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How to Use Digital Consumer Psychology to Stand Out From the Competition

With more people shopping online than ever before, it’s time to use digital consumer psychology to your advantage.

5 min read

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Understanding what your customers are thinking and why they do what they do can make all the difference in your sales.

Beauty giant Neutrogena has invested time and money into consumer psychology  and it’s paying off. When the company found that 75% of its customers were purchasing products from just one segment of its range, Neutrogena wanted to see if it could change that. Using historic shopping cart data, Neutrogena created product pairings. The company began adding banner advertisements and videos, which would display product pairings to targeted customers. For example, if customers purchased an eye cream in the past, it would make sense to advertise a facial cleanser to them as a pairing to that eye cream. By using this tactic, Neutrogena exceeded its benchmark by 289% and got an $8.05 return on advertising spend.

Related: 6 Ways You Can Leverage Consumer Psychology to Drive More Sales

Why digital consumer psychology matters

Consumer psychology is the study of how social persuasion, decision making and motivation influence consumer behavior. Our thoughts, feelings, perceptions and beliefs all tie into these ideas and determine our buying choices. With that said, the correlation between understanding your customers’ purchasing behavior and making sales is clear. Understand how your customers make decisions, and you can adjust your selling techniques, marketing and product to better serve their needs and speak to them directly.

Today, people are shopping online more than ever, so we must apply these concepts to digital marketing. With more than 25% of people doing 90% of all their shopping online, this trend is not going away.

Related: The Intersection of Psychology and Marketing

How to use consumer psychology in marketing online

Create social proof. People have to trust your brand in order to feel comfortable making a purchase, especially online where they can’t see or touch the item first. Social proof is the reassurance that others have tried something, so your actions to follow suit are justified. You can create social proof online by showcasing reviews, testimonials, video interviews and affiliations. Having a solid social following also builds social proof.

Make sure your website is emotionally appealing. Effective websites bring out an emotion in shoppers. That emotion might be relief when they see your service can solve a problem for them, or simply the appreciation of aesthetically pleasing photos and graphics. Regardless, having a professionally designed website builds trust with your customers. The way your website looks will determine how shoppers interact with it  people are less likely to shop a website if it isn’t visually pleasing. So make sure your photos are high quality, the color story makes sense and that text is properly aligned. This applies to your email marketing and digital ads as well.

Lessen the cognitive load. Americans are exposed to thousands of ads every day. That’s a lot for people to process, and exemplifies how important it is to stand out. Cognitive load is the mental processing power that your working memory uses. When someone is overwhelmed with more information than his or her mental processing power can handle, he or she gets cognitive overload. We want to avoid this in digital advertising  sometimes less is more. Avoid providing your customer with too many choices. You may even break a longer message down over different screens. For example, in your email marketing, hook the consumer with a piece of information that requires them to click a button to continue reading.

Related: 12 Great Resources for Diving Into Consumer Psychology

Appeal to scarcity. The human brain still thinks, in some ways, at a very basic level. We’re hardwired to fear loss, avoid pain and chase pleasure. This is why those “buy now, limited quantities available” or “sale ends in 24 hours” ads are so common  they work! Think of how successful Amazon Prime Day is. Your appeal to scarcity will vary from business to business  if you’re a service provider, perhaps you’ll offer a limited-time free consultation or training. For product-based businesses, you might have a buy one, get one offer “while supplies last.”

There’s no going back: All signs of consumer behavior are pointing toward online shopping. With this shift, there’s a huge opportunity to factor in consumer psychology in marketing strategies. So, next time you sit down to map out your marketing plan for the quarter, take a close look at your website, digital ads and social proof. It just might be the difference between a good sales month and a mind-blowing one. 

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