The Power of the Nudge

A “nudge” is any small change in how a choice is presented that can influence human behaviour in a measurable and predictable way.

Nudges are quickly growing as a new approach to influencing critical touch-points in the path to purchase.

They focus on how we can change behaviours without the use of mandates or economic incentives.

Many organisations, including governments, businesses, schools, and non-profits, are beginning to harness the power of “nudges” to influence people’s choices toward certain goals and product sales.

For example, one common illustration of a nudge is a café placing healthier food at “eye level” and junk foods at harder to see places.

This small change in our environment actually influences people to choose healthier foods to eat.

Using this in shopper strategies

For most categories, research has routinely shown that many purchase decisions are spontaneously made in-store or on-line.

Effective communication focuses on what the shopper needs to know, to “nudge” their behaviour and convert them into a buyer. It does not focus on multiple messages or extensive brand communication.

So, why hasn’t this messaging received more attention?

Traditionally marketers have tended to focus on sales data to get feedback about features, pricing and displays and its effect on volume and share. Thus, on-line shopping and in-store communications have largely been overlooked. Also, up until now, building brand awareness took priority and very little emphasis was placed on the “path to purchase.”

Finally, a lack of tools to measure the effectiveness of the detailed communication triggers has meant that there’s no definitive way to track its impact over time.

Here at Howell Penny, we work with clients to optimise their “path to purchase” and in-store communication through the use of “nudges” that translate into measureable sales results.

In order to effectively shape behaviour in-store, it’s important to realise that in-store communication is very different to TV, online and print advertising.


Using the “nudge” approach to shape shopper behaviour

The shopper journey isn’t linear. Hundreds of messages are competing for the shopper’s attention all at the same time.

Additionally they can be delivered in multiple ways. The same message to the same shopper on the same shopping journey can be delivered using content, reviews, packaging, in-store video, displays, etc. etc.

“Path to purchase” messaging is not solely about equity messaging and building brand awareness (in fact, it rarely is). It’s about delivering the most appropriate message on the last stop in the path to purchase.

Perhaps the biggest mistake marketers make is trying to say too much.

The majority of shoppers do not have time to process every message, story and visual. Eye tracking studies have shown that shopper’s eyes typically focus on a message for less than a second before going on to the next thing that catches their eye. Anything too complicated is likely to get ignored unless it’s relevant to the shopper.

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The next step is to understand what existing behaviour you are trying to shape.

In order to effectively “nudge”, you need to deeply understand why they don’t currently buy your brand, what is the barrier – is it price, quality, etc.?

Create a focused message that communicates a benefit to these shoppers that answers the above. And don’t confuse the shopper by talking about too many benefits. It’s imperative it effectively targets what is going on in the shopper’s mind-set in that ‘moment of truth’.

Having great creative is only part of getting shopper journey messaging right and testing how to “nudge” behaviour. You need to understand the behaviour you are targeting, what is the barrier, and what exactly is needed to change their behaviour.

Once you understand all these elements in the ‘moment of truth’, you can work towards “nudging” shopper behaviour to drive sales.

Our Sofa2Sale research and insight methodology helps our clients understand the barriers and opportunities to start shaping better experiences through appropriate messaging that help brands and retailers sell more.


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