Enthusiasm for online shopping continues to grow, but it’s assumed that some categories are better placed to take advantage than others. In fact, all can benefit if they put in place marketing activity based on better understanding of how consumers are influenced by different touchpoints in the ecommerce purchase journey. As the ecommerce landscape is price driven and retailer dominated, it’s now more important than ever that brands of all types make sure they have the right strategy in place.

Shopping patterns do of course vary according to product, but both immediate and future purchasing must be planned for by brands, to avoid lost revenue opportunities. In grocery, perhaps more than any other category, brands must consider how to get on consumers’ all-important shopping lists.

Research from Kantar has found 55% of shoppers use the same saved shopping list every week for their groceries. Brands not already on the list must disrupt this repetitive behaviour to be considered.


Behavioural science-led solutions

Understanding consumer purchasing behaviour is of fundamental importance, as establishing how and why these decisions are made empowers brands to tailor their marketing messages accordingly. Behavioural science-led marketing techniques are now enabling brands to understand what drives purchasing decisions to an extent not previously possible. Working in partnership with Durham University, we examined the hardwired short-cuts – known as heuristics – that everyone uses to make decisions. We then identified and reframed the nine most relevant to purchase decisions; we refer to them as Sales Triggers.

To establish the effectiveness of certain Sales Triggers in driving brand consideration and purchase we recently surveyed 1,306 online shoppers, testing creative behavioural-led messaging concepts. The study used three hypothetical brands for chocolate, cheese and tea. The trial ran in three digital environments: a brand’s website, a social media channel (Facebook) and a fictional grocery retailer’s ecommerce site.


The power of ‘Brand Budgeting’

We immediately saw the effectiveness of the Brand Budgeting trigger, which helps reframe a person’s perception of price to justify purchase. This is a key way to get onto an online shopping list. By communicating the value of a product over price alone, Brand Budgeting messaging drove consumers to make a purchase straight away, but also encouraged them to place brands on their saved lists, ready for future purchase; the ideal combination.


Using Sales Triggers to perfect your messaging

In addition to the Brand Budgeting trigger, we also tested two other triggers – One Key Thing and Social Proof, both within brands’ websites and social channels. The key findings for commodity-based products like tea and cheese was that the overriding Sales Trigger that drives buying behaviour remains Brand Budgeting.

 We showed people the following Brand Budgeting Sales Trigger message for our hypothetical tea brand, Traders’ Tea: “Make five cups a day for under 13p. 240 bag pack, just £6.20.” Some 18.5% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that they would place the tea in their basket and buy it as part of their shop. Additionally, 19.5% strongly agreed or agreed that they would add the tea to their saved items list for a future purchase.

For the cheese brand, ‘British Village Cheese’, the Brand Budgeting trigger turned out to be even more effective. Respondents were shown the following message: “Enough to cook seven scrummy meals in every pack. All for just £4.50.”  Some 27.5% strongly agreed or agreed that they would place the cheese in their basket and buy it as part of their shop. Meanwhile, 25.4% of them strongly agreed or agreed that they would add the cheese to their saved items list for a future purchase.

The messaging went beyond mere pricing information. It highlighted the competitive cost, while simultaneously conveying value. Brand Budgeting isn’t just about breaking down the price, it’s a way to reframe it. Just like our other eight Sales Triggers, Brand Budgeting can be expressed in a variety of ways to drive sales more effectively.


Future proof your marketing

The range of touchpoints on the ecommerce purchase journey continues to evolve, but by understanding how consumers use each of these touchpoints we can ensure marketing messaging is framed in the right way to encourage purchase.

We find that brands are often able to identify a purchase decision hierarchy but haven’t necessarily been able to link these to actual buying behaviour. That missing link is critical if marketing activity is to trigger the mental short-cuts that lead to a purchase.

By overlaying a deep understanding of buying behaviour based on identifying the dominant heuristics, we can make the purchase decision hierarchy research that many brands have, work much harder. Quite simply we can develop marketing that frames the key factors in a purchase decision in a way that recognises the filtering processes consumers use to buy.


Andrew Watts, Founding Partner at KHWS, The Brand Commerce Agency.