Why brands must give their customers control

Written By: Visii InSight Series
Reading Time: 5 mins
Why brands must give their customers control

Why Brands Must Give Their Customers Control

In this blog, InSight reveals expert opinion and advice from world-renowned psychologist, Paul Marsden, who specialises in helping brands understand their customers. Paul teaches us:

  • why the secret to success is creating experiences that are personalisable NOT personalised;
  • why trust becomes even more important in Covid times, and
  • why shopping can help us live longer

Evidence shows that online brands which provide a more tailored experience outperform their rivals – you just have to look at the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Spotify to see how they have redefined their categories. So, on the face of it, it seems obvious that all brands should strive to create personalised experiences for their customers.

However, according to Paul Marsden, this would be a big mistake. The key is to create personalisable NOT personalised experiences, and this is what brands like Amazon, Netflix and Spotify do better than others.

Traditionally marketing has relied on broad stereotypes to categorise shoppers, when in truth psychological research and real-world data shows that consumers shouldn’t be categorised.

Marsden teaches us that people are in fact “chameleons” in their shopping habits, choosing smart, well-researched purchases for some product types, while happy to give in to impulse purchasing and following recommendations for other product categories.

Therefore, if brands really want to create the best customer-experiences they need to take into account what Marsden calls the ARC of happiness. These are the three proven psychological drivers of: autonomy, through providing support to make smarter decisions; confidence / competence, that the shopper feels they are making a smart choice based on information available to them; and relatedness, that they are being cared for and the store is putting their needs and requirements first.

So, what does this mean for online brands? Marsden insists that it’s crucial for them to ensure that customers feel they retain their autonomy when browsing and remain in control of the overall shopping experience. This is more important than pushing them towards products through a recommendation system, particularly when it’s based on data and metrics collected in the background without their knowledge.

Customers want to feel that a site is looking out for them and is catering for their needs. It’s imperative to ensure customers are masters of their own destiny rather than feeling manipulated by a site’s recommendations.

Hence, customers should be able to control how they create a personalisable experience, as opposed to having one personalised for them by the brand.

Granted, there are many instances where customers will want the experience automated. For example, doing a weekly grocery shop can be tedious so it can be a huge benefit to have this automated. Whereas shopping for clothing for a special occasion, the shopper is likely to want to browse and not be told what they should buy. So, the key for the retailer is understanding the context of the shopper and giving them the power to be able to choose whether they have a nurtured and curated experience or whether they have complete control and autonomy.

Marsden highlights another major factor which brands should take into consideration, which is trust. Marsden cites that trust in technology has declined to an all time low. This, combined with a sense of fear and uncertainty perpetuated by Covid-19 means brands must switch their focus from manipulating customers to buy a specific product and instead serve them with the right tools, advice and guidance to make a smarter purchase decision.

Finally, an insight which will bring a smile to both brands and customers - shopping really can make you live longer. Research in Taiwan showed that customers were less likely to die when shopping. Marsden puts this down to the Self Determination theory.

Again, it’s about being in control. When people are shopping they feel that they are in control of their own destiny as opposed to being told what to do. This makes them inherently happier and therefore less likely to die.

So, you never know. Follow this advice and you might not just help give your customers a better shopping experience, you may even help them live a little longer.

Take away for brands:

  • Make customers feel that they are in control
  • Understand the context. If they are performing a mundane experience help them to automate it. If they are facing a very broad search, help them narrow down the fields and find things on past preferences.
  • But, at all times make sure that the customer feels they are in control. Give them choices and power over the experience you serve them
  • Focus on building and maintaining trust at all times

To hear our interview with Paul please click here

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