Here’s How To Use Behavioral Science To Level Up Customer Experience

Partner Content


Imagine you’ve just turned on your TV and opened your favorite streaming service. The trailer for the newest movie starts automatically, loud noise bursts out of your speakers, and bright colors fill the screen. It surprised you - caught your attention. As you watch the trailer it suddenly ends with a cliffhanger. Now, your interest is piqued and you decide to press the ‘watch movie’ button. 

But what does this have to do with brands and customer experiences? Well, for all marketers, the big question is how to capture consumers’ attention and keep them hooked. In a busy marketing environment characterized by fickle consumers and message overload, it’s difficult for brands to stand out and grab attention. 

Today’s consumers are fully aware of being in charge and their ability to turn off all marketing messages with just a click. Couple that with the fact that consumers have increased their expectations of brands delivering unique, seamless, and personalized experiences, and this has put marketers under enormous pressure to rethink how they can deliver these experiences.

How behavioral science enhances the customer experience

So how can behavioral science help marketers get that experience just right? The greatest challenge for marketers is to understand and predict consumer behavior to deliver successful marketing campaigns. A challenge that behavioral science can help marketers solve, by providing insights into the human behavior that guides consumers’ decisions when engaging with brands. 

We as human beings are cognitive misers. We have limited processing power, and therefore we’re unable to pay attention to everything around us. We’re hardwired by nature to only pay attention to certain things, not letting every stimulus grab our limited attention span. 

When under a cognitive load, or having a lot going on around us, people rely on mental shortcuts, called heuristics, and will reach for the options most salient to them. 

In other words, today’s brands have to do everything in their power to stand out, as consumers are busier than ever and not motivated to attend marketing messages. Using psychological principles such as emotion, surprise, and mystery can help marketers move past the brain’s bouncer and ensure that their message gets noticed by their audience. 

Once having grabbed consumers’ attention, you have the possibility to influence their behavior by framing your message through nudges. Maybe you’re thinking, what’s a nudge? The ‘fathers’ of nudge theory, Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, define nudges as:

“A choice architecture that alters peoples’ behavior in a predictable way.” This does not include forbidding options or using economic incentives. An often cited example from their book, Nudge Theory, is about where to place food in a cafeteria; by placing fruit at eye level, people were more likely to choose it. That’s a nudge; banning junk food is not. 

However, to influence behavior and deliver the right experience it depends on the audience you’re talking to. Your messages can’t be a one-size-fits-all-approach. It’s not how customer segments think. And depending on the brand, consumers have unique expectations for different brands.

Why customer experience matters

All marketers know that if customers are given a great experience, they’re more likely to buy more and become brand loyal. Perhaps even evangelists! But delivering that right experience is easier said than done and still leaves marketers scratching their heads. 

Today’s consumers expect more from businesses than just a good experience. However, there’s a lot of complexity around their new demands, as they want both personalization and privacy, staying loyal to brands while also readily switching to new brands in the moment of need. 

It’s become harder than ever for brands to differentiate themselves through customer touchpoints alone, as these have become easy to copy by competitors. Consumers want to be associated with brands that are doing well by doing good, as eight in 10 consumers state that purpose is just as important to them as the experience itself. 

As consumer expectations continue to evolve, it is important to understand the role of emotions in customer experiences. It is important to acknowledge that emotions play a great part in how consumers interact with brands. Consequently, brands who play to their audience’s emotions can create more meaningful and memorable experiences, eventually helping them stand out from the crowd. 

What should marketers do?

The key is to deliver compelling experiences, and to acknowledge that all consumer decisions are human decisions. It’s important to remember that our brains are limited and we get tired from making decisions, including what we should pay attention to.

One way of standing out and grabbing attention is through surprise. It’s in our nature to pay attention to anything surprising, and it’s the initial step to piquing your audience’s interest. Using sudden movement and noises or cognitive surprise - unexpected, novel, or bizarre things - will make your brand get noticed by customers. 

Then, to keep your audience hooked, marketers should start thinking about how to incorporate cliffhangers into their messaging strategies… 

On a day-to-day basis, this relates to adding questions, puzzles, and mystery to your messages, teasing the customers and leaving them wanting more.

But in the end, it all comes down to knowing your audience. Relying on data-driven insights is a first step in understanding their psychology and behavior. As a marketer, focus on the value exchange you create for your customers - it has to be worth the ask. And this is where marketing gamification comes into the picture. 

By providing fun and engaging experiences, brands are able to build trust with their customers, who in return willingly want to share their data. Using game mechanics in your marketing will make your audience feel that the benefits of engaging with games outweigh the costs of sharing their zip code, family size, or wine preferences.. Marketers then gain valuable insights into the behavior of their customers, which will enable them to deliver unique, personalized experiences moving forward. 

Use behavioral science to think through your marketing strategy and goals, by using tools like nudges, being aware of how much like Homer Simpson we actually are, and putting the choice you want your customers to make at eye level. Be the part of their day that your customers’ brains are hardwired to pay attention to. Do this and you’re guaranteed to level up your customer experience.

Interested in learning more about behavioral science in marketing? Check out our latest webinar Using Behavioral Science to Transform Customer Experience