Data that looks at consumer buying patterns has uncovered cognitive limitations at the point of purchase, according to Steve Hamilton-Clark, CEO, TNS MENA, one of the world’s largest custom market research organisations.
Citing the TNS Normative Databank (Norms), comprising an amalgamation of consumer-based research across regional markets, Hamilton-Clark said that while the brain is impressive, it opts for a narrow checklist when making a retail purchase.
“Our Norms programme shows, for example, that we can meaningfully retain an average of four brands in a given category at any one time. We have labelled this ‘the evoked set’. The real value in this realisation is that we have identified a qualified method to better-shape surveys that encourage more information by asking less,” he said.
The notion of the Evoked Set is the result of more than 300,000-plus consumer conversations conducted by TNS across the Middle East. It suggests that aside from the four-brand recall, known as the Rule of Four, in general we store about eight attributes to help narrow choice across a category.
Hamilton-Clark mooted that the brain system works on a ‘sort of auto pilot’, taking mental shortcuts to activate complex choices in everyday life. “We use the Rule of Four to hone our brand preference and the Rule of Eight to narrow down brand or product attributes. It is the combination of these rules that powers cognitive recall and hence is of real value to both the researcher and the marketer,” he said.
He went on to confirm, “The Norms findings indicate the need for shorter, more engaging surveys that carefully apply behaviour patterns and consider consumer association between the brand and the desired attributes. The result is that survey time can now be significantly reduced while revealing a great deal more insight into the respondent’s buying behaviour.” “By applying the ‘Evoked Set’ method across the rules, we can reduce survey time by a staggering nine minutes – from an average of 13 minutes to four minutes per survey. At the same time, we have found that the results show up to 70% more alignment with actual behaviour,” Hamilton-Clark shared.
“The real value to the marketer is that the TNS Norms programme has exposed a high correlation between brand recall and actual purchase behaviour, which holds true when we look at a longer purchase history and observe the broader share of spend per brand. Indeed, both marketers and researchers need to appreciate the fact that we are born with a unique fingerprint often constrained by bounded rationality. At the same time, we have a tendency to deploy intuitive quick decision-making aids to optimise our choices,” Hamilton-Clark concluded.
TNS MENA’s unique syndicated programme, ‘TNS Brand Health Tracking Norms’, reflects actual consumer decision-making, with specific focus on Middle Eastern brands. The benchmark spans more than 120 brands, including 45+ FMCG, durable and financial categories across the GCC region.
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