The Grocer

How to make your brand the go-to choice for highly habitual shoppers

How to make your brand the go-to choice for highly habitual shoppers

Human beings are habitual creatures.  The way we live, eat and shop is repetitive.  Understanding this, is key to success in our industry.

We’ve all heard Kantar’s mantra about the repertoire of seven to ten main meals that many households have.  At lunch and breakfast too, most people stick to a few tested solutions.

Shopping is habitual too.  Most people doing a main shop semi-consciously follow a standard route around store, deselecting large parts with little thought, then arriving at categories which may be of interest, and “switching on” to make a choice.

So habit is critical.  It is at once a challenge and an opportunity.  It is very difficult to break your product, brand or category into eating and shopping habits.  But if you can break in, it is a licence to print money.  It’s not unusual for a consumer to report using the same “go to” evening meal every week, for ten years.  That might mean your product or brand being bought about five hundred times by one household.

So how do we go about breaking into routines?  It’s tough, but one golden rule is to pick your moment.  And there are three ways to think about this.

First, individual “delta moments.” There are times in our life when we are more likely to change our eating and shopping behaviour – not a bit more likely, but five or six times more likely.  Moving out of home, moving in as a couple, having kids, health scares, losing a partner, retirement.  At these times, we reconsider how we’ll manage our food lives.  So target these life stages.  Data, especially personal data, can identify when an individual is about to enter (or likely to enter) these times of opportunity.

Second, societal “delta moments.” Big societal changes driving behaviour change.  Covid opened the door for food adventure and exploration.  The cost-of-living crisis for affordable meals.  The challenge is to see what’s coming next and be quickest to react.  So what is next?  No-one knows.  Perhaps the next surge in scrutiny around sustainability?  If society can lift its eyes from the immediate challenges, the longer-term sustainability crisis will come into clearer focus.

Third, seasonal “delta moments.”  Times when we change how we eat and shop, due to what’s going on in the annual calendar.  If I’ve not had a barbecue for six months, then my BBQ habits are less hard-wired.  So I might try something new for the first BBQ of the summer.  Similarly with roasts if I return to them in Autumn.  Or kids’ packed lunch in September.  How can you “win early” and get your brand established as the default, at least for the season?

Behaviour change is hard but the prize is high.  Pick your moment to increase the chance of success.

​Jeremy Garlick is a Partner of Insight Traction, consulting with FMCG and Retail companies. He was formerly Head of Insight at Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Premier Foods.

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