Winning at point of sale

by | 30 Oct, 2019 | Value of brands

Shoppers make decisions on what products to buy at the supermarket based on a number of factors that traditional economic theory and even recent marketing practices have not necessarily fully understood.

In a recent presentation for the 91猫先生 at the , independent consultant described how shoppers make their decisions, how brands are challenged by competing 鈥榩rivate label鈥 retailer products and outright parasitic copying (where products adopt packaging designs that mimic the familiar brand), and what techniques brands can use in packaging, marketing and at the point of sale to help attract shoppers鈥 attention and encourage them to buy their products.

Understanding how shoppers make decisions

Under classic economic theory of decision making, people recognise that they have a particular need. They search for and evaluate the available alternatives and then choose what to purchase.聽 They then go over the outcome afterwards to check whether they made the right decision.

In fact, 鈥渕ost decisions don鈥檛 involve deep thought,鈥 says Durham.聽 Only 19% of shoppers in Europe have a shopping list, either written down or in their mind, meaning that 81% of shoppers rely on colours and shapes of brands to remind them what they need.聽 People typically make decisions on the spot about which products to buy, and such decisions often are not based on comprehensive information or even logic but on information that is instantly available to them. This is memory of a brand鈥檚 equity and whatever information is in front of them at the time of purchase.

Durham described several characteristics of how people think and make decisions that are important for brand owners to consider when developing their branding, packaging and marketing:

  • Force of habit. 鈥淭here鈥檚 an idea that shoppers know what they鈥檙e doing. Totally untrue,鈥 says Durham.聽 鈥淭he majority of what a shopper does is just routine behaviour, repeat what they did last time, very little thought.聽 It鈥檚 mostly on autopilot.鈥
  • Limited attention. Research on consumer 鈥榚ye tracking鈥 across 44 different categories of products in a major UK store found that people only looked at 8% and only considered buying 3% of the products on the shelves (source: ). In Durham鈥檚 words, 鈥淵ou have a 97% chance your brand will not be seen and will not be considered in the store.鈥 Shoppers are overwhelmed with the amount of information they are bombarded with.
  • Limited field of vision. People鈥檚 eyes can only focus on a relatively small area, given that our best, full-colour and most detailed vision (鈥榝oveal vision鈥) is limited to 1 – 2 degrees at the centre of the eye.
  • Limited multi-tasking. The brain can typically focus on no more than five things at one time, and therefore has a set of rules that govern where it focuses its limited attention.
  • Familiar, different, 鈥榙angerous鈥. The brain quickly processes colours and shapes that it knows already.聽 It also focuses on things that are different or 鈥榙angerous鈥.

Competing with private-label and parasitic-copy products

In competing for the shopper鈥檚 attention at the point of sale, brands owners鈥 products also must compete against private-label products and sometimes even downright parasitic copying of the shape or other details of the brand鈥檚 own products.

鈥淲hy does parasitic copying work?鈥 asks Durham.聽 鈥淚t works because it mimics the limited visual images in the long-term memory.聽 The brain is looking for colour and shape, and it takes the copy鈥檚 colour and shape and sucks them into the same selection set as the branded product: 鈥業鈥檓 looking for red stuff because I鈥檓 looking for Coke, that product is red as well, it鈥檚 probably Coke.鈥 The brain doesn鈥檛 put in the effort to tell the difference.鈥

The UK Intellectual Property Office in 2013 called this the 鈥榣ook-alike effect鈥.聽 Shoppers are more likely to make a mistake in purchasing if the packaging is similar.聽 There is strong evidence that lots of shoppers have made such mistakes, says Durham.聽 The more similar the packaging, the more people think it鈥檚 from the same source.



Making a difference in promoting branded products

So what can brands do at the point of sale and in their long-term brand building to help gain shoppers鈥 attention and convince them to buy their products?聽 Durham described several ways to highlight their differences and get noticed, all rooted in the same idea of controlling the comparison:

  • Not just price comparison. The only thing that private-label and copycatting products want shoppers to compare is price, says Durham. 聽A small price difference may not have a great impact but brands need to highlight quality and other product benefits to change the discussion from being exclusively about price.
  • Colour, size, shape, positioning. These are the primary things that shoppers typically use to find the products they want.聽 So Nivea, for example, has used a blue circle with its brand name written in white for 100 years.聽 A larger and uniquely shaped product feature鈥攕uch as the red colour and recognisable shape of the Heinz Ketchup bottle鈥攈as more impact than several smaller features. A larger font gets more attention than a smaller font.聽 The large-font message 鈥渦p to 50% MORE POWER鈥 on Duracell battery packaging catches consumer attention and focusses shopper attention on why they should choose Duracell and not risk private label.聽 Such information on shelf-ready packaging and in-store price labels, as well as a good location in-store, can also promote consumer attention to focus on more than just price.

  • Product innovation. The more a brand can highlight major or minor innovations in its products, the better these appear to a shopper comparing them with other products. For example, TePe has promoted its interdental toothbrushes as helping to remove 鈥40% more plaque鈥 than traditional toothbrushes and because of this superior performance it is 鈥渞ecommended by 98% of dental hygienists鈥 so why would you choose a private label copy?
  • Perceived quality. Fairy Liquid鈥檚 鈥50% more grease cutting than the next best competitor鈥 highlights a major quality metric that helps capture shoppers鈥 attention at the point of sale and explains why buying private label may not be the brightest idea.
  • Awards and recommendations. Reputable third-party endorsements for a product also catch attention, whether that is a recommendation from the British Skin Foundation for washing products like Comfort and Persil, a 鈥楶roduct of the Year鈥 award or a good review or rating from Which? or Good Housekeeping.
  • Social proof. Shoppers pay attention to whether products are popular with other people.聽 Nescaf茅鈥檚 claim to be the 鈥楿K鈥檚 favourite coffee鈥 encourages a shopper to buy the product, says Durham, because people think 鈥渋f I use that one, my friends are going to keep coming around to coffee, whereas if I buy the store brand, I鈥檓 not so sure they will.鈥
  • Money-back guarantee. Adding a money-back guarantee can help remove worries over risks and product quality and can increase purchase intent by 8-10%. It re-assures shoppers that the brand will deliver more than private label.
  • Advertising exposure. Advertising can either be at a high level when a brand has new initiatives or can be carried out at a consistent level over time. There is a correlation between exposure and a shopper liking your product.
  • Ongoing, consistent brand equity and messaging across all 鈥榯ouch points鈥. 鈥淪eamless marketing and advertising works,鈥 says Durham.聽 鈥淲hat do you think your brand is going to 鈥榦wn鈥? 聽聽The more you show it to people, the more you should keep it the same. Advertise and package the product and promote it online always in the same colour and font. Otherwise, less people will remember it, it won鈥檛 stick in their minds, you won鈥檛 build long-term memory for it, the shopper鈥檚 brain won鈥檛 use it to make decisions and you will lose in-store.鈥

If a brand is to compete successfully against a retailer鈥檚 private label products, where the retailer controls the environment where both products are sold, it needs to get attention, demonstrate reasons for buying and make it easy for shoppers to make decisions to buy their products. That is how brands will ensure that shoppers make a fair comparison against private label on more than just price.

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