Conquer your consumers with the unconscious

Original author: Liraz Margalit
  • Transfer

Imagine a scene that happens a billion times every day for a billion computers around the world. A man is looking for new sneakers in online stores, or a woman is surfing the Internet in search of a new dress.

Visitors to online stores think that they control their decisions. However, in reality, as they scroll, go through the pages and, in some cases, buy something, a lot of subconscious processes and signals that control their behavior.

And it’s very important for a business to understand how these subconscious signals affect consumers.

The most studied indicator of this automatic process is the priming effect, in which the stimulus received by a person affects how he responds to another stimulus. We know that our mental paradigms - the way we categorize things around us - like to bring together similar topics and thoughts. Therefore, if we show the word “housewife” to a person, and then either the word “woman” or the word “pilot”, he will recognize the “woman” faster, because brain activation is faster in the case of related ideas.

It may be uncomfortable to admit, because no one likes to say that he believes in stereotypes. But we learn these connections at the beginning of life, and they are buried in our subconscious.

The priming effect not only affects our thoughts and feelings, it also affects behavior. If we are shown a photograph of an elderly couple, for example, we automatically (and without realizing it) begin to extract from this a stereotype of behavior like a slow walk. Studies show that these ideas are adopted early in life - often before people have the ability to overpower or reject them.

Web Experiment: Male vs. Female Photos

Our company ClickTale conducted an experiment in order to test the impact of subconscious gender stereotypes on the Internet. Using A / B testing, we created two versions of our main page: on one was a photograph of a man, and on the other everything was exactly the same, but with a photograph of a woman. Then, using our own software, we divided the audience into two groups and tracked all their interaction with the page elements: what they clicked on, how far they scroll, what were their next pages, and so on.

During the experiment, we used Optimizely to A / B test our two calls to action on the page: “Request a Demo” and “Try ClickTale”. Additional elements on the page that we tracked included clicks on product images or on Blog, Why ClickTale, and Search.

Our key findings were as follows:

1. Users who saw a photograph of a man noticeably more often clicked on “Try ClickTale” than those who saw a photograph of a man.
2. On the contrary, those who saw the woman noticeably more often clicked on “Request a Demo”.
3. Visitors to the "male" version of the page often noticeably clicked on "Product Features" and "Search".
4. Visitors to the “feminine” preferred options “Why ClickTale” and “Blog”.

Explain differences in visitor behavior

The results are fully described by the priming effect. Visitors who saw the image of a man preferred to click on “Try ClickTale” - an active approach. With the women they chose “Request a Demo” - more passive. Does this mean that women are more passive and men more active? No, this means that these are the stereotypes assigned to them unconsciously by website visitors.

Choosing “Product Features” and “Search” in demonstrating male photography also reflects a more active and purposeful approach to learning what ClickTale is. By comparison, Why ClickTale and Blog are a more passive study, signaling a less direct approach to getting information about the company.

If you measure only conversion, the results will not be as complete as if you understood this difference in processes. This gives a valuable lesson to web designers and marketers: when it comes to online behavior, what matters is not what the eye sees. The important thing is that the brain perceives even before it consciously sees it, before the human consciousness is able to understand why it feels the way it does.

Understanding the effect of priming - and how to apply it - is a secret that allows companies to gain a competitive advantage.

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