I came across this interesting subject a short while ago and it fired an interest in me. Foremost, what the heck is Neuro Web Design?
It was a terminology I hadn't come across before so I investigated it a little more. Simply put it is a way of explaining how and why we [humans] do things within the web environment. Well that's too simple, it also encompasses the way we communicate as a community and in general.
As the name suggests 'Neuro' it has it's origins in the brain and the way in which we decipher the information we take in every minute of every hour of our waking hours and how we act upon that information. For designers and marketeers alike, we use the principles that Neuro Web Design highlights every day but we may not realise why we use them.
There is also a difference between 'can do', 'will do' and furthermore 'still do' in terms of website design. You can design a site from a user perspective so you 'can do' i.e. find the right buttons or links but does it answer the 'will do' and furthermore 'still do' question. This is where new principles based in Neuro web design start to kick in. These principles are based around Persuasion, Emotion and Trust.
Ask a user and they will tell you that they want choice and usually it's show me everything. But research shows that if you do this they freeze!
Dr. Iyengar used an experiment using Jam in a supermarket. She set a table up with six jams and another with twenty four jams. The table with twenty four jams saw approx. 60% of people stop and taste them, whilst the table with six jams saw 40% of visitors stop by. Now from first impression having so much choice saw a big swing in favour of having more choice BUT when examined further it is clear this is misleading. The conversion to sales for the table with twenty four jams was only 3%. In comparison the conversion to sales for the table with six jams was a massive 30%.
Even though people want more choice the reality is that they freeze because there becomes too much choice which in turn freezes our ability to decide. So in terms of website strategy this shows us that we can't just look at increasing quantity of visitors to our sites but must focus on the quality of the offering to get the conversion to sales we actually desire.
2. SOCIAL VALIDATION
When we are presented with more choice, research shows that we look to others to help validate our choices. So if you can give ratings and reviews to your products or services this help users decide, The power of these reviews cannot be undervalued. In the same way testimonials can also help validate the services you offer.
The most powerful source of reviews is peers. It has a far bigger effect than even those of 'expert' reviews. So know your audience and try to ensure that when a review is given you get as much information as possible from the reviewer. Location, type of business, age and images are all great beneficial aspects when users want help validating their choice.
Our unconscious brain is very sensitive to the idea of losing. So when you have an offer that says only '3 days left' or 'Last one in stock' our unconscious brain triggers an emotion of loss which in turn triggers action. We have a fear of losing so the idea of scarcity can be a powerful tool.
4. BASIC INSTINCTS
Our old brain is very attuned to the basic requirements of food, sex and danger. So whenever any of these basic instincts come into play we make strong unconscious choices. Where appropriate we can use these devices to appropriate a reaction. For example if an insurance company wants to sell you its products it may use a video to help instigate or subconscious to react. Lets say we watch a video of a house that is engulfed in fire we make connections in our old brain that this might be our house, therefore, triggering danger. This strong instinct talks to our mid brain and attributes the correct emotion. Both together become a strong trigger to action.
5. POWER IN FACES
We have a special part of the brain called the Fusiform Facial Area (FFA) that only processes the facial areas. It is well documented that there is power in showing faces on a website. It is normally best to show them looking directly at the camera. We are highly receptive to facial features and our subconscious makes decisions based on facial attributes but it is especially attuned to the eyes.
The use of faces is another form of validation as we are in essence social animals.
6. THE STORY
When presented with information it has been proven that our brains are highly developed to take in information in the form of a story. Stories allow us to chunk down the data in a more readily re-collectable format. Chunking is a key when presenting information and stories allow our brain to do this. Our brain is developed to process pictures, when presented with text our brain deciphers it and creates a mental image of the information given. Remember, the written language only occurred a few thousand years ago so our brains used images to scan our environment to warn us of possible dangers, threats or indeed opportunities. So making sure you have descriptive images is a great addition to your armoury.
Research also shows us that getting small commitments from users over a period increases loyalty. So when signing up people you take basic information then get them to fill out more later. You must give good reason to get this commitment so remember it's a two-way street you give they give.
There are some key factors to take into account in how our brains work when we are presented information. It is theorised that there are essentially three ares of the brain which are used for very different purposes:
- The old brain: used for instinctual decisions and processes
- The mid brain: used to process emotions
- The new brain: used to think about problems, play music, read this blog
The old brain is thought to be part of our evolutionary development and it's purpose is essentially survival. So it decides what is dangerous to us, it keeps us breathing, it drives the need for procreation and essentially the need for food.
In contrast the mid brain is our emotional interface that processes incoming data and helps us to decide how we should feel about that information. Does it make us feel sad, angry, elated or sympathetic.
What distinguishes us as humans above animals is the ability to think. This is the new brain and is usually called the pre-frontal cortex. This is generally a distinguishing feature of 'higher' functioning as opposed to 'lower' functioning animals.
BEGINNING TO UNDERSTAND
By now you can begin to understand some of the principles in Neuro Web Design. This is just the surface as you must get to grips with the fundamentals of how and why our brains do what they do.
What is most evident is that we humans like to feel we have full control. It is our new brain that formulates how we think we deal with communications/information. However, the truth is that we are not as in control as we like to believe. Most of our decisions are based on unconscious processes and decisions made in our mid and old brains. Our new brain then formulates reasons why we made that decision even when the decision is at odds with what your new brain thinks it should have done.
As marketing communicators we know that to effect an outcome you need to make an emotional link to the consumer. This is what helps translate a page visit into a potential buying scenario. The interesting part is joining up the dots and realising what is really going on in the brain that helps us deliver better communications and more effective returns.
We must begin to engage all three ares of the brain rather than necessarily using the type of logic your new brain would suggest. For instance, if you go online to find a new piece of equipment you may have a list of must-haves that it needs at the very least. The reality is once we begin to look through a list of items a series of unconscious decisions kick in that bend our thought processes. You may end up looking at items that only have three or four of the must-haves of your original list.
It is true that we have a decreasing attention span, which has been engendered by our social and work environments. So if you have a list of items presented to you on a page they likelihood of you viewing the first items on the page is quite high, even though they may not actually suit your original requirements, such as price. Part of the reason is that we do not like too much choice. Our new brain says we do, however, the reality is once we are given too much choice we freeze. Our decisions are compromised and that elusive quick sale is lost. So the solution is more focussed results, less is more where decisions are concerned.
Our brains are remarkable things and at it's heart it is a social animal. This is evident in the way in which we will follow perceived trends or induced scarcity. Scarcity can be seen as exclusivity or the perceived lack of something. For example if we are looking for an item and it says 'Last one in stock!' the chances are we will be motivated to make a quick purchase even when it runs against the logical new brain. It is an emotional interface with the old brain that could be likened to a survival instinct to get the last banana on the tree before it's gone.
So scarcity can be a very powerful selling tool. Retailers do this all the time with offers or sales but they are inducing this emotional/survival instinct. We can employ the same tactic on websites by using offers based around a giveaway or time limited offers. These serve to get the impulse decisions that can create sales.
As social animals we tread carefully in new environments so buy-in is an important element in building trust within that social arena. This can be done where sign-up is required by being transparent. For instance by showing pricing levels together with a clear comparison of service. But giving something for free alongside the sign-up helps add loyalty. How does this work? Well it is human nature to feel indebted when someone gives you something. As an example, you send out a Christmas gift to an acquaintance who in return now feels indebted and reciprocates by sending a gift back. Now the interesting part is that it does not equate that if you send a small gift to someone that they will send a small gift back, in fact the size of gift they return is more equal to the level of indebtedness they feel so the gifts value may well exceed that of your original offering.
This can be used where there are sites that offer information. You gain that information through subscription. These sites can employ loyalty through the scarcity principle we just described. If the information can be received before anyone else 'exclusivity' then it is deemed worth the subscription. That also employs the indebtedness theory as they offer money in return for that 'exclusivity'.
Although Neuro Web Design can be more complex it is fair to say that in it's basic form it uses the unconscious decision making parts of your mental processes to effect better design and marketing solutions.
We understand these principles and, where appropriate, we employ these techniques in our design solutions. It is important to realise that these techniques are not limited to the available internet technologies but also influences print design too. As first mentioned at the beginning of this blog although it helps guide design decisions it certainly should help you to understand how to market your business more effectively.
Understanding your brain may just help solve your sales problems.