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Let's Talk about Mental Shortcuts
How many of you do not believe in shortcuts?
Honestly, I am not 100% sure about my feelings for shortcuts. I guess a lot depends on the context as well. For example, all those keyboard shortcuts, a big yes, but that shady shortcut lane to the office at night is questionable. Similarly, as tempting as it sounds, there are no real shortcuts to being physically fit, are there?
Well, I am suddenly talking about shortcuts because there is this one shortcut that can help you understand shopper behaviour and influence the purchase decision of your target market. So what is this shortcut, you ask?
The shortcut I am talking about is a better understanding of our mental heuristics. Heuristics are mental shortcuts that can facilitate problem-solving and probability judgments. These strategies are generalisations, or rules-of-thumb, reduce cognitive load and can effectively make immediate judgments; however, they often result in irrational or inaccurate conclusions. They allow us to shorten the decision-making time without constantly thinking about the next course of action. For example, over time, we recognise if a website is trustworthy or not. Does it look well laid out and designed, or does it have a lot of annoying banner ads and graphics? We then store and use this information the next time we go online to decide if a website is trustworthy or not quickly. Due to our previous learning, the second time, the process doesn’t require as much mental effort.
The thing about heuristics is that they aren’t always right or consistently wrong. There are many situations where generalisations can yield accurate predictions or good decision-making. However, even if the outcome is favourable, it was not logical. We risk ignoring important information and overvaluing less relevant information when using heuristics. No guarantee using a heuristic will work out. Even if it does, we’ll be deciding for the wrong reason; instead of basing it on logic, our behaviour results from a mental shortcut with no real rationale to support it.
Using heuristics can cause us to engage in various cognitive biases and commit certain fallacies. As a result, we may make poor decisions and inaccurate judgments and predictions. Awareness of heuristics can aid us in avoiding them, which will ultimately lead us to engage in more adaptive behaviours. Also, as mentioned above, a better understanding of these heuristics can help you understand shopper behaviour and influence the purchase decision of your target market.
Although there are a lot of heuristics that we use almost daily, here are some that will help you influence shopper’s behaviour better -
Availability heuristics - This is a mental shortcut based on how easy it is to bring something to mind. For example, when calling for a cab, you may choose Uber or Lyft because their names come to mind the fastest. You may well have chosen another brand if you had more information available about it. You simply chose the one that came to mind the easiest. In other words, we often rely on how easy it is to think of examples when making a decision. The number of examples is directly dictated by how accessible these examples are. Consequently, less easily recalled information is ignored even if it is statistically (and obviously) more important.
The availability heuristic can be used in marketing by giving examples of the results your product has brought forth to make it easier for potential customers to imagine an outcome they could likely achieve if they chose it. For instance, if you buy groceries when you are hungry and are given a free snack bar sample, you will probably find that it tastes exceptionally delicious! As a result, the next time you shop for snack bars, you will recall the brand easily and might use that as your purchase decision. (This is why more samples are given out just before lunch and dinner time.) By giving potential customers a taste of what they could experience with your product, you’re not only exciting the consumer imagination but also imprinting a positive association in their memory between your product and the subsequent attractive outcome they have the power to achieve.
Representativeness Heuristic - This is a mental shortcut based on comparing a current situation to a representative example. To convince us that objects or products are representative of an idea or concept we might have, marketers use representativeness. For example, if we watch TV and see numerous ads with a rugged man driving a pickup truck, we may well conclude that pickup trucks are only for rugged men who work outdoors. This type of heuristic is used when a person compares information to an existing example in their mind. In marketing, the representativeness heuristic is often used to convince customers about an idea or a concept.
For instance, in a product launch campaign, the marketer highlights features of the new product similar to those of another popular product that the target customers like or have previously bought.
(c) Anchoring Heuristics - This heuristic is the effect of a prior judgment of an object, the anchor, on our future judgments regarding another object. These judgements could be about a numerical value, a probability or even a moral decision. To influence consumer choice, marketers can anchor brands according to their strategic reference value points. For example, product manufacturers often introduce either a higher or lower priced item first, depending on how they influence a consumer’s subsequent decisions. If they start by introducing a higher priced model first, then the lower-priced model will look like a better deal in comparison.
(d) Attribute Substitution Heuristic - When making a purchase decision, we often substitute a more straightforward question for a more complicated one to make the decision easier and faster. For instance, when buying a new pair of running shoes, we may not inquire about the technical aspects (pronation vs supination, crash zone, foot strike area) and instead just ask the question, “Which brand do I like best?”
We can better understand shopper behaviour through an understanding of heuristics. Understanding how shoppers decide what to buy and helping them through the steps is essential. You can increase your chances of genuinely persuading consumers and driving them to action by considering heuristics in your next marketing campaign.