Ask a Researcher: What can behavioral science tell us about consumer search habits?
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Ask a Researcher: What can behavioral science tell us about consumer search habits?February 2021
In part two of a two-part Ask a Researcher (check out part one), Think with Google Global Executive Editor Natalie Zmuda and Alistair Rennie, a research lead on Google’s market insights team, take a deeper look at the role behavioral science plays in people’s path to purchase. By applying the six principles of behavioral science they discuss here, brands have the opportunity to shift or even completely disrupt brand preference in the messy middle of the consumer purchase journey. To learn more about this research, download the full report.
Natalie Zmuda: Hi, I'm Natalie Zmuda, global executive editor
of Think with Google.
Welcome to Ask a Researcher from home.
Today, I’m joined by Alistair Rennie, a research lead in Google's market insights
team in EMEA.
Alistair Rennie: Hi, thanks for having me.
Natalie: Ali, the last time we spoke, we discussed
your latest research project, Decoding Decisions, which looks at changes in search behavior
over the last 15 years.
Can you tell me how behavioral science plays a role in the research?
Alistair: Okay, well over the last five or six decades,
behavioral scientists have come up with something like 300 distinct principles of behavioral
science that really underpin how we, as a human, behaves.
And we picked out six from our literature review that are particularly relevant to
this space that we call the messy middle.
We'll start with category heuristics.
Now in a world where we are really, really busy, and there is so much choice and information,
having shortcuts is really important, and we rely on those quite heavily when making purchase
The next two: let's talk about, I guess, social norms and authority bias kind of go together.
Because this is about how we interpret the views and opinions of others.
And the truth is, if we see five people do something, we're more likely to go and do
that thing ourselves.
And then we have authority bias, which it's similar.
But instead of coming from lots of people, it comes from one person or one source.
And my favorite out of these has to be the power of now. If you tell me that something
that I want to buy, I can have that tomorrow, that is tremendously appealing.
Then we have scarcity bias.
Very self explanatory, if there is less of something, then the more we want it.
And the last one, the power free. Say you're making a complex purchase.
You don't maybe quite understand all the variables, but someone says you can have a free pen.
Instantly your brain does that math very, very quickly, and it is very appealing.
Natalie: How do you think this research resonates
Alistair: The important thing about this research is
that it's based on observed behavior; it's grounded in behavioral science.
So we're looking at cognitive processes that happen in the human brain.
Now those cognitive processes are going to be the same, no matter where in the world
These are about human brain functions.
So this research actually travels really well.
Natalie: And why do you think this research matters
to the industry?
Alistair: There's been a big push for marketing to become
more digitally led.
But the key thing that goes with that is understanding the behavior that comes with that.
So rather than just being sort of driven by the technology, we really understand the behavior
that takes place on that platform.
Natalie: Ali, thanks so much for joining us today.
Alistair: My pleasure.
Thank you very much.
Natalie: For more of the latest marketing insights,
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