As I started to take notes, I was a bit startled to hear Amy’s opening question: “If you and I were alone in this room, how would you kill me?” A self-described usability specialist, Eight by Eight’s Amy Africa knows how to get one’s attention – but more importantly, what gets people to buy (and not). In the Shop.org First Look “Neuromarketing and the Influence on Buying Behavior” session at Retail’s BIG Show this week, Amy delved into what makes us tick – as human beings and as shoppers – which in turn are keys for retailers to entice customers to buy.
So back to that unusual opening question. Amy used that – and a series of follow up “what if” scenarios – to get the audience to think about how we make decisions. Turns out it has a lot to do with our “reptilian brain” (I hadn’t heard of it, either). Forget the more common “right brain / left brain” categorization – Amy explained that we in fact have three brains: the neocortex (rational data processing), the mid-brain (emotions and gut feeling processing), and, finally, our reptilian brain. The latter is the arbiter or tie breaker between the first two and triggers decisions, as its primary concern is one’s survival, and, as Amy described it, “deciding what’s safe and what isn’t”.
And this has what to do with retailing? Quite a bit. Amy next outlined a raft of 21 factors about human beings and how those impact your customer’s decision to whether or not to visit your site, stay or flee, and – hopefully – actually buy. Lots of food for thought – think of it as a reality / sanity check for you and your business. Herewith some of Amy’s points:
- We are self-centered. Translation for your site: does your site really speak to your customers? Does it resonate with them, do they identify with what the site displays, talks about, exudes? Does your site speak the same “language” as they do?
- We process best in “black and white” – that is, contrasts. In fact, Amy noted, contrast is “efficient” for our brains; we’re programmed to notice differences and changes in our environment (again, a survival technique). Translation for retail sites – “what are your pattern interrupters for your customers on your site?” Amy pointed out that most people vow they can’t stand pop up ads – but, they do make people take notice. The home page carousel (rotating images or content) is also effective, engaging the user to linger a little longer and see what comes next to make sure they haven’t missed something.
- We are visual. As Amy noted, “You only think you think. You really just see.” Don’t “over SEO” your site, Amy further exhorted, forgetting that the user coming to your site from Google “doesn’t see words as much as he sees pictures.”
- We look for patterns. Translation for retail sites: customers like to see patterns, as they feel safe and familiar. In Amy’s experience, navigation accounts for 40% to 60% of the success of a site (that’s more like 80% for a mobile site). Why? “Because 80% of [the customer’s] attention goes to the first screen; the top and left hand are patterns and [therefore feel] safe.” Among patterns, human beings particularly look for faces, as they are reassuring. Amy suggested that by adding a friendly-looking picture of a customer service rep on your product and check out pages, you will increase your chances of improving conversions (sounds like a great A/B testing candidate!).
- We like things that we can touch. Translation for retail sites: are you using words on your site that are meaningless to your customer? If they don’t understand and cannot visualize easily terms like “revolutionary product” or “flexible approach” that you use on your site, they won’t warm to the product or service (or your company).
- We like beginnings and ends. Translation: are you using deadlines and creating a sense of urgency? Use short deadlines – they help customers focus. Amy pointed out that two years ago the average life span of an email was 48 hours – now it’s 9 hours at best, and likely really more like 4 hours.
- We respond to emotion. For a retail site, this is all about the story you tell (versus simply selling a product) – again, not just in words, but in your imagery and the overall look and feel of your site. What’s the first impression the customer gets? What are his or her takeaways from interacting with your site?
- We create false memories. “What do you remember? Our memories are terrible,” Amy noted. “So, how do you compensate for your user’s terrible memory?” For retailers, it’s about putting some action directive (or, a reminder to the customer to take the action you want them to take) on each and every page to compensate.
- We have inattentional blindness. As Amy notes, “We see what we want to see – and we don’t see what matters, often. Are your action directives clear and on every single page? What’s important to you and does the user know it?”
- We like what’s first. Customers who do a search will look at just the first two results presented – at best. For retailers, that means making sure your bestsellers are among the top two results.
- We respond to status. And, Amy posited, “Status and reputation are more important than money.” This is a key underpinning to social media – how many likes or connections, one’s rank as a contributor to customer reviews, and so forth.
- We respond to scarcity. As we all know, “If it’s rare, we want it,” Amy notes. For retailers, this means thinking about scarcity and how it affects your cart and your check out – are you conveying urgency and scarcity so the customer has incentive to finish the check out process?