4 Amazing Examples On How Easily Manipulated We Are

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behavioral economy

The last couple of weeks I have been knee-deep in books, blogs and videos on behavioral economy and social psychology. They are fascinating subjects; a look in to the underlying psychological factors that shape the decisions we make. What strikes me the most is how unbelievably easy we are to manipulate.

I, for one, like to think I’m pretty much in control of the decisions I make. I have worked in sales and marketing for years, I think I can spot the “tricks” a mile away. No .9 charm price is going to sway my decision. I know the fresh fruit and veggies are placed at the entrance to the supermarket, it won’t fool me in to thinking that the rest of the supermarket is an abundance of freshness.

It is easy to spot the “bigger” persuasion techniques, such as .9 pricing and “deal of the day”, they might draw your attention to a product, but I think most of us will base our decision to buy on a weighing of costs and benefits, and not just because it had a .9 price or was labeled a certain way.

It’s the small little manipulation techniques that have me completely intrigued and perplexed at the same time.

Want someone to like you – hand them a warm cup of coffee

Our brains work in mysterious ways, the interconnected neural network that inhabits first floor does not seem to be very good at separating seemingly unrelated events.

For years, Professor John Bargh has proven how easily we can be primed to feel a certain way. In numerous experiments he has tested the effect of having someone hold a warm or cold beverage first and then ask them to rate a stranger’s friendliness afterwards.

The people who were given the warm beverage, felt the person was kind, friendly and when asked if they would hire the person for a job, they said they likely would.

The exact opposite was true for the group of people who held the cold beverage, they were much less inclined to hire the stranger and they had a much lower opinion of the stranger’s friendliness.

How on earth can this be true? Well, according to Nathalie Nahai, author of “Webs of Influence”, the part of our brain responsible for processing physical temperature, is also involved in processing interpersonal warmth, and the same area also plays a role in our social emotions, such as empathy, trust, embarrassment and guilt.

Our brains simply can’t distinguish between these unrelated events, because they are processed by the same area of the brain. This explains why these experiments keep showing the same results time and time again, even when people have been forewarned that external influences are at play.

As a public service I’d just like to say – beware of politicians and salespeople handing you warm cups of coffee!

One word makes all the difference

In a fascinating TEDtalk psychologist Elizabeth Loftus talks about false memory. She describes memory as a bit like a Wikipedia page, we can construct pages ourselves and add new information – but so can other people. A bit scary really.

In an experiment they constructed a scene of an accident and showed it to people. Afterwards they asked half how fast the cars were going when they hit. The other half were asked how fast the cars were going when they smashed.

Just by changing one single word, hit/smashed, the results were remarkably different. The “hit” people estimated that the cars travelled at 34 mph and the “smashed” people estimated 41 mph.

Moreover the “smashed” people were more than twice as likely to say that they saw broken glass in the scene, when in fact there wasn’t any.

All it took was one single leading word and suddenly the whole incident was more dramatic and more violent.

I don’t even want to start speculating where evil people could and do use techniques such as this!

The power of default

If you really want people to choose a particular option, make it the default.

A study done on the percentage of a nation’s population willing to donate their organs to medicine after death showed some remarkable results.

Opt-in opt-out study

It seem the people of Denmark are particularly cold hearted and unwilling to donate organs, whereas the good folks of Sweden are much more inclined to donate. How can this be? Denmark and Sweden are culturally similar nations, as are the Netherlands and Belgium, and Germany and Austria. How can it be that some nations are so much more willing to donate than others?

Turns out that when the questionnaire was handed out, the countries on the left hand side were asked to tick a box to opt-in if they wanted to donate their organs.

The countries on the right hand side were asked to tick a box to opt-out if they didn’t want to donate their organs.

And what did people do? The exact same thing – they didn’t tick anything! Resulting in dramatically different results.

So can you trust statistics? Well, only to the degree you can trust the person who designed the questionnaire or the form you are filling out, as the design will have a dramatic effect on the end result.

As Benjamin Disraeli, 19th century English Prime Minister, said “there are lies, damned lies and then there is statistics”. Seems he might have been on to something…

It is for this same reason that 42% of people click on the first result on search engines result pages and only 8% click on the second result. We choose what is served, whether out of laziness or a blind trust in other people’s choices, I don’t know. What is truly remarkable is, that even if you switch the first and second search result around (which should then serve you a lesser quality result first) people still choose the first option!

Want something to look fantastic? Place it next to something inferior.

My favorite behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, gives in his book Predictably Irrational some startling examples of how attractiveness really and truly is relative.

For example, did you know that restaurants can increase their overall revenue by including high-priced entrées on the menu, even if no one buys them? How can this be, I hear you ask. Well, people will typically not choose the most expensive dish on the menu, but they are inclined to choose the second most expensive dish. So by including a high-priced dish, you can lure people into choosing the second most expensive dish.

The same persuasion technique comes in to play in many product displays. Imagine you were looking at buying a new TV, and you were presented with these three TV options:

  • 36 inch Panasonic for $690
  • 42 inch Toshiba for $850
  • 50 inch Philips for $1480

Which one seems like the better deal? Is the Panasonic a better deal than the Philips? $1480 might be a bit hot, and 36 inch might be a bit small. Likely you will choose the middle option, because next to the other two, this one seems like the best deal.

And finally, my favorite, imagine you were going on a vacation, you have to choose between Rome and Paris. It’s a tough choice, both vacation packages come inclusive of hotel, breakfast and sightseeing tours.

If your travel agent really wants to sell Rome, he will include a second but inferior Rome option, like Rome without the breakfast. You will immediately recognize that Rome and Paris all inclusive are similarly attractive options, and you will also recognize that Rome without breakfast is an inferior option.

What happens is that this inferior option makes Rome with breakfast seem even better. In fact so much better, that now Rome with breakfast looks even more attractive than Paris with breakfast. And next thing you know, you have booked your vacation in Rome – with breakfast.

I hope you have enjoyed these few examples of just how easy we are to manipulate. I don’t really like the word manipulate, it is a very negatively charged word, and I don’t think these techniques are only for “evil” use by any means. I am simply fascinated by how seemingly small and insignificant things can have a huge impact on the choices we make, and I think we would be wise to slow down sometimes and think before we act.

A digital future for an analogue industry

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furniture digital marketing

Times are changing

The furniture industry has a reputation for being an Ol’ Boys club with a lot of face-to-face interactions and many industry trade shows to attend every year. My own experience from the industry more or less supports this reputation, as with most reputations they are often founded on at least some degree of truth, as they say “where there is smoke there is usually fire”.

Many industries have undergone great transformations over the past ten years, as they have had to adapt to new buyer behaviours with the shift from bricks to clicks retail. I have previously touched on the subject of e-commerce evolution, where we ten years ago found it unlikely that online retail of things like shoes or clothing would ever become popular, today we love it and most of us have at least at some point shopped online for these items.

I wanted to find out more about the general attitudes towards the use of digital tools as part of sales and marketing among the furniture retailers where I live; in Denmark. I wasn’t able to dig this information out from the corners of the internet, so I set out to conduct a survey on my own, and although it has to be said that my survey carries zilch statistical validity, it does give a good indication of certain trends and attitudes prevalent in the furniture industry.

 

So where is the furniture industry heading?

It is doubtful that the furniture retailers can remain behind their fortified arguments about their products being unsuited for online retail, due to their bulky nature and relatively large price-points, for very much longer.

Although the vast majority of sales still takes place in a physical store; roughly 3% happen purely online (USA & Europe combined data), it would be very unwise to ignore the impact the web has on the industry today. According to a study done in the UK by the Javelin Group the web has a direct impact on 42% of sales and this number is expected to increase to 69% by the year 2020.

So even though you might conduct the actual transaction within the four walls of your showroom, whether or not the customer will even venture into your store in the first place is very much influenced by what they experience online.

Furniture could be one of the last remaining online retail frontiers – so when will they conquer it ?

Probably sooner than many furniture retailers are prepared for. I spoke with many retailers during my survey and I got a clear feeling that most are aware that e-commerce is something they need to include in their business strategy, but they are very unsure of what exactly they should do to make it a success.

I understand where they are coming from; when you venture into uncharted territory where there are very limited established best practices to follow, you must have the guts to set the rules on your own. And that’s scary stuff when you have existed in an analogue world for donkey’s years.

Many fear that online trade will cannibalize in-store sales. This is my advice to them; with limited growth predicted for the industry at large over the next 5 years, and the only discernible growth is taking place on the web, online trade might very well eat away at in-store sales, but if you don’t cannibalize your own store someone else is sure to do it.

When Retargeting Smells Like Stalking

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http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-woman-peeking-blinds-image28298072Ever had the eerie feeling someone’s watching you? How do they in mysterious ways keep bumping into you no matter where you go? Pop! Right in your face – again. Ugh, it’s down right freaky.

I often feel this way after a good dose of online window shopping. The next many many days, the stores that I have visited just keep showing up on my screen everywhere I go. Constantly I must be presented with the same jackets, shirts, shoes or whatever I have been looking at. I know what they look like thank you very much, I was the one who found them remember, I don’t need to see them again every 10 minutes.

I know the idea behind retargeting, as this (at times super annoying) marketing tool is called, is to nudge and remind a store visitor of the items they looked at in the hope that they will return to the store and complete the purchase. But there is also such a thing as frequency, which is the amount of times you present these little nudges to your potential customers, and boy do some online retailers get this wrong!

In particularly I find online clothing retailer Zalando to be overly zealous in their deployment of retargeting. They seem to be hunting rather than targeting, and I am apparently the prey. As is common with us prey, we don’t much care for our hunters, so we hide and make sure we never ever cross your path again. Which in your case, Zalando, means you have freaked and annoyed me sufficiently that I will not visit your otherwise very nice online establishment again for fear of being hunted days on end with the same images over and over.

Took me less than 10 minutes to bump into these 3 ads (4 actually since one ad was not enough in one of them) and this has happened non-stop for well over a week now.

Zalando 123

Sometimes less really is more. I’d appreciate a little friendly nudge now and then, maybe with a nice discount incentive to encourage me to return and make the purchase. But this kind of frequency has the opposite effect, I don’t want to go back because by now I’m fed up with Zalando.

As a marketing professional myself, I also appreciate that frequency can be a particularly difficult beast to master. I think what I would do, would be to test my way forward. Split test different frequencies and pair them with different buyer profiles.

Hopefully that should prevent campaigns from being are so far off target it resembles some kind of “shock and awe” strategy.