The psychology of a customer

Did you know that the success of your business is influenced by your customer’s reasoning, environment and emotional behaviour, as well as being governed, to an extent, by their automatic psychological thought processes? This article will help you to identify which psychological, physical or emotional elements affect their choice to say “yes” or “no” to your business offerings, or at least increase your chances of gaining them as a customer. Your data, from every communication platform, digital and traditional, holds the key. There are several metrics you’ll need to consider when looking at your data; the most relevant are these four:

  • Motivation
  • Incentive
  • Friction
  • Anxiety

Your customer journey begins with motivation. If you’ve done your research correctly you’ll have a clear idea of the key triggers, the needs and wants of your target audience that your offerings could satisfy. Determining what motivates your customer will guide you to use the best channel for communication, and ultimately develop a swift customer journey that brings conversions. For instance, if your ideal target audience is a mature market, you can make use of factors such as time of day, weather, and platform. Time of day may be influenced by a retired lifestyle, if they don’t work then they’re most likely to be away from communication channels during the day if there’s good weather to be enjoyed, and studies have shown that they are more likely to use desktop or tablet above phone.

Next comes the incentive – what will make your customer stay focused on what you’re telling them? Typically you’ll have around 8 seconds to do this, from their first contact with you, and this is where Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is important. Get this wrong and it causes friction, which usually results in a higher drop off rate. Incentive and friction are guided by psychological responses – generally automatic, usually without cognitive thought. The importance of structured thought processes comes later – at the anxiety phase, but we’ll get onto that after we’ve looked at this crucial stage in the customer conversion process. Conversion is what makes or breaks a business; it’s the process required to guide a prospect to become a customer. Get it wrong and your business will flounder or fail.

You may be surprised at this point to learn how simple changes in your communications channels will create massive results. You’ll need to create a customer journey map, plotting every ‘touch-point’, and then look at what actually happens at these points, and ask these key questions:

  • What is it you’re asking the customer to do?
  • Is it intuitive?
  • Is it a single task?
  • Can it be achieved easily?
  • Is it transparent?

The answers to these questions will help you to make every task required of the customer as simple and effective as it can be. But here’s where the science comes in. Studies in CRO, analysing data such as heat maps and click through rates (CTR) have proved that simply by changing things such as where these touch points sit on a web page, or the colour of a call to action (CTA) button will ensure an uplift in conversions. Only by split testing variations on these elements can you build conclusions. Here are a few areas to challenge and trial:

  • Location of your CTA
  • Space around the CTA
  • Colour of the CTA button
  • Transparency of message
  • Font size
  • Font colour

Whilst these may seem pretty simple things to look at – the science behind the theory proves that there is ‘method in the madness’. Try a few different landing pages – changing just one element at a time. This is crucial – change more than one element and you won’t know which has created any difference. Measure conversions to see which changes create either positive or negative change.

So let’s look at anxiety next. People naturally question – everything, it’s embedded within human nature to do so, and it affects our thoughts and feelings, and judgement. Common sticky points that these anxieties cause can be as simple as “I don’t trust you”. If your customer journey is in any way misleading, mistrust will kick in within seconds. If your CTA button states one thing, but when they click it says something different, or takes them to something unexpected, you can expect a high drop off rate at this point. Or they may be concerned about data security, payment methods, and what to do if something goes wrong. Giving complete clarity to actions, messages and outcomes will reduce risk and increase credibility. This is where CRO comes back into play – it really is pivotal in creating the best customer experience, one that makes the process simple, desirable and repeatable. So, test, test and then test again!

Feel the burn

So we have to literally feel our customer’s pain, get to know their behaviour and know their limitations, in order to understand what motivates them, reach them more easily, and communicate more effectively. And just as human behaviour is a constantly evolving inevitability, so must our marketing be. Only through a chain of evaluating, tweaking and measuring how our customer perceives us, can we make their journey enjoyable, and you’ll enjoy the results too!


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