Effort & Emotion: Shopper Brain Conference, 2017
Held in Amsterdam on October 5-6, the Shopper Brain Conference revealed some fascinatingly counterintuitive consumer insights. Unexpected emotional triggers, making things harder to boost engagement alongside brand perception, and the best ways to use scent, were among the key themes. We spotlight the top tactics.
Introduce Effort: Hard Work Creates Satisfaction
Speakers acknowledged that consumers love brands that make things easy for them when ‘mission’ shopping. However, in the instant-gratification era, having to make an effort is increasingly accompanied by the perception of an elevated brand experience.
- “Mindless” interactions bred by purely convenience-based commerce could lead to consumers devaluing products, said Andra Mageruson, senior business psychologist at UK insight consultancy The Innovationbubble. She cited a project where a loan company using this insight added more steps to its loan application process – leading to a sales increase of 15%. The extra effort was equated with brand rigour, making the company appear more trustworthy.
Emotional Triggers: Go Against the Grain
Emotional brand-consumer connections are crucial to creating lasting bonds. However, several speakers highlighted how retailers are frequently missing the mark – because the triggers that work aren’t always the ones that are expected.
- Frank Butler, founder of German marketing consultancy Success Drivers, cited a campaign by British antihistamine brand Clarityn. The expectation here, said Butler, was that the most effective emotional trigger to focus on would be the pain of experiencing allergies and/or the relief of the symptoms disappearing. But consumer associative tests (revealing subconscious reactions rather than outwardly held opinions) revealed the biggest emotional response was generated by an ad that made a joke of how symptoms can incapacitate sufferers, leading to calamitous situations such as walking into things or falling over.
- Mageruson pinpointed British holiday agency Thomas Cook, which wanted to explore how people really felt about its brand. Psychological research similar to associative testing found that while people say they want adventure and excitement from a holiday, what they crave even more is security and comfort.
Additionally, it was often revealed to be more basic factors – such as hygiene, quality of bed linen and towels, presence of lifeguards and friendly reception staff – that were critical to influencing customer satisfaction. The research also highlighted that the weeks just prior to holidaying are when consumers’ emotions run highest.
As a result, Thomas Cook launched Shark Boy – an advertising campaign subtly focusing on basic factors such as a quiet pool and lifeguard presence without sacrificing the feeling of pre-holiday excitement. Such insights are key to subliminal messaging.
The brand is also working on a pre-holiday planning and support tool, due to launch in multiple countries by late 2017.
Sensory Stimulation: Capitalising on Scent
The importance of engaging multiple senses to boost the intensity of an experience (and positive reactions to it) is well documented. But it was scent – the least-explored sense to date in commercial terms – which was speakers’ key focus.
- Andy Myers, a consultant at British consumer insights agency Walnut, described a 2017 experiment designed to understand the effect of scent on an experience. Participants took part in a range of virtual reality experiences: some went skiing or base-jumping, while others went for a walk through the woods or along the beach. Physiological responses were measured on a heart rate monitor. Half enjoyed a purely visual experience, while the other half had the addition of a corresponding scent.
The experiment showed a 38% increase in the physiological response of those whose experience included the scent. This effect that was far stronger among those experiencing ‘calmer’ activities such as the beach visit, prompting a 91% increase in their physiological response compared to those without the scent. This indicates that when other sensory elements – such as visuals or movements – are more extreme, scent is less important in creating a fully encompassing experience. This renders scent concepts more important for brands seeking to create a calm, soothing atmosphere.
See Enhanced Retail Realities and Virtual Added Value for more on commercialising sensory experiences.