Cognitive distortion

10 cognitive biases e-commerce marketing should be aware of

In the context of growing competition and intense struggle for the choice of a client in the online space, practical knowledge of psychology and numerous tools are of particular importance, each of which brings our goals closer to the heart and mind of the consumer.

Marketing and psychology are so closely intertwined that we can hardly imagine it. Human behavior is completely unpredictable and irrational. This fact alone can have a significant impact on consumer behavior, which can lead to a loss or sudden change in interest, a decrease in the number of leads and sales.

What is the reason for this behavior? Many answers can be found in the field of cognitive biases research, of which more than 170 have been identified to date. What are they? Distortions are defined as stereotypes, failures in the processing and analysis of information, when people value their biases, past experiences and social factors more than reality. This is a kind of self-deception that is not under the control of a person, since most of the mental processes occur in a person without being reflected in his consciousness.
For marketers, this only complicates the decision-making process.

How can you create an effective campaign in an environment where consumer interest can change at any time? The answer is simple. Understand the most important cognitive biases and use them to the benefit of the campaign: influencing behavior by tailoring marketing campaigns to people. We can directly address these basic processes without touching the conscious part, using ways to bypass the "censorship mechanisms". For example, if you strengthen the information emotionally, then the verbal or non-verbal message will more easily pass the filters built into the consciousness and will remain in the consumer's consciousness for a long time.

In total, there are four problems that cause cognitive biases:

  • Too much information;
  • Ambiguity;
  • The need to act quickly;
  • Filtering information for memorization: the brain always prefers to memorize simpler and clearer information.

Some say that there are three most important biases, others limit themselves to five or six, but to be more detailed, we'll look at the ten most important biases that affect shopper behavior. Let's dive into each of them. Of particular interest is the first group of distortions associated with an overabundance of information. Moreover, the rest of the groups are conceptually related to it. It seems that instant filtering, censorship and selection of information for memorization is the main problem that we face in the modern era, when the amount of information is too great. Because of this, there is probably most of the cognitive distortions and incorrect perception of the surrounding reality.

A cascade of available information (the effect of imaginary truth)

It is a self-reinforcing process in which the collective belief gains more and more credibility through repeated repetition in public discourse (or “repeat something long enough to make it true”). One of the most common examples is the repeated repetition of news until it is embedded in the minds of people. This distortion is reinforced by the familiarity effect - a tendency to be overly disposed towards an object simply because of familiarity with it. This is a feeling of joy of recognition, when at a concert we hear familiar musical works, in museums we see the names of artists and their canvases, we see familiar brands in the windows, and on the shelves we see the goods of the manufacturers we know. To adapt an advertising campaign to these properties and reactions of the target audience, it is always necessary to start the development process by answering several strategic questions, such as:

  • What are their goals, their thoughts and similarities?
  • Where is the goal and how would they like to get a possible solution from the company?
  • What is their problem and what solution can I offer them to change this situation?

How to leverage this cognitive bias in ecommerce:

  • Remarketing campaigns;
  • Cooperation with the media and the formation of an information field around an event, product, company;
  • YouTube reviews, lectures on the topic, presentations of specialized experts;
  • Repeating the same statement over and over at every stage of the sales funnel.

The effect of joining the majority

The essence of this effect is that the change in individual demand is influenced by the desire to follow the social norms of the social group in which a person is located. Some of the most common factors that contribute to this cognitive bias include groupthink along with strong external pressures and an internal desire to conform, to be correct, and to be included in social groups.

This distortion is reinforced by another effect, the craze effect, which manifests itself in the tendency to do or believe in something just because many people do or believe in it.

The most revealing examples that fit this bias include fashion, music, social media, diet, and choices. Wearing the same type of clothing or listening to the same music as some other people is a fairly common desire. Also, like the desire to fundamentally not correspond to any fashion, to deny any principles, and to have your own style - are formed under the influence of a group (commonality in denial). This distortion can be traced especially clearly in the behavior of users of social networks that are popular in the environment of a person. For example, the same social networks in different regions have fundamentally different audiences. For example, if in some regions of Russia, VK is a social network for an audience of up to 25 years old, in others it includes all age categories, including 50+, traditionally considered the audience of Odnoklassniki. And some networks, for example, such as Twitter, in a number of regions did not spread at all. These regional features are formed under the influence of this effect of joining the majority.

This distortion is most effectively used when building recommendation campaigns on social networks with the involvement of influencers, bloggers with niche content, and micro-influencers. Cooperation with micro-influencers is more preferable, since the involvement in advertising campaigns with their participation is 60% higher, and the advertising campaigns themselves are 6 times more effective and, on average, 25 times cheaper than those with the participation of well-known bloggers.

Influence of authority

It is a tendency to attribute greater accuracy to, and be more influenced by, the opinion of a non-content authority figure.

In advertising, this cognitive bias is common. Celebrity endorsed commercials are very well received by consumers. How to use it:

  • Show feedback from an expert / public figure / other client;
  • Add trust badges on individual products that require promotion, symbolizing recognition by other buyers and experts on the basis of "approved", "verified";
  • The total number of satisfied customers;
  • High ratings from existing customers.

Confirmation bias

The tendency to seek or interpret information in such a way as to support an opinion. The effect is stronger for emotionally significant issues and deeply rooted beliefs. This property of a person to perceive what he is already familiar with and to take wishful thinking, which significantly limits his ability to assess the situation neutrally, objectively and explore the full breadth of the options offered. People either do not perceive or forget information that contradicts their stereotypes. It is quite difficult for a person to deal with their reactions, and this is actively used by effective marketing, which understands the needs of a person and offers solutions in accordance with them.

How to leverage this cognitive bias in ecommerce:

  • Remarketing campaigns;
  • Consistency between ad and landing page;
  • Overlays or short tests that determine the most suitable products for each customer (best color, best shape, best size);
  • Overlays with filters and limiting suggestions to push site visitors down the funnel.

However, before deciding to use overlays, you need to answer yourself a few questions in order to use this mechanism as efficiently as possible:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What exactly is required from users?
  • When does the overlay appear, and does it interrupt another process? Where exactly is it located?
  • Why are you using an overlay and not a regular page?

I pay special attention to this, since any instrument is good in moderation and in place. Many people abuse overlays and in some situations modals not only annoy users, but literally prevent them from getting information or performing the desired action. To avoid such problems, always conduct a systematic analysis of the appropriateness of the use and adequate performance of any tools you use.

Group mentality and conformity

This distortion refers to the tendency of people to follow and copy what most of their surroundings do. They are heavily influenced by emotion and instinct rather than their own independent analysis.

There are countless examples that imply this cognitive bias, especially in situations where consumption is at its peak. As a vivid example, we can cite the frenzy of Black Friday, when everything is swept off the shelves, customers are experiencing severe emotional stress. We use this effect both online and offline. So, for example, in order to attract buyers of a shopping center to a store, we artificially provoke a stir - we hire dummy buyers who create the effect of a crowd of customers actively measuring and buying things in the boutique. With adequate traffic of the shopping center and the presence of a well-viewed showcase of the boutique itself, this tool gives an effect on average in 25 minutes. During this time, real customers come to the boutique under the influence of the crowd effect and group mentality. A reaction is triggered that provokes emotional spontaneous purchases.

We use the same effect as one of the most effective tools when working with restaurants and cafes that have shop windows or outdoor terraces to attract new guests during dead hours. So, for example, not having a landing in the hall, we seat the management of the establishment under the guise of guests on the summer airplane or near shop windows. At the same time, the hostess without fail recommends to visiting guests the places that are best seen from the street. Only when all the seats on the terrace are occupied, and near the shop windows, too, does the hostess place the guests further in the direction of the hall. Thus, we create the effect of a popular place. And even if initially the passer-by did not regard the institution as worthy of his choice, the effect of conformity is turned on. This is a necessary element of socialization, an adaptive function of a person, which manifests itself in the tendency to change their initial assessments under the influence of the opinions of others. How to leverage this cognitive bias in ecommerce:

  • Show localized reviews in advertisements and on the website;
  • Show numbers related to the number of sales / number of customers;
  • Collect, publish and leverage reviews and testimonials;
  • Show bestsellers and most frequently requested products - separate category / separate filters.

Binding heuristic

This is an anchoring effect that indicates a tendency for people to rely too heavily, to become "attached" to one attribute or piece of information when making decisions (usually the first piece of information we receive on this issue).

This effect can be used to demonstrate the availability and increase the perceived value of goods and services:

  • The original price is displayed together with the discount;
  • In a "popular choice" offer, the most expensive item is mentioned first;
  • Offers a personalized list of featured items;
  • Offer a lower unit price when purchasing multiple items.

Framing effect

People draw different conclusions from the same information depending on semantic accents. For example, we can say that 5 out of 30 people did not make an appointment with a doctor at this clinic, or we can say the same in a positive way: 25 people out of 30 used the services of the clinic. Objectively, both statements describe the same process, but we draw fundamentally different conclusions depending on the formulation. In other words, people perceive the possible results of their choice as benefits or, conversely, losses, depending on how we present this information to them. This effect is most pronounced in industries that people may perceive to be potentially risky. How to use framing:

  • Personalize the shopping process based on previously collected data about visitors to determine the optimal framing for each stage of the sales funnel;
  • To form a context for managing the decision-making process, guiding the choice of the client and managing his attitude to the process;
  • Highlight the product with markers that will attract attention, for example, hit, discount, top, etc.

Lost Benefit Syndrome and Loss Anxiety

FOMO is a common concern that others might have rewarding experiences that we don't have, they know something that we don't. This social anxiety is characterized by "the desire to be constantly connected." Social media is a great example of this. Being connected most of the time with everything on various social platforms, people expose themselves to significant irrational fears of not being able to stay on top of all the data they have. Always haunted by the desire to connect again and again, disappearing on social networks for hours.

56% are subject to this distortion and feel fear of missing out on something useful, important, fear of not gaining new experience or material benefit, and men react more sharply to the threat of lost profit. So, for example, if you invite your website users to try a free service before creating an account, you can significantly increase the number of registered users. The effect works as follows: the user spends time studying your service, he has a sense of ownership and an incentive to create his account so as not to lose the work done. The same effect can be used, for example, when selling books, posting some of the materials in the public domain and interrupting the narration “in the most interesting place” and offering to pay for the full online version, subscribe or buy a book.

People are more likely to try to avoid losses. They are concerned with preserving what they have invested in time, emotionally, financially, what they have or could have. They are much less likely to focus on potential benefits. When the same sentence is formulated with an emphasis on the possible loss (money, health, opportunities, trust, status, etc.), it becomes more motivating and inclines us to a less risky option. So, for example, “buy now and save 20%” is more likely to convert than “get 20%”. And phrases like "Offer with a limited validity period!", "There are 2 hours left until the end of the promotion!", "Don't miss it!" threats of loss of profit and provoke emotional purchases.

This effect can be used as follows:

  • Create a shortage of time and quantity;
  • Show a limited number of products in stock (last in stock / last chance to buy);
  • Emphasize the purchasing behavior of other visitors (3 people are viewing this product);
  • Creation of conditions for receiving benefits in the form of discounts and delivery speed, for example, “place your order before 15:00 and get delivery tomorrow”;
  • Use countdown timers to show how much time is left before the offer expires;
  • Place compelling reasoning next to your CTA (call to action): Add to cart, Buy now, Order, Book, Checkout, Pay.

Zeigarnik effect

People remember unfinished or interrupted tasks 90% better than completed ones. In other words, the desire to complete a task can make a person remember it until it is completed, because completing it completely leads to the fact that it is completely forgotten.

How to use this memory property in sales:

  • Create a loyalty program and remind customers of unused rewards / points / discounts;
  • Launch a notification with a discount code that you can use later;
  • Remarketing ads and reminder emails for items added to cart;
  • Reminder of products on the waiting list.

Reciprocity effect

Having received an unexpected gift, even an insignificant, inexpensive and intangible (information, small favor, compliment), people mostly feel indebted to those who did it. This is due to the adaptive function - we are social beings and the principle of reciprocity is embedded in us.

An important principle of this effect is the first step on the part of the company, which gives the client more than he expected or paid for. Find ways to give a gift to a client, within the framework of your product to offer him interesting valuable information, useful functions or confirmation of his status. This could, for example, be offering a 30-day free trial to premium customers, which can be canceled at any time at no additional cost. The reciprocity effect prevents people from stopping a payment when the free trial ends, especially if the payment is small. You can charge the buyer more bonuses than you should have and notify him about this after making a purchase. It can also be compliments from the company when delivering orders (a gift that the client was not warned about in advance), which emotionally obliges, stimulates recommendation activity and increases the customer lifetime value (CLV).

According to iWENGO's forecast, the Russian e-commerce market will grow to at least 2024 trillion rubles by 4,5, and by 2025 its share will reach 20 percent of the total trade volume. In this regard, digitalization of business and building effective communications with its consumers is the only way to remain competitive.

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