What We Say vs. How We Shop

A while ago, we recounted the story of how a simple divider in a shopping cart can radically change shopping behavior. In fact, the little sign that said, “place produce here, all other products there” doubled fresh produce purchases during the experiment.

Additional secondary research by Collin Payne and Mihai Niculescu found that this was massively more effective than other produce marketing methods (shelf labeling, advertising, coupons, etc.), which often only increased sales a couple percentage points.

But we began to wonder if such a persuasive marketing method would ever survive the standby of shopper research: the direct response survey of purchase intent. So we fielded the question to a panel of 4,593 US shoppers.

We found that a cart divider ranked last in what people claim would influence them to buy more produce.

When asked directly if a cart divider would influence their produce purchases, an overwhelming majority said it would have no effect.

Compare this to what Payne and Niculescu essentially found through their research:

These results raise two serious questions. First, what are really the most effective ways to influence shoppers? And second, how much should we rely on surveyed purchase intent to predict shopper behavior? And at minimum, these results suggest we should do more experiments to not just test marketing methods, but to test our own assumptions and intuition.