It’s Only Words

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It’s Only Words

Go beyond the words shoppers use and get to what they really mean.


The vast majority of shopper and consumer research uses words as the medium by which researcher and participant communicate, however in the case of the shopper, this is somewhat ineffective, as it can be flawed and misleading.

There are a number of reasons why such a bold statement can be made, most apparent is the fact that according to Susan Greenfield, the short-term working memory (the part of the mind that plays a key role in in-store decision making) can only retain information for 18 seconds. What this means is that after leaving the aisle, shoppers have no recollection of the process that led to their purchase decision, so when asked – they rationalise or guess!

Words themselves are even more limiting when it comes to accurate responses, as words themselves make up such a small proportion of human communication. According to Albert Mehrabian, in messages pertaining to feelings and attitudes:

  • 7% of the message is in the words that are spoken
  • 38% of the message is paralinguistic – i.e. the way that the words are spoken
  • 55% of the message is in facial expression

To really understand the messages that shoppers are giving, you need to recognise the benefits of understanding what they actually mean when they communicate, and so the golden insights come from analysing what they ‘say’ without words.

For example…

We compared shoppers’ emotions at different points during their trip round the supermarket, and there were a number of significant changes with regard to their enjoyment, frustration, awareness of offers and even selfishness. As a direct result, we were able to develop an emotionally based secondary fixture strategy.

Sometimes, shoppers simply do not need to explain verbally exactly what they are feeling in-store at fixture. Watch the video below for an example:

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