The Ultimate Guide to Consumer Psychology

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Your average marketer strives to improve SEO, increase traffic and conversion rates, post on social media, check heat maps on landing pages, etc. This is why it’s so easy to forget that behind that computer screen…

There’s real people. And real people are super complex. There’s no two absolutely alike, everyone has their own way of thinking and dealing with things. Even those who like to blend in will likely find that it’s impossible.

So it’s no surprise that when it comes to running a business and marketing a product, psychology should ideally be a factor.

Not only should it be considered as important as the growth hacking steps you take, it should also be considered critical in terms of understanding your audience.

Because the more that you understand them, the better you can market to them, and meet their consumer needs.

Let’s dive into some actionable steps you can take to get started.

Understanding the Modern Consumer

The days of shady tactics, with surprise banners and free iPod scams, are long gone. Although it took an adjustment period for both marketers and consumers to find their footing and wisen up, these days things have vastly improved.

To be more specific, marketers have had to up their game, because consumers quickly figured out how empowered they actually are. With things like anti-spam filters and ad blockers, they can limit their ad bombardment.

And in order to not be filtered out, marketers have to be smart about where and how they run their ad campaigns. And that’s just one of many factors.

That’s not even touching on the fact that a smartphone is like a pocket wizard. There’s a wealth of information readily available at all times, ready to make that shopping decision that much easier.

If a consumer wants to read reviews, get suggestions, see product pictures taken by other consumers, or anything else, they can pull it all up in seconds.

And that means they can also pull up your competitor’s details. And if they have something that you don’t, or offer something in conjunction with it, then you’re on the losing side of the spectrum.

Handling Ease of Access

Obviously, all of this is rather intimidating for an entrepreneur. How are you supposed to deal with the modern ease of access that your average modern consumer has? What happens if your competitor has a better product, or markets it better?

Well, as painfully embarrassing as it is, think back to your teenage years. Chances are that when you went through your goth phase, and your preppy phase, and any other phase for that matter, your parents just kind of rolled with it. Maybe they laughed a little, poked some fun, or even asked you not to do certain things sometimes, but at the end of it all, they understood what was going on. Because they were once teenagers too.

So, they probably bought you the stuff to dye your hair. They probably let you borrow the car for that one party that changed your life.

And one day, you grew up and that was the end of the crazy, painful, beautiful teenage years of your life. Boom done, thanks parents.

In much the same way, it’s best to support your consumers by giving them whatever it is they need. That’s your job as a business owner, you meet needs.

That means you should be giving them access to reviews, to comments by other consumers, to video and image renditions of product details and functionalities, and anything else you possibly can. Even blog posts, or comparisons to other products.

It may sound terrifying, much like your parents buying you those bright aqua blue combat boots when you were fifteen. But when you give your consumers exactly what they need for whatever phase in the sales funnel they’re in, they’re happier. It saves them time, and proves that you have nothing to hide.

And they’re much more likely to approve of you and develop a solid connection with what you have to offer.

Here’s how to make your content accessible:

  1. Each time you publish information, make sure you’re targeting the right state of the conversion funnel. Obviously, this means you’ll likely be predicting buyer decisions, which will take some educated guesswork.

  2. Be available everywhere users are asking questions. Think Amazon product pages, website product listings, YouTube comments, industry niche blogs, Quora, etc.

Another aspect of this that entrepreneurs often lack insight on is that your content should always reflect your audience. What do they need from you? What do they need to know about your product?

Don’t make the mistake of blogging about product functions, when they really want to know the product benefits.

If you’re unsure of what content they need, then follow these steps:

  1. Check out Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools to see what users are looking for when they wind up on your site.

  2. Talk to consumers to actually get the story directly. Use surveys, feedback forms, or meet with them at conventions.

  3. Talk to your sales reps, if you have them. They speak to consumers on a daily basis, face-to-face, so they have the insider details.

When speaking to consumers, always remember to pay attention to what’s motivating them, the details of which could be hiding between the lines. For instance, if you’re selling home decor items, and a person says “Your items make me feel like I’m living a clean, organized, stylish life,” what they really mean is that they are motivated by wanting to portray a life that is put-together, even if it really isn’t.

Dealing With Filters

Of course, that’s just one thing to handle. Then there’s the fact that every sensible individual out there has an ad blocker.

How does a marketer get past that?

Well, first it’s important to note that when a consumer is filtering information, they’re doing it both rationally and emotionally. And that leads to their ad blocker settings being altered accordingly, at least most of the time.

It’s your best bet.

That means you need to appeal to both mindsets, which requires you to understand the top motivators:

  • Personal Gain - What is in it for the consumer? What will be gained (benefits)? What’s the best buy for the money I’m willing to invest?

  • “You” - Using this one little word can make all the difference, because it shows you’re invested in your audience. People want to know that you care about them, understand them, and design specifically for them.

  • Delight - Anything that inspires joy gives life new meaning, especially because most of the time people are either working, dealing with children, or doing the things they have to do (dishes, yuck).

  • Familiarity - This is whenever consumers ask “Is this a product I’ve wanted in the past? Is it something I’ve been thinking of purchasing for a while?”

  • Social Influence - Consumers want to know that their loved ones use this product and vouch for it. They want to know that they can trust this brand.

  • Trust and Safety - Speaking of trust, people really want to know that this brand won’t rip them off. So they look at how long the company has been around, and they look at the policies to see how you deal with personal data. If you’re unsure about any of this, consider hiring some help.

Translating It All to A Funnel

Now that you have the tools required to really understand your customer needs and wants, it’s time to put that into effect in an inbound marketing funnel.

Remember, the stages of it are planning, reaching, acting, converting, and engaging. You should have several customers in every stage at any one time.

But how?

First, understand that each stage leads to the next one. And it all revolves around the natural way people shop, which typically begins with exploration. That’s when customers browse around to see what their options are, what the price ranges look like, and which brands are known for providing the product(s) in question.

Which leads us to brand awareness.

Brand Awareness

Whatever you do, don’t try to sell anything in this stage of the funnel. These people are not ready to purchase anything, because they are weighing their options. They are researching.

If anything, this is the perfect opportunity to offer information. Use social media and ads to tell your company story. Set up a wall to gauge interest, such as offering free, exclusive content (knowledge) in exchange for an email. Think blog posts, ebooks, deals, etc.

And measure web traffic, email list sign-ups, and average time on your website.

Consideration

Once your potential customers know more, and linger around, they are in the consideration phase, or middle of the funnel.

All of the people who didn’t intend on buying anything from you are long gone, they’ve fallen off the funnel, which is normal. Your products, much like everyone else’s, aren’t for everyone. You cater to a specific crowd, and as long as those people stuck around, you’re doing things right.

The people who have stayed are now evaluating your brand, which makes this the perfect chance for you to offer content that reflects it the most. Think of YouTube videos, blog posts, and FAQ pages.

Your metrics, and best resources, are leads, sales reps, free trial sign-ups, and 1 on 1 conversations with them (conventions work).

Conversion

At this point, the people who are actually interested are now converting. They are committing to deals, opening your coupon emails, buying your products, and shopping with your company.

You’ve turned potential customers into established customers.

You should be measuring transaction numbers and average order values. And all the while, keep paying attention to your free trial sign-ups, as well as what people are saying during those one on one conversations.

Just remember that once you convert, things aren’t over. It’s never over. Post-Conversion ensures your customers continue to feel catered to, even years later. Things like exclusive deals for long-time consumers, memberships, and easy checkout options are key to repeat purchases.

Building Relationships

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As previously discussed, consumers think with their rational thought, and their emotions. When we buy, it’s emotional, but when we think of the money spent and seek to justify it, it’s all about logic.

In fact, whenever we evaluate brands, it’s been proven that we listen to our emotions regarding it over any factual information out there, including things like features and attributes. That’s why when an ad triggers an emotional response, it’s effective, regardless of what the content actually is.

Which means it’s important for brands to be likable. The more well-liked you can be, the higher the chances of converting, establishing trust, and getting positive judgment calls.

So, what are some steps you can take to capitalize on all of this?

  1. Prioritize the long-term relationships above sales. A sale isn’t a product of a five minute website visit, it’s the product of an entire run through a funnel. So pay extra close attention to your pitches, your wording, and the tone of your copy.

    • In that same vein, feel free to do some special things for long-time customers. Companies like Zappos send people flowers on occasion. You could bypass all of that, and do something like setting up special coupons to send to select customers, like Starbucks does.

  2. Engage them in ways that appeal to the imagination. Use things like branded explainer videos, webinars, iconic visuals, “try-on” features, etc.

  3. Plan your brand’s personality with care, well before even launching, if possible. Factors that contribute are:

  • Sincerity (honest, wholesome)

  • Excitement (daring, imaginative)

  • Competence (reliable, successful)

  • Sophistication (charming)

  • And Ruggedness (tough, strong)

Because brand personalities can be tricky, let’s look at some quick examples. For starters, there’s Jeep, which is marketed as freedom, adventure, self-discovery, ambition, etc. It’s a vehicle make that can scale rocks and leave the nicely paved roads behind. In other words, if the driver ever snaps and wants to get away from it all, they can. They can go out to the wilderness in their Jeep, and freely adventure as much as they want.

Then there’s Nike, which is named after Nike, the goddess of victory. She was known for conquering, as is the sports brand now. It’s marketed as resilience, endurance, and performance, hence the tagline “Just do it.”

If you’re having trouble coming up with a brand personality, take the following steps:

  1. Brainstorm keywords that currently and accurately represent your brand.

  2. Brainstorm keywords that you ideally want to represent your brand, moving forward.

  3. Trim all of it down to 3 key phrases, which is even harder than it sounds. But this will ultimately make it easier to stay on target and relevant.

  4. Then create a message hierarchy, which is an actual document that your marketing team puts together. It should reflect the brand’s most high-impact attributes. In the end, there should be shared terminology amongst everyone at the company, so you’re all on the same page.

  5. Finally, create a style guide for everyone to follow. It should look something like this:

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Factors that Contribute

Obviously building relationships with your customers is important. It’s how you establish long-standing business, and continuously leave the door open for newcomers. However, there is more to it than just building brand personalities and giving people the content they want.

To be specific, there are three major aspects to consider when it comes to consumer psych. Let’s dive into each one.

Online Consumption

This is the main way businesses can get ahold of their customers, and attract new ones. But although online marketing content is overly saturated, mediocre content is abundant. That means you can always stand out by putting out exceptional content.

The best part about it is that it can help push consumers through the sales funnel, and you can measure that progress.

Tactics like SEO can make that content searchable, while mobile optimization can make it accessible from just about anywhere, at any time.

But ideally, you want to build credibility above all else. Without it, you’re just another pushy company that’s set on delivering content on some vaguely interesting, but possibly dangerous transaction.

Here are some tips to build up credibility:

  • Always be detailed and original. Provide your original content, in your brand style, but be as informative as possible.

  • Don’t overpack keywords, because otherwise, your copy will sound like it’s written for a robot. Instead, use keywords throughout, in moderation, and make smart use of headers, captions, image names, and links.

  • Always claim authorship, which will then show up in search results. For instance, whenever you show up in search results, there is a page name and link that pops up. That’s you as a search result. Well, under that link, there should be a little section that reads “by ____,” right before a snippet of preview copy. If you have an author for a post, it makes your content seem more reliable, especially if that author has social media links and a well-written profile.

  • Build partnerships with other industry businesses, that way you can capitalize on each other’s credibility and audiences.

  • Don’t cut costs on the people, or person, writing your content. They can’t just be interns, learning the ropes. Ideally, they should be experienced in not only writing, but in business writing. And they should be reliable, so you know your content is both educational and timely.

Color

As it turns out, color plays a pretty important role in consumer psych. It’s been found that the red bar on the top of one of Quick Sprout’s pages accounts for 11% of new leads.

And it’s not even a beautiful bar, it’s just really red, so it stands out. On select websites, it may blend in, or look decent, but for the most part, it’s… an eyesore.

So, what gives?

It stands out, and that commands attention to the text. Which means that after an hour or so of browsing different websites, seeing a red bar is… almost refreshing. It urges attention all over again, even from tired eyes.

Which works, considering people naturally have limited attention spans. There’s only so much information that can bombard us on every website we visit before we start to go numb.

Take a look at the color list, and what they’re known for doing:

  • Pure colors, meaning the true (regular) shade of every primary color. Think basic red, green, blue, and so on. They work with youthful content, anything summer related, energetic, etc.

  • Tints, which are faded versions of colors. Essentially what happens when you take red and mix it with white. It conveys lighter, peaceful tones, which make it a go-to for health, spas, and beauty industries.

  • Shades, which are colors mixed with black, so they look darker. It conveys evil, even danger, which means it works well with pure color or lighter shades. It works in a variety of industries and situations.

Need more detail? Check out the chart below.

Pricing

The third factor is pricing, which should come as no surprise. Pricing can be used as a marketing tactic that can help you boost sales. However, as entrepreneurs, we’re all initially after the marketing trinity: cost, revenue, and profit. That means we all want to cut costs while increasing profits.

But that’s not the whole story. As time goes on, you may find that you should be focusing more on the numbers that compel people to buy more. Forget which numbers pay the bills. Which numbers are so enticing, that it’s surefire?

As an added spin, you should always be featuring the benefits of buying the product. What will audiences get from this purchase? Emphasize that value above all else, including the price.

For instance, say you’re selling a service. You’re a copywriter and you want people to know that if they hire you, they will get…

Time saved, hassle saved, peace of mind gained, high-end content that is both informative and alluring to their target audience, etc.

Instead of leading with a cheap price tag, which people don’t want anyway because they associate low-priced work with low quality, you opt to lead with a list of valuable benefits that promise time saved and projects handled on time.

And that’s valuable. Turns out, most people value the time they can save with products and services that promise to ease your to-do list. That’s more time audiences can spend with their loved ones, making memories.

And that’s more important than the money spent. Unless it’s a high-end product, like a luxury sports car, something people get to equate wealth and self-satisfaction, time will always be a better marketing tactic than pricing.

So, let’s see the tactics you should be implementing when it comes to pricing:

  1. Pricing should never be the focus. The focus should be the benefits gained.

  2. Time saved, and ease of access, is more eye-catching than the pricetag.

  3. Whenever you do list the price tag, keep it simple. Don’t give people too many options, or they become overwhelmed, and don’t buy anything. Keep it simple, 2-3 pricing options.

  4. Comparative pricing doesn’t always work, because it’s all about benefits. Most people rather pay more to get more, rather than settling for a lot less. So, avoid the trap and don’t compare your product to someone else’s. Instead, highlight your product’s unique strengths.

  5. Use smart wording. For instance, 5 for $5 means people will purchase five of the items to get the discount. However, only the really witty customers will realize that the deal is the same as 1 for $1.

  6. The power of 9 is a real thing. Everyone prefers to pay $9.99 instead of $10.00. Is it the same thing? Yes, essentially, but there’s something about that smaller number, by one cent, that makes it more enticing.

  7. Whenever you have a sale, make the new price easy. Don’t go for $5.95, just opt for a whole number, like $6.

Easy Tactics That Work

We’ve covered some very specific aspects of consumer psychology so far. Everything from funnels and colors, to building relationships.

But now it’s time to take a look at the super simple tactics that are well-known for big results. These are steps you can take whenever you feel the need to do something new, without being drastic.

  • Add copy to your website that makes it easy for people to commit before really committing. For instance, maybe there’s a section at the bottom of the landing page that reads “Yes, I’m ready to reprogram my relationship to fitness and nutrition, and get by body into shape for only $50. If I’m not satisfied, I can get a full refund in the next 60 days.”

  • Use the word “when.” Real estate agents use it all the time to get clients to visualize their dream home, rather than the purchase. It’s the equivalent of “When you have a housewarming party, be sure to invite me.”

  • Quiz people and be super selective about customers. It sounds crazy, but it’s about exclusivity. People associate it with something high-quality, and limited, making it that much more valuable. Freelance copywriters will often use this tactic to see what their potential clients’ goals are, and if they are the right niche for them.

  • Using the word “you” makes things highly targeted and personal. It makes people feel like you’re catering specifically to them.

  • Using the word “get” conveys that your brand exists to make your customers’ lives easier. They are getting something from you that they need to solve their problems.

  • Build anticipation with time delays, applications, and hints on social media and emails.

  • Be super picky about your CTAs. Consider things like color, shape, placement, and message. Even one-word changes can change your ROI.

Avoiding Friction

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Finally, it’s time to talk about friction, which is when you unintentionally halter the progress of your sales cycle.

This is almost always caused by subtle website details, like missteps in wording, or layout. Sometimes it’s the lack of detail, which doesn’t do anything to build trust.

Even things like low-quality images, or crowded webpages can cause friction.

Here are some things to keep in mind to minimize friction, and make your sales go smoother:

  • Landing page length should be a happy medium. Too long, and it’s overwhelming. Too short, and it’s too untrustworthy. If you’re unsure about length, try conducting a survey based around two different versions of your page.

  • Avoid using dissonant colors.

  • Too much text leads to walls of text, which don’t draw the eye. And frankly, even if you’re a master wordsmith, no one is going to read all of it.

  • Distracting website menus. You’ve seen them, they are the ones that drop down and then to the side, then down again. Not only is this too much information on one website, it’s also a bit confusing to navigate, leading to friction.

  • Too many fields in forms takes longer to fill out, and will make potential customers evaluate if what you’re selling is even worth the effort.

  • Too many CTAs on your landing page means potential customers don’t know which to complete first. Do they buy the product, sign up for your newsletter, or take your survey? Pick one, and roll with it, but don’t confuse your audience.

  • Here’s a super common problem: copying someone else’s winning marketing strategy. Although it seems smart, and even fool-proof, it’s not. Your company is unique and there’s no other like it, because there’s just no other person like you around. Even two companies doing the exact same thing, appealing to the same audience, are different. And it’s those differences that make copying another marketing strategy a pretty enticing trap. Suddenly, your audience is confused all through your funnel, because something just doesn’t feel right, something doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t feel… cohesive. Or true.

  • Emotional bonds are key. Appealing to people’s emotions will always prove more effective than trying to be logical. Although you should aim to balance both overall, if you’re ever in a position where you need to favor one over the other, opt for emotions.

  • Add product reviews and testimonials to your website. It helps to build trust, and sheds interesting insight on your offerings from other people’s perspectives.

Human to Human

Hopefully by now we’ve solidified how important it is to remember that there is someone on the other end of that screen. It’s easy to get lost in your business to-do’s, your schedules and funnels, but it’s important to retain an element of humanity while conducting business. At the end of the day, it’s about the people. If you can connect, if you can help them, then you can run your business in a way that is both successful, and human.

So which of these tactics do you think you’ll implement? Where could you make the most improvement in your business?

Leave a comment below with your answer, would love to hear some feedback!