In the digital environment, marketers should look beyond the traditional marketing funnel towards understanding the personal customer journey at a more granular level. The route someone may travel between becoming aware of a brand and making a purchase is complex and varied, and simply applying the same tactic to each person in a particular phase in the customer lifecycle is not going to deliver the optimal results.

With the access to customer data we have today, along with the tools we have for dynamic messaging, we are able to reach a degree of personalised engagement in order to resonate with consumers on both a rational and emotional level. 

Today’s platforms to customise dynamic messaging for customers through an automated bidding approach (known as smart bidding) use algorithms to determine what message to show which person at a particular time. This enables marketers to target messages that address the consumer’s emotional and rational mindset as he or she explores and evaluates options.

How bias shapes customer decisions

The reality is that data power brokers such as Google, Amazon and Facebook are able to collect thousands of intent signals from people as they visit websites embedded with their tracking tags, which is almost every website looking to sell anything. Through a smart bidding approach with dynamic ad formats they can use these intent signals to target individual biases to influence and shift brand preferences.

Google discussed a few of these biases at a recent summit it hosted in Dublin, along with some research into how these triggers shift consumer behaviour. It asked a group of consumers to pick their favourite mobile phone brand and mortgage provider brand, and investigated how marketers could use certain triggers to convince consumers to try a competing brand. Some of these triggers were so powerful that researchers were able to convince consumers to try a fictional mortgage brand created for the experiment.

Triggers included:

  • The exposure effect: Increasing the frequency at which people see a brand will increase the chance that they will switch. The test found this trigger had a relatively small effect for mobile phone maker and mortgage provider alike.
  • The scarcity bias: This is about prompting people to buy before an offer comes to an end or stock runs out. Again, the effect was relatively small for both mobile phone and mortgage customers.
  • The social norms bias: This tactic uses testimonials and case studies to imply that people like the customer are using a product or service. This lifted the propensity of mortgage customers to switch by nearly 20% and phone customers to do so by 22%.
  • Authority bias: Enticing people to buy with expert reviews and endorsements. This tactic was less successful than the social norms bias but had a bigger impact than scarcity and exposure.
  • Power of free: Everyone likes to get something for free. Mobile phone customers, however, were not as easily swayed by an offer to receive something for free and tended to be more brand loyal. Mortgage customers, on the other hand, were happy to switch for $500 cash back, which is interesting considering $500 is small change relative to the cost of a 20-year mortgage. 
  • Power of now: Limited time offers resonated with mortgage and phone customers alike; 9,8% and 10,2% of consumers respectively would switch.
  • Category heuristics:  This bias had an impact of more than 13% for phones and close to 24% for mortgages. It illustrated how messages about an unknown product and the way it fits in a category made people more likely to switch than getting messages about a familiar brand competing with their current choice.

These examples illustrate that marketers should not take a one-size-fits-all approach to the marketing funnel, but rather tailor their approach to the different ways people make decisions within different product categories.


The big take-out

Given the digital tools marketers have at their disposal, a one-size-fits-all approach to the marketing funnel can be changed to one that is personalised to target consumers at a rational and emotional level.

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