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Speaker: The Emotional Side of Shopper Behavior

CHICAGO — The industry doesn’t fully understand how deeply emotional shopper behaviors are, says Christopher Brace, founder of consulting firm Shopper Intelligence.

Whenever shoppers are faced with a choice, their emotions that trigger the behavior, he said. These emotions come from the shopper’s beliefs and attitudes about the world, not about a brand or category.

Christopher Brace
Christopher Brace

“One of the major arguments for big data is that shoppers’ past and/or current behaviors will help establish trends that are indicative of their future behavior,” Brace told SN. “The problem is that a shopper’s past purchases are poor indicators of the decisions they may make in the future.”

Brace spoke about the role emotion plays in decision-making yesterday during a session at the Shopper Marketing Expo called “Consumer and Shopper Insights:  The Foundation for Integrating Consumer, Shopper, and Trade Planning.”

Marketers assume that shoppers use “controlled responding” — or a logical analysis of all available information — to make their decisions. The truth is that a shopper’s behavior is not triggered by analysis, but by something deeply emotional, said Brace.

“When faced with a decision, it’s our emotional wiring that activates first, then our rational,” said Brace. “Every purchase decision is an expression of a shopper’s beliefs and attitudes about themselves, others and the world around them.”


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Consumer behavior is based on their sense of who they are as individuals and how they experience the world around them. As they take in information, they respond and pay attention to things that reinforce their world view, and filter out the things that don’t. It is this reinforcement, or resonance, that then triggers behavior, Brace said.

“We need to identify the beliefs and attitudes most relevant to the behavior in any given category,” said Brace.

For example, a laundry care brand in Europe discovered that a segment of moms had a core belief that “the world is meant to be experienced, not watched” that shaped one of their attitudes about raising children, according to Brace.

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The consumer insight: “I want my kids dirty. I know that may sound crazy, but if they’re dirty, then I know they’ve been digging, playing, experiencing. That’s how they learn, by getting out in the world and dirtying things up.”

This shows that the industry must get beyond consumers’ and shoppers’ conscious explanations to uncover the beliefs and attitudes that are the real motivators of their purchase decisions, said Brace.

“Insights are not meant to inform — insights are meant to inspire,” said Brace.

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