, Shopper Journey Anchors
Our brains are hard-wired for fight, flight and find a mate. This means we are constantly on the look out for threats, meals and mates, albeit at a sub-conscious level. The result of this is that everything we sense, from sights, to sounds, smells and tactile sensations influences us to a certain degree.
When it comes to shopping, subtle changes along the shopper journey will have significant impact on our state of mind. Consider the following examples: A softer floor covering will slow the speed we walk along and have us thinking that the products in that area ore of higher quality.
When German oompah-pah music was played in-store, sales of German wine outnumbered the French by 3.33 to 1. And when the accordion ditties associated with the beret avec string-of-onions stereotype of our closest neighbours was played, French wine sales outnumbered German by 2.75 to 1
Simply by circulating the subtle aroma of chocolate cake in-store significantly increased chocolate sales.
In summary, everything in-store that shoppers are exposed to can and will influence their state of mind. Contact me if you’d like to know more about shopper journey research and audits.
5, System 1 and System 2 Shopper Journey Research
The ground-breaking research of Daniel Kahneman showed that our brain has two operating systems. Which he called system 1 and system 2. These are the differences between the two systems of our brain:
System 1 (fast)
- Unconscious, automatic, effortless
- Lacks self-awareness or control “What you see is all there is.”
- Assesses the situation, delivers updates
- Makes 98% of all our thinking
System 2 (Slow)
- Deliberate and conscious, effortful, rational thinking
- Provide self-awareness or control, and is logical and sceptical
- It seeks new/missing information and makes decisions
- Makes 2% if all our thinking
In other words, system 1 is responsible for 98% of shopper journey related activity. But unfortunately, too much shopper research analyses system 2, completely ignoring system 1. I’m happy to explain further if you want to drop me a line.
While conducting shopper journey research and analysis, it is important to recognise that most purchasing decisions are based on short-cuts. This is because, on average we all have about 35,000 decisions to make each day. If you had to consciously process all these decisions your brain would crash. Your automatic system’s primary task is to protect your more deliberate, system 2.
Consider a shopper journey audit of your brand or store. Are you making it as brain friendly as possible? Have you maximised the amount of system 1 communication or are you bombarding shoppers with system 2 information? Are there ways you can provide shoppers with short-cuts along their shopper journey?
To sum up, conducting shopper journey research and audits will help you better understand human decision-making. And when you understand human-decision making, you can also understand shopping behaviour. Once you understand shopping behaviour, you can optimise your customer experiences and deliver a more psychologically aligned shopper journey.