Enthusiasm for shopping online continues to grow unabated. Annual online retail sales growth now exceeds 10% in most markets, and estimates indicate that UK shoppers will be spending over £20 billion in the grocery ecommerce sector by 2021.

While certain categories have been more successful than others in ecommerce, with the right marketing solutions any brand can benefit from this growth. However, it’s no easy task. The ecommerce landscape is increasingly price driven and retailer dominated. It’s now critical that brands establish an ecommerce marketing strategy that recognises this reality. One of the primary challenges is securing their spot on saved shopping lists.

To achieve this, a brand needs to understand what actually drives a purchase decision, and that’s where behavioural-led marketing will make the difference. Regardless of brand, category or channel, there are hardwired shortcuts we all use to make decisions (better known as heuristics). Through our partnership with Durham University’s behavioural science faculty, we have identified and reframed the nine most relevant heuristics to purchase decisions. We call them Sales Triggers. This has allowed us to make behavioural science useable for brands.

Understanding people’s purchase decisions is key

Recently we tested creative behavioural-led messaging concepts to provide insights specifically for FMCG brands in ecommerce. Using three hypothetical FMCG brands, we surveyed 1,306 online shoppers to test the effectiveness of three of our Sales Triggers in driving brand consideration and purchase (alongside neutral control messages). We tested our messages in three digital environments; a brand’s website, a social channel (Facebook) and a fictional grocery retailer’s ecommerce site. What became apparent was the effectiveness of the ‘Brand Budgeting’ Sales Trigger.

One of the key findings from our creative messaging testing was that 55% of shoppers use an unchanged shopping list week-on-week for groceries. For low-consideration brands, such as cheese and tea, keen to secure their slot in the ecommerce basket, this repetitive behaviour needs to be disrupted.

The static nature of saved shopping lists means brands need marketing strategies that address the challenge of meeting both immediate and future purchasing needs. What became apparent from our creative messaging testing was the effectiveness of our ‘Brand Budgeting’ Sales Trigger. This helps reframe a person’s perception of price to justify purchase, as people apportion budgets to different parts of their lives.

This Sales Trigger not only drove consumers to make a purchase immediately, but also helped brands secure a spot on the saved shopping lists for future purchase. This is because Brand Budgeting messaging communicates the value of a product over price alone.

Brand Commerce marketing can drive more effective sales in ecommerce

The three hypothetical FMCG brands tested were chocolate, tea, and cheese. As tea and cheese are low-consideration products, and chocolate an impulse purchase, we identified three relevant Sales Triggers – One Key Thing, Social Proof, and Brand Budgeting.  These were the messages tested and, as mentioned earlier, this last option outperformed the others.

Some 18.5% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that they would place the tea in their basket and buy it as part of their shop when showed the following Brand Budgeting Sales Trigger message for our hypothetical tea brand, Traders’ Tea.

‘Make five cups a day for under 13p. 240 bag pack, just £6.20.’

Additionally, 19.5% strongly agreed or agreed that they would add the tea to a wish list/saved items for a future purchase.

When it came to cheese, the Brand Budgeting trigger was even more effective. 27.5% strongly agreed or agreed that they would place the cheese in their basket and buy it as part of their shop when shown the following message for our hypothetical cheese brand, British Village Cheese.

‘Enough to cook seven scrummy meals in every pack. All for just £4.50.’

Furthermore, 25.4% strongly agreed or agreed that they would add the cheese to saved items list for a future purchase. For both brands, our Brand Budgeting Sales Trigger proved highly effective in getting FMCG brands on the saved shopping list.

But Brand Budgeting isn’t just about ‘breaking down’ the price. This is just one way to reframe price. Just like our other eight Sales Triggers, Brand Budgeting can be expressed in a myriad of iterations to drive sales more effectively.

Taking the first step towards creating behavioural-led marketing

Our Brand Commerce approach provides a framework that makes behavioural science accessible for marketers, shaping strategies and ideas that help brands sell by blending sales messaging with brand emotion. Using our Sales Triggers, such as Brand Budgeting, brands can avoid defaulting to simplistic price-based communications and, in doing so, greatly increase their chances of securing their spot on the weekly auto-shop.

Andrew Watts

Andrew Watts


Andrew Watts, Founding Partner, KHWS