Knowledge Bank Blog, Shopper Communication

The Power of Because

Giving shoppers a reason to behave in the way you want them to.

If you were about to use the photocopier and someone came up to you and said ‘Excuse me I have 5 pages.  May I use the copier?’  What would you do?  Carry on or let them go first?  What if they said ‘Excuse me I have 5 pages.  May I use the copier because I’m in a rush?’  Carry on or let them go first?  What if they said ‘Excuse me I have 5 pages.  May I use the copier because I have to make copies?’  Carry on or let them go first?

This was a study run in 1977.  The results demonstrated how one word can have a big impact on our behaviour.  In Version 1, 60% of people let the other person go first.  In Version 2, 94% let the other person go first.  And in Version 3, 93% let the other person go first, even though the reason ‘because I have to make copies’ is meaningless.  Just adding the word ‘because’, and giving a reason, made a big difference.

Robert Cialdini, an expert in persuasion, summed this up neatly ‘people simply like to have reasons for what they do’.

Apart from giving you a free tip for jumping queues, how does this help?  Well, for most of us, the goal is to influence the decisions that shoppers make.  Whether that is which store they choose to shop at, which brand they buy, or which product within a brand they buy.  Shopping is based around a series of decisions (some conscious, some less conscious).  Our ability to influence these decisions is key to success.

So, if people like reasons to explain what they do, then it should follow for shoppers.  They also like to have a ‘because’, to justify to themselves or others, where they go and what they buy.  And if your ‘because’ is better than the competition, it should follow that you will be better at influencing their behaviour.

So, how might you do this?

Know your BECAUSE.  What is the ‘because’ you want shoppers to see and play back?  ‘I buy this because of X’.  It should be based around your core store or brand proposition.  Everything you do should be about reinforcing it – for instance, how you communicate or through the shopping or product experience.  Each interaction is an opportunity to cement the ‘because’.

Target your BECAUSE.  Shoppers often don’t buy the best product, they buy the most convenient product.  They don’t always go to the best store, but often the most convenient store.  The ‘because’ may be ‘I shop online because it is easy and saves me 30 minutes a week’.  Or it could be about using a particular product for a particular purpose.  Whether that is dish relevance – X is perfect with pasta.  Or this is the product I use at home and this is the one for the lunchbox or the gym bag.  A different, and relevant, ‘because’ for different pack and product formats can lead to increased sales.

Protect your BECAUSE.  A lot of brands have seen an erosion in their traditional ‘because’ as the level of promotions has increased.  Like a frog in a slowly boiling pot, each individual promotion doesn’t make much difference, but the cumulative effect can be great. For many shoppers, in many categories, the ‘because’ has become the promotion and not the brand proposition itself.  The promotion has to be an additional reason to buy, a bonus, not THE reason to buy.

A radical thought…what if you actually used the word ‘because’ more in communication – ‘Come to store X because of Y’ or ‘buy our new snack pack because it is perfect for lunchboxes’.  It feels a little clunky at first, but if 33% more people let someone in front of them at the copier ‘because they need to make copies’, you never know…

Either way, giving shoppers a clear reason to behave in the way you want them to behave, significantly increases the chances that they will do so.

What is your ‘because’?

Feel free to forwards.  Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.