12 Psychological Methods People Use When Making Decisions
How do you sell more? By understanding the behavioral triggers that affect a purchase. Columnist Jordan Kasteler walks us through some common psychological principles that affect a consumer's buying decision.
While you want people to buy your products, there’s one big hurdle standing in the way: the decision-making process.
Psychological principles directly affect the way a person thinks about your business. Sometimes they can fuel the fire, making a person feel more inclined to buy what you’re selling. Other times, they can pose a barrier to buying that feels taller than the Hoover Dam.
Knowing how your buyers are reacting to your products is the first step in overcoming (or taking advantage of) these psychological triggers. These are 12 of the most common psychological effects people face when making a decision.
Blinded By Bias
Sometimes, a bias can skew the way a person thinks about a product. When it comes time to make a decision, these biases can dramatically impact whether a person opens her wallet or chooses a competing product instead.
Here are some of the most common biases that tend to pop up when making a decision.
You can’t make a first impression twice. When it comes to marketing a product, it’s good to remember this statement.
Anchoring is the psychological effect of not being able to ignore the first piece of information you heard. If your first impression about a brand is a negative remark heard from a friend, it’ll be hard to shake. Chances are you’ll always have that in your mind, no matter how attracted you are to a product.
The outcome (or potential outcome) of a decision matters, too. Regardless of how you arrived at the outcome, you’re more likely to consider it a good idea if the final result was positive. This is known as the outcome bias.
For example, if you have chosen to smoke your entire life and never developed a health condition, you might think of smoking as a good decision. This is true even though smoking is proven to be unhealthy and many times results in life-threatening diseases.
The more information you have, the harder it is to explain to newbies why something is worthwhile. This is known as the information bias.
For marketers, this is a big sticking point. You’re immersed in your product on a daily basis. It’s hard to see the buyer’s journey with fresh eyes.
Trying to convince your buyer that your product is worth buying becomes exponentially more difficult because your own depth of knowledge ends up working as a curse rather than a benefit.
To overcome this, simplify the information you present. DeviceMagic did this by nixing technical jargon from their video and saw a 35-percent increase in signups.
Many buyers shop by comparing prices. Although products might be vastly different in quality, buyers struggle to differentiate quality from price when deciding whether to buy.
To overcome this, some marketers will use a decoy to make a price appear lower. This is known as the decoy effect.
By putting a higher-priced option close to the lower-priced option you want your buyers to consider, you make the dollar amount feel more reasonable.
Is Ignorance Decision-Making Bliss?
Ignorance might seem like bliss to the buyer, but for marketers trying to get buyers to buy, it’s an uphill battle.
People’s brains are mysterious. Even though they hear a piece of information, they’re able to ignore it and turn a blind eye to focus on what’s important to them.
Understanding how ignorance plays into the buying cycle can help adjust how you position your product.
Here are some common psychological effects triggered by a person’s natural ignorance.
Recency taps into a person’s short-term memory. When looking at a product, buyers are more likely to consider the information they heard recently over older information.
In marketing, this is important to keep in mind. Buyers will begin to ignore past information they’ve heard and start to focus only on what’s in front of them.
Consider each stage of the buyer’s journey. Continue to nurture the buyer by repeating important information throughout the process.
This way, you keep the most crucial decision-making factors top of mind as your buyer decides whether or not to buy from you.
- Selective Perception
Your expectations directly affect how you perceive the world. For example, you expect your bed sheets to be clean at a hotel. You expect your football team to avoid simple penalties.
These expectations cloud your judgment. They make it harder for you to see when something defies what you anticipated happening.
In decision-making, buyers’ expectations determine the perception of a product or service. Understanding how consumers perceive your business makes it easier to tap into those expectations to nurture a buyer toward a purchase.
- Ostrich Effect
You’ve likely heard the expression, “burying your head in the sand.” This saying is a direct representation of the ostrich effect.
When a buyer doesn’t want to see specific evidence that won’t support his decision, he will oftentimes ignore it by not looking at research. Instead, he will actively avoid facts that contradict his beliefs.
This is especially true during the post-purchase period. If someone is set on buying something specific, they might employ the ostrich effect to ignore competitors.
Even though there might be a better product or service out there, they “bury their head in the sand” so they don’t have to see the other points of view.
- The Social Effect
Humans are social creatures. We mix and mingle with others who share our same interests. We connect with people who make us feel a certain way.
These feelings and connections are hard to ignore when it comes to marketing. For businesses trying to impact the decision-making process, they’re vital.
Here are a few of the social cognitive effects you can use to tap into your buyer’s brain.
- Bandwagon Effect
Ready to gather your “sheeple” and herd them into a decision? Incorporate the bandwagon effect to get a group of potential buyers to jump on board with your product.
Testimonials, social proof and niche communities are excellent ways of tapping into the bandwagon effect to sell. Add these elements by your call-to-action or final sales pages to solidify a person’s decision to buy.
The more your buyers see that others have bought, the more likely it is that they will buy, too.
- Empathy Gap
People are logical. We’re humans with deep-felt emotions — even when it comes to buying a product.
Create empathy around your brand, and you’ll tap into the emotional side of the purchase. Write with emotion. Use design that instantly sparks empathy.
Avoid using simple logic alone to sell your product. It won’t work.
Non-profits are excellent at using the empathy gap to drive donations. By tugging on the heartstrings of potential donors, non-profits are better able to inspire people to hand over their money than if they were to sell using only statistics and facts.
- Framing Effect
Want to spark a feeling in your buyer? Frame the way you speak (or write) with messages carrying either positive or negative connotations.
The framing effect happens when buyers arrive at different conclusions based solely on how information is presented.
The way you position your sales copy frames how the person feels about your product. The way you formulate your call to action will determine how likely the person is to take that next step with your company.
- The Path of Least Resistance
You’ve likely heard of the path of least resistance in regard to physical exertion, but did you know it affects cognitive exertion, too? That’s the idea shared by Daniel Kahneman in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.
The rule is simple: The easier you make it for someone to achieve something desirable, the more likely they are to decide to try.
Content marketing, for example, is ideal for appealing to this psychological principle. Showing your buyers how your product can be used to achieve a desirable outcome makes it easy to convince them to buy.
By breaking down ideas that feel out of reach, you simplify the process, eliminate the resistance and ease the decision-making process.
The buyer’s journey is complex. What should be a straightforward path to purchase becomes muddled with psychological decision-making biases and effects to complicate things further.
As a marketer, remaining aware of these is your first line of defense. The more you can understand the way the mind irrationally affects a purchase, the better you can get through to your buyer and sell more.
Like this article? Check out my other posts on psychology in relation to social media marketing:
- Tapping Into The Buyer’s Brain With Psychology-Driven Marketing
- The Science & Psychology Of Social Media
- 8 Brain Triggers Guaranteed To Boost Your Social Media Marketing
- 5 More Brain Triggers To Drive Conversions On Your Website Or Landing Page
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.