Which Path to Purchase is More Effective?

Which Path to Purchase is More Effective?

Is the in-store performance of your brand suffering because it isn’t aligned with the minds of shoppers?

Would you like to make retailing better for shoppers, better for your brand and better for your business?

As a result of 30 years of analysing the behavioural science of shoppers and shopping and enhanced with key learnings from leading neuroscientists from around the globe. We have created The Ultimate Path To Purchase (uP2P). Quite simply the most comprehensive database of shopper insights available. You can now access this priceless shopper understanding in the form of shopper-based retail effectiveness audits.

Using 2 leading laundry detergent brands, what follows is just a small taster of the depth of insight available from uP2P.

Ariel vs. Persil

In 2017, 2 leading brands of washing detergent were analysed from a behavioural science perspective, across 11 psychological metrics. From their ability to gain mental attention on shelf, through pack design and category layout, to the communication of price. In summary, how well does each of the 2 leading brands align with the psychological drivers and motivations of real shoppers?

Back in 2017, the results were as follows: Ariel, 37% psychologically ideal, compared with Persil, that returned an overall effectiveness rating of 32%.

Small changes lead to marginal gains

Fast forward to November 2019, and things are somewhat different. Ariel now has an improved psychologically effectiveness rating of 42%. But that is nothing compared to the improvements made by Persil which now has a psychological effectiveness rating of 52%. A massive improvement from making what appear to be only minor changes.

The overall headline in 2019 is that Persil now outperforms Ariel in most aspects, only suffering in those where the retailer controls what shoppers can see and engage with

So, in terms of the detail, and being psychologically optimal to shop, how does each brand perform in November 2019


Firstly, we analysed attention: How effectively do Persil and Ariel psychologically grab the attention of passing shoppers? Ariel now performs worse in this regard, dropping from 50% effective in 2017, to just 35% effective today.

From a psychological perspective, Ariel doesn’t really have much to offer in the way of attention grabbing ‘headlines: ‘what is ‘1 Wash’ or ‘Mega Pack’? For a start, they are both written statements, which take longer for our brains to process than imagery. This is precisely where Persil, on the other hand has become much more attention grabbing on shelf: Prominent humanised imagery gives the brand real psychological stand out.


Secondly, we turned our focus to how well each of the research brands initially appeals to shoppers in-store. In 2017, the scores were, Ariel 29%, Persil 25%. 2 years later and things are very different: Ariel now scores 45%, while Persil returned an impressive 73%. The 'Persil Colour' packaging was particularly more effective in this regard. In addition ,a secondary gondola end display helped prime shoppers towards the Persil brand making it more appealing to them when they reached the main aisle.

Does your brand appeal as much as it could on shelf?


Next, engagement: How psychologically engaging is each brand as it sits there in-store on shelf. With this metric, Ariel is slightly down from 47% in 2017 to 42% now.  Conversely, Persil (27% in 2017),has leapt to 71% in terms of engagement optimisation in 2019 In summary, it appears that Ariel is presenting itself rationally, while Persil is being shown as a more emotional solution. And as the saying goes, “emotion  sells, reason merely justifies.”

Ever wondered how engaging is your brand in-store?

Range & Layout

Moving our attention to the range available and the layout, the scores were almost identical in 2017 (34%). With so much visual ‘sameness’ between the research brands, neither offered any category default option. In 2019, both brands have improved dramatically, in terms of range and category layout, Ariel now scores 61% and Ariel, 74%.

Clearer more intuitive product blocking and less SRP based clutter helped these scores improve. Interestingly, the reduction in apparent variants on-shelf has reduced cognitive choice overload and the subsequent paradox of choice in the minds of shoppers.

Purchase Conversion

Next is the browse to purchase conversion ability of each brand: How effective are they at actively closing out browsing shoppers, from a behavioural science viewpoint. The scores in 2017 were Ariel 29%, Persil 25%. Great improvements in 2019 as the brands now score 62%and 72% respectively. Both brands now appear to have taken ownership of specific attributes. Ariel now sports an impactful yellow and red design aspect that is visually akin to special offers and added value: ‘Mega Pack’ (whatever that means).

Persil, on the other hand, ‘Keeps’ and ‘Protects’, playing to the cognitive bias of loss aversion.

How well does your brand convert browsers into paying customers?


On-pack imagery: in 2019, Ariel scored 24% and Persil 49%. From a psychological perspective, Ariel has more promotional colours on pack and Persil has improved the humanisation aspects: More than 1-person, clearer imagery and faces that look directly at the shopper.

Science tells us that concepts that are learned by viewing pictures are easier to mentally process and more frequently recalled than are concepts that are learned by viewing the written word.

Is your on-pack imagery as good as it could be?

Packaging changes -Ariel vs Persil


What about the pack colours: Back in 2017, the scores were Ariel 71%,Persil 78%. Now in 2019 Ariel remains at 71%, but the Persil score has dropped marginally to 71%, due in part to the removal of the yellow and red ‘family pack’ decal. In a category where colour is talked about so much, both brands ranked well.

Shopper attention is naturally drawn toward stimuli, including colours, that are visually salient. And whenever a concept enters our mind quickly and easily, it produces a pleasant sensation in our brain. We then falsely attribute that pleasantness with our evaluation of the stimulus. Psychologically, these packs have an effective colour palette.

What's the best colour for your brand in-store?


On pack copy: How well do the words on each of the brands communicate with shoppers: Both brands have scored lower in 2019 (Ariel 30%, Persil 42%). than they did in 2017 (Ariel 54%, Persil 43%). The packs still lack a distinct call to action in terms of ‘buy me’ or ‘switch to me. In addition, by increasing the surface size of text, especially emotional words (if there were any), they could enhance the emotional impact of those words.

What does your pack say about your brand?


We then went on to analyse the psychological effectiveness of the fonts used on pack. Unsurprisingly, the scores have remained unchanged (as have the fonts for the most part). Ariel 53%, Persil 47%.

The fonts used are clear and easily legible; sending out a message of function over feelings. Psychologically, there is an opportunity to introduce more creative fonts. Because, when people exert greater effort to process information, they encode the memory in greater detail. So not only would obscure fonts enhance the perceived uniqueness of the product, but they’d also create a stronger memory of that brand.

Which brand in your category has the most effective font?


Specifically looking at how the prices were communicated Ariel and Persil both scored 39%. It is well-known that from a psychological perspective, the way most supermarkets display prices remains frankly, poor! For example, £ sign too big, price numeral too (physically) big and a lack of any psychological graphic hierarchy on the Shelf Edge Labels (SELs).

What does the Shelf Edge Label (SEL) say about your brand?


What about the non-price related numbers used on each of the packs:Ariel 41%, Persil 38%. Ariel anchors shoppers to the number 75 on a 75 wash bottle, while Persil makes 57 seem small and insignificant by locating it on the bottom left of the bottle. Instead choosing to focus on the number 7 in “7 Days Freshness that lasts”. From a behavioural science point of view, this doesn’t seem ideal. In summary, both could easily be made more appealing just by changing the way numbers are displayed on pack.

Can you count on the effectiveness of any numbers on the packs of your brand?

New Metrics for 2019

As we continue to develop uP2P audits, we’ve added new metrics for 2019

Regarding the psychology of choice in-store, Ariel scored 52% while Persil outperformed with 72%. One of the 42 reasons why, was because Persil occupies 3 shelves directly below the 2 shelves of Ariel.

Another metric we’ve added is Emotion. And Persil won this hands down (86% effective compared with 38% for Ariel). Quite simply, the imagery used by Persil was much better than the lack of imagery used by Ariel.

2019 results in full

These retail effectiveness audits, are designed to help brands like yours make retailing better for shoppers, better for brands and better for businesses. Each brand we analyse is painstakingly measured against as many as 612 specific psychological metrics. The recommendations are then disseminated from a database of 1,200+ behavioural science related insights specifically relating to shoppers and shopping.

Just think, if we increase your brand performance by just 1% in each of the 14 metrics shown in the chart above, the would result in a massive uplift overall: Marginal gains in action.

Access to this database of priceless shopper understanding is now available to you. If you would like to know how your brand compares to the competition, follow this link.

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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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