Are biases influencing you?


Let me give you an insight into my life. 

It’s Friday night, I’m watching Queer Eye on Netflix, glass of wine in hand. I get an urge to open up the ASOS app, convinced that I need a new pair of white Nikes. I find a pair I like and read the reviews - all five stars. I’m sold and into the basket they go. 

But hold on - they’re expensive! Over £100 expensive. Do I really need them? I pause for about 2 seconds then realise that it doesn’t matter as I now have the option of using Klarna (delayed payment). I hit BUY. 24 hours later they’re on my feet and I’m looking - and feeling - good.

I’ve just described a number of phenomena that behavioural psychologists call Biases. Biases are evolutionary hangovers from an age when we had to worry about being eaten by lions; shortcuts in cognitive processing and decision-making designed to help us survive. They still have a place today but sometimes can be more of a hindrance than a help.

However, as designers and marketers we can use these quirks of human behaviour to our advantage. The Choice Factory by Richard Shotton is a brilliant book that explores this topic in detail. He covers 25 biases but I’ve chosen three to explore here. 

Number 1 - Veblem Goods 

Captured in the famous line ‘Reassuringly expensive’ - the price of an item affects our perception of it. Veblem goods don’t follow normal economic convention. Usually prices go down as demand goes up but in their case demand goes up because the price is high. Think designer watches, fine wines and luxury cars. We want them because they’re expensive as the more something costs, the higher the value we place on it. 

Back to my Friday night shopping-fest. Nike sells trainers at various price points and you can buy a pair of white trainers on ASOS for a tenner. But I wanted the £100 pair. They’re better quality, aren’t they? Possibly, but not necessarily. I’ve actually just had to send them back due to a fault. 

This bias is why Louis Vuitton never has a sale. Ever. And why you’ll rarely see an Audi A1 advertised on TV but you will see the R8. The high price point of the R8 increases our perception of quality across their whole portfolio. So take a critical look at your marketing spend with this in mind. 

The lesson?

Anyone in marketing should take a critical look at your (or your client’s) portfolio with this in mind. Perhaps you could invest more in marketing your premium range / service, or create one if it doesn’t exist (which could increase value perception and therefore sales overall).

Anyone in marketing should take a critical look at your (or your client’s) portfolio with this in mind. Perhaps you could invest more in marketing your premium range / service, or create one if it doesn’t exist (which could increase value perception and therefore sales overall).

Number 2 - Confirmation Bias. 

I had already decided that I wanted those sneakers. As I skimmed through the customer reviews, every positive one reinforced my view. Of course, they’re really well made! Of course, they’ll go with everything! Of course, they’re going to make me look cool! Any bad reviews? I ignored them. 

My confirmation bias was actively selecting evidence to support my point of view and ignoring anything that didn’t.  This happens regardless of whether I like or dislike something. 

The lesson? 

Your fans are likely to buy from you anyway. They’re connected and regularly exposed to your brand and will continue to seek evidence to support their loyalty. 

Your rejectors have decided they don’t like you so it’s going to take a lot to change their minds. 

Best to focus on the lukewarm, middle ground. The ones where marketing might make a difference. So, invest in marketing to them. 

Number 3 - Pain of Payment

This might seem like an obvious one but the impact is quite something. Keeping consumers as far away from the pain of payment makes business sense. 

A study found that shoppers paying through Contactless underestimated their spend by 5%. The opposite was true with cash - an overestimation by 9%. Remove me as far as possible from the pain of payment and I’m more likely to spend more and think I’ve spent less. 

ASOS partner with Klarna - a microservice that’s seamlessly integrated into the payment journey which gives interest-free credit for a month. This means I can buy and return without any money leaving my account, or simply delay payment. I could have also chosen to spread the payments out over a longer period of time (for a small fee of course!).

The lesson? 

If you own a digital product, consider how and where you’re presenting payment options in the purchase journey and look at services such as Klarna to reduce the pain of payment as much as possible. 

Also consider presenting costs e.g. subscription costs in as small a unit as possible, weekly rather than monthly or annually for example. The smaller the number, the more likely we are to buy regardless of the overall cost. 

I’d love to say that having a deeper understanding of behavioural bias would 

have changed my decision to buy those Nike trainers. But I’d be lying. I’ve always loved expensive things and probably always will and I’m OK with that. 

I’m borrowing heavily from Richard Shotton’s book - The Choice Factory. You can buy it here. We brought Richard into one of our projects recently as an expert. Onsite in Amsterdam, we ran a Google Ventures design sprint for Adidas looking at the online Waiting Room experience for Hype products e.g. Yeezys at £250 a pair. 

Getting an insight into the psychology of consumers before, during and after this type of purchase was invaluable and fed directly into our design work. If you think we can help you with a similar challenge then please get in touch. 

Jessica Mullen