Much of consumer and shopping behavior is based on habits and rituals. Think about what you do when you wake up in the morning. If you’re like me, you’re on auto-pilot for the first 30 minutes. Bathroom, bathrobe, brew coffee…brain not engaged…must have coffee! Yet, each of you reading this has different morning rituals and collectively, we see that our options for waking up in the morning are really unlimited. The difference between unlimited options and routine behavior is habit. The degree to which we are governed by habits varies. As you shop in a grocery store for example, you probably have a habitual way you navigate the store. For certain product categories, you don’t even think about choice you simply look for the brand you intend to buy. In some categories, you behave differently because you ARE making choices. Being on autopilot for certain product categories lets you conserve your mental glucose for when you really need it…when you have chosen to actively consider alternatives.
Consider search engines. How many of you actively decide which search engine to use for a given search you have in mind vs. just using the one that is habitual for you (Google for 2/3rds of us)? “I don’t even think about it” is often the predominant factor in behavior yet we don’t really study this.
Do you think it’s easier to get someone to try a new restaurant in their neighborhood or to switch search engines? In one case we are actively seeking, and in the other case, we are sensing…responding to cues in an automated and unconscious way as Dave Lundahl, founder of InsightsNow, Inc. might say. The ability to gain trial for something new is clearly easier when someone is already “seeking” so the degree to which habits drive pre-existing behaviors is key to understanding the potential for a new offering.
Even in your business life, you are governed by habits and rituals. Think about how you check e-mail in the morning and how you get your daily briefing.
Now, consider how most concept testing and choice experiments work. We throw all of that insight about habit out the window. We put people into choice and decision-making mode whether they are ever there in real life or not. We force people to tell us if they are interested in a particular new product idea without measuring if they are interested in any new product idea at all for a given situation. Yet, the key for new product adoption is disruption of existing habits and rituals.
We need to break the concept testing habit and start researching new product adoption in ways that are closer to how people really decide.
Behavioral economists like Dan Ariely understand this. They understand that people have heuristics, “little tricks”, that allow them to decide in non-fully compensatory ways…basically, the reality is exactly the opposite from how choice experiments and traditional concept testing work!
Traditional concept testing does not study how people decide, it merely gets at purchase interest IF they were deciding. Usually less than half of those who say “definitely would buy” ever buy for this reason; we are forcing people into active decision-making mode when many are not there in real life. This unnatural situation is what creates such poor individual-level predictive validity for purchase intent.
First and foremost, a new product must disrupt existing behaviors or leverage behaviors that are already disrupted to be “seen” by the consumer.
In real life, disruption is all around us in an age where digital technology is producing bone-rattling change in everyday life. Imagine location-aware offers, brand stories, and payment all converging at point of purchase via your smart phone; this is already happening in parts of Asia. As touchpoints emerge (weekly it seems), marketing and research approaches need to constantly evolve.
We need to start studying how people decide and how to break habits. I have developed a strategic partnership with InsightsNow to create a next generation of innovation development and testing methods that will get at this concept of disruption. Hopefully, we can induce marketers to align lean forward research methods with contemporary marketing thinking and break the traditional concept testing habit. Maybe then, finally, CPG will do better than the 80% new product failure rate.