You got a perfect product, been used by about a million of users, so does it mean your product is successful? Well, if you think right now it’s on the path of success, but it might just take a small turn to go down the road to failure. Product just can’t be successful and keep its game up for a longer run unless it exploit the behavioural domain of its users.
Every product which became the epitome of human creation, for instance Facebook or Google, which left this era completely imprinted by its existence, have cleverly utilised cognitive and behavioural psychology of its user base.
Oh! yes, being a manager or a product designer you might have noticed it, but still didn’t apply it to your product. Another factor is you might be unknowingly doing it but are not able to get optimum return from it.
Let’s first talk about the behavioural psychology importance in product success and its efficiency in getting the product to the next level.
Early this December, my mother was in a shopping mall when a couple of girls approached her and gifted her handmade Christmas greeting cards and flowers, plus the perfunctory request for a donation.
She typically complains that this kind of stuff happens every year, but then she reaches for her purse. When I tell her she can simply ignore the request, she shakes her head: “But they already gave it to me!” What compelled her to donate to a charity she isn’t really passionate about?
Reciprocity Technique, We Give Tit for Tat
What happened with my mother is a simple case of Reciprocity: “I’ll do it because you already gave me something.” A moral obligation instilled by social pressure to do something back for those children who made those season cards. We are naturally wired to want to return favours.
If you do something nice for someone, or give them something as a gift, they will feel indebted to you for it.
A tried-and-tested way in a typical E-Commerce industry is to give something extra to instil a delight in the customer, which in return gets them coming back to you again and again and sometime even much more.
For instance, a renowned e-payments and e-commerce brand in India, PayTm, occasionally rewards its users with cashback credited to their e-wallet. While a closer look shows it provides such to delight a specific set of users.
The same way at my previous company Flyrobe, a premium Rental service for branded & designer clothing for Men & Women in India (similar to Rent the Runway ), we provided surprise bundled accessories to instil delight and along with that provide a placard with social coordinates to share their experiences on their social media tagging us.
And it generated huge social confirmations, branding for us, with loyal customers as cherry on the cake.
Door-in-the-Face or Rejection-then-retreat technique
The other technique used sparingly is “The-door-in-the-face” technique or otherwise known as the “Rejection-then-retreat” technique. The persuader attempts to convince the respondent to comply by making a large request that the respondent will most likely turn down, much like a metaphorical slamming of a door in the persuader’s face. The respondent is then more likely to agree to a second smaller request.
Popup shown when user tries to exit the page - Image Source: Ketto
A quick example for this is used by popular charity, social funding sites. For instance: At my current company Ketto (a crowdfunding site similar to GoFundMe), a very popular online Crowdfunding Platform and Website in India for fundraising of Social, Charity, Personal and Creative causes, we ask the user to at least share the fundraiser page to their social walls, if they are not willing to donate to the fundraiser, which they agree to as this is a smaller request than the first one which involved making a donation.
The way it’s presented completely utilises the “Rejection-then-retreat technique”. Visitors on the fundraiser page are shown an exit- intent (when they try to leave the site- refer the above screenshot) with a message from the campaigner asking them to at least share their fundraiser, if not making a donation.
The same technique is utilised at the payment page where they are provided with preset amount slabs to choose from, which they wanted to donate. In case user tries to leave the site, they are shown message that even a contribution as small as INR 100 ($15 for people outside India) can help their cause.
If you look at the screenshot above (the pop up on Ketto’s page), there’s no close button present on it. the way to close the pop up is by clicking “I don’t wish to share”. This is a cleverly deployed tactic, where the directive actionable text plays an important role in changing user behavior.
User experiences a cognitive dissonance and to minimise that they click the share button. The use of specific negate term “don’t” in the clickable text, makes the user think twice and create a sense of uneasiness through guilt.
Content will adhere the throne if only you chose the right one. As it played an important part in altering user behavior above.
The fable of “The Fox and the Grapes”, can be seen as an example of cognitive dissonance. The fox held two incompatible thoughts simultaneously, desire and frustration.
The criticism used by the fox was a way to neutralize this dis-balance and reduce the mental conflict. Humans subconsciously strive for internal consistency. Experiencing this leads to discomfort. This leads to alteration of behavior, so that we can stay in balance and be happy.
Another powerful compliance technique is called “Foot-in-the-door” technique. It aims at getting a person to agree to a large request by having them agree to a modest request first.
Imagine, working on the onboarding flow of your product. Before asking the users for a big favor (become a paid member), you first ask them for a small favor (register for free with one click), a favor so small, they’ll almost surely do it.
Once they’ve set foot in the door and you wait for a bit, you can ask them for a larger favor. In the end, you can ask them the big favor to become a paid member of your product.
Use of various social psychology technique in UX from one of the most popular e-commerce site eBay
Let’s go through the above screenshot, and unravel some of social psychology techniques used by various E-commerce sites.
People are more likely to complete tasks when they see other people doing them. The idea: “I’ll do it because everyone seems to be doing it too.” Social Proof or Conformity is a psychological phenomenon where people reference the behavior of others to guide their own behavior.
This tendency is driven by our natural desire to behave “correctly” under most circumstances — whether making a purchase, deciding where to dine, determining where we should go, what we say, who we say it to, and so on. One of the best examples of social proof, in real life, is the long line in front of an Apple Store on the day a new iPhone is released.
The fact that a group of people find the new phone so desirable as to invest considerable time standing (or sleeping!) in line impacts our perception of the phone value (and makes us covet one, too).
Apple Store UK Opening Day photo by Lucius Kwok. Used via Creative Commons License.
Looking towards the web we can see the social proof principle used frequently — for example ratings and review options on many e-commerce sites. Amazon’s “people who bought this item also bought” is a good example of this. Twitter also shows what’s “Trending”.
People see these popular links and often click on stuff they otherwise would never have thought about. The most prevalent example of this is probably ability to sort by “best selling” which is available on many e-commerce sites. Going back to the above screen shot of eBay, “add to watchlist” and “number of views per hour” are examples of this.
Scarcity: Value what is rare, we react to urgent deadlines & dwindling supplies. Image Source: Souq
So my younger brother recently happen to visit a very popular E-Commerce website, Souq to buy iPhone X. He was on a trip to Dubai, and his intentions were to buy it just before he gets back.
But, he was inadvertently forced to place the order instantly after visiting the page. When looking closer to what changed his behavior was a small text placed below the add to cart button, “Only 1 left in stock!”. He was a victim of a very well known social phenomenon “The scarcity principle”. The idea: “I’ll do it because it’s my last chance.”
The scarcity principle causes people to assign high value to things they perceive as being less available. In real life, Black Friday is a good example of scarcity: a sale that occurs on only one day of the year (the day after Thanksgiving in the United States) and consists of a limited number of products offered at discounted prices.
Ways to effectively utilise the scarcity principle:
- Providing discounts: Create price deals that last for a limited time, whether this means making a purchase on your app, or signing up for a promotion.
- Use countdown timers: We’ve all seen the countdown timers on Amazon, ticking away the seconds before the deal disappears. Display it and place that urgency right in your users’ faces.
- Display units remaining: For events or physical goods, you can display a specific number of units or reserved seats remaining. This is one reason why travel apps always show “Only X seats left” when you’re trying to book an airline ticket.
- Limited Inclusion: Make it a special customer/buyer group with additional benefits and offer limited seats through subscription or signups.Now keep that scoreboard ticking, and keep crossing each Level!
Now that you have an arsenal of tactics you can use to persuade users to engage. Just remember that it is your duty as an ethical Product designer, UX designer or marketer to use these principles responsibly.
Don’t exploit them in the short run for profit and dispense them when you’re done. Play the long game and persuade your users toward action while building true loyalty for — and engagement with — your brand.
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Stay tuned for more UX and cognitive psychology posts till then Happy Reading!