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Consumer buying habits: addressing System 1 thinking in CPG research

Consumer buying habits: addressing System 1 thinking in CPG research

As we continue to make New Year come to life, there is much talk of sticking to resolutions and forming new habits. And it makes sense that when we talk about forming new habits, we look at heuristics – those helpful mental shortcuts that allow us to function.

Heuristics play a big role in consumer buying habits. That’s because the human brain makes approximately 10 decisions per second – even while we’re sleeping! That’s why heuristics are so important in decision-making. Roughly 95% of all decision-making happens non-consciously, saving us from data overload given the overwhelming amount of decisions we have to make. Rapid-fire, non-conscious decision-making is a System 1 process, and it’s often overlooked when it comes to research that supports brand and marketing objectives.

Habits drive purchase behavior

As CPG marketers, we want to support consumer buying habits that connect with our brand, disrupt habits that connect our consumers to a competitor’s brand, and ultimately understand how to inject disruptions in non-conscious decision-making to bring changes in habits. Yet, when we study consumers, we often assume they’re making rational decisions. System 1 is emotionally driven, not logically driven. System 2 thinking is slow, calculated and thoughtful (think buying a house or a car) – and since 95% of all decision-making happens non-consciously, consumers are unaware of the drivers behind their System 1 decisions – think high frequency, low involvement purchases: CPG products like snacks, beverages, packaged foods.

consumer buying habits: cues, habits, rewards, heuristics

Only by identifying habits can we truly understand why consumers choose specific brands in a category, thus allowing us to link compelling rewards, strategies and messages to drive purchase behavior.

Understanding occasion salience

Interactive shopping exercises are particularly effective at isolating scenarios and occasions – one of the biggest drivers of consumer buying habits and CPG purchase behavior across various categories. By observing uninhibited brand choice and situational saliency in a controlled environment, Magid’s approach allows us to identify the habits and the heuristics consumers utilize in all occasions.

It further allows us to develop strategies that disrupt competitive choice habits and drive salience, trial, and share – identifying the purchasing segments behaviorally, not just attitudinally.

As the broader CPG industry and categories like snacks, packaged foods and beverages specifically look to better understand consumers and consumer buying habits, brands must carefully balance brand equity building alongside efforts to deploy behavioral and decision sciences grounded in behavioral economics that see humans as irrational and emotional beings influenced by biases and experiences. If you’re interested in learning more about our approach, let’s talk.


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