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Stop talking about “shoppers.”

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991642 ac74da5461c842cf9fc934598598281emv2

A recent WSJ article by Jaewon Kang points out the unintended brand switching / trial created by, in short, out-of-stocks. Basically, the increased incidence of a person buying brand X instead of their usual brand Y, because brand Y is out of stock.

And similar to most articles and industry commentary, the topic of “consumer” and “shopper” behavior is pondered in some depth.

Here’s the problem: not every “shopper” is the same.

(Next time you’re in a physical store, look around at your fellow shoppers and see how you feel about being considered as completely homogeneous with everyone else in there).

And yet, in the effort to understand, diagnose, and ultimately predict behavior, we marketing and insights types try to assess “people” in the aggregate.

Good news, though: from a neuroscience perspective, there are basically two shopper mindsets.

There’s a lot more nuance to unpack, but in the effort to bust-through this “shopper” over-simplification, it breaks out like this…

  1. Mission shoppers

  2. Ambient shoppers

Mission shoppers:

  • Shop with a list

  • Know what they want well-ahead of shopping

  • Out-of-stocks really frustrate their ability to ‘complete the mission’ and brand switching will be uncomfortable

  • In many cases, favor brick-and-mortar

Ambient shoppers:

  • No list – follow their nose

  • Decide on brand at shelf / on-page

  • Out-of-stocks are kind of exciting and the need to try something different feels like a positive little adventure

  • In many cases, favor eComm

Human behavior is actually pretty predictable – and even this crazy period of supply-chain pressure and inflationary pricing creates rich opportunities. As long as brand leaders know where to look.