Design impacts behavior. If you know how to impact behavior, you can also design for behavior.

That being said, I want to share how behavioral psychology can transform your e-commerce business. I am not talking about simply transforming sales revenues here by adjusting how you communicate prices or add security badges to transmit the feeling of safety.

True behavioral design is about a bigger change: it’s how we buy, how we choose, what triggers our motivations. Given the evolutionary roots of human cognition, people all over the world are prone to very similar decision-making processes that every e-commerce manager should know about it.

This is where the missing layer of behavioral design comes into play: drawing conclusions from the motivations behind people’s purchase decisions, tapping into the psychology of human nature that drives our actions, both good and bad.

In fact, it’s such an influential field of study that the White House has a “Nudge Unit”. A team with the goal of using simple social experiments to learn how the government can accomplish anything, from lowering energy consumption to increasing tax collection.

So how could behavioral design be applied in e-commerce? Let’s dig in.

Start with HUMANS in mind

“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” – Seth Godin

The biggest mental barrier we need to overcome in influencing behavior is the company’s tendency to project itself on the other. We think everyone will buy that dress, everyone will use that app or download that software. It is the best in the class, with loads of new features.

Many times we forget that we are not the users. That’s when solutions built on internal perspectives come to live. That’s when marketing messages speak about features, not about solving people’s inner desires and anxieties.

The behavioral design mindset protects us against this reflex and starts with humans in mind.

Take problems down to the level of the desired behavior of humans. For example, you are a gym owner selling gym subscription. What is the desired behavior of your potential clients? Is it “signing up for a gym” – or is it feeling more confident, fitting in that wedding dress and feeling beautiful, finding the inner balance? There could be many different reasons – the key is that humans do not think in “transactional terms”. Humans have anxieties, pain points, and worries. Our solutions have to address it and be driven by it.

Your customers are predictably irrational

“Psychological value is the next frontier in innovation. Understanding how humans really think can make a difference”

Humans are smart, rational and economic individuals. They make an unbiased decision to optimize their well-being, considering all available data. Unfortunately these “rational people”, live in a place called nowhere, because they simply don’t exist. No matter how much we believe that humans function this way, science speaks differently.

In fact, 98 % of our decisions are made subconsciously, irrationally and are biased. Most of the people coming to your online store or a physical store are humans too: they lack discipline, make decisions with their “gut”, they are biased.

How to get started with behavioral Science in your e-commerce?

Let’s look at IKEA as an example.

IKEA is very well known for tapping into behavioral design science in their strategies.You might have even heard about the so-called IKEA effect: when you work for something you fall in love with it. The idea is that an individual who makes a sacrifice to achieve a goal rationalizes the effort by attributing greater value to the achievement (aka that closet you have just mounted)

image of IKEA effect, two people

IKEA has been known for applying behavioral design principles throughout the whole customer journey many years ago. It is part of their business strategy.

It seems only logical that other retailers would venture in applying behavioral design to their strategy too…But there is one problem. How do we do that?

So here’s my advice:

  1. Add behavioral analytics into your e-commerce “toolkit”(insight into people’s behavior helps you to make smarter decisions around whom to target and how to get them to act)
  2. Test and experiment:: build hypotheses based on the behavioral data you have gathered and create experiments to validate it. For example, pricing psychology has numerous nudging techniques. Try some of them to see how the behavior of your customers changes.
  3. Find a “Behavioural design” champion inside your company or outsource. For a change to happen, the behavioral designer needs to be involved in projects from the very beginning. The goal of this role is to influence the fundamental structures and bring human cognition and action into work from the early beginning.

Once the understanding of irrationality is embedded in the fabric of the organization, behavioral science approach can be applied to virtually every area of the business.

Want to know how to apply behavioral design practices in your business and add that missing layer to your e-commerce? Get in touch with me!

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