Channel Execution, Knowledge Bank Blog, Shopper Communication

Energy Drains

How well are you managing shopper energy?

Many of you will have heard of Moore’s Law.  It refers to an observation made by Gordon Moore, co founder of Intel, who said that computer processing power doubles approximately every 2 years.  This is why the smartphone in your pocket is far more powerful than the PC you had just a few years ago.

Unfortunately, Moore’s Law doesn’t apply to human processing power.  Whilst the human brain is a pretty amazing thing, we find processing lots of information difficult.  And we find it tiring.

Think about the last time you had to think about something properly.  Afterwards you probably felt pretty drained.  Proper thinking is hard.  It takes up a lot of mental energy.  This is one of the reasons that we are more susceptible to temptation later in the day.  We’ve used up a lot of our willpower during the day.  So, when the little voice inside our head says it wants a bar of chocolate or a glass of wine (or perhaps both…), it is often pushing against an open door.

This is one of the reasons that we rely so heavily on System 1 to think and make decisions.  If we didn’t, we’d be mentally drained by mid morning.

What applies in general life, applies to the shopping world.  Shoppers have a limited amount of mental energy for a shopping trip.  That mental energy will start to deplete the moment they walk through the store entrance.  It might already be a bit depleted if parking and finding a trolley or basket was a hassle.

As shoppers navigate around a store, digest information and make decisions, they use up this mental energy.  The speed at which energy depletes depends on how easy the shopping process is.  Are they trying to figure out where a product is located = energy drain.  Are they trying to figure out how a shelf is laid out = energy drain.  Are they trying to figure out whether a promotion is good value or not = energy drain.

This is one of the reasons why shoppers typically spend much less time in the second half of a store – often missing out whole aisles at a time.  The more tired we get, the more we take shortcuts.  And the biggest shortcut a shopper can make is to stop shopping and get out of the store.

The more energy shoppers use on “bad” things like navigating, finding and understanding, the less energy they have to spend on “good” things like engaging with products and, most importantly, buying.

So, how do we make sure we are managing shopper energy effectively?

Make navigating the store as smooth as possible.  A great example of this is Tesco’s new aisle signage.  It is lower, at the end of the aisle (not the middle) and visible to the shopper as they approach.  The shopper doesn’t even have to think about what is coming next.  Energy saved.

The same thing can apply to brands and NPD launches.  Telling a shopper exactly where to find a product – for instance in above the line communication – primes the shopper on where to go in store.  Energy saved.

Making it as easy as possible to find things in the aisle.  Every time we (Insight Traction) work on a new category, we go into store to see how it is set up.  And nearly every time it takes us a few minutes trying to work it out – how is it segmented, why is product X here and product Y over there?  And we are supposed to be experts. We sometimes have to think hard to work it out, so imagine what it does to shoppers.

The simpler, clearer and more intuitive a shelf layout is, the easier it is to shop.  Energy saved.  Not only that, it also significantly increases the chances of a shopper buying more than one product.  A big opportunity in a low growth environment.

Making information easy to process.  Too often we ask shoppers to work hard.  To read the 5 different messages on pack.  To take in the 2 paragraphs of text on Point of Sale.  To figure out whether the 900ml bottle at £2.30 is better value than the 1 litre bottle at £2.55.  Is it?  – A quick maths puzzle for you there.  This not only drains energy as the shopper is trying to make a choice, but also increases the chances they won’t make a choice at all.  Simple information = processing fluency = energy saved.

If all this is really important in store, then you could argue it is even more important online, where speed and convenience is such a vital factor.  Every scroll, every click, is a tiny drain on energy.  And those tiny drains add up pretty quickly.

We often hear people talk about slowing shoppers down in aisle, getting them to spend more time.  But more time often means more energy.  If energy is a limited resource, then surely we should be focused on managing that energy most effectively.  Making sure that shoppers deploy their energy engaging and buying, not trying to figure things out.

If so, they will probably buy more.  They will probably come back next time.  And the time after that.

On a separate note, our article for The Grocer goes out tomorrow.  You can find it in the ‘Comment & Opinion’ section.  We also have a link to it on our website

Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.