No.2 The Anchoring Effect on Shopping Sustainably

No.2 The Anchoring Effect on Shopping Sustainably

Our tendency to rely on the first piece of information that is fed to us can impact how we shop sustainably.

What is a cognitive bias?

A cognitive bias is a limitation in rational thinking caused by the tendency for the human brain to take short cuts to save energy. Cognitive biases are coping mechanisms that allow the brain to process vast amounts of input. While the mechanism is very effective, its limitations cause errors in decision-making.

What is an anchoring effect?

An anchoring effect is the tendency for the brain to rely too much on the first piece of information it received in relation to decisions made later on.

An anchoring effect is often seen with examples of was/now pricing. A higher price might deter a shopper from making a purchase. However, when the brand or retailer presents a lower sale price, the original higher price serves as the anchor, making the new sale price seem like better value.

A famous example of anchoring in action was when The Economist offered three subscription options: a web-only subscription, which cost $59; a print-only subscription, which cost $125; or both web and print, which also cost $125.

Given these options in a study, no subjects chose the print-only subscription, which was the clearly inferior option. The majority chose the combined print and web subscription. However, when they removed the print-only option, 68% of people chose the web-only subscription. Even though nobody was interested in the print-only option, it served as an anchor to make the more expensive, dual subscription seem like a much better deal.

How can I get shoppers to anchor to my brand?

When presenting shoppers with sustainability messaging and incentives, they need context and what they see first will and does anchor them. So, if you want shoppers to anchor to your brands via your sustainability activity, there are a number of aspects you should consider.

Own the initial anchor 

When shoppers first approach the aisle and bay your brand resides in, what is the first number they see? If it is price and you are not the cheapest, create another visually impactful numerical anchor. For example, how much is your organisation investing to help tackle climate issues?

Create your best context

What sustainability related numbers show your brand in the best light? Are you the lowest carbon, most recyclable, least polluting? Find the number you want to anchor shoppers to and then shout it and shout it loud.

Make your sustainability activity obvious

Is your brand addressing environmental sustainability issues in a way that make cross-brand comparisons easy? Do your sustainable choices stand out from the crowd? Make the activity that you are doing surrounding sustainability known to your shoppers. 

In summary, anchoring gives you a great way of making your brand look disproportionately appealing from a sustainability perspective. But equally, the wrong anchor can seriously damage brand performance. So, find your best sustainability anchors and communicate them effectively.

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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

Phillips Signature

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