Ninjas don’t need instruction manuals. Neither do shoppers.

ninjaYou are an expert. An expert in shopping.

A natural. So good, you don’t even realise how good you are.

To coin some pseudo-marketing-psychology, you have moved to the fourth stage of learning when it comes to making purchase decisions: you have an ‘Unconscious Competence’ in shopping. You are a Shopping Ninja.

Consider this: how many purchase decisions do you think you make a week? Ten? 50? The reality is probably far greater than that. Every cup of coffee, every sandwich, every snack. According to Kantar, we go on approximately 250 grocery ‘shops’ every year, spending an average of £15 pounds each time. And let’s not forget the bi-weekly trip to the supermarket. Although you might easily put in excess of 100 items in your trolley over the week, you will also have had to make the decision NOT to buy the other 50,000 items that are stocked in the average large supermarket. And that takes some skill.

If these decisions were rational and conscious, then we would all still be in the supermarket, days later, painstakingly trying to understand the value and effectiveness trade-offs between products X and Y.

Luckily, having trained ourselves to be Shopping Ninjas, we are able to move swiftly through shopping environments, allowing our reflexes and instincts to take over. Without thinking about it – Kerpow! Trolley filled with household supplies. Hiiiyaa! Kitchen cupboards stocked with family favourites. Each individual decision taking about 2.5 seconds to make.

When a ninja is carving his way through an army of adversaries, does he need a little message to pop into his head asking if he is made the right decision to use a sword rather than nunchuks? Dropping out of his Unconscious Competence might well result in getting skewered himself.

The same is true of a shopper. Significant support is building for iBeacons and other ways of delivering proximity-based, highly targeted offers to shoppers as they are in the process of making decisions. While shoppers might well be seeking a deal on certain missions, their own brain is already doing a brilliant job of scanning shelves, labels and packs in fractions of a second. As a brand, interrupting this flow could be less than beneficial; at worst you could end up really annoying people with spam-like consequences.

Away from the fast-moving, super-subconscious world of FMCG, marketers should respect how good we are at shopping. Our Ninja-like skills are honed for more complicated decisions too. But here we rely more heavily on our brains for emotional shortcuts, with big drivers like trust, excitement and glamour making us feel a connection to products. This of course is the role of brands, and that’s a whole different blog. But ask yourself this: how many purchases have you made in life that you truly regret? Outside the odd fashion disaster (and I’ve had my fair share), we remain excellent shoppers.

Maybe I shouldn’t have bought those nunchuks, though.

Rob Sellers is director of Grey Shopper