Your essential guide to mastering behavioural science in e-commerce

Tracy Steffensen

In today’s fast-paced world, grabbing someone’s attention can seem challenging. As we endeavour social media platforms like X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, a constant stream of content and ads rush, most of it slipping into obscurity. Yet, amongst this digital sea, some meticulously crafted pieces manage to captivate us, urging a momentary pause and sparking curiosity – “What’s this all about?” This is where marketers reveal their clever card – enter behavioural science, the secret ingredient that adds a distinct flavour to content and ads, ensuring they stand out.

Imagine an e-commerce website that offers a range of subscription plans for its beauty products. The website strategically presents the subscription options by integrating effective web design and strategically placed online advertising. Here is how it might look. The mid tier subscription, which offers a balanced selection of products, takes the central position. The higher priced premium tier is listed next, followed by the basic tier. This arrangement leverages the anchoring principle, making the mid tier seem like the best value. Customers perceive it as a favourable option, increasing signups for this tier. This demonstrates how understanding behavioural science can influence consumer decisions and enhance a business’s revenue strategy.

Let’s talk about behavioural science

Behavioural science delves into human behaviour patterns and motivations. In marketing, it’s a toolkit that lets us design strategies in sync with how customers behave, making our campaigns all the more effective. In the world of e-commerce, this science becomes our compass, guiding personalised experiences based on user actions. By tapping into behavioural insights, businesses can fine tune their approaches, creating a win-win that benefits both customers and their bottom line.

Let’s explore a few fundamental principles of behavioural science that can help marketers craft a successful campaign:

  1. Choice architecture: Guiding decisions through presentation. This principle delves into how options are presented, influencing consumer decisions. Small changes like rearranging choices or manipulating defaults can sway outcomes. For instance, an online donation campaign can offer pre selected donation amounts, nudging individuals to contribute more than they might have initially considered. The concept even extends to restaurant menu design—highlighting a “chef’s recommendation” often leads diners to opt for that dish, demonstrating the power of choice arrangement. In an e-commerce setting, consider the default option for subscription services—presenting “Subscribe Now” as the default choice makes customers more likely to commit to regular deliveries, benefiting both customers and the brand. Choice architecture helps marketers design pathways that lead consumers toward desired actions while respecting their preferences.
  2. Framing: Shaping perception with presentation. The framing principle revolves around how information is presented to influence consumer perceptions. Framing can significantly impact attitudes towards products and decisions. A prime example is price framing—$19.99 appears more appealing than $20 due to the perception of a lower cost. In e-commerce, framing product benefits can be powerful. Presenting a skincare product as “clinically proven to reduce wrinkles by 30%” rather than “70% of wrinkles remain” highlights its positive aspect. Framing empowers marketers to direct consumer focus and emphasises strengths, crafting compelling narratives that resonate with target audiences.
  3. Social norms: Harnessing the power of conformity. Social norms play a pivotal role in shaping consumer behaviour. People tend to align their choices with prevailing trends. Leveraging this principle, an e-commerce site can display the number of customers who have purchased a product recently—showcasing popularity encourages others to follow suit. Brands also employ social norms in testimonials—featuring customer stories showcasing their offerings’ widespread adoption. In a subscription based model, showcasing the number of subscribers can prompt new signups. Marketers create a sense of belonging by tapping into the human desire to conform and encourage consumer adoption.
  4. Loss aversion: The fear of missing out on gains. Loss aversion centres on the human tendency to fear losses more than they value gains. In marketing, framing promotions to emphasise potential losses is effective. For instance, communicating that “you’ll miss out on savings” can prompt immediate action. In e-commerce, flash sales capitalise on loss aversion—customers act quickly to secure discounts and avoid missing out. By crafting campaigns that trigger the fear of losing out on benefits, marketers encourage consumers to engage promptly, thereby driving conversions.
  5. Anchoring: Setting the reference point for decisions. Anchoring leverages initial information as a reference point for subsequent choices. In e-commerce, listing a high priced item before presenting lower priced options influences perception. A luxury product followed by a mid range offering can lead buyers to perceive the mid range item as a good deal. Anchoring is also evident in tiered pricing—positioning a higher priced subscription tier first can make the subsequent tiers appear more affordable. By skillfully positioning options, marketers anchor consumers’ expectations and guide their decision making process.
  6. Temporal discounting: The tug of immediate gratification. Temporal discounting reflects the preference for immediate rewards over delayed benefits. Marketers utilise this principle with time sensitive offers, capitalising on consumers’ inclination for instant rewards. E-commerce’s flash sales perfectly align with temporal discounting, prompting customers to act swiftly to secure immediate savings. By aligning promotions with the psychology of instant gratification, brands motivate consumers to make prompt decisions, enhancing conversion rates.
  7. Gamification: Turning engagement into entertainment. Gamification introduces gaming elements to non game scenarios, fostering engagement. Loyalty programs with points, levels and rewards drive repeat interactions. E-commerce employs gamification techniques through interactive quizzes or spins to win wheels, enhancing user engagement whilst collecting valuable data. By transforming interactions into enjoyable experiences, gamification maintains customer interest and encourages ongoing brand interactions.
  8. Personalisation: Tailoring experiences to individual preferences. Personalisation caters to individuals’ unique preferences, boosting engagement. E-commerce platforms deploy personalised recommendations based on browsing history and past purchases. For instance, suggesting “similar products” enhances the shopping experience. Email marketing thrives on personalisation, addressing recipients by name and tailoring content to their preferences. By delivering relevant content, marketers foster a more robust connection, heightening the likelihood of conversion.
  9. Scarcity: Amplifying value through limited availability. Scarcity capitalises on the perception that limited availability enhances desirability. E-commerce employs scarcity messaging—”Only two items left!”—to create urgency. Exclusive releases of products or services foster rarity and exclusivity, driving consumers to act promptly. Scarcity taps into the fear of missing out, prompting consumers to seize opportunities that seem scarce. By strategically employing scarcity, marketers drive immediate action and heightened interest.

It’s important to recognise that whilst these nine principles provide valuable insights in using of behavioural science in marketing, they only scratch the surface of its vast potential. On the horizon, an intriguing concept known as neuromarketing beckons.

This cutting edge fusion of neuroscience and marketing is already causing ripples in the industry. Its possibilities are astounding, as it unlocks consumer responses through innovative techniques such as brain imaging, granting us profound insights into their preferences and reactions. However, it’s worth noting that whilst neuromarketing is exciting, it’s still in its early stages and may not be feasible for all businesses.

So, as you explore these avenues, remember this lesson – staying informed about emerging trends can enrich your strategies, fortify your approach and open doors to new growth opportunities. Don’t miss out on keeping your marketing game strong!

Discover how these principles can reshape your marketing strategies. Let’s craft strategies that resonate with your audience and drive results together!

Also read: See What Happens if You Leave Marketing to Experts

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