What if there was a way to collect behavioral data at the speed of shopping? 

Renown psychologist Daniel Kahneman identified that our brain is split into System 1 (S1) and System 2 (S2) thinking. We spend 95% of the time using System 1 which consists of our automatic, intuitive, instinctive, and impulsive thinking.   

Reacting to a ball being thrown at you: diving to avoid it, trying to catch it, or just swatting it away from your head are all System 1 responses to that situation. 

System 2, on the other hand, requires conscious effort and reason to help us make complex decisions. When we make a shopping list, we use our effortful, reasoning System 2 brain. 

However, once we enter a store our brains switch over to S1 using the list as a guide but leaving plenty of room for our impulsiveness and quick thinking to take over. That’s why we end up with at least a couple (or a lot) of items that weren’t on our list.   

At REAL Insight, we use this knowledge of our quick-thinking S1 brain to gather actionable data at the speed of shopping.  

Harnessing System 1 

A great example of the value of this data came from a project we did in a salty snack category. Our client wanted to learn if changing up the flavor visuals on their package would resonate with shoppers.   

The current package has a white background behind the flavor visuals. The new test package added bright color in the background with the goal of conveying intense flavor. 

Both designs were equally noticed on the shelf by shoppers, but during our S1 exercise we got very different results.   

The first things shoppers described about the current package was the flavor. The flavor imagery easily came through against the white background. 

Shoppers who evaluated the test package, however, noticed other packaging elements and hardly ever mentioned flavor. The colorful background made it difficult to identify the flavor visuals when using their S1 brain so shoppers defaulted to elements they could easily identify. 

This is why S1 data is so important to capture. If shoppers had been evaluating these products with their S2 brains, they would have taken much more time, read the entire package, and the flavor would have come through equally.   

But that’s not the speed at which real shopping happens. We don’t take the time to thoroughly evaluate every product. We typically give a package 3-7 seconds of our attention, if any at all. Our brains use intuitive shortcuts to save time and energy for more important tasks than picking a salty snack or bubbly beverage.   

So, next time you have an innovation or packaging renovation come across your desk, think about how it would resonate at the speed of shopping in System 1 thinking. 

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