The shortcut to winning shoppers

We see the phrase ‘we need to disrupt shoppers on autopilot in our category’ in briefs all the time . But how does a brand successfully do this? The answer is simple: win by default.

Kelly Chandaria Written by Kelly Chandaria on 14 May, 2019

They say ignorance is bliss. And it is. In a world where we are constantly exposed to so much, it is simply easier for the human brain to ignore as much as possible. Just think about how much of what you do is on ‘auto-pilot’…

We see the phrase ‘we need to disrupt shoppers on autopilot in our category’ in briefs all the time. But how does a brand successfully do this?

The answer is simple: win by default.

Imagine yourself on a shopping mission for supplies for your garden party next weekend. The first decision is where to shop. Then how to shop – in store or online. Say you choose to go to your nearest physical department store, it would take you forever to walk around the whole shop and browse every single product available to assess if its suitable for what you need. And for the majority of us we just simply wouldn’t bother. To help make it easier, we naturally resort to automatic processes for deselecting or selecting particular categories or products based on previous knowledge or experience.

But what happens when we can’t draw on previous experience or knowledge? We use shortcuts or cheats to help us decide what we want to buy as quickly and easily as possible. For example, defaulting to a familiar brand. That’s why companies have some success when they make things easy – like adding insurance when you rent a car as the default option.

The idea of choosing by default is not new and many brands and organisations have already experimented with it. For example, Amazon has set up its own defaults for categories with its ‘bestsellers’ range and they have successfully influenced shopping behaviour. Even in a category such as batteries where certain brands are shoppers’ favourites, Amazon have made their Amazon Basics product the default option by labelling it as a ‘bestseller’ and positioning it at the top of the page. By doing this, Amazon have stolen share from top brand Duracell, a brand that has put millions of pounds of investment over several decades into the idea that their brand lasts 4 times longer than any other batteries. All just by making it a default choice for shoppers looking to take shortcuts to choosing what to buy.

If your brand can become the default or shortcut for shoppers, you will win in the shopping environment.

There are many ways to become a default option for shoppers. One way is to become the ‘mass default’ where shoppers are prompted to choose the most common option based on the perceived norm or a recommended product (for example, ‘The experts favourite’). Another way is to position yourself as the ‘benign default’, either by simply being the ‘better’ product or by offering the choice with the lowest risk..

Take a child’s car seat brand as an example. The shoulder straps on Maxi-Cosi car seats can be threaded through two sets of holes, a lower set for new-borns or a higher set for older children. Using the higher strap setting could endanger a new-born, as the straps won’t hold her securely, but the lower one would be uncomfortable for an older child. So which setting should be the default? Knowing most customers purchase this type of car seat for newborns and safety is a top concern, the benign default for the shoulder straps here is obvious. Not surprisingly, this has helped Maxi-Cosi sell more of the seat configured for new-borns¹.

There are many other ways to become a default option for shoppers including simple things like being present in the right place and the right time when shoppers are considering options, getting onto the ‘favourites’ or saved products lists, or increasingly popular subscription models. From an advertising point of view, the idea of becoming a shortcut or default option opens up a world of creative thinking to find solutions that work in the defined shopping environment.