Path to Purchase – Which is more effective in-store, on shelf?

Shopper Psychology Applied

Are you losing sales and share because your brand isn’t as psychologically effective in-store as those of the competition? Is the in-store performance of your brand suffering because it isn’t aligned with the minds of shoppers? Would you like to simply and effectively increase sales, grow your category and enrich trading relationships?

Access 30 years of analysing shopper psychology and shopping behaviour, enhanced with key learnings from leading psychologists from around the globe. Tap into 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. Here’s a summary example

Ariel vs. Persil

The 2 leading brands of washing detergent were compared and analysed across 11 different 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.

“The overall headline finding was that Ariel scored higher that Persil in almost every aspect! But neither scored well”

So let’s look at the findings in a little more detail.


Firstly we analysed attention: How effectively do Persil and Ariel emotionally and instinctively grab the attention of passing shoppers. Because both brands rely very much on rational aspects to persuade shoppers to choose one over the other, they fail to emotionally connect as well as they could. And although Persil has a degree of humanisation on pack, the imagery is hidden behind the SRP. How would your brand perform?


Secondly, we turned our focus to how well each of the research brands initially appeals to shoppers in-store. Because many visual aspects of each brand are so similar, the appeal scores were low (Ariel 29%, Persil 25%). Psychology suggests that there is an opportunity for either brand to convey uniqueness in what is a somewhat crowded marketplace. 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 (47%) was significantly more engaging that Persil (27%). Neither product appears to ‘own’ any non-comparable attribute with which shoppers could benchmark other alternatives against. Also, the layout on shelf combined with the pack designs gives Ariel significant visual advantage. Ever wondered how engaging your brand is in-store?

Range & Layout

Moving our attention to the range available and the layout, the scores were almost identical. With so much visual ‘sameness’ between the research brands, neither offers any category default option. But if they did so, purchase decisions would become easier.

Why spend time choosing an option? One has already been chosen for you.”

Purchase conversion

Next is the browse to purchase conversion ability of each brand. The scores here were Ariel 29%, Persil 25%. Neither brand provides a specific tangible reason why it is better than the other. Here’s the science: Any product specialising in one attribute is perceived to be superior on that attribute relative to any all-in-one options. Do you know the conversion rate for your brand?


On-pack imagery: Ariel scored 0% and Persil 40%. From a psychological perspective, these packs need more humanisation. Educate and inspire using images: Concepts that are learned by viewing pictures are more easily and frequently recalled than are concepts that are learned by viewing their written word from counterparts. Is your on-pack imagery as good as it could be?


What about the pack colours: Ariel 71%, Persil 78%. In a category where colour is talked about so much, both brands ranked well – Albeit very similar to each other. Shopper attention is naturally drawn toward stimuli 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. 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: Ariel 54%, Persil 43%. Both brands rely on their name on shelf. The packs 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: Ariel 50%, Persil 45%. 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 a 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 scored 37% and Persil 23%. It is well-known that from a psychological perspective, the way most supermarkets display prices is frankly, poor! For example, £ sign too big, price numeral too (physically) big, lack of left digit bias and no charm pricing. 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 50%, Persil 41%. Ariel anchors shoppers to the number 1 on a 60 wash bottle, while Persil makes 60 seem small and insignificant by locating it on the bottom left of the bottle. 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?

These retail effectiveness audits, are designed to help brands like yours increase sales, grow categories and enrich trading relationships. The recommendations have been disseminated from a database of 791 psychological insights specifically relating to shoppers and shopping.

Access to this database of priceless shopper understanding is now available to you in the form of shopper based retail effectiveness audits. If you would like to know how your brand compares to the competition, follow this link, or let’s talk.

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Alternatively, are you just fascinated by how shoppers think? Or would you like to know more about how you think? Check out my books on Amazon for much more insightful, provocative and stimulating information.

Shoppology: The science of the shopping brain

Master your Brain: The science of your brain

The Presenters Handbook: The science of the PowerPoint brain


Want better packaging? Here’s how

Subtle design changes can make all the difference

For years, marketers have used suggestions that consumers imagine using their products. Slogans like “Imagine the Possibilities” from Intel and Apple, or merely “Imagine” from Samsung, encourage consumers to transport themselves into a state in which they are using the product. The success of such appeals have been well documented.

So can just the way in which a product is visually depicted affect the extent to which shoppers imagine using the product? The answer is an unequivocal YES! Simply altering the way a product is visually presented can elicit more (or less) mental simulation of product interaction and this can result in higher (or lower) purchase intentions.

In one test, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, propensity to buy yoghurt increased by more than 20% simply by showing an image of a bowl of yoghurt with the spoon on the right side of the bowl, compared with when the spoon was shown on the left. Purchase intentions for the yogurt were significantly higher when the orientation of the spoon matched the participant’s dominant hand. And as an estimated 88% of people are right-handed, that’s the one to favour.

A separate study featured the image of a hamburger with a right hand, left hand, or no hand holding it. The right-hand condition resulted in a more than 50% higher propensity to purchase compared with the other scenarios.

Here’s your opportunity: Because we’re surrounded by more stimuli than we can process, we use selective attention. Our eyes perceive everything, but only a fraction of those stimuli enter our consciousness. It is estimated that only around 5% of visual stimuli make it through to our conscious awareness.

In other words, our eyes perceive more stimuli than we can consciously process. Therefore, some stimuli enter our brain without any conscious awareness. But because they’re still in our brain, they influence our product perceptions and shopping behaviour.

What this means is that your product packaging has the ability to directly influence propensity to purchase at both conscious and sub-conscious levels. In a world of too much choice in-store, and when the odds of the next passing shopper buying your grocery product are on average, a staggering 500:1, it has never been more important to make the most of your packaging design and other in-store communications.

And here’s the best part: Most retailers and brands are blissfully unaware of this science fact or at least don’t really take advantage of what you are reading right now.

When a lot of designers create product images, they tend to depict the product without too much thought about psychology. But if you want to generate serious competitive advantage, design your packs so that they always encourage and stimulate mental interaction.

Want more proof? In 2012, researchers Elder and Krishna presented participants with an advert for a coffee mug. The results showed that participants were more likely to purchase the mug when the handle was facing the right (toward the dominant hand of most people looking at the mug).

The research clearly demonstrated that visual product depictions, facilitate mental simulation that evokes motor responses. In other words, viewing an object can lead to similar behavioural consequences as interacting with the object, since our minds mentally simulate the experience.

Research also identified that when the dominant hand is physically engaged; holding a shopping basket for example, participants switched and began simulating with their non-dominant hand.

What if you don’t have a handle to use in your product shot? Worry, ye not. The researchers conducted further experiments and discovered additional fascinating insights.

Just to reiterate, place any instrument or utensil on the right: And don’t worry about which hand people usually hold knives and forks in. The researchers found that regardless of utensil; Knife, fork or spoon, the propensity to purchase remained highest when the utensil was oriented towards the viewer’s dominant hand.

And here’s another example, this time from non-food. Show consumers an image of a pair of gloves and their engagement will be highest if they view them from the angle of being able to slip their hands right in.

With all the intelligence employed in retail marketing, branding and design, you’d think that this subject would have been picked up and covered off by now, yes? Simply take a trip to just about any decent store and see for yourself. Alternatively, take a look online and check out the images used. Just try to find images similar to the above for gloves, shoes etc.

Seriously, according to science, this is a massive opportunity. So do you want to be part of it? Because it will mean doing things differently. Or do you just want to know more about incorporating psychology into your packaging, in-store display and other consumer and shopper facing communications? Incidentally, I have amassed more than 250 specific psychological techniques for improving packaging effectiveness in-store.

Want better packaging? Or perhaps you are just curious to know what makes psychologically good packaging? Either way, Let’s talk.

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically ‘tick’.

Are you fascinated by how you and your customers think? Check out the following titles for more insightful, provocative and stimulating thought-starters.

Shoppology: The science of the shopping brain

Master your Brain: The science of your brain

The Presenters Handbook: The science of the PowerPoint brain