Why Your Clients Should Consider Circadian Rhythms When Ad Buying


Consumers want access to all products and services all the time. That’s the premise behind giant online retail sites like Amazon. While shoppers certainly appreciate the 24x7 access, it turns out they exhibit specific buying tendencies based on time of day and time of year.

Kelley Gullo, a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, co-​authored a paper with Duke marketing professors Bryan Bollinger and Jordan Etkin, and Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at Wharton, on the topic of consumer decision making at retail stores. The researchers began their work by hypothesizing that consumers make selections at the store based on how they’re feeling, biologically, at that time. Specifically, they hypothesized that as the human body experiences increases and decreases in specific hormones during each 24-​hour cycle, shoppers make different kinds of purchases.

To set up their study, researchers reviewed what consumers were purchasing at supermarkets during various times of the day. They uncovered a pattern which shows that when consumers are waking up, they buy more of a similar product. Earlier in the day, most people are cognitively slower. When they’re faced with an array of products, like packages of cranberries that are flavored ten different ways, they’ll buy the one flavor they’re familiar with. Consumers who shop later in the day, who are presumably fully engaged with the world, show a tendency to appreciate variety. That's when shoppers may purchase cranberries that are processed in a variety of flavors.

The researchers took their analysis a step further. They looked at differences in what consumers purchased in the summer, when circadian rhythms are activated by ‘sun in the morning.’ As they expected, consumers showed more willingness to experiment and try a variety of products during those time periods. And, the study results went beyond the supermarket and into vacation planning. For example, consumers who are buying vacation experiences will sign up for a broader range of activities if they are making those plans in the afternoon or evening.

Talk with your clients about their ad campaigns. If they want to boost sales of an established product, they may want to run promotions in the morning. If they’re introducing a product with several new features, their ad campaigns maybe more successful in the afternoon.

Don’t forget to check out the AudienceSCAN profiles available at AdMall from SalesFuel. That’s where your clients can learn about products that specific audiences like Solo Vacationers plan to buy in the next year.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.