by Shelly Lundahl

Moments that Matter – Selecting Moment

Connecting the Dots Between Usage and Product Selection

To create product experiences people love, you must understand their behaviors and motives in different moments. Moments are contextual circumstances or occasions when a consumer interacts with the product. They encompass internal needs, such as hunger, and external motivators, including environmental or product-related experiences, such as sensory cues.

There are four different moments in the consumer journey: Search Moment, Selecting Moment, Usage Moment, and Sharing Moment. We already looked at how win in the Usage Moment, now it’s time to dive into the Selecting Moment.

The Selecting Moment

The selecting moment refers to the specific instance when a person is choosing, for example during a shopping purchase or usage decision.

Selecting behavior is highly context driven. In some shopping contexts, people are on autopilot, grabbing familiar items effortlessly, using their “system one” or implicit thinking. In other contexts, associations from repeated selection do not exist. These can include moments of disruption – such as when a new product catches the shopper’s attention while browsing the shelves – leading to a switch to a “system two” or explicit mode of thinking. There is also a third mode of thinking called “prospection,” which involves product assessment while seeking solutions to practical problems, like accommodating dietary needs for a planned dinner party. The outcome in these situations is highly dependent on the context of the moment.

These dependencies expose one of the biggest weaknesses of product research. Classical product research often does little to truly connect the dots between shopping and product usage moments. Classic choice questions (purchase interest or forced choice preferences) are frequently asked while participants are in the context of product usage. However, usage contexts are distinctly different from typical shopping moments.

The disconnect between shopping and usage contexts leads to four basic product research challenges—impacting innovation or renovation decisions. Here are some tips to address them:

Challenge 1. Understand Consumers to Fill Your Pipeline

Today’s shopper is faced with more choices and tensions than ever before. Tensions can be related to various price/value trade-offs, or from unfulfilled aspirations among their current choices.

Instead of just assessing the job-to-be-done within a category, we involve shoppers to pinpoint “behavioral whitespace” – the desires and tensions they feel when disrupted or trying to solve problems. There are two approaches to this discovery. First, we uncover tensions through a qualitative approach called “Car Confessionals” where we engage with shoppers in their car after shopping. Here we find the whys behind their tensions—what disrupted their habits, what problems were they shopping to solve, and how they made their choices.

Second, we conduct aspirational research by engaging with large samples of shoppers to learn about the products they purchase for specific usage moments. We reveal which moments are most important and how many shoppers are left unfulfilled from their usual purchases. This approach spots the gaps between the benefits from ordinary products and their aspiration for new ones.

 Challenge 2. Create impactful concepts for innovation

Connecting the dots also improves concept research. We use an approach to concept co-creation that engages with shoppers to discover twists to the familiar. Starting with what’s known in the market, we brainstorm creative twists to ease identified shopping tensions. We augment this approach with two methods. The first applies generative AI tools—prompted to develop concepts—increasing co-creation team capacity.

The second involves a MaxDiff methodology where participants select the best and worst options from choice sets, simulating shopping experiences. By conducting these exercises before and after exposure to a new concept, we can estimate a LIFT statistic, indicating how much the concept impacts specific competitors.

Challenge 3. From Product Concept to a Rewarding Product Experience

Traditional product testing focuses on functionality and likability at the usage moment. But our product research “goes beyond liking.” Red Bull and Listerine, for example, weren’t designed for likable taste but for taste signalling efficacy or delivery of benefits such as “gives you wings” or kills germs for a fresher breath. Focus on the expectation of the delivery of benefits yields more impactful insights than liking alone.

Likewise, going beyond liking focuses package research on choice outcomes. Packaging designs (colors, shapes, materials, claims, ingredients) can be engineered to signal the promised benefits that influence consumer choices. For example, Tofurky aimed to enhance its plant-based sliced turkey packaging. We tested three alternatives in two shopping contexts: natural foods and deli sections. The “soft tray” saw the highest increase in choice in both settings, while the plastic tub performed better only in the deli section. Going beyond liking shows shoppers in the natural foods area appreciated the minimal packaging of the soft tray, easing tensions about plastic waste.

Challenge 4: Spot Opportunities to Boost Product Lines

This last challenge involves competitive benchmarking to create action plans for how to maintain or improve the product’s competitive position. Benchmarking is essential to create these types of action plans. However, the challenge with competitive benchmarking is that it is often done “blind” (unbranded and without marketing context) and is an expensive and time-consuming approach. Without this competitive context, marketers and product teams work siloed—missing opportunities to strengthen product and marketing messages.

To tackle this challenge, we test products fully branded and in context, exploring ways to enhance marketing and product to address competitive weaknesses or threats.

A recent benchmarking project assessed how to improve Beyond Burger against 12 other plant-based options. Participants first ranked their preferences through a Max diff exercise. After trying their regular plant-based product, they sampled Beyond Burger for the first time. The results showed a significant 48% increase in choice for Beyond Burger compared to competitors, indicating strong post-launch performance. By linking usage and shopping moments, we found opportunities to boost Beyond Burger’s market share by increasing awareness and encouraging trial. The product provided a memorable experience, resembling real meat in appearance and taste.

In the digital age, information overload complicates consumer product decisions. Successful product designs require more than just functionality; they demand a deep understanding of how consumer experiences influence choices. Since context shapes consumer interactions with products, connecting usage and shopping experiences is key to addressing complex research challenges in the industry.