Do you know shopper? All 5 of them!

Do you know shopper? All 5 of them!

Understanding how shoppers buy offers an opportunity to influence what shoppers buy

We all shop for lots of different things, some items, such as groceries, confectionery or cigarettes, we buy frequently, while other items including greetings cards, new cars and electrical goods are purchased much less frequently.

  • 60% of grocery purchases are Grab & Go
  • Typically 40% of the footfall can be influenced (but which 40%?)
  • Impulse purchasing accounts for as much as 35% of all purchases

Although we buy lots of things, there are only a handful of different ways that we buy them. Welcome to the 5 modes of shopping.

As shoppers, we adopt one of 5 behavioural shopping 'modes' depending on what we are buying. Each of these distinct modes is identifiable purely by observation. In other words, they are behaviour based, not demographics, lifestyles or consumer attitudes oriented.

Inexperienced shopper: Mentally engaged shoppers who are hungry for information. They appear to be visibly uncertain, shopping in a slow, methodical manner. These shoppers tend to have only a low concentration threshold and are liable to just walk away after the slightest interruption.

Experiential shopper: Those who use more than just visual information to make product selections are shopping experientially. For example, they may consider weight and aroma as well as appearance. This experiential influence is often at a sub-conscious level: When shopping experientially, shoppers are unaware of how they make purchase decisions in-store (so you can't ask them).

Considered shopper: Spends time actively considering alternatives at fixture. Is easily swayed by brands, new variants and special offers. They require time and space in aisle.

Grab & Go shopper: These shoppers aren't shopping, they are simply replenishing. They select products out of habit and by using sub-conscious prompts and triggers. Once a product is a habit-locked purchase, you need serious disruption to change behaviour: Out of stock is the perfect interruption!

Impulse shopper: Shoppers that only decide to buy once they are at the fixture. They move quickly and decide quickly too. Make the purchase tempting and easy, with no time for second thoughts.

As shoppers, we switch between these 5 modes depending on what is on the shelves in front of us. For example we may well buy canned carrots in a Grab & Go mode, but then switch to Impulse mode to take advantage of the ‘buy one get one free’ offer on tinned tomatoes.

The modes tend to be consistent across categories, product groups and channels. Buying a pint of milk each day from the same store will almost always be Grab & Go; conversely, when we are choosing what bottle of wine to take to the in-laws after accepting an invitation to Sunday lunch will involve more Considered shopping. The key point is that shopping modes, although exhibited by the shoppers, actually belong to the categories.

The message is that you can’t be all things to all people, all the time. But by actively targeting shopping modes, you are better managing the in-store needs and emotions of your most valued asset: The customers.

There's a place for all those segments with names like 'young trendy value seeker', 'time-starved professional single' and 'urban society rejecting parasite' (I made that one up). But the key to using shopper segmentation is to understand how shoppers and consumers have different need-states and purchasing motives. I believe that when it comes to developing category segmentation and related in-store activity, having them based on actual not claimed behaviour is a worthwhile consideration.

In other words, to get the best out of in-store, make changes based on what shoppers actually do, not what they claim to do.

Learn more about each of these shopping modes by reading Shoppology: The Science of Shopping. It contains an entire section on shopping modes, and explains how to identify each of them. You'll also discover how to better address the individual needs of each shopping modes in-store.

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About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

If you think there is value in this article then please, please share it, thank you.

Phillip Adcock

Phillip Adcock CMRS
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

Phillips Signature

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