No.15 The Default Effect & Shopping Sustainably

No.15 The Default Effect & Shopping Sustainably

Using the default effect correctly can ensure customers opt for the most sustainable option when presented with a range of choices.

In a choice context, a default refers to that option which shoppers end up with if they do not make an active choice.

For example, when online shoppers select an item, they’re offered a default delivery option; they only need continue with the checkout in a passive manner. The Default Effect is therefore the way in which any default option on offer is most likely to be chosen over anything else.

Scientists believe this comes down to human brains choosing the default option because it requires the least mental effort. This allows shoppers to reduce an already large number of choices they face every day in-store.

Shoppers also choose default options when they consider them to be recommendations. In the case of toothpaste, the dentist recommending a certain brand to us gives us a default.

How do stores use the default effect?

In-store, there are any number of ways to make sustainable items and brands more of a default choice.

Social proofing

Telling shoppers that a certain sustainable item is already the preferred choice of many other shoppers will make them more likely to choose this option.

Visual stand out

A large imposing brand block, supported by POS or sustainability related messaging will grab more attention and therefore appear more of the default ‘no brainer’ choice.

Reduce choice

Shoppers have too many choices to make so if you can help them reduce the mental effort by giving them a default option (that happens to be the most environmentally friendly), you are making their shopping life easier.

The default effect is something that shoppers need. Quite simply, they can’t choose effectively between 90+ different pizzas, 100 different coffees or v200+ cheeses in the supermarket, offering them default (and sustainable) options is a benefit for both them and the brand.

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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?

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Phillip Adcock

Phillip Adcock CMRS
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

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