Monday 25 November 2013

Face and barcode scanning a little passe? Ground-Breaking project to brain-scan shoppers...

Dr Paul Mullins and Dr Helen Morgan from the School of Psychology put a shopper through the fMRI scanner.

Psychologists at Bangor University are to brain-scan supermarket-shoppers to test their reactions to promotions and special offers in a major cutting-edge project  with one of Europe’s leading shopping behaviour specialists.

The project, to be carried out jointly by UK-based SBXL and the respected School of Psychology, will ask selected shoppers to simulate an £80 grocery shop in a supermarket, while going through a £3m 20-ton medical fMRI scanner.

A full range of supermarket products are displayed on a screen in front of them and they are asked to make normal shopping choices from a shopping list while faced with a wide range or promotions and special offers. The aim is to identify which part of the brain is involved in making choices by measuring blood flow and brain activity.

Early research suggests that around 23 minutes into their shop, customers begin to make choices with the emotional part of their brain – which can only guess at value for money – rather than the cognitive part of the brain which is capable of computation and logical decision-making. Results also show that after 40 minutes – the time taken for a typical weekly shop – the brain gets tired and effectively shuts down, ceasing to form rational thoughts.

Previous SBXL research that the brain behaves illogically when faced with the sort of information overload that shoppers are faced with in a typical supermarket. Previous research has shown us that nearly 20 per cent of shoppers are likely to put special offers in their basket even if they are more expensive than the normal product, and we know that nearly half of shoppers ignore buy-one-get-one-free items and only choose one.

Given that approximately a quarter of all products on supermarket shelves are on some kind of offer or promotion, this indicates that many millions of pounds at stake in lost margins if the supermarkets are getting it wrong. SBXL estimates that supermarkets and brands consistently give away 23 per cent more margin than they need to.

Hopefully, the research will help suppliers and retailers get to a closer realisation and satisfaction of real shopper 'need', rather than 'want'...

In other words, although the shopper is behaving illogically in selecting a 'special offer' that is more expensive than the normal product, there is perhaps more mileage for the retailer in pointing out the shopper's 'error' than making a few pence extra on the 'mis-purchase'...

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