Premier Foods uses neuroscience to change customer behaviour

Clever use of neuroscience is the only way to introduce new products to consumers who are already bombarded with messages, and are in a near-constant state of having to simplify their decision-making. This was the message Retail Design Expo delegates heard from Premier Foods marketing controller Emma Tappin, who has recently been researching how customers choose food products.

Speaking in Retail Design Expo’s Shopper Marketing Theatre, Tappin told her audience: “An awful lot of shoppers simply shop on auto-pilot. The average person already has 35,000 decisions they need to make every day, so they need an auto-pilot switch just to get by… This makes it incredibly difficult for brands to introduce new products, or get more consumers interested in brands that are already well established.”

Working with Dr Tim Holmes, technical director of Acuity Intelligence, Tappin described how one of the largest studies using eye tracking technology was recently undertaken, amongst 200 shoppers, producing more than half a million points of data. 

“Many people chose a path of least resistance, and the data showed us people heavily filter out certain types of information," said Tappin. "They look for pictures in particular, to find things that are familiar, and it can mean the rest of the aisle can become invisible to them.”

“By establishing in advance what people intended to buy, then watching how they tried to do it, and what they eventually came out with, a very rich set of data was produced,” said Holmes. “We saw the best and the worst of product positioning – including how one person took two minutes just to find a stock cube.”

Tappin added: “What was clear was that there were many learnings about how we could group certain products. For instance, we found people preferred having all of a brand’s products together, so they could easily find the sub-product they were looking for, rather than having lots of products spread out over a wider area.” 

Other conclusions were that products didn’t necessarily have to be positioned at people's eye-level; rather there was latitude for products to be positioned above this.

According to Tappin and Holmes, the data finds the neuroscience of shopping is so strong, marketers should even consider designing packaging based on where they know the product will be placed on supermarket shelves to maximise the chances of it being seen.
Tappin concluded: “The only way to achieve sales and category growth is to change consumers’ purchasing behaviours, and the only way you’ll do that is by understanding them.”