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Behavioral Themes in Retail: Shopper Empathy

In this installment of Behavioral Themes in Retail, we’ll look beyond price to explore the impact that empathy has on an offer’s effectiveness. When we speak of empathy in the context of retail, what we’re talking about is gaining a deeper understanding of consumer behavior and psychology for the purpose of developing more relevant, effective promotions. One way to accomplish this is by aligning offers with the needs of shoppers, from how they perceive the benefits of the product, to what else they like to buy, to when and how often they like to shop.

At Eversight, our customers have tested thousands of offers on digital platforms, uncovering a host of fascinating insights pertaining to shopper empathy. In this post, we’ll look at insights along three particular themes: language, bundling, and timing.

Beyond Truth in Advertising 

It’s commonly understood that marketing claims language must be truthful to resonate with shoppers, but it might come as a surprise that overly general or irrelevant offer language – such as “buy now and save” or “get more value” – can actually hurt the performance of an offer – by as much as 60%! The reason is anyone’s guess, but it could have to do with it being distracting or confusing (or possibly even irritating) for consumers. But what is certain is that irrelevant offer language doesn’t add to the effectiveness of a promotion.

On the other hand, relevant language, such as “Make summer fun!” or “Start your spring off right,” can make an offer perform better. Relevant language provides additional benefit information that helps the consumer make a buying decision. In a test aimed at identifying the optimal promotion for a popular beverage, highly relevant call-to-action led to an over 20% lift over an identical promotion with no language.

Better Together 

In retail, it’s common knowledge that consumers like to buy certain products together, e.g., hotdogs and buns or chips and dip. It stands to reason that offers bundling such items will outperform offers for them individually, but what about less obvious bundles? This is where shopper empathy plays a key role. For some groups of consumers, bundling certain products together – even if those products are seemingly unrelated – leads to a significant lift in sales. One likely explanation is consumers like to buy these items together. The incremental lift can be significant – one test found that combining two popular products that were commonly consumed together increased the effectiveness of an offer by as much as 50%, even at the identical price point for each item.

When Timing Is Everything

When it comes to developing promotions based on a deeper understanding of your consumers, one of the most important aspects is getting the timing right. “Timing” in this context can mean seasonality, time of the month, or even the day of the week. Seasonality can impact the kinds of products that are consumed (e.g., ice cream or hot chocolate), as well as consumers’ price sensitivity and responsiveness to promotions. Whereas the time of the month (or even week) impacts factors related to work, family and other obligations. Together this drives the “what, where, and how much” of consumer purchases.

One client found that the effectiveness of a promotion varied widely depending on its timing in relation to the typical paycheck cycle. By offering deeper discounts at the end of the month – long after many consumers received their paychecks – they could drive more volume sales.

It clearly pays to know your customer. So are you thinking beyond just price?