3 Behavioural Mindsets for Accurate Content Personalization


3 Behavioural Mindsets for Accurate Content Personalization

Content personalization isn’t there just to make marketers feel good! It’s all about making the customer journey smoother, helping customers to be informed to make the best choice, which leads to better and quicker sales and service outcomes.

I would suggest that content personalization is a commercial imperative in today’s world of short attention spans and rising expectations for a great user experience.

It will lead to fewer abandonments, greater conversion rates, better quality sales (i.e. best product), fewer service enquiries and better educated self-service. In short, happier customers!

The field of psychographic segmentation is fast developing from traits of personality / values / attitudes / interests / lifestyles (e.g. Young & Rubicam’s Cross Cultural Consumer Characterization – 4Cs) into the realm of “Behavioural Science”. This is fascinating from an academic perspective, but we can’t expect front-line staff and UX designers to understand it all! I’d therefore like to propose a simple approach that will help companies start seeing the benefits described without having to commission doctorates for all their staff.

Even customers who sit in one particular psychographic segment will have different behavioural mindsets that staff and UX journeys need to distinguish between, which is where Cognitive and Behavioural Science come in.

To make a start, I’d like to suggest that there are three basic mindsets that you or I might be in when we shop or have a service need (regardless of which channel we choose):

  • I know exactly what I want;
  • I don’t know what I want and I need advice; and
  • I think I know what I want but I soon find out that I need assistance

It’s a massive mistake to assume any of these mindsets in our customer experience design, so I’d like to briefly unpack each mindset and consider how we can help discern which the customer is in.

Mindset 1: I know exactly what I want

This mindset is driven by self-assurance within the customer that they have enough information already to choose the best product or right service, and just want to execute on that choice.

Brand loyalty is a key driver of such assurance, and so is independent pre-research into the available options. Customers in this mindset are unlikely to be open to alternative suggestions, and it is speed and ease that will determine their satisfaction.

To illustrate this, I’d like to recount the experience of buying my wife’s first smartphone. She wanted an iPhone. We went to our mobile provider’s shop and asked for an iPhone. The salesman tried to sell her an android phone. She wanted an iPhone. The salesman tried to sell her a different android phone (maybe to meet a sales target?). She wanted an iPhone. By the time the salesman relented and sold her what she wanted we had almost run out of time to actually complete the sale (i.e. they nearly didn’t sell us anything), and we only just avoided a parking fine! The salesman also begged us to give him an NPS score of 9 or 10 otherwise he’d get into trouble. Bad experience!

My point in this is that this mindset needs immediate recognition and swift fulfilment.

In face-to-face and telephonic interactions, this means open questioning and good empathetic skills.  It also needs a willingness for the salesperson to defer to the customer’s choice and to compromise their commission when it’s the right thing to do.

For digital interactions we need better customer journey analytics, cognitive tools and social listening to enable predictive modelling to drive content personalization that leads to the simplest user journey possible for the outcome desired.

Don’t forget, this applies to service interactions as well – opening statements such as “I’d like to complain”; navigation straight to service/FAQ pages; or searching for key ‘service’ words on your website are good predictors of this mindset.

I’m not saying that these customers aren’t open to cross-selling or up-selling. I am saying that they won’t be open to it unless they have confidence that you’ll give them what they asked for. Once you’ve gained that trust you can open the conversation or user journey up to alternatives or on-sell. As they say in comedy – it’s all about timing . . .

Mindset 2: I don’t know what I want and need advice

This mindset is the easiest to identify and respond to as the customer is more likely to flag that they need assistance and will give sufficient time to receive advice.

It is also the mindset for which personalized content will have its biggest impact in guiding the customer to their point of decision (i.e. reach Mindset 1!). In general, customers will have this mindset when they’re outside of their comfort zones e.g.:

  • Considering a new or unfamiliar piece of technology
  • Buying products on behalf of others or as a gift
  • Life stage changes (especially for financial advice); ‘flying solo’ for the first time
  • When something has gone wrong
  • When all the choices available are unrecognised brands, so the customer is taking a ‘leap of trust’
  • Big ticket durable items that will have to be lived with for the next several years
  • Going somewhere new (even if it’s just a different restaurant!)
  • Just want a change (don’t underestimate this!)

Companies need to recognise this mindset as a gift as it allows them to demonstrate their knowledgeability, sales/service expertise and joined-up channels. Customers who are helped when they’re in this mindset are more likely to become loyal and advocates, as they will appreciate your investment in them. Storytelling is becoming ever more important in marketing and this is where stories are made.

However, many retailers do the opposite! They brand these customers as ‘time wasters’ and would much rather deal with people in Mindset 1 to get quick sales.

Trying to force a decision too early can destroy trust, and as they say – patience is a virtue . . .

Mindset 3: I think I know what I want but soon find out that I need assistance

I guess this is the most common mindset and the one for which most retailers and user journeys are set up. Possible scenarios include:

  • The chosen brand/product/service is not available when required or is more expensive than expected, so alternatives or compromises must be found quickly
  • The customer is working on outdated or misinformed information and realises the need for swift education in the subject
  • The customer has made a choice but just needs confirmatory advice that it’s a good decision
  • The customer has narrowed it down to a few options and just needs helping over the decision line
  • A concern escalates into a complaint
  • The customer is wrong (yes it can happen) and it would be unethical to sell them something they don’t need or can’t afford

A good example of most the above would the purchase of a new PC or tablet. I recently went online to buy my son a new PC before he went up to college, and thought I was in Mindset 1 but was soon befuddled by all the choices available of brand, device, processor, operating system, etc. In the end, I went to a physical retailer who won the sale because they could get me over the line.

These three mindsets underline the need for a truly omni-channel approach, and customer engagement / digital marketing analytics.

This article was written in association with IBM Watson (https://www.ibm.com/watson/).


About the Author

Peter LaversPeter is an expert in relationship marketing and customer experience management. He directs the Customer Management arm of WCL, helping clients to develop new and innovative ways to find, engage and satisfy customers.

Number of posts: 40
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