Welcome to Part 2 of our behavioral science series! If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, check it out here for some helpful background information and context.
As promised, we are exploring three more behavioral science concepts within the context of marketing and customer experience (CX). We’ll cover inertia, choice architecture, and choice overload, including thought starters for testing each one. It is important to remember that the specific examples and test ideas are for inspiration and should be adjusted to your industry, channel(s), and circumstances.
This concept is associated with the continued avoidance of taking action. It is a bigger factor for businesses in categories where consumers have recurring payments such as alarm systems, utilities, subscriptions, insurance, etc. In theory, a consumer who does nothing will continue to get the same service/product in perpetuity.
Consumer inertia can be a positive force for brands trying to retain customers. But it may be especially frustrating to marketers who want to generate upgrades from current customers or lure customers away from a competitor. Inertia is compounded when there is a real or perceived hassle to upgrade or switch brands (e.g., must send equipment back, set up new installation, or invest time and brainpower toward understanding an insurance or financial product).
It is not uncommon for consumers to stay with one brand after their 6-month promotional price ends even when they could save money by switching to a competitor. Doing nothing is the easy thing to do.
Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. When it comes to consumer inertia, businesses cannot rely on only one force (e.g., offers) because it might take a strong combination of forces to overcome friction and drive stubborn “bodies” to action.
Thought starters for testing the Inertia concept:
Marketing messages and call to actions can address many “forces,” but only if that copy is supported by the reality of the actual customer experience. For example, claiming there is no hassle to switch doesn’t work if the CX doesn’t prove it. Targeting is another important force. To know which forces to leverage, it is crucial to understand the reasons behind the inertia (by knowing your audience!) to identify what can and cannot be solved through copy and personalization. Getting the right copy in front of the right person to highlight the benefits they care about and address their specific barriers can certainly improve results, but it is not going to overcome major product issues, uncompelling offers, lack of trust, or terrible CX flow.
Employ customer analysis/research/modeling to identify targets with the most and least inertia. You can “slice” campaign results to look at each KPI by model decile, tenure as a customer, tenure on a CRM list, current product holdings, and whichever other data fields are available. For example, I worked with a brand whose long-tenured customers were great targets for certain products and terrible targets for others. They saved money and avoided bad CX by not sending irrelevant offers.
2. Choice Architecture
This concept describes the practice of presenting choices to decision makers in specific ways intended to influence their decisions. The choice architect determines such things as the number and order of choices, how to describe them, if products are bundled or à la carte, etc. A parent may rearrange items in the refrigerator to put healthy snacks at kids’ eye level while a grocer puts the cheap wine on shelves at foot level.
Thought starters for testing the choice architecture concept:
Choice architecture can be tested through copy, visuals, and the design of the purchase process (e.g., number of steps, what is packaged up front vs. suggested as an add-on later in the experience, etc.).
A marketer who isn’t deliberate about their choice architecture design could send their audience into the undesirable state of choice overload…
3. Choice Overload
This concept is exactly what it sounds like – too many choices available. Some people can get overwhelmed with too many options and might make a hasty decision and end up with a product they don’t like, or they might decide not to buy anything yet. They could move on to see what your competitor has to offer.
Thought starters for testing the choice overload concept:
Many people consider Patrick Lencioni’s following quote from his book Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars in the context of time management and task prioritization: “If everything is important, then nothing is.” But this observation is also valid in the context of advertising. Don’t treat your ad like it can cover as much material as an infomercial.
If you are tempted to feature your restaurant’s free dessert offer at the top of your email and add more modules for three other offers, plus promote kids’ meals and catering and ask users to sign up for SMS, take a step back and remember you should balance what you want to sell with doing what will generate a response or visit or purchase. That opens another door to achieve your goal.
NEXT STEPS (These should sound familiar because they mirror Part 1.)
If you have questions, feedback, or would like to know how we can help you apply these and other concepts toward improving your CX and reaching sales goals, we’d be happy to talk to you anytime.
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