To change customer behaviour, think small

To change customer behaviour, think small

“Optimise the transaction and work out from there.”

So said advertising firm Ogilvy UK’s vice chairman, Rory Sutherland, at the Marketing Science Ideas Exchange (MSiX) conference in which I participated as both delegate and presenter a couple of weeks ago.

“Optimise the transaction and work out from there” gets to the heart of how to make something behaviourally effective. To influence someone to change their behaviour you must zone in on the moment of impact – the moment where they can choose to take action or not.

I call these ‘micro-moments’ and they are what your conversion success depends upon.

It’s your job to change behaviour

When you think about it, getting people to buy a product new to them or stopping customers from switching to a competitor are significant behavioural change tasks.  And perhaps that’s why we tend not to think about what we do every day in our businesses as behavioural change – thinking in this way can make it seem overwhelming.

The problem is that unless you start to think of our job as being to change behaviour you will continue to define your business too narrowly and stick to the standard (and tired) ways of going to market. You’ll do what you’ve always done and get what you’ve always got. If you are happy with website conversion of less than 5% or marketing campaigns that flop then good luck to you. For the rest of us, let’s start to rethink what we can do to get the other 95% of customers to take action.

Start with the transaction and work out from there

The good news is that while the objective of changing people’s behaviour may be large, the path to behavioural change is small. It’s the summation of a battery of tiny actions that shifts a person from point A to B. Your job is therefore to construct a path for them to follow. Start with the transaction – the end point – and work out from there.

By way of example, on an e-tail site the ultimate test is whether you can persuade your visitor to complete the purchase. That’s the transaction. But to get them to submit the order you have to work back – how to get them to add an item to the cart – how to get them to search for a product – how to get them to explore your site – how to get them to visit your site? Each of these stages is a micro-moment test of your ability to exchange enough value for your customer for them to want to continue. A poorly positioned button or the absence of an appropriate message can turn your customer off in a heartbeat, and they’ll never tell you why.

Of course the transaction doesn’t necessarily mean a literal transaction of goods for payment. Your transaction might be getting people to download an e-book, sign up to your newsletter, download your App, write a review, give up smoking or start exercising.

The key is to define the end point and work out from there. What is their current behaviour, what is the desired behaviour and what are the key moments along the pathway to get them there?

For more on how I deconstruct behavioural challenges and map out a pathway to the optimised transaction, please get in touch. Otherwise check out one of Rory’s TED talks on ‘sweating the small stuff’ here.

Bri Williams runs People Patterns, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments