The Intention-Behaviour Gap: why consumers don't always do what they say they will do
04 juli 2024 
in News

The Intention-Behaviour Gap: why consumers don't always do what they say they will do

What consumers say and what consumers actually do tend to differ quite a bit. This is certainly also the case within the world of Fast Moving Consumer Goods. When you ask consumers if they are interested in a more sustainable alternative, many consumers say yes. However, it often happens that those same consumers never put this more sustainable alternative in their shopping basket when standing in front of the shelf. We call this phenomenon the ‘Intention-Behaviour Gap’ and it is a important concept for every FMCG professional to understand. In this newsletter, you will read how to minimise the Intention-Behaviour Gap as much as possible so you can get the most reliable consumer insights.

The Intention-Behaviour Gap explained

As mentioned, the Intention-Behaviour Gap is the gap between an intention (what a consumer says they are going to do or want to do) and behaviour (what a consumer actually does). For example, many consumers have ‘green intentions’ but their purchasing behaviour shows that relatively few of their purchases consist of sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives. This is not because consumers like to lie, but because consumers generally find it difficult to predict their future behaviour. This is particularly the case when you research consumers in a non real-life context (such as the supermarket). This is because context has a very strong influence on our (purchasing) behaviour. For example, someone may have the intention to eat healthy, but if they are in an environment with only access to fast food restaurants, this can significantly influence their behaviour and lead them to make unhealthy food choices.

What does this mean for FMCG professionals?

This gap between intention and behaviour makes it very difficult for marketing, innovation and insights professionals to accurately predict consumer behaviour. After all, you can by no means always trust consumers' well-intentioned intentions. This can have consequences if you want to introduce a food innovation or are considering a new packaging design, for example. If you feel that many of the consumer insights gained are not always accurate, I recommend that you first take a good look at how you currently conduct research within your organisation. Take a critical look at whether your current research methods mainly measure consumers' intentions rather than their behaviour. It is also good to look at the context in which you research your target group. For instance, do you make extensive use of focus groups or online concept testing? Regarding the context of consumer research, a general rule of thumb applies: the more ‘real’ the context of your research, the more reliable the insights tend to be.

How to minimise the Intention-Behaviour Gap

As you now know, the intention of consumers does not always match their behaviour and this can create challenges for FMCG professionals. It is therefore important to reduce this gap between intention and behaviour as much as possible. How best to do that? Below is a list of our best practices that we at Bamboo Brands use in all our in-store research:

1. Focus on behaviour, not intention

To minimise the Intention-Behaviour Gap, the most important thing you can do is measure the behaviour of consumers rather than their intention. For example, if you are curious what consumers think of a new packaging design, the best way to test it is to place this new packaging in a number of supermarkets and see if consumers actually buy it.

2. It’s better to ask about the past than the future

Consumers are terrible at predicting their future behaviour, but are a lot better at explaining their behaviour that took place in the (recent) past. In the example above, it is therefore better to address consumers after they have grabbed the new packaging from the shelf and then ask them some in-depth questions about why they made that choice.

3. Research consumers in a real-life context (the supermarket)

As mentioned, context has a major influence on consumer behaviour. Therefore, if you want to obtain the most accurate insights, it is wise to research consumers in a context that resembles real life as much as possible. This minimises the influence of uncertainty in your research and makes the insights obtained most accurate. This is why all our research at Bamboo Brands takes place on the shopping floor.

Test & Learn in our network of 400+ supermarkets across Europe

Do you currently have an issue you would like to test or research in the supermarket? With Bamboo Brands, we help FMCG professionals gain valuable insights by testing products and assumptions in our network of 400+ supermarkets in Europe. Feel free to contact me at

About the author
Founder & Managing Director Bamboo Brands B.V.
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