Short and Long Term Memory – One Shopper, Two Brains

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Short and Long Term Memory – One Shopper, Two Brains

Shopper research is a highly specialised medium for a number of reasons – mainly because that for any shopper research to be truly effective, the agency has to address the fact that shoppers use both their long and short term memories with which to come to purchasing decisions.

In essence the short-term working memory is more involved when the shopper is making unfamiliar purchases, as it is the part of the brain that gathers product information, evaluates price and value (in part) and creates a metaphorical long term memory index card (schema) that the shopper then uses to evaluate the same product when repeat purchasing again. The most regular of repeat purchases then become what are known as ‘single scripted behaviours’ – a series of behavioural components that can be carried out with minimal or no conscious involvement (such as buying a pint of milk every day on the way to work).

Shoppers use two very different parts of the brain to shop with.

  • Short-Term Working Memory – has minimal capacity, and so it only ever functions in the present and forgets information after less than 16 seconds.
  • Long-Term Working Memory – has a much larger capacity and is the ‘home’ to all things emotional and experience related.

If the purchase being made is your brand, then single scripted behaviours are hugely beneficial. However, if they are of a competitor or lower margin product, then it is necessary to interrupt the pattern and to begin to hard wire in a replacement.

For example…

Research has shown that shoppers ‘invent’ their short-term memory based purchasing behaviour because they do not remember it. With figures ranging from 30% to 50% of an entire transaction, retailers and brands now have the tools with which to separate fact from fiction. Watch below as the lady in the clip exhibits minimal engagement with both the store and retailer as she asks for her daily purchase of 20 Cigarettes.

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