Ask any supermarket shopper to explain a purchasing decision and they will post-rationalise it, citing price, value or product benefits. But the fact is, they often don’t know the reason for their behaviour.
Understanding the rational and unconscious drivers of decision-making is one of the most studied territories of cognitive psychology. Dual process theory is a ground-breaking psychological model that redefined the understanding of unconscious influences in decision-making. It explains why shoppers will offer considered and honest opinions in traditional research, then behave in a completely different way when shopping. Unconscious, intuitive decision-making takes over, relieving the shopper from unnecessary cognitive effort.
The two primary neurological processes identified in dual process theory are known as System 1 and System 2.
System 1 is automatic, unconscious, intuitive and always engaged.
System 2 is slower, considered and must be consciously activated.
Language-based research skews towards System 2 answers, because language directs subjects towards thoughtful responses. But most shoppers are in System 1 autopilot — they don’t consider options and evaluate variables. Instead, they rely on embedded habits and heuristics (mental shortcuts) to get through their shopping quickly and with minimum mental effort.
Most household shopping is done without conscious engagement. The average shopper only has a repertoire of around 500 SKUs at home. Many supermarkets stock 20,000 to 50,000 SKUs.
It’s an overwhelming choice and shoppers cannot make considered decisions about every purchase. While the unconscious brain is capable of processing 10 million pieces of information a second, the conscious brain processes up to 40 per second — and that’s using all the senses, not just sight.
So, for around 85 per cent of their shopping, shoppers switch to autopilot mode, which is led by System 1 decision-making. An unconscious filter deselects everything outside their established purchasing pattern, directing them to products they buy regularly.
They only switch to System 2 thinking when selecting something that requires more thought, such as special ingredients for a new recipe or products in an unfamiliar category.
With SHOPPER360, we understand when shoppers are in System 1 or System 2 mode, and use that knowledge to test appropriate strategies for making your brands more attractive to them.
We are able to customise the test environment to suit any commerical, marketing or retail challenge, whether you want to lift sales for a core brand, test the packaging for a new product or respond to a pricing war.
These behaviour-based insights will help you to formulate value-building shopper strategies that deliver against your brand objectives.