3 reasons why measuring behavior over purchase intent sells more products

Brands today are facing more pressure to move fast and manufacture cheap. But what we’ve learned is that when brands move for the wrong reasons, they leave their audience behind.


While the digital revolution has changed how people shop in myriad ways, the role of marketing means nothing if innovation is driven by convenience. Your fundamental purpose should be to understand and influence potential customers.

Whether you want to understand what shoppers want, help your packaging to stand out amongst competitors on the shelf and online, or ensure the success of a new product launch, the insights that you base your key business decisions on must start at one place: consumer behavior.

Traditional concept testing can’t tell us how a product will perform once surrounded by competitors on the shelf.

Pack on shelf is now the most important initial touchpoint for brands. Mobile TouchPoint research tells us that more than 48% of shoppers will find a new product on the shelf in store before anywhere else, including in advertising (11%) and word of mouth (15%).

Measuring claimed purchase intent remains most agencies’ preferred method, but it’s outdated and often results in discrepancies that can often cause you to overlook higher-potential concepts.

Adopting a Behaviour First’ approach for us means conducting full-mix testing. That means real consumers, real products, and real context, combined to indicate and influence real behavior.

And when we understand people’s real behavior, we get greater accuracy when predicting market results, which means more people buying your product and higher ROI for you.

People are notoriously poor predictors of their own behavior.

When we looked at two new world leading cereal products, the first showed Top Box claimed intent at 31%, but only observed a purchase rate of 0.8% in store. That’s because conformity bias kicks in with claimed intent, and as both the brand and product type were familiar, intent was high. But, when it came to seeing the product on the shelf, shoppers could not pick up, at a glance, an ostensible difference between the new and existing products, so they didn’t buy it.

In contrast, the second product showed a lower Top Box claimed intent of 21%. It was a new proposition, and presented a bigger perceived risk as familiarity was lower. However the observed purchase rate in store was 6.0%, as the more distinctive appearance helped to disrupt shoppers’ autopilot and attract attention.

When we look at claimed intent, consumers can find a new product attractive, different, or unique. 50-80% will say they want to buy it, but we know in reality on average only 1-10% actually will.

Human beings will claim all manner of things - I’ll go to the gym on Monday, I’ll only have one drink tonight. What we say we’ll do and what we actually do are often two very different things.

Whether or not we actually make real-life decisions comes down to four factors: our habits and routines, our first impression of a product, emotions, and our own cognitive bias.

So to convert product concepts, brand visions , and consumers’ best intentions into actual purchase, a behavioral approach is crucial. Only behavior can tell how the 50-80% intent will transform into actual purchase.

Putting behaviour first prevents you from killing good ideas.

Above, you can see that our behavioral approach was more accurate at predicting market results than traditional concept testing based on claimed purchase intent. In several cases, concept testing predicted a product to perform strongly on the market, but our analysis predicted poor performance which more accurately correlated with the actual market results. In other cases, concept testing predicted a poor outcome. Our analysis, on the other hand, forecasted stronger market results, which is exactly what we saw in real-life retail.

But if concept testing incorrectly forecasts a poor performance, many potentially successful concepts are discarded before they can see the light of day. A Behaviour First’ approach prevents wastage because behavioral science, real shopper insights or behavior-based artificial intelligence, will always tell you more about a person’s actual behavior than they can tell you themselves.

In the same way, this process helps you to identify ideas that people might love the sound of, but when placed in real-life shelf context among hundreds of other choices, fail to cut through and deliver.

When you put behavior first, you gain a clear understanding of how shoppers shop, and can predict results far more accurately than through more rational data collection or traditional concept testing. It sounds obvious but, to drive real performance, you need to gain a thorough understanding of two pivotal factors: the shopper mindset and the category context.

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