Knowledge Bank Blog, Behaviour Change, Range & Portfolio

Becoming the Default Choice

Are you the default choice for enough shoppers?

How many of the decisions you make each day are active, conscious decisions?  Probably not as many as you think.  Most of the choices we make are automatic, a result of habit.  Just think about your weekday morning routine – you know what you are going to do, in what order, without even thinking about it.

Many of the things we do, we do because they are easy or because we have always done them.

Google ran an interesting experiment a couple of years ago.  They made a number of changes to the way they displayed food and drinks on campus in an attempt to encourage staff to choose healthier options.

For instance, salad became the first thing you saw as you entered the cafeteria.  Result?  More people ate salad, and they ate more of it (we tend to fill our plate up with whatever we see first).  M&M’s were moved from clear hanging dispensers to opaque bins.  Result?  In the first week, there was a 9% drop in calorie intake. Bottled water was moved to eye level in the chillers, soda to the bottom shelves.  Result?  The default choice became water, increasing water intake by 47%.

Small changes, leading to pretty big differences.

Becoming a default choice can be extremely valuable.  Take Apple – once you have bought one Apple device, your next device is much more likely to be Apple because of the way all your devices sync together.  Your life is easier.

In our industry a huge amount of money is spent on promotions.  Brands compete for every purchase.  But most of the time that is just moving sales from one brand to another.  Every brand is running hard just to stand still.  The easiest thing for shoppers to do in many categories is buy whichever brand is on deal.

However, online, shoppers are more loyal to retailers and brands.  Once you have set up your payment details, know the website, have a purchase history, it is much easier to use the same website next time.  Once you have put a brand in your favourites list, the easiest thing to do is to buy it again next time.  Past behaviour predicts future behaviour.  That’s why Amazon focus so much on things like Subscribe & Save, 1 click ordering, Dash Buttons.

The easier you make it for shoppers to do what you want them to do, the more likely they are to do it.

So, what can you do to increase your chances of becoming a default choice?

Win Early.  Purchase behaviour is often driven by key triggers.  This could be age – e.g. start shaving.  It could be a change of circumstance – e.g. having a baby or moving house.  It could be seasonal – e.g. the start of summer.  In many cases, if you are the first purchase you are much more likely to be the next purchase, and the one after that.

For example, Pampers is the master at targeting expectant mums, particularly first time mums.  Each new mum is worth a big amount in aggregate spend.  Winning early is often key to winning full stop.

Be the Best Solution.  For instance, if you are the only 330ml bottled soft drink in the chiller, you are much more likely to be the default for people who don’t want the volume of 500ml.  If you are in a single portion when everyone else is in a family size, you are more likely to be the default for single person households (which are growing rapidly).  If you are perfect for a particular end meal, you are more likely to become the default when people choose that meal.

Attach Yourself to Trigger Behaviours or Products.  In many industries, the purchase of one product is the trigger for another one.  A coffee machine leads to Nespresso pods.  Curry leads to Cobra beer.  Detergent leads to fabric conditioner.  What is the purchase that can, or will, trigger the purchase of your category?  Aim to become the default – so a shopper thinks X, then automatically thinks Y.

Importantly, don’t be afraid of doing the simple stuff.  If Google can increase water intake by 47% by moving its position in the fridge, a simple signpost for a sub category or changing position on shelf, could be worth a lot.

And don’t be worried about being the ‘default’.  Yes, we’d all love a shopper to be making a conscious decision driven by their absolute devotion to our store or brand.  That’s nice, but it doesn’t reflect how most decisions are made.  If being a default purchase is good enough for Apple and Amazon, it is probably good enough for most FMCG products.

So, are you the default choice?  And if not, what can you do to become one?

On a separate note, we are very pleased to have been asked to Chair and speak at the next Food & Drink Innovation Network Conference – ‘Product Innovation in an Omnichannel World‘, on 14th July,in London.

For more details, click on the link below: 

or contact us

Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.