A Glimpse into the mindset of a shopper

Before you get into this article, I’d like you to consider this? What day is it? Are you warm or cold? Is it morning? Afternoon? Or evening? Have you had a hectic day so far or are you taking in nice and easy? And out of interest, why did you put on that outfit today? Are you tired? Looking forward to something or worried about that other thing? This is known as your mindset.

The thing is, you have considered all of this already, without really realising it.

You have experienced two different systems of thinking that we all apply daily as our brains receive and experience information. According to the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, these two systems are known as System I and System II thinking.

There are two distinct modes of decision making:

System I is an automatic, fast and often unconscious way of thinking. It is autonomous and efficient, requiring little energy or attention, but is prone to biases and systematic errors. System II is an effortful, slow and controlled way of thinking (System I is involuntary; System II is calculating).

Did you know that the average amount of remotely conscious decisions an adult makes each day equals about 35,000.

You will have switched between these two systems as you got ready for work this morning and chose what to wear and which way to go to work. It also means that later in the day when you are more tired mentally and physically, your decision-making ability or capacity will be different to that of the morning.

The above is particularly important to understand when considering the shopper decision-making processes and subsequent behaviour.

Consider the impact of understanding the following factors at play in the shoppers’ decision-making process to purchase:

At the moment you enter a shop and are faced with a myriad of options, you are in a particular frame of mind, you are identifying a specific, or even many needs and simultaneously generating perceptions about the products you are considering. System I and II thinking modes are in super-drive as you subconsciously assess all that is going on within and around you as you attempt to make the best decision possible to subdue the nudges you are feeling driven by your needs.

Factors which influence shopper behaviour and decision making:


  • Psychological (mood, motivations, perceptions, learning, beliefs and attitudes, etc.)
  • Cognitive (insight, awareness, mental capacity, etc.)
  • Physical (persons physical reality, i.e. their body shape, the colour of their kitchen, etc.)
  • Contextual (life events, the weather, the current situation, etc.)


  • Tangible (the need for softer skin)
  • Intangible (the need to feel more awake and energised)

While the product is a tangible solution, the initial need may not be as noticeable.


  • Value (based on the above does this rank as highly valuable to me in meeting my need and can I quantify this value based on the asking price?)
  • Risk (do I feel confident that if I make this purchase, it will satisfy my need? Or will I perhaps be disappointed? I can’t afford to get the wrong thing)

In a country where money is extremely tight for most shoppers, perceived risk and value is often top of mind when deciding to purchase a product.

How then can we apply this understanding to the unique South African shoppers mindset and purchase behaviour in the design of our shopper marketing strategies?

1. Understand the context of the South African shopper within a particular target audience thoroughly (immerse and experience)
2. Analyse their mindset
3. Assess their rational and emotional needs (our product answers these needs)
4. Map out their path to purchase
5. Walk through their decision-making process
6. Meet them in the moment of truth (the 3-7 seconds after a shopper first encounters your product)

While the article serves only as a mere glimpse into this fascinating topic, I do hope that it has piqued your interest and curiosity as to how we as South African marketers can apply the above as a guide to digging deeper into the South African shoppers’ mind by gaining more profound, relevant insights into their thinking and behaviour.

As marketers, we can:

  • Better understand the South African shoppers’ mindset
  • To answer to a relevant need
  • That can help guide and inform shoppers perception in the decision-making process.

If we do this successfully we are then able to:

  • Influence the decision-making process
  • Create the desired behaviour

Answers a set objective (i.e. sample, purchase, switch, recommend, etc.)

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