Glass door of a shop with a blue and white 'open' sign hanging.

Shop Builder is a pow­er­ful and easy-to-use tool for con­duct­ing research into shop­ping and con­sumer behav­iour. It’s a sophis­ti­cat­ed tool built for rig­or­ous research.

In a nut­shell, to your par­tic­i­pants Shop Builder looks like a normal online shop, but behind the scenes you wield a pow­er­ful research tool.

Here’s what Shop Builder looks like to your participants…

A toy shop built in Shop Builder

And here’s the back end research tools for you…

Image showing the back end spreadsheet structure


Built as part of the Gorilla ecosys­tem, par­tic­i­pants can be given Shop Builder tasks along­side ele­ments from our Task and Ques­tion­naire Builders. This means you can add a per­son­al­i­ty ques­tion­naire or a priming task before or after the shop­ping task, allow­ing you to answer complex research questions.

Here we describe 4 easy exper­i­ments using the Shop Builder, to help you started.

1. Manip­u­lat­ing Psy­cho­log­i­cal Distance

Accord­ing to psy­chol­o­gy researchers at New York Uni­ver­si­ty, reduc­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tance is an easy way to increase sales.  An easy way to do this is to change product images, so that they com­pelling convey the benefit of the product rather than the fea­tures of the product.  Let’s take a con­crete example, when you buy shampoo, are you buying the bottle or (the hope of) lus­cious, lumi­nous hair?  If you’re like me it’s the latter!  In essence, lower psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tance makes it easier for con­sumers to imagine the con­crete ben­e­fits of your product.

All great in theory, but how do you test and measure which product image will lead to the great­est con­ver­sions?  Typ­i­cal­ly, online stores just show a picture of the product, but research by the deci­sion behav­iour experts at SKIM have shown that replac­ing product images with hero images, sen­so­r­i­al cues and product claims can increase sales by over 26%. WOW!

The next chal­lenge is to work out which product claim will be the most com­pelling?  Which hero image?  Which sen­so­r­i­al cue?  That’s where Shop Builder comes in.

With Shop Builder, it’s easy for researchers inter­est­ed in product mar­ket­ing to test dif­fer­ent images, claims and sen­so­r­i­al cues and see which ones lead to greater pur­chas­ing intent.


2. Can you suc­cess­ful­ly prime purchases?

4 bottles of fizzy drink in a row of varying colours.

Priming is an inter­est­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal concept — the idea that being exposed to a stim­u­lus will influ­ence later respons­es. Priming is being increas­ing­ly inves­ti­gat­ed in rela­tion to con­sumer behav­iour with researchers inter­est­ed in whether priming a con­sumer will influ­ence their pur­chas­ing behav­iours. The Shop Builder can be teamed up with the Task Builder to produce a great experiment to assess this!

Imagine showing par­tic­i­pants an advert designed to prime a certain brand of fizzy drink, then asking them to com­plete a dis­trac­tor task such as a Stroop test. Par­tic­i­pants could then be shown a shop­ping list fea­tur­ing the general term ‘fizzy drink’ before being told to pur­chase items from their list in a shop­ping task. Com­par­ing the items in their shop­ping baskets with the primed prod­ucts would allow for an assess­ment of various priming techniques!


3. Deal or no deal?

Imagine that you have been shop­ping for a new tele­vi­sion; you’ve nar­rowed your choices down and are con­sid­er­ing the price of your favourite. How do you know that you’ve got a good price? We often think about value in rel­a­tive terms using a start­ing point as an ‘anchor’. Some­times the anchor is some­thing we decide like our budget, often though it’s the seller telling us how much an item is worth.

You may be shocked when a tele­vi­sion is priced at £1000, but if it was £5000 reduced to £1000 then that’s a bargain! Within Shop Builder you can add dis­counts to prod­ucts, allow­ing you to see how par­tic­i­pants assess the quality or attrac­tive­ness of a product depend­ing on the start­ing price point. This could be a great experiment to see whether par­tic­i­pants value a product more if it’s dis­count­ed from a higher price rather than simply start­ing at the cheaper price.


4. How can we make the most of a shop­ping list?

A white piece of paper is resting against a brown paper bag. There is a hand holding a pen above the paper.

Think about when you’re walking down the aisles of a super­mar­ket. How do you remem­ber the items you need to buy? Do you think about generic items, or in terms of spe­cif­ic brands? This is a great little experiment to inves­ti­gate memory in applied real-life settings.

Par­tic­i­pants could be given one of two shop­ping lists — either a generic list (such as orange juice, ketchup, and tissues), or a branded list (Sunny D, Heinz ketchup, and Kleenex). They would then be taken to an online grocery shop in the Shop Builder and told to pur­chase as many things from the list as they remember.


Your next project

So there we go — four simple ideas to help you get started with Shop Builder! Hope­ful­ly that’s given you some idea of what’s pos­si­ble, and got your cre­ative juices flowing.

As you’d expect, there are a whole host of manip­u­la­tions that are easy to use to test your hypothe­ses. You can upload your own product set, change brand­ing, apply taxes and sub­si­dies. Change labels and apply nudges. And many more features.

Ready to learn more?


Ash­leigh Johnstone

Ash­leigh is a recent PhD grad­u­ate and worked from 2020 — 2022 for Gorilla Experiment Builder who are rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing online behav­iour­al science in acad­e­mia and beyond. After writing and sub­mit­ting her thesis during the pan­dem­ic, she is on a per­son­al mission to ensure no student gets left behind. 

Jo Ever­shed

Jo is the CEO and co-founder of Caul­dron and Gorilla. Her mission is to provide behav­iour­al sci­en­tists with the tools needed to improve the scale and impact of the evi­dence-based inter­ven­tions that benefit society.