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The role of cognitive biases in Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Posted on Sep 15, 2022

Understanding what’s going on in the mind of your target audience is absolutely not a simple task as the human mind processes based on different logics, short cuts and indeed cognitive biases. Cognitive biases are the techniques that our minds use to put less effort in decision making. However, as many people depend on cognitive biases to a great extent on a daily basis in  decision making, having an understanding on the impact of cognitive biases on consumer behavior is absolutely vital for any digital marketer towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

Here’s quite a definition

As applied to psychology and behavioral economics, cognitive biases are any deviation of thinking pattern from rationality towards judgment. As to describe, when we are to buy a product or a service, we may not think logically in the process of picking a brand, instead will be framed by a set of other factors that we’ve learned by experience.

As Buster Benson explains, cognitive biases are there for a key reason which is to save the effort and time that our brain puts on making decisions. So he suggests us to look at the cognitive biases by the problems that they try to solve. That way it becomes quite clear why the cognitive biases exist and how they can be put into use. So he simply grouped 72 key cognitive biases into 4 groups by the problems that they try to solve as below. Let’s look at them from a digital marketing perspective.

Cognitive biases address four key problems

Problem 1 – There is too much information out there

As there is too much information out there for us to make a choice on purchasing a product or service online, we use shortcuts and filters to filter most of the information out based on the following scenarios.

  1. We notice and choose things which relate to the things that our brains can recall easily in the recent memory.
  2. Unusual, funny and surprising things hold precedence over usual things. Therefore we consider them important over ordinary stuff.
  3. Changes in things are clearly noticed by us.
  4. If something confirms our beliefs, then we are drawn towards them.

So we use the above filters while making decisions and if you understand this as a digital marketer, then it’s indeed easy to persuade your consumers towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) accordingly.

Problem 2 – Not enough meaning or it doesn’t make sense

When we are in front of something that we really don’t understand, we tend to fill the gaps with things that we assume we already know to create our own version of a mental model to understand the situation. To say the least, we understand things in our own way based on the following scenario.

  1. We tend to find patterns in even unconnected pieces of data.
  2. We fill the gaps with stereotypes and historical data.
  3. We tend to simplify numbers as well as probabilities just to turn them into a more understandable form.
  4. Our current mindset and assumptions are often projected onto past or future in order to understand things better

Problem 3 - We need to act fast

Time and the information are triggering factors that persuade us to act fast. So we used to act in the following ways in such a scenario.

  1. If we are to act fast to make a decision we should be confident enough in our choices of picking what’s important. This so-called confidence acts as overconfidence in most of the cases. So we are biased to them at the end.
  2. In order to act fast, we tend to focus on things at our immediate attention span and favor them without considering distant yet relatable things.
  3. To act fast, we favor the options which seem to be simple and complete over complex ones with ambiguities.

Problem 4 – What should we remember?

As discussed in problem one, there is too much information available to make decisions sometimes. And we are expected to remember information that we find will be helpful in future decision making. However to serve the purpose we tend to be framed to the biases as given below.

  1. We tend to edit and emphasize certain memories illogically after the fact.
  2. We miss out specific information by generalizing them.
  3. In the attempt of trying to memorize things, we tend to reduce some events or key elements of the scope.

How are all these related to digital marketing and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?

Now that you have some understanding on how cognitive biases act in different problematic situations of decision making, you can understand how your target audience’s mind works and how it shapes up the consumer behavior. Once you are well versed with the biases that your customers have, you can shape up your web content in order to appear better in front them by giving information in a way that they expect. We don’t talk about tricking your customers or framing them into biases as it’s not ethical and will act negatively at the same time. What we suggest is to shape up your content to serve the customers better aligned with the cognitive biases to have the edge of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

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