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How Can Tech Companies Use Psychology to Affect Customer Decisions?

By Carrie DagenhardApr 16, 2015

technologypsychologyDuring your weekly trip to the grocery store, you approach a refrigerator section displaying several similarly priced containers of orange juice. In seconds, you make a selection and move along. While standing in line at the check-out, scrolling through your email on your phone, you see two separate offers from two local spas. You delete one and open the other. Minutes later, on the drive home, you spot three gas stations. You automatically pull into the second station on the left.

All day, our brains make rapid-fire, subconscious decisions. And, for decades, marketers have worked closely with psychologists and sociologists to unlock the mystery of subconscious decision-making. But, even with libraries full of books, and hours of research dedicated to better understanding consumer behaviors, many technology companies are still unsure of how to apply this knowledge to their marketing efforts.

The good news is there are multiple successful, psychology-based techniques tech businesses can use to influence their prospects’ subconscious decision making behaviors.

Let’s Start with What We Know



In order to understand how psychology affects purchasing decisions, we first need to accept three indisputable truths:

  • It’s getting crowded. More than 100 billion emails are sent and received each day, and over 92,000 articles are posted online every 24 hours. We’ve trained our eyes to avoid banner ads and sign up for automatic unsubscribe services because it’s become too time-consuming to do it on our own.

  • Attention is waning. The average human attention span is now about 8 seconds, which means we’ve surpassed the goldfish (9 seconds.)

  • Consumers expect simplicity. We reject long, drawn out, logical thinking so much our brains have evolved to take mental shortcuts whenever possible.


Now that we know the challenges, let’s take a look at how tech companies can overcome them by standing out above the noise.

Utilize Loss Aversion

Decision theory (and common sense) tells us people prefer to avoid losses and acquire gains. In fact, we feel more pain from loss than we do pleasure from a gain. This is the reason parents find it more effective to threaten to take away a privilege from a child if they refuse to clean their room rather than offering a reward for completing the chore.

As consumers, we have a tendency to want something when we discover the opportunity may soon end—even if it’s a product we’ve never shown interest in purchasing previously. Amazon, for example, often applies this knowledge to treatment of low stock inventory. Seeing “Only 3 left!” below an item gives us the impression we’re about to lose an opportunity to own something valuable. For all we know, though, there could have been only three of the item in stock all along.

Technology companies can easily utilize the theory of loss aversion in everything from blog posts and landing pages to email subject line. For example, a blog post titled “3 Reasons Why You’re Losing Customers” will likely outperform a post titled “3 Ways to Earn More Customers.” Similarly, a subject line using the phrase “Don’t miss out!” will engage more subscribers than the phrase “Now available!”

Apply Cognitive Fluency

The more content we consume, the more we prefer simplicity. If something is too difficult, our brain skips it. This is why successful copywriters know to use bulleted lists and short paragraphs rather than long blocks of text. Even if it’s the same amount of information, the brain prefers visually “bite-sized” content.

Technology companies can capitalize on cognitive fluency by making the conversion process as simple and streamlined as possible. For example, consider the amount of information you request on your contact forms, and whether or not it reflects the value of the offer. Leads may be uncomfortable divulging company size, annual income and physical address to download a whitepaper, but may be more than happy to provide this information for a free trial of your software.

Adopt Copy and Design Nudges



There’s a reason nearly every article shared on your social media feeds is a listicle, and there’s a reason most advertisements feature photos of attractive people. Research shows headlines with numbers, and pictures of people’s faces, perform more favorably than those without.

Here are a few more tips for copy and design nudges based on behavioral science:

  • Ask questions. This applies to headlines, meta descriptions and email subject lines. For example, use “Should You Invest in Wearable Technology?” instead of “Why You Should Invest in Wearable Technology.”

  • Use eye magnet words. We’re subconsciously attracted to words like new, free and, most of all, our own names.

  • Consider color psychology. What emotion are you hoping to evoke? For example, blue promotes relaxation while yellow creates excitement and red indicates urgency.


Address Cognitive Dissonance

Humans are creatures of habit, and conflicting thoughts make us uncomfortable. This is called cognitive dissonance, or the state of becoming stressed by contradictory beliefs. Your prospects may experience cognitive dissonance as they move closer to the final stages of the buyer’s journey and are forced to choose between your product and your competitor’s offerings.

The best way to assuage this discomfort is by making an effort to ease all doubts. For example, providing testimonials not only offers your company credibility, but it also assures your prospects they’re making the right decision. Additionally, offering information to assist in your customers’ research, such as blog posts and eBooks, will help them feel more comfortable moving into the conversion stage.

When it comes to marketing in the technology world, behavioral knowledge is power. While it’s important to obtain and leverage a wealth of data on your customer base, it’s also important to consider basic human psychology. By applying basic psychology to your sales and marketing efforts, you can gain greater influence over consumer decision-making and increase your conversions.

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The Author

Carrie Dagenhard

Carrie is a seasoned content strategist who worked as a department editor and music journalist before making her foray into inbound marketing as a content analyst for a web development and SEO company. Carrie works hard at crafting the perfect content strategy for clients and using her hard-hitting journalism skills to tell your brand’s unique story. Outside of the office, Carrie enjoys live music, Tex-Mex, exploring the city with her husband and attempting to win the affections of her two terrible cats.
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