How behavioural science can help marketers understand (and influence) their customers' behaviour

25 juillet 2023

Humans are not as rational as we think. To protect our brain from structural overload, we make a large part of our daily decisions 'on autopilot'. And by a large part I mean: more than 95%. Believe me, no matter how blue (DISC personality type) you are, this applies to everyone.

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Insights from behavioural science help to understand and even steer those decisions. For a marketer, this is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is that you can, of course, create a competitive edge with this. With knowledge of these insights and principles you can steer your target group in the desired direction. Or at least give them a push in the right direction. The disadvantage is that you are also human and therefore just as impressionable as your target group. All the more reason to keep reading.

Behavioural science is the study of human behaviour and the factors that influence it. For a marketer, this means that understanding consumer psychology and behaviour can be extremely helpful to the success of marketing campaigns.

By understanding the drivers and motivations of consumers, you as a marketer can develop effective strategies to promote your products and services. This can vary from developing advertisements, campaigns and content, to optimising the digital user experience. The behavioural scientist for whom introspection is second nature, can help the marketer to bypass his or her own biases and successfully apply the principles.

I’ll give you the five most important ones:

1. Social proof. The strongest behavioural principle. After all, we tend to imitate other people’s behaviour in social situations.

How can you use this? For example, by showing customer testimonials or product reviews. Earth shattering idea? Not really. But it works. ‘So many people can’t be wrong’.

2. Loss aversion. People have a strong tendency to avoid loss and are willing to take more risks to avoid loss than to gain something. The mental ‘pain’ of losing a ten euro note on the street is many times greater than the happiness of finding a ten euro note on the street.

How do you use this? Emphasise the sense of loss or scarcity if they don’t choose your product or service. has had quite some success with this.

3. Framing. The way information is presented, has a big influence on the decisions people make. Politicians are masters at it. A way for marketers to use framing, is with pricing strategies. By cleverly framing your prices, you can influence the customer’s value perception.

Examples? When selling an expensive product, you can frame the price tag by saying: “Our product is €500, but it’s in the same league as products that are €1,000 or more.” This way, you make potential customers feel as though they’re getting a bargain by buying your product, instead of choosing a different, more expensive product”.

Another way to frame the price, is by comparing it to the long-term costs. For example, if you sell a product that is more expensive than the competitions’, you can frame the price tag by saying: “yes, your product is more expensive at first, but it does last longer than its competitor. So in the long term, you actually save money.” This way, you give potential customers the feeling that they're smart for buying your product because in the end, it’ll be cheaper.

4. Architecture of choice. The way choices are presented can influence the decisions people make. It’s therefore important for marketers to optimise the choice architecture to increase the likelihood that customers will choose your products or services.

People love to have choices. But they don’t love choosing. Too much choice leads to stress and ultimately, to no decision at all. And as a marketer, that’s exactly what you don’t want from your customer. (Ever been to a French Hypermarché? Then you know the feeling).

Subscription providers understand this principle well: do you choose a basic model, de standard option or the XXL version? 10 to 1 says you’ll go for the standard option. The default. Not coincidentally the most profitable for the marketer, and the consumer thinks they have made a smart choice. Everyone happy.

5. Perceived effectiveness. The easiest to explain, with some examples.

Why do you think mouth wash has a bit of a chemical taste? And toothpaste nice and fresh. And skin cleanser that stings a bit. For manufacturers, it would be a piece of cake to leave out these effects and, for example, make mouth was sweet. The point is: you expect that specific taste. That ‘confirms’ to your subconscious that it really works.

At iO, we’re fascinated by this and many more insights from behavioural science. We’re constantly researching the relevance and application with designing and developing dozens of digital experiences for our customers.

Want to find out more? Don’t hesitate to get in touch. Dozens of satisfied customers preceded you (social proof!).

Inspired by these examples? I’ve got the following reading tips for you:  
Daan Goote
Daan Goote
Client Lead & Consultant behaviour and psychology

Daan Goote is a psychologist and consultant in the field of (public) communication and marketing. He applies knowledge and learnings from behavioural science. 'People are not as rational as they think' is by far the most important insight.

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