BrainTrust Query: The Shopper’s Trophy, Part 1 – Creating an Opportunistic Purchase
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from The Shopper Revolution, powered by MARS Advertising.
Nearly every routine shopping trip has a "trophy." The shopper’s trophy on everyday trip missions is the item that is bragged about once the shopper returns home. The trophy is announced like this, "Hey honey — you’ll never guess what I got today!"
For routine shopping trips — like grocery — shoppers have an internal mental calculator that they use to regulate their purchases. So it would follow that the shopper’s trophy is a planned purchase. But this isn’t true. On the contrary, the trophy is an impulse buy. In today’s environment, how can shoppers afford an impulsive trophy? The answer is that about 25 percent of the shopper’s total budget is subconsciously set aside for opportunistic buys.
According to a 2010 study exploring grocery shopping by Dr. Kirk Wakefield at Baylor University, shoppers don’t deviate much from their budgets, but they still make plenty of impulse buys — things that are not on their list in the pre-shop. This subconscious portion of their budget is called the slack budget.
So how does an item at a grocer become perceived as an opportunistic purchase? An opportunistic purchase is a well-timed chance to gain unexpected — yet desired — benefits. It could include a surprise sale such as a deal on paper towels or a novel solution to a problem, such as a specially-packed gift basket for an Oscar’s party. These examples can meet the criteria for opportunistic, slack-budget purchase: surprise, timeliness and value.
Part of timeliness is to present the offer early enough in the shopping trip so that the buyer still has an unspent slack budget. Additionally, the timeliness of the offer may be seasonal or occasion-based, like the Oscar parties’ gift basket or a spring cleaning bundle. Urgency can drive this perception too. Absent an occasion, the offer might be positioned as something that must be seized now — "Buy while supplies last" or "24-hour Sale."
An opportunistic item must be seen as worth the slack budget allocation. This is value that can be intrinsic to the product, or even something that other people want.
Perhaps most important is selling speed. The product needs to be easy to select. It must be a no-brainer. For every shopper-second beyond x, the chance of getting into the basket radically diminishes. Therefore, elements that slow shoppers down must be eliminated.
In a study cited in The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, by Barry Schwartz, researchers set up a display featuring a line of exotic, high-quality jams. Customers could taste samples and receive a coupon for a dollar off if they bought a jar. In one condition of the study, six varieties of the jam were available for tasting. In another, 24 varieties were available. The result: The large array of jams attracted more people to the table than the small array. But, when it came to buying, 30 percent of the participants exposed to the small array of jams actually bought a jar; only three percent of those exposed to the large array of jams made a purchase.
To help facilitate a quick, effective sell, limit the choices. Avoid version confusion. Questions about complex usage routines, the relevancy of consumption occasions, and price-value equations have no place in this transaction. Issues that take too many shopper-seconds to resolve will detract from the perception of opportunism and result in a lost sale.
- The Shopper’s Trophy – Shopper Revolution
- Food Shoppers Who Don’t Spend It All – The New York Times
- Planning to Make Unplanned Purchases? – Journal of Consumer Research
Discussion Questions: What makes an item become perceived as an opportunistic purchase, particularly in a grocery store setting? How would you rank issues such as timeliness, choices and value as drivers of opportunistic purchases?