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The hidden psychology behind personalisation

In my last post I mentioned some of the more superficial ways in which organisations might try to personalise their digital experience and how behaviour can give you a frame for tests so you can combine personalisation with your experimentation efforts.

A lot of personalisation is based on looking at audiences and their data signals – demographic and onsite click behavioural information – to define potential future customers.  In this method, practitioners look at past data signals by profiling the customers who are high value, identifying their attributes and then clustering them together to create lookalike audience targets with the same or similar data signals.

This might be demographic, such as 30-to-40-year-old women from Adelaide who have an undergraduate degree and children, or behavioural, for example what media they came from, what pages they looked at, and how many times they visited before they purchased. Plug those signals into Facebook or Google Ads and they will help you find customers that look like your ideal ones.

But past behaviour of some users does not define future intent for others.

Just because I buy a car in a certain way, it doesn’t mean someone who ‘looks like’ me will do the same. Those signals may identify a potential customer and move them further into the purchasing funnel, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will convert. So lookalikes are not the silver bullet for personalisation efforts.

What’s missing is an understanding of the psychology behind decision-making.

Analytics, heat maps, session recordings – these tell you what they did. Remote user testing and focus groups tell you what they are thinking. But nothing tells you why they did what they did. To understand this, you need to understand what motivates and drives behaviour.

The role of emotion

You see, behind behaviour is motivation. There is a range of psychological studies that give evidence for the theory that people buy emotionally and rationalise that decision logically.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio is a leading researcher in this area. In a recent study, Damasio showed that people with a damaged limbic system (the emotional hub of the brain) were not able to make decisions. They were able to rationalise during the decision-making process, but they could not make a decision. Damasio explained that this was due to the fact that decisions are made emotionally and rationalised logically.

So, why is this important?

It shows that us that we must uncover the emotional factors that drive decisions if we are to better personalise experience.

No data point currently gives us this insight.

The question then becomes: how do you find the emotional drivers in the data? No analytics can ever identify the emotional motivators beneath the surface that drive decisions and user behaviour. A close look at motivation is what is lacking from personalisation today.

For many years we have been practising the art of behavioural sciences and their integration into experimentation. Recently, we have added behavioural science into personalisation. Via a program of work, we have found that integrating qualitative motivation-driven behaviour sciences studies into personalisation will, for the first time, allow you to understand the emotional drivers behind action.

Understanding these and coupling them to the data signals used in traditional personalisation create a unique and powerful method of personalisation, one that engages both the rational and emotional components of the brain in the decision-making process. It’s a unique approach that’s being used effectively by brands overseas like Mailchimp and major retailers.

These complex personalisation programs go beyond data and demographics, they delve into the emotional reasons behind buying decisions. Once you understand the psychology behind motivation, you can test different emotional drivers through experimentation to find triggers or a combination of triggers and unlock a powerful aspect of your personalisation arsenal.

Having a psychology-first mindset will help you formulate the right questions and the most effective tests.

For a detailed presentation on motivation-driven personalisation, get in touch. This is super exciting stuff and I’d be more than happy to share.

And if you would like to know more about personalisation and conversion rate optimisation (CRO) please tune into the New Republique Podcast, Australia’s first podcast dedicated to all things CRO (conversion rate optimisation), experimentation and personalisation. You can listen and rate us via iTunes or Spotify