Tamara Bos and Jonny Protheroe are researchers at Google. They focus on understanding consumer decision-making in the “messy middle” of the online purchase journey.
The internet provides a shopping environment of abundant choice and near limitless information. This means that it can be incredibly challenging for consumers to navigate the “messy middle” and decide what to buy.
New research from Google and The Behavioural Architects delves into how marketers can aid consumer decision-making. And it turns out that one of the solutions lies within behavioural science.
Marketers can help people make more informed decisions by supercharging different touch points with insights from behavioural science. Website landing pages, for example, can be optimised with principles such as “emotional priming”, “delivery friction”, and “paradox of choice”.
By understanding how to apply behavioural science to your website you will be able to better meet shoppers’ needs — and motivate them to consider purchasing from your brand.
The role of behavioural science in boosting consumer confidence
One of our key research insights is that shoppers need to feel confident before they can make a purchase decision. And there are various factors that affect their level of confidence. For example, if people have less prior knowledge about a product, their confidence levels are lower and vice versa.
We ran an experiment to understand which behavioural science principles can be the most powerful. For this, we created landing pages for various invented brands, including a fictional sofa company. They all met basic category expectations so we could measure a baseline level of category confidence.1 This is the bronze landing page we started off with:
How to earn a silver landing page trophy with low investment
To attract shoppers, it’s important for marketers to look at what information is included on their landing pages and how it is presented and phrased. Behavioural science provides the direction needed to understand what website content and messaging to optimise, and how.
Initially, only low-cost or no-cost executions were applied to the fictional sofa brand’s landing page, to show what improvements can be achieved with minimal investment:
- Social proof and authority bias: These are earned credentials, such as customer reviews and recommendations from experts, which were added as prominent features to the landing page.
- Cognitive ease: People favour decisions that require minimal mental capacity, so design changes were implemented that made information about the product range and options available easier to digest.
- Anchoring: Shoppers rely on information received early on in the decision-making process, which is why we added price ranges to help people shop within their budget.
- Emotional priming: Consumers are also influenced by how they feel emotionally rather than purely rational considerations. That’s why we updated the hero image. While it may seem counterintuitive that a photo without people performed better, it better answered consumer’s needs as the new image puts the focus on the product.
Twice as many shoppers said that the silver version of the landing page made them feel more confident than the bronze version.2 This shows that applying behavioural science principles to optimise your landing pages can be incredibly effective. And you don’t need any, or only limited, budget to get started.
Going for gold: How to optimise landing pages with extra time and resources
Behavioural science principles can be even more powerful to marketers when they have more resources available to optimise their landing pages further.
In our experiment we brought this to life by applying principles that either required additional time, investment, or needed to be earned, such as through excellence in product or service quality:
- Delivery friction: This refers to how quickly an item can be delivered, which we called out with an improved delivery window clearly marked on the landing page.
- Paradox of choice: A large number of options can lead to indecision, so we added a tool to help prevent information overload. However, the addition of the conceptual tool didn’t have a big impact within this experiment, which suggests it’s always important to test ideas for yourself before making a major investment.
- Framing: The hero text on the landing page was updated to frame the information in a more appealing way.
- Finally, we “supercharged” principles we had already applied to the silver landing page: emotional priming, anchoring, authority bias, and social proof. We did this by investing in new photography, adjusting the budgets shown in the “want to know more” section, and highlighting earned improvements in product quality and service excellence.
When asked which version of the landing page made them feel more confident in buying a sofa, a majority of 58% of shoppers chose the gold version vs. only 36% who selected silver.3 Needless to say, optimising website content by applying behavioural science principles that require an investment can really pay off.
Boosting confidence is a win for shoppers and marketers
Making shoppers feel confident is a noble goal, but you may ask what’s in it for marketers. That’s why we ran the experiment again. This time, instead of asking shoppers about general confidence levels, we asked them which landing page made them more likely to consider buying from our fictional sofa brand. We discovered that the same factors that boost category confidence also make shoppers more likely to consider making a purchase.
Not only that, but properly optimised landing pages provide other benefits to marketers too. For example, in the age of AI it makes it easier and more efficient to get new campaigns up and running. Google AI uses information from landing pages to generate keywords, creative, and other assets that feed into ads.
So optimising your landing pages to address shoppers’ information needs is not only important to improve consumer confidence, but it’s also a win for marketers.
Download “Decoding Decisions: Marketing in the messy middle” for more insights on boosting customer confidence and consideration with behavioural science.