Did you know that 95% of human decision-making is non-conscious?

You and I and all customers on planet Earth make decisions based on something else than prices, specifications, or facts.

Neuromarketing specialists developed ways to find what is behind the customer decision process, and the tools are now becoming more and more accessible to companies of all sizes.

We’ve interviewed Roger Dooley, neuromarketing author, and international keynote speaker, to show you how to use neuromarketing for your business. 

He’s been in digital marketing just about since digital marketing was “a thing” in the late nineties. Roger Dooley is the author of two best-seller books: Brainfluence from Wiley and Friction from McGraw Hill. Both books address how our human brains work and how we can use our knowledge of the human brain to be better marketers and businesspeople.

Discover his advice on using neuromarketing tools for better understanding customer behavior and using all the generated insights to improve customer experience.

Understanding what neuromarketing is

Alexandra Panaitescu: What should every eCommerce owner and specialist know about neuromarketing?

Roger Dooley: Most of our decision-making as humans is 95% non-conscious and 5% conscious, according to professor Gerald Zaltman from Harvard Business School. So, when we try and persuade customers with facts, figures, logic, specifications, and so on, we’re really addressing only a small part of their decision-making capability. 

As marketers, we also have to address that big non-conscious decision-making process, which is true not just for consumers but also for B2B marketers.

If you’re buying a piece of tech gear, it has to be compatible with whatever you’re going to plug it into. If you purchase industrial machinery for your business, it has to be the right machine with the right capacity. 

Emotional attributes influence customers to buy from you or your competitor, whether to buy right now or think about it a little longer and delay the decision.

Ideally, we’d like to have our customers buy from us right now. But once marketers understand that those non-conscious decision-making processes are so important, we can move on to, “Well, okay, then what do we do?

Innovations in neuromarketing you want to know about

A.P.: What are the latest neuromarketing innovations we can apply in an eCommerce business?

R.D.: Well, I think the most significant development in the last couple of years, even during the pandemic, is that there are far more inexpensive tools that open this field up to any size brand. 

I started writing about neuromarketing back in 2005. At that point, neuromarketing was primarily for big businesses and brands answering important problems. 

For example, we’ve got a Super Bowl ad spot we need to optimize for the event, and we’re going to test three versions. If the company is spending millions of dollars on one ad, dumping tens of thousands of dollars into a neuromarketing study makes sense. But most brands don’t have those kinds of budgets. 

Lab studies use tools like recorders or EEG. You would have to bring subjects in, wire them up, put a cap with wet electrodes on their heads to get good measurements of their brainwave activity. Lab research isn’t done very easily or cheaply. Even getting representative subjects is difficult because your customers probably don’t want to go into a lab. 

Now, these tools that used to be only for the laboratory can be applied remotely via saas products.

One recent development is smartwatch neuromarketing studies. Biometrics was in neuromarketing for years – things like heart rate, breathing rate, skin conductance. Now, so many consumers have a biometric device right on their wrist – a smartwatch can get some of those metrics in a very non-invasive way. 

When you can do these measurements via a smartwatch, a fitness tracker, or a mobile phone app, you can use your own customers and create panels from anywhere in the world. 

A.P.: Are there other examples of neuromarketing innovations that are affordable for eCommerce businesses?

R.D.: Paul Zak, the founder of Immersion Neuroscience, discovered that oxytocin is the hormone of human trust. He has developed a SaaS service where you can sign up for EUR 200 – 300 per month, and access tools that help you conduct studies, measure immersion and psychological safety. 

Eye-tracking was very expensive, only done in the laboratory with either expensive glasses or expensive cameras that tracked people’s gaze. Now, you can do this with webcams and device cams. It’s much easier to recruit subjects anywhere in the world. The results are not as sharp as the expensive laboratory setups but are good enough for many situations.

Another example of innovation comes from a company in Denmark called Neurons Inc. that has developed a predictive machine learning-based for simulated eye tracking. Their algorithm analyzes the image you want to use for your ad and predicts where real humans will look. 

They took tens of thousands of human eye-tracking studies and ran them through a machine-learning algorithm to create this tool. They claim it predicts what real humans will do with 90% accuracy. 

All these tools available now are very inexpensive. To me, that’s the big breakthrough. 

Would I base a major marketing campaign on tools like this? Probably not, but I would use it if I needed just a quick answer when I couldn’t decide between two designs and break that tie.

Using neuromarketing in eCommerce

A.P.: How does neuromarketing help eCommerce businesses better understand customer behavior?

R.D.: Neuromarketing tools help you understand how people are interacting with your digital content, like when they go to your website and open up your app:

  • What are they looking at?
  • Where are they hesitating?
  • What emotion are they experiencing? 

If people visit your website and data shows that they are looking frustrated or confused, that’s something you need to know.

Using neuromarketing tools goes beyond merely evaluating content in a particular way but understanding that behavior. You can use these tools in conjunction with conventional digital tools too. I certainly would not underestimate the power of other tools, like click tracking, scroll tracking, mouse tracking, eCommerce analytics, Google Analytics, and others.

Together, these tools eliminate guessing and give you a much better picture of what your customers do, think, or want.

A.P.: Companies get all this data from research and don’t exactly know what to do next to improve customer experience.

R.D.: Neuromarketing tools help you understand customers’ experiences on your website or mobile app. None of this data all is perfect in a vacuum. But when you combine your digital analytics with some of the neuromarketing data, then you understand:

  • Where is the customer experience working? 
  • Where is it smooth? 
  • When are people happy? 
  • What frustrates the customer? 
  • What makes them feel confused? 
  • Why do they hesitate?

You can combine neuromarketing data with data collected through the Net Promoter Score or the Customer Effort Score to get a better picture of the customer experience.

You can see customer effort from some of your analytics tools, like the fact that it takes them four tries to set up a password. There’s probably something wrong with your password setup process.

I’m seeing more companies measuring customer perception of effort with simple surveys, using a scale from 1 to 5, or from difficult to easy, and adding a short answer field where people can write things like “I had to type my password in 6 times before it accepted one.” 

Eliminating friction from customer experience

A.P.: You’ve dedicated an entire book to one of the biggest enemies of excellent customer experience: Friction. What should eCommerce businesses do to eliminate friction from their teams and customer’s journey?

R.D.: You brought up an essential point there, Alexandra. The first place to look for friction isn’t necessarily in your customer experience (although it’s good to look for it there too), but I’ll look for it in internal processes and employee experience. 

When I spoke to Tom Peters, co-author of In Search of Excellence, he emphasized that your customers will never be happier than your employees. By that, he meant that if your employees are disengaged, not connected to the company, don’t care about their job or what they’re doing, then they’re never going to deliver exceptional customer experience.

You’ve got to have that frictionless employee experience that revolves around trust, eliminating rules that aren’t necessary, and eliminating flawed processes. 

Employees know when their time is wasted when they’re filling out a form that isn’t necessary, they need approval from a senior manager when it isn’t essential. What those things do is show the employees they aren’t trusted. 

Paul Zack’s company surveyed high and low-performing companies. They did thousands of questionnaires with employees, asking them whether they felt trusted and had trust in their boss, coworkers, and the company. They also took thousands of blood samples and analyzed all this data. They found that high trust companies were high performing companies, not just shown by the survey results, but by the level of oxytocin in the people’s bloodstream. 

Trust is crucial, and that carries over to customer experience. I’m always amazed at how much Amazon trusts me when I return something. They trust me, and that makes me trust them. Trust is reciprocated. 

Some examples of friction that companies can eliminate from customer experience are:

  • Making it easy for people to find stuff on your website;
  • Easy checkout process;
  • Not forcing people to set up an account if they don’t want to;
  • Not having crazy password requirements;
  • Never log out people automatically.

If there is a role model for eliminating friction, it is Amazon. Jeff Bezos has said that people come back for more when you eliminate friction. Amazon’s one-click ordering prevented other companies from using that for years and gave them a slight competitive advantage. 

A.P.: Could you share examples of companies that eliminated friction?

R.D.: We have two major home retailers here, in the U.S.: Home Depot and Lowe’s. Their products are fairly similar, selling anything you need to fix your home, from tools to lumber, screws, and fasteners. 

Home Depot has gained online market share against Lowe’s for years.

Home Depot site search is vastly better. You start typing something, and it suggests things to you, and they tend to be the right things. Home Depot has a very intuitive site search. It understands what you’re looking for from what you’ve typed.

At Lowe’s, you start typing something, but the search results often contain unrelated things. You can understand how their algorithm picked those things because they had some common texts, but they aren’t what you were looking for.

Another example is Shopify. They became the dominant eCommerce platform because they were dead simple to use. They did not offer all the features or payment methods that their early competitors did, but it was simple. You can get going very, very quickly. I spoke to a competitor of theirs, who said, “yes, they had less friction than we did.”

In the same way, Zoom has taken over the conferencing apps during the pandemic not because they had a better product than Cisco or Microsoft, but because it was easier to use.

Simplifying decision-making process to get lower CAC

A.P: In your book Brain-fluence, you offer marketers 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing. Which would be your top 3 picks for a store that’s struggling with high customer acquisitions costs?

R.D.: Every store might have high acquisition costs for different reasons. We’ve already talked about some of the things you could be doing wrong. 

One I talked about in Brainfluence is choice and the paradox of choice. If you have too many choices and options, people will be confused and do nothing. So, the companies that offer many choices solve this problem for you. Amazon has an infinite choice, and you’d say, “Oh, wow, people can never decide what to buy at Amazon,” but they offer you all kinds of tools: recommended products, best sellers, featured products, star ratings, etc. All of these things actually simplify your choice process.

If you are just going to throw a bunch of products at people, that’s not going to work. Things have to be obvious. People are distracted; they’re not paying attention. If there is any question about what people are supposed to do when you arrive at the site or open up the mobile app, you’re doing it wrong. A classic book that I recommend on this topic is “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. So many companies ignore the advice in the title and offer people confusing information.

Another little tactic is called decoy marketing or decoy pricing. You see this used to varying degrees of success by eCommerce sites, SaaS sites, etc., where you may have several products in a category. 

If you have two products, say a good one and a better one, you can probably increase sales of the better one by adding a third one, a much more expensive one with many more features. Research shows that the sales increase for the product that was previously your better product.

Another tactic that is a little harder to use is to position a product similar to the one you like to sell, has about the same price, but has fewer features, or it’s less attractive in some way. What happens is that people make the mental comparison, realize that product A is better than product B, and would make an immediate choice on product A where before they might have made some other choice entirely.

Conclusion

If more eCommerce companies were aware that only 5% of our decision as customers is conscious, maybe they would invest more in neuromarketing tools.

Roger Dooley emphasized that they aren’t significant investments because one of the positive changes the pandemic brought was that neuromarketing tools became more accessible to companies that couldn’t afford the technology before. One technology to keep an eye on is smartwatch neuromarketing. 

Neuromarketing helps you better understand what’s behind their buying decision, what causes friction during their interaction with your store, and what you should do to make them happy and build a seamless experience.

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