Ecommerce Club Working Lunch London: Marketing Personalities – Driving Purchases

The Ecommerce Club’s latest Working Lunch London took a look at a different way for marketers to understand the consumer, the specific factors and variables that influence buyer behaviour.

While there’s no doubt that product quality and brand reputation remain important, psychological, internal and social stimuli all have a role to play in why and when customers finalise a purchase. We were lucky enough to hear from Endless Gain’s CEO Neil McKay and Helen Powell, ecommerce innovator at Little Black Dress, to find out just how the market and the way marketers look at it, is changing.

In a market where costs are increasing and market barriers are increasingly malleable, its important to work out how to improve returns in a mature market. You can do this by using psychology as a means of guiding your messaging and the customer experience, because while extrinsic motivations may bring a customer to a site, it’s the experience, expectation and instrinsic motivations that will lead them to purchase.

Neil opened his remarks with explaining how effective psychological approaches can help make brand’s more money.  It’s optimisation of conversion, but it’s about so much more than simple A/B testing. As Neil McKay explained, “What A/B testing does is test a hypothesis, but a psychological approach helps us understand what lies behind decision making.”

According to research most people make between 3,000 to 35,000 decisions per day, the majority of which take place in the subconscious – we only become aware of them after they’ve already taken effect.  The average brain has over 100 billion neurons deciphering a constant barrage of information – and apparently that information speeds around the brain at 268kph.

In order to manage the deluge, the brain has two systems – the front and back brain. While most of us will have heard of that differentiation, its important to understand the difference. The back brain is where most of the analysis goes on, it’s the default system in charge. The back brain works fast, is strongly associative, and sees exactly whats in front of it – as McKay says, “what you see is what you get.”

  • Back brain – system 1: fast, always on, emotional, subconscious, intuitive and associative, WYSIATI, automatic
  • Front brain – system 2: show, often absent, rational and logical, conscious, reasons and rules, effortful, future, controlled.

The thing to remember is that front brain system only kicks in when the back brain has failed to reach a decision.  What this tells us is not to confuse the brain when sending a message.

A growing number of brands are beginning to recognise this and are testing many new ways of talking to and with the consumer. They’re analysing traffic, site activity and analytics but now they’re also exploring attention and perception, needs and motivation as well as persuasion. In fact brands like AirB&B are spending 20 per cent of their budget on understand these impacts.

McKay also points out the need to really pay attention to what people see on a site – the attention test. Only 1 per cent of what consumers see is actually what they’re looking at – 99 per cent of what’s seen by the brain is made up of memory and experience.  He says its worth making many changes and seeing what difference they make, quote Jeff Bezos, “if you double the number of experiments you do, you’re going to double your inventiveness.

He talked about the 14 basic principles to check when building or developing your site:

  • Change blindness – when a visual change is introduced but not seen
  • Perceptual blindness – failure to recognise something unexpected that is in plain sight
  • Visual cues –they strongly direct our attention
  • Gaze plotting – we automatically focus our attention on what others are looking at
  • Attentional bias – we pay attention to things that touch us
  • Visual fluency – the ease with which we understand what we see, the ease with which visual stimuli can be processed
  • Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation – we buy because we want to, or because we are told to
  • Labour love effect – we like something more when we’ve invested effort into it
  • Self efficacy – we are more likely to perform actions when we believe they are relevant  to us and that we can complete them
  • Trust – we buy from those we trust
  • Framing effect – we react to a particular choice in different ways, depending on how its presented and what is emphasised
  • The power of free – we often pay too much when we pay nothing
  • Scarcity – we infer value in something that has a limited availability
  • Endowment (and labour-love effects) – you value something more when you pay for it than when you don’t

These different elements make up the key psychological pressure points: the attention test, needs and motivation, persuasion,  but if you’d like to see some of the imagery and explanations to go along with the outline, take a look at Neil’s presentation.

Helen Powell talked to us about her own experience at Little Black Dress, especially the importance of knowing the customer. LBD might seem to be about the perfect BD, but actually it’s about occasion dressing, and being a provider that the consumer trusts. While the psychological elements of site development and marketing might prove vital, there are times when there are other priorities, especially when building a business.

It’s important to know who they are and why they’ve come to the site. If you know that, and know how they got to the site, you’ve got enough information to make driving a purchase more straightforward.

If a consumer is shopping for a particular occasion, they’re clearly willing to spend for the right product at the right price – how do you ensure that’s you, and that you stand out in the marketplace.

Powell says that the key is personalisation and targeting. She recommends using acquisition data throughout the customer journey, target the most relevant pages and products, use cross sells to create the full outfit and make sure you increase the visibility of the product/category of interest.

Trust remains a huge issue, especially for important occasions, as you must be trusted to deliver goods or services as ordered. With social media today, there are too many opportunities to lose face – any mismanagement of the customer can go viral at any time. Remember, a brand who saves the day could win customer loyalty for life.

For Powell, its about ensuing that the customer enjoys the service, finds what they need and becoming an authority that customers can look to for reliable advice. That authority can influence sales. Just make sure that the customer is happy and wants to return.

As she says, “returning customers are the most valuable – make them feel like it.”