Shopper Marketing Insights - the Good, the Bad & the Ugly!

Shopper Marketing Insights - the Good, the Bad & the Ugly!

Based on 30 years' experience of effective shopper marketing research, here are 5 proven activation techniques for brands and retailers.

Love it, hate it, or occasionally enjoy it, nearly everyone has a perspective on shopping. Numerous studies have tried to quantify good and not so good shopper marketing initiatives.

Shopper Marketing can be defined as follows: Shopper Marketing focuses on the customer in-store and at the point of purchase. It is an integrated and strategic approach to a customer’s in-store experience which is seen as a driver of both sales and brand equity.

Shopper Marketing 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. Your shopper marketing efforts should use the concept of processing fluency to maximise sales.

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.

The easier it is to process, the easier it is to buy

The Shopper Marketing Right-Hand Rule

90% of humans are right-handed. That means 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 shopper marketing related 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 contribute to effective shopper marketing.

Emotional Engagement for More Effective Shopper Marketing

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 3,000 times faster than rational consideration. They are 24 times more persuasive too. In a nutshell, getting shoppers to emotionally engage with you is far, far more effective than focussing on logic and reasoning.

Speaking with shoppers, using text-based communication is much less impactful than using imagery. To quantify this, although humans have relied on emotion for the said 300,000,000 years, 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. Choosing the right imagery for your products can be the difference between effective shopper marketing and ineffective shopper marketing.

Whenever you get the chance, go for images over words. And if you can humanise any lifestyle imagery then better still.

Shopper Marketing 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 to shopper marketing executions 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 are of higher quality.

Any music playing will alter our mindset; so much so that German music increased German wine sales by 85%. And when this was changed to French music, sales of French wine increased by a similar amount. Likewise, the subtle aroma of chocolate cake significantly increased chocolate sales. Effective shopper marketing appeals to the senses and sub-consciously provokes sales.

Everything in-store can and will influence shoppers' states of mind

System 1 and System 2 Shopper Marketing 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:

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 marketing related activity. Unfortunately, too much shopper marketing research analyses system 2, completely ignoring system 1. I’m happy to explain further if you drop me a line.

While conducting shopper marketing 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 of these decisions, your brain would crash. Your automatic system’s primary task is to protect your more deliberate, system 2.

Consider a shopper marketing 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 that support the objectives of your shopper marketing?


To sum up, conducting shopper marketing research and audits will help you better understand human decision-making. And when you understand human-decision making, you can also understand human or shopper behaviour. Once you understand shopper behaviour, you can optimise your customer experiences and deliver more psychologically aligned shopper marketing initiatives.

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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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