PARIS: Many consumers ordering cold beverages in casual dining outlets simply default to a cola option but FMCG giant Nestlé has found the majority are willing to try new drinks if given suitable "emotivators".

Katie Alexander, category manager, Nestle Professional UK and Ireland, and Sally Lewis, qualitative directors at research agency Join the Dots, outlined a research project in an ESOMAR paper – Thirsty work: Collaborating towards metacognition in the cold beverage path to purchase – presented at a recent Paris conference, in which they explored the impact of the in-store experience in eateries on beverage choice.

In the first stage, the researchers observed the automatic decision-making process of a group of selected participants, using self-ethnography and offline ethnographic depth interviews.

In the second stage, participants were forced into a more logical decision process, after the researchers provided them with some of the data collected and encouraged them to engage their System 2 thinking; they were also banned from ordering what they had chosen previously.

The findings revealed that consumer choice is typically a System 1 default unless there is something significant to disrupt the process, while a familiarity in customer service in quick service restaurants added to the automatic choice pattern.

But emotionally engaging products were shown to be likely to switch consumer action. Occasion and peer-pressure were also important drivers of customer choice.

"The majority of consumers did have a latent desire to try new drinks, they just needed a little help in taking the risk," the authors wrote.

Accordingly they developed a series of "emotivators", which included using highly visual cues with social media activity support, creating theatre action by personalising the product or spotlighting the making-process, allowing longer period of time to reach choice and reducing the risk associated to trying something new.

This aspect of Nestle's business has since more than doubled in size.

Lewis and Alexander argued that the research demonstrated "the value of engaging consumers in a process that raises their awareness of the strategies they use to make purchase decisions and that gives them the opportunity to explore these strategies either collectively or individually".

Data sourced from ESOMAR: additional content by Warc staff