Overlap Studio UX knowledge Designing users’ choices

Designing users’ choices

min read

Marketing and product development faces many problems. Customer expectations are changing at an astonishing rate. New channels of communication are constantly emerging, which makes it difficult to select them properly. Modern technologies contribute to the creation of more and more messages, the multitude of which makes it difficult to reach the user’s consciousness. Many marketing professionals are trying to solve this problem by, paradoxically, increasing their media spending. In addition, there are restrictions on human behavior. Let’s have a look at some of them.

Purchase decisions may result from a number of unconscious factors and a strong influence of the environment.

It’s a mistake to see the user as a fully rational being. Decision making involves not only cognitive processes but also emotional ones. In addition, these processes take place simultaneously.

A perfect example of the simultaneous functioning of the reason and emotions is the case of Phineas Gage. In 1948, while working as a rail foreman, Gage suffered brain damage. The accident destroyed the emotional area of his brain. However, it didn’t show any disturbances of the intellect, speech or memory. The part responsible for rational reasoning remained intact. Despite this, Gage lost the ability to make the right choices, and most of his decisions were bad and damaging to him. He lost the ability to control his own life.

This case shows, how in the result of reduced feelings, while intellectual functions remain usual, decision making processes are impaired. The participation of emotional processes is therefore essential in the process of reasoning and decision making. That’s why experience designers (whether UX, CX or SX designers) focus so much on users’ emotions in their work.

Consumers may show different preferences at the time of marketing research and at the time of purchase.

It’s often the case that there are discrepancies between declarations and choices. Most people asked if they would like to receive 100 PLN today or 110 PLN next year will choose the first option. However, if it’s possible to receive PLN 100 after a year, or PLN 110 after a year and one day, they’re likely to choose the latter. What’s the reason for these discrepancies?

Man is driven by two types of behavior: declared and impulsive. Our decisions, depending on the prize and its distance in time, rely on two systems. The first one, located in the frontal and parietal cortex, ensures long-term balance. The second system, which is located in the older parts of the brain, is responsible for measures leading to immediate enjoyment. Although a high propensity for impulsive behavior is not a common feature of the population, such behavior can be observed in every person. These may be due to a number of factors, such as the content of the information contained in the offer, encouraging passwords, delaying payment, the environment, the appearance of the packaging and the stimuli processed unintentionally (e.g. smell).

The user is not entirely able to explain his behavior or thinking.

As much as 95% of thought processes take place unconsciously. Respondents to marketing research are therefore not aware of all the incentives which are influencing their decisions, such as Nescafe’s launch of soluble coffee for the first time. Contrary to the expectations of the producers, the new product wasn’t successful at that time. When asked about the reason, consumers felt that they preferred ground coffee because of its better taste. In order to verify this, a study was carried out in which consumers tasted each coffee served in the same cups. As a result, they were unable to distinguish between the flavours of ground and soluble coffee. In fact, the preference for ground coffee was based on uninformed associations. Respondents were also asked to describe a woman who had coffee in her basket, either ground (Maxwell House) or soluble (Nescafe). The latter was compared to a lazy person, a wife who didn’t care about the house.

Consumers, although not aware of it, in fact, do not realize what led them to buy the product. Therefore, the researcher shouldn’t be led only by declarations received from the respondent. Those should be analysed in greater depth and detail.

The areas of the brain that are responsible for making decisions are activated before the user becomes aware of his or her choice.

This conclusion was reached by Prof. Dylan Haynes of the Bernstein Center of Computational Neuroscience in Berlin. His research indicates that areas of the brain predict human decisions seven seconds in advance. Fourteen participants took part in the study, whose brain activity was examined by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)[1]. and were asked to press the buttons with their right or left hand at their discretion.

The decision to press the button was made half a second earlier. However, the activity of the prefrontal cortex, indicating an unconscious moment of decision, had already increased seven seconds earlier. According to scientists, this was the moment when the planning process started. In most cases, scientists were able to predict when the button is going to be pressed [2]. The study shows that decisions are made much earlier than they are actually made. Human activities frequently only seemingly result from conscious human decisions.

Unawareness plays a big role in shaping the behavior of users, so it can be an area of gaining a competitive advantage by companies. That is why it’s so important for marketers to understand the interdependence between conscious and unconscious actions, as well as to learn about the mechanisms governing the user’s subconscious. Getting to know your customers, their problems and needs can help you to direct your communication in the right direction and choose the right tools to reach them.

[1] Increased activity in a specific area of the cerebral cortex is accompanied by increased blood flow in that area. FMRI allows for an accurate visualization of such areas [ A. Paciorek i wsp., Rola spektroskopii rezonansu magnetycznego w diagnostyce padaczki skroniowej, Przegląd Lekarski 2007, 64, 11, 956–959

[2] G. . Zaltam, Jak myślą klienci…, op.cit., , s. 43 M. Leszczyński, Narzędzia Mind the gap — droga do klienta, Marketing w praktyce, luty 2007, s.9–10 The brain anticipates our decisions, http://labtd.com/pdf/mozg%20przewiduje%20nasze%20decyzje.pdf, retrieved: 1.02.2010 r.

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