Rule #1: Focus on the goals or problems to be solved and not in trying to apply an effect or a theory.
The way that we consume behavioral science insights is by learning the theories. Then, we say, “what can I do with this? How can I apply this? How can I make this work for my business?” As a brainstorming exercise, that’s OK. The unfortunate side effect is that sometimes, we end up forcing a theory we are excited about into the strategy that’s not right for the problem we’re trying to solve. The proper way to approach this solution is to define the problem and then determine what theories you can use to solve it.
However, it would help if you also realized when you don’t need a theory at all. Sometimes you only need to raise the price or advertise more. It’s not always the behavioral science solution. It would be best to think of behavioral science theories as powerful tools in addition to everything else. So, first, you should think about the problem and then use all the tools available to us to solve it, both traditional ones and ones from behavioral science.
We hosted a podcast recently with two guests, behavioral scientists Anne Wilson, Ph.D., and Lauren Cheatham, Ph.D. One of the critical points our guests made is that you may have a problem, and you may apply a tool to that, but many other things can impact the problem, too. However, you can’t use the tool for all the impacts. When you have a specific problem, you need to apply a particular device.
Rule #2: Get granular.
Behavioral science doesn’t work in general; it only works in specifics. Some interesting, exciting things in behavioral science are making these minor tweaks, these little nudges, and completely changing the way people respond. That’s what’s exciting about behavioral science.
However, the implication of that is if you’re implementing this stuff, you need to get specific. The small changes in how you implement it could result in these behavioral science effects where it swings the outcome one way or another. If you aren’t specific enough, what you try could have unintended consequences.
You also need to get into the heads of your customers and recreate those decision scenarios. For example, one bit of behavioral science that’s useful is that people tend to avoid extreme options, called Extremeness Aversion. It describes how if you have three options, you tend to choose the middle option and avoid the ones closer to the extreme, e.g., least expensive, and most costly or smallest or biggest. Knowing this, if you’re designing your product line, adding a super-premium option could make your premium options seem less extreme and increase sales.
This strategy works great when you control the presentation of the options. However, in cases where you group your offerings with other (competitive) offerings, like at a retail store or a site like Amazon, you are no longer controlling the “extremes.” So, if your goal is to sell more premium options, that addition of the super-premium option will not work the same way. You have to find a different way to get the customers to choose your premium option. The best way to do that is to see the presentation of options from their perspective in the conditions where they will be deciding to buy yours (or not) and choose the specific tool to help them make the right decision.
Rule 3: Identify your levers.
Many grand behavioral science theories and findings exist that are impossible for you to implement in your Customer Experience design or marketing strategy. Instead, you should identify what you control and concentrate your efforts there. For example, you own your website design, packaging, where you put your inventory on store shelves, or what happens in the customer journey in your experience. These types of areas you control are your levers, your set of buttons, and knobs that you can handle.
Most customer experiences are not deliberate; they are accidental. The company did not deliberately construct it to perform the way it does. Being intentional in this case means that you are specific with your lever and turn the behavioral-science-inspired strategy on and off, on purpose. Moreover, this particular approach to identifying the levers you control helps you realize how much you can be deliberate about in your experience.
Rule #4: Identify your customers’ mindset.
Much behavioral science will depend on how your customer approaches the experience and what you do with it. So, are your customers highly engaged with what you’re doing in your experience or your marketing effort? Or are they floating by and what you’re doing is incidental to their day? Are they giving you their full attention, or are they distracted?
How your customers approach your Customer Experience gives you a starting point. Then, you have a choice: you can either meet your customers where they are or move them to a different mindset. Suppose you’re not looking through your customers’ eyes at that point of decision as they’re engaging with you. In that case, your behavioral science interventions will never work because so many of them depend on the customer’s mindset.
If you don’t understand customers’ mindsets, it will be hard for you to know how to get them to do what you want. A lot of Customer Experience design, marketing, and leadership depends upon understanding this crucial viewpoint.
Rule #5: Iterate.
One of the principles baked into behavioral science is that you should test. The specifics matter, so you need to see if what you are doing is working. Then, because there are people involved, you need to continue to fine-tune your efforts. Over time, customers could get used to what you are doing, get bored by it, or have a new thing come up that disrupts business as usual. It is best to continue trying new things, applying additional behavioral science insights and changing what you’re doing. So, iterate and iterate constantly. Update, retest, and try new things.
This rule is crucial. Luckily, in the digital space, you can test these things inexpensively. Moreover, you don’t’ have to change loads of things. Also, in the digital area, measurement is built-in, which is excellent because the measurement is vital. It would help if you had both a baseline measurement before you iterate and after to see how the changes affect customer behavior in the real world.
I mean for this list to help make it easier to implement your science-backed strategies and get the results you need. Try focusing on the problem to be solved, get specific about your actions, control what you can control, and see it from your customers’ mindsets. In that case, you are setting yourself up for success using the behavioral sciences. Then, if you continue to fine-tune and improve the actions you take, you ensure that those successes continue, and you can further improve.
I am passionate about how the concepts of behavioral science can innovate and improve your Customer Experience. I am also a big believer in making these insights practical and, well, work. These concepts can be challenging to implement in real life, but it can be a little easier to know that it has the best possible chance for success by following these rules.