The chances are that you’re reading this when you should really be doing something else. I know better than to think that, at this moment in time, reading a blog on customer psychology is the most important thing you have to do.
We all put important things off. We do so because they’re an effort to accomplish and, sooner or later, we run out of willpower. Studies show that willpower is a finite resource: it’s not just something we deplete when we resist temptation; our powers of self-control are reduced after we’ve made difficult decisions. And just as our capacity for and reserves of willpower play a huge role in what we do, so it is for your customers.
Exactly how willpower affects your business largely comes to one question: which side of the willpower divide are you on? Are you the easy distraction that customers turn to when they’re running low on willpower reserves? Or are you the product or service that they need high reserves of willpower to get through?
For example, blogs are clearly in the first category. Which is why they are short. Willpower is an important enough subject that you should read a book on it – but a whole book? I know. Meanwhile, anything to do with acquiring a new financial services product is in the latter category, requiring plenty of willpower and dedication.
If you’re marketing something that is used when willpower is low, life is fairly easy. Just put your product within easy reach (literally or figuratively) and customers will succumb.
But what can you do if you recognise that customers need a lot of willpower to get through the purchase process? Here are five tips:
1. Signpost the process: flag the extent of the process so that customers can pace themselves. If a customer thinks that by completing a lengthy form on page one of your website he has finished the purchase process, but then subsequently discovers you need even more of his time and effort on page two, there is a greater chance of him bailing from the process early.
2. Break tasks down: if a customer knows that there are five stages but the stages seem manageable, he is much more likely to see the process through than if there are three and the first feels daunting. This occurs because people routinely translate a feeling of difficulty to an evaluation of undesirability (through a process psychologists call misattribution). Giving the customer baby steps allows them to feel the psychological reward of a sense of progress.
3. Make going through the process feel rewarding: consider how you can make the customer feel good about his progression through the purchase process.
4. Ensure that the ultimate goal is kept in focus: when the buying process takes effort itis easy for pre-purchase indifference to kick in. Reminding the customer why the product is good, or how much other people have loved it, can help to sustain their effort.
5. Learn by observation: watch what happens during the sales process by covertly observing customer behaviour. This is relatively easy to achieve online, but is worth the effort in other environments too. See where customers hesitate or drop out of a purchase process and develop creative ways to address those stages using the suggestions outlined above.
Finally, it’s worth keeping in mind that a lack of willpower is, to some extent, closely related to glucose: giving people something to replenish their dwindling glucose levels should mean they see the process through or just generally shop for longer.