Disrupting the Auto Pilot Shopper

Disrupting the Auto Pilot Shopper

August 22, 2018
Annette Maggi
Business SkillsRetail Industry Insights

By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

The article Understanding the Auto Pilot Shopper addressed the habit of shopping on autopilot.  Consumers experience a cue (we’re out of milk and bread) and respond in routine (head to the local store and purchase regular brands of milk and bread).  As retail dietitians encourage shoppers to make healthier choices at retail, it’s essential to help the shopper break the autopilot habit and begin purchasing more nutritious options as a new routine.

Some suggestions for breaking the autopilot habit include:

Improve Online Experience for Pantry Staples.  Consumers don’t waste time in decision making for pantry staples like coffee, cereal, margarine, soda, and cheese.  Since there’s room for nutrition improvement in these categories, consider how to create convenience in online shopping for healthier options of these everyday products.  Retail dietitians can partner with online shopping colleagues to create Healthy Basic Bundles that can be purchased in a group.  These bundles can be created by category (think BFY cereals, beverages, spreads) or by meal (think breakfast, lunch, snack).  Shoppers can’t touch, see or smell products in an online environment, so enhancing the description of healthier foods may entice them to try a new option. 

Leveraging Digital. If you’ve every watched a cooking show, you know the key final moment is when the food item is tasted and described.  To encourage trial of more nutritious foods, create one-minute videos where you sample the food and highlight the amazing taste of the product.  Post these videos every week on a consistent day to maintain this touchpoint with your shoppers.

Pre-shop Coupons.  While many retail RDs distribute coupons during demos, store tours, presentations and community events, the best disruption of the autopilot shoppers occurs when he/she is planning their shopping trip.  Partner with vendors to promote digital coupons for healthier products that can be linked to from your social sites or retailer website.  Or link digital coupons to shopping lists you provide to shoppers electronically.

Timing Matters.  Consumer can approach shopping different during weekdays compared to weekends. During the week, people try to get our shopping done as fast as possible, but on weekends might actually be seeking inspiration or be willing to try something new. Take advantage of this shopper mindset by pushing tastings and promotion of healthier items more heavily on weekends.