May 1, 2018

How to understand what people really want to buy

Traditional research assumes that people are able to express their needs and wants effectively.  Yet all empirical analysis indicates that this is not true. What people say does NOT match what they buy.

We carried out a study into the impact of packaging information on shoppers’ choices in store. We asked the questions in two ways, using two separate (but matching) samples of shoppers.  The first group completed a traditional conjoint study in which they traded off the importance of factors such as levels of fat versus levels of sugar and salt.  The second group completed the same conjoint, but before they answered each trade-off question, they were asked to complete a variety of distractions tasks which allowed them to access System 3 thinking.

The data from the first approach was used to create a segmentation that suggested that some people were more sugar conscious, while others valued brand and others worried about fat levels and so on.  But none of the preferences expressed by the respondents seemed to match their actual buying behaviour based on store card information.

The data from the second (System 3) approach was very different. Firstly, the conjoint preference data actually matched the store card purchase data.   Secondly,  segmentation identified a new “Eat less salt” segment that just didn’t feature in the traditional approach. Hence, if you really want to understand what people think, you need to encourage them to THINK DIFFERENTLY.