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Posted by Emma Mulder on 05 October 2016

The added value of psychology as a marketing tool

Understanding how your target audience thinks and behaves is crucial to the success of an effective digital marketing strategy. Businesses need to know exactly what their customers want, and avoid falling into the common trap of thinking they know. This is where the disciplines of consumer psychology and neuromarketing come into play and can offer real value - providing intelligence and insights into the reasons why your customers behave in a certain way.

By bringing elements of consumer psychology and neuromarketing into your digital marketing strategy (either through your in-house team or working with an agency partner), you can begin to tap into important unconscious decision processes and cognitive biases, equipping your business with information which most traditional research methods can’t.

In this blog post I will explain the added value of psychology as a marketing tool, and how your company can take advantage of this information to convert more prospects, and build valuable and long-lasting customer relationships.

Understanding the (ir)rational consumer

There is no such thing as a rational consumer. Consumers decisions and actions are often strongly influenced by their emotions, environment and ability to process information. In addition, people often don't know about their (future) preferences and aren't good at predicting themSo how then, do we predict their behaviour towards our brands? Well, luckily most of our behaviours also have a systematic and predictable element to them – and that is where psychology comes in.

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a given context. Consumer psychologists can provide you with exclusive insights into the needs and behaviours of real people – your customers. Psychological insights won't just help you improve the way people experience your services and products, but can also help you encourage them into making certain (purchasing) decisions.

Connecting with the emotional consumer 

Most of our decisions are based on emotions. So knowing how to tap into your customers' emotions is essential to creating a successful brand that connects with your target audience at a fundamental level. If people feel a positive emotional connection with your brand they are more likely to engage, share and convert. For this reason, it is important to figure out how to trigger positive emotions and how to avoid negative emotions within the different stages of the customer journey. 

Psychological research methods can help businesses identify their customers needs, expectations and frustrations, and help them connect with their customers on a deeper emotional level. 

Cognitive biases and how you can use them for marketing success

Cognitive biases – also known as psychological biases - are errors in thinking that influence the way people make decisions. In other words, it’s the immediate and intuitive way in which people make judgements or decisions without taking into account analytical reasoning. Cognitive biases make us pay less attention to relevant information and give excessive weight to less important aspects – which is why it can often lead to poor and irrational decision making.

Psychological biases affect how your customers make decisions and the way they think and feel about your product or brand. Examples include: 

1. Social proof: People tend to follow the behaviours and actions of their peers. So if your prospects know people similar to them who are using your product or reading your content there’s a bigger chance that they will convert. 

2. Anchoring effect: Often people utilise the first piece of information they receive as a point of reference for making judgements about subsequent pieces of information. 

3.Reciprocity principle: When you feel indebted to those who have done something for you (e.g. given a gift) - and will therefore be more likely to repay with a favour in the future.  

4. Consistency principle: Once people have committed to something they are more likely to carry through and deliver on that commitment. 

5. Pictures > Words: Images tend to be remembered better than words and can be used as cues to direct attention. 

A deep understanding of these cognitive stumble blocks can help you effectively optimise your content and increase conversion rates. Consumer psychologists can be a valuable asset to your marketing team because they cannot only help you discover and attend to these biases, they can also help you understand how people process information and help you develop products and marketing campaigns that appeal to your target audience.

Neuromarketing: Tap into the unconscious processes that drive your customers

Neuromarketing is the study of how people's brains respond to advertising and other brand-related messages by scientifically monitoring brainwave activity, eye-tracking and skin response. An increasing number of companies are now using neuromarketing techniques to improve their products, websites, content and advertising messages. This might involve looking at what part of adverts or products attract people’s eye gaze, examining consumers’ brain activity while they interact with your product or service, monitoring people’s facial reactions during an interview or testing people’s emotional responses to different versions of the same ad.

About 95% of all our (purchasing) decisions are made subconsciously. By measuring these unconscious decision processes, neuroscience can help companies understand which factors influence their customers’ preferences and purchase decisions and how they can successfully modify their ads and products to better fit their needs.

Big companies* such as Facebook, YouTube and PayPal are already using neuroscience findings to fine-tune their online advertising campaigns. Facebook used neuromarketing research to understand how people’s brains and physiology respond to identical stimuli delivered on a smartphone and a TV. YouTube used neuroscience findings to show that overlay ads appearing in YouTube videos grab consumers’ attention and boost brand awareness. And PayPal found that commercials focusing on speed and convenience triggered a significantly higher response than those advertising safety and security and decided to develop a new ad campaign based on these results.

*It's not just big companies that are using neuroscience as a marketing research method. Research tools such as eye tracking, heat mapping and skin response wristbands are becoming more accessible and are used by a growing number of UX and market researchers. 

Understanding and predicting customer behaviour

The vast majority of marketers aren’t psychologists. But many successful marketers regularly employ psychology in appealing to consumers. Consumer psychologists and neuromarketers can help you find answers to a wide range of questions, such as:

  • How do people feel about my brand and/or product?
  • How can I make my product or service stand out amongst competitors?
  • How can I improve my website to increase conversion?
  • How can I improve my advertising message to better connect with (prospective) customers? 

Ultimately, psychological insights and research methods are an essential tool in helping businesses to really understand and successfully predict customer behaviour, making it a valuable addition to other popular market research methods such as customer interviews, surveys and real time data monitoring (e.g. visitor analytics and A/B testing).

Want to know more?

Hopefully this blog will have provided a helpful introduction into the added value of psychology as a marketing tool, and how you can use this information to improve your digital marketing strategy. 

In future blog posts we'll be sharing more psychology insights and tips on how to successfully apply these to your marketing strategy - so if you're interested in learning more then please take the opportunity to subscribe!

If you would like to discuss any of the points covered further, and learn more about how your business could use consumer psychology and neuromarketing to improve your digital marketing results then please get in touch.

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