Knowledge Bank Blog, Range & Portfolio, Channel Execution

The Peak End Rule

Are you paying attention to how experiences end?

So, most of you will be back from your summer holiday.  How was it?

It was probably quite influenced by how the weather was.  And it was probably even more influenced by how it was at the start vs the end of the holiday.  Great weather at the start, poor weather at the end = OK holiday.  Poor weather at the start, great weather at the end = great holiday.

The technical term for this is the “Peak End Rule”.  This says that we judge an experience largely at its peak (it’s most intense part) and at its end rather than the total sum of the experience.

Psychologists, led by Daniel Kahneman, tested this in an experiment titled “When More Pain is Preferred to Less”.  Participants were subjected to two different versions of a single unpleasant experience.  In the first trial they had to submerge their hand in 14° water for 60 seconds.  In the second trial they had to submerge their other hand in 14° water for 60 seconds, but then keep their hand in the water for a further 30 seconds during which the temperature was raised to 15°.

Participants were then offered the option of which trial to repeat.  The majority said they would rather repeat the second trial.  A slightly less painful experience (marginally warmer water) towards the end meant they were happier for the total experience to go on for 30 seconds more.

Why are we talking about this?  Well, going shopping is an experience with a number of component parts.  The Peak End Rule would say that some parts might be more important than others.

The same can apply to consumption or usage experiences.  We’ve all eaten a dessert that tasted fantastic with the first spoonful, but by the tenth spoonful you can’t eat any more.  Would you order it again next time?  Unlikely.

So, how can you play to the Peak End Rule?

Pay more attention to categories and aisles towards the end of the shopping trip.  Most retailers front load their effort.  The attention (layout, signage, merchandising, display) that is paid starts high with fresh food.  Then it drops down a notch with chilled.  It goes down another notch with ambient.  Then another notch with frozen.  With the exception of health & beauty and alcohol, the shopping experience typically gets poorer as you progress through the store.

If you follow the peak end rule, then some categories may be more important than we think.  Frozen?  Tea & Coffee?  Soft drinks?  Would making these categories easier and better to shop make a difference?  Almost certainly to sales, but perhaps also to overall perception of the shopping experience.

Pay more attention to the delivery experience.  With the growth of online shopping comes a new moment of truth – the delivery experience.   When a shopper is in store they select THE product that they want (e.g. that specific pack of tomatoes).  When a shopper is online they select A product – they click on the link to that pack, then someone else selects the specific pack for them.  The shopper doesn’t see what they’ve actually bought until it arrives.

This is where the additional moment of truth kicks in.  Is it the product I would have picked?  Is the use-by-date good enough?  Has it arrived in great condition?  This is before you even get into substitutions.

All products need to think about this and control for it.  But it is even more important for fresh products, premium products or products that have packaging that could get damaged.  Is your product set up to arrive in the condition you want it to arrive in?

Pay more attention to the end of the consumption experience.  This could mean a few things.  How much time does it take to clear up afterwards?  There are a few things contributing to the decline of the roast dinner, but the time and effort to clear up isn’t helping.   How messy is the consumption experience?  As we eat more on the go, as we eat with one hand and scroll on a smartphone with the other, clean and mess free eating experiences matter.  Want to be scrolling on your phone or tablet whilst eating a packet of crisps?  Me neither.

It is also about positive experiences.  What is the most important part of the experience for a fabric conditioner?  When you take the clothes out of the washing machine and smell them.  This experience is often the difference between getting bought again or not.  What experience are you leaving consumers with, after they have used your product?  Is it the one you want them to be left with?

The whole experience matters – but some parts matter more than others.  Pay attention to what happens towards the end.  Shoppers (sub consciously) do.

In fact we all do.  Watch your team score in the first minute and win 1-0 = pretty boring.  Watch them score in the last minute and win 1-0 = brilliant.

On a separate note, our monthly article in The Grocer goes out in tomorrow’s edition .  There is a link to it on our website…

Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.