Create Emotional Connections With Your Customers Using Data

emotional connections

Much has been said about retail disruption, personalization, chatbots, and AI, with headline after headline enlightening the topic trends of the moment. Yes, we all know that mobile is the primary device when it comes to planning your marketing strategy; that the retail industry needs to evolve to keep up with the e-commerce giants; that the so-called industry 4.0 is the real thing; that personalization is the only feature that matters.

All these trends are clear markers of that simple truth we all know: customer preferences are changing so fast that it’s hard to predict or anticipate them these days. We can’t say which brands or products will shine in the next years with a soaring demand, nor which ones will lose ground.

Today, customer engagement requires innovative, specific, personalized experiences, and companies often strive to satisfy their needs. Following trends is dangerous: in the very moment you find a focus on a particular trend, it is likely already passed. You must learn to anticipate trends, create them starting from the knowledge you have right now.

Furthermore, traditional customer segmentation has become difficult and ineffective. Old-school data profiling is inadequate to illustrate the specific characteristics of the buyer personas, due to its broadness and non-specificity. Hard data, such as location, age, gender, or even interests, are not sufficiently distinct to portray a person’s profile and his behavioral patterns effectively.

Today, customers are accustomed to weekly product turnover, monthly technology updates, on-demand streaming services, on the moment news, and automated customer support: everything is available everywhere, at any time.

How can we expect our customers to stand still enough to let us detect their needs, design a solution, and provide it at our convenience? Even broaden concepts like sustainability or privacy compliance, considered as evergreen trends, are not always reliable in the mid or long term. One season it’s all about life-long garments made of organic cotton and the next one everyone wants that 10$-plastic-trendy shoes.

Now, imagine being introduced to this buyer persona: a young male, located in New York, with a lot of different interests - from sports to technology and music -, who spends around 70$ per month for discretionary activities.

How can you tell whether he is interested in taking insurance coverage / taking part in a guided tour through the mountains, rather than exploring new cities on a self-organized trip? How can you predict if he would prefer a long, descriptive written content, rather than a chart, to delineate the advantages of your service?

Traditional profiling can easily become a false friend: it gives the idea that you are gaining knowledge, while you are actually focusing on generic data and missing the real key to the heart of the single person. There are just too many variables among customers to pretend that using only a little part of them might be enough to predict their behavior.

And so what?

So, it is necessary to gain a deep, valuable, holistic understanding of who your customer is as a person and what he/she expects from you in terms of feelings, emotions, and experiences.

Customer loyalty is all about experiences. Offering high-quality products is important but delivering relevant experiences that resonate with the inner feelings of the recipient is essential. Thus, brands need to achieve a profound knowledge of their customers, investigating the key elements that provide the basis to establish meaningful bonds.

These elements are the personal characteristics that are stable across time and situations; the ones that determine the attitude and approach towards life and everyday choices, such as personality traits, values, and beliefs.

For example, the ideal buyer persona for insurance providers tends to be someone who has a high-risk aversion and an external locus of control rather than someone who is more prone to bear ambiguous situations and usually feels in control of his life.

More, someone who has a strong inclination towards adventures and spontaneity would prefer a self-organized, backpacked trip, while a person in the same socio-demographic sector, but with strong values of security, familiarity, and ease will probably pick a guided tour, with scheduled times and activities.

Communication messages need to be tailored to the recipients characteristics and their attitude towards information: not everyone copes and assimilates data similarly, and these differences need to be taken into great consideration.

Another example: people with a high need for cognition need to deepen the search for precise information to form an accurate opinion, while those with an inclination towards affection absorb emotional appeals better.

These few examples provide the necessary understanding of the individual differences that occur between people, not regarding socio-demographic or behavioral data, but concerning other aspects that have long been ignored.

Today, the state of technologies grants us the opportunity to identify, isolate and use this information to provide better experiences to our customers. Are you willing to gain this deeper understanding and stay on top of your customers’ desires?

 

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Is Customer Personality the Future of 1-to-1 Marketing?

The new marketing is people-centric, and today companies need to gain a deeper understanding of ‘who’ their customers are, as people, not simply consumers.

However, even when they get to know their customers, companies still rely primarily upon what we can call "hard" data: socio-demographic, economic, and geographic data - sometimes they add behavioral data, such as past purchases and content views.

With a metaphor, we can say that if companies were humans, they would be people who use only the “left side” of their brain, the rational part. But what makes humans so able to understand and communicate with other people is the completion of that rational part with the emotional one: the “right side” of the brain.

Now, if we imagine what this right side of the brain is made of in the digital world, we can say that it is made of "soft" data: the desires, motivations, emotions, and personality of customers.

These human-like data have become essential today. To understand why, let’s see an example from a well-known marketing strategy that relies on a psychological principle: social proof, a technique that leverages our tendency to follow the majority, to look at other people’s actions and behave consistently with them.

In marketing, we want people to imitate desired behaviors, those that will lead to a sale or a conversion. So, we use the social proof principle every time we inform potential shoppers of what other customers do (for example, what they have bought) to convince them to do the same.

We often find this principle applied in the e-commerce world. Think of Amazon and its suggestions tool. Amazon makes extensive use of social proof: "people like you also bought this item"; "frequently bought together"; "customers who bought this item also bought" and so on.

Knowing what other people buy can be important to help us - as customers - to make good purchase decisions. But if you're a marketer, you should ask: is it really so important to all of us? Do we decide and behave in the same way?

An example. Think about a person like Hester.

1-to-1 marketing

Hester is a girl that wants to feel unique - in psychology, they say she has a personality trait called "need for uniqueness". She is creative, original, and a bit eccentric. She wants to feel special with everything she buys and wears; when shopping, she looks for different styles and innovative outfits. If Hester buys a dress and then sees it worn by someone else, on the street or at a party, she gets annoyed.

Now, think about the Amazon-like message "people like you also bought". Do you think that a person like Hester would feel engaged? Or is it more likely that she would get annoyed by the expression "people like you"?

That is the point. Today, 1-to-1 marketing is growing faster and faster. Market leaders such as Amazon, Youtube, Netflix, Spotify are dominating thanks to their ability to accumulate lots of customer data and use them intelligently.

At the same time, we have psychological principles - such as social proof, and many others - that are widely used in marketing but still applied in the same way to all customers.

In this scenario, what about individual differences?

We’re not talking about age, gender, geography, or past purchases. We’re talking about those characteristics that we, as human beings, can see in others and take into account when we interact with them. We’re talking about psychology and personality.

We have seen Hester, with a high need for uniqueness. Now let’s see Emma.

personalized-marketing

Emma wants to “fit in” the group - she has a personality trait called "need to belong". She likes to follow trends and, when shopping, wants to feel fashion. She is the typical girl who, when deciding the outfit, needs to see it already worn by friends and influencers on social media.

Maybe, compared to Hester, she would be much more interested in what other people (“people like her”) bought, much more attracted by messages that leverage social proof.

That’s why customer personality matters.

A good salesman who knows his customer's personality has a huge advantage: he not only knows what to suggest to his customer but even how to paint it. A good seller in the store would certainly communicate differently with Hester and Emma. So, why communication online should be the same for them?

Imagine the experience that Hester and Emma could live on the e-commerce site of a fashion brand when looking for a new dress and some accessories to match.

To be more empathic, that brand could highlight for Hester the most niche and exclusive clothes, that she could be the first to discover, with more powerful storytelling for her, such as: "Discover how to create your unique and innovative outfit for the summer".
With Emma, instead, it would be better to suggest the most popular and fashionable clothes, preferred by the community of other customers, with a more effective message for her, such as: "Discover how to create the most trendy outfit for the summer”.

What is obvious for a good seller still seems impossible for e-commerce. Tailoring the message to reflect a person's attitudes, motivations and personality is a natural process in "offline" marketing, and technology is rapidly evolving to bridge this gap, enabling companies to be more “empathic” with their customers.

There are lots of things that technology can do better than humans, especially those that follow the same general workflow: gather data, analyze data, determine a course of action, implement the course of action. Communication, however, doesn't fall into that standardized process for its intrinsic nature of being more powerful if differentiated, flexible, and tailored to the specific characteristics of the receiver.

That's why skills like persuasion, social understanding, and empathy are going to become our "competitive advantage" as artificial intelligence takes over other standardized tasks. But this also means that technology will always go further in the direction of learning, or trying to learn, the way humans communicate. Digital communication today is more efficient, of course, for the number of people it can reach simultaneously, but human communication is still more effective. Whether or not it will always be, that is an open issue, which is up to each of us to answer!

 

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Discover how you can innovate your business strategy to deliver personalized experiences and turn prospects into loyal customers. Download the free report Digital Innovation in Retail & Fashion.

The New Marketing is People Centric: Know Your Customer Personality!

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Every day, enormous amounts of money around the world are spent on advertising tailored for socio-demographic groups. But demographic analysis is only part of the story about your customers.

If you want to get the whole story you must start considering your customers as people, rather than merely seeing them as someone buying the product that you’ve got. To do so, you need to stop relying solely on an objective-based perspective and start getting a more in-depth view of your customers.

Qualitative information such as customer personality can show you more clearly what is important to them and how they make buying decisions. Moreover, as customer personality relates to their attitudes and behavior, it can be useful for developing your products and services as well as for creating powerful communications.

For example, you probably didn't know that extroverts:

  • Look for the hedonic value of products (see notes 5; 4)
  • Feel more positive consumption emotions and affective commitment towards brands (6; 7)
  • Use more word-of-mouth communication (11)
  • Tend to be highly fashion-conscious (9)
  • Are more favorable toward transformational ads than informational ads (8)

While if you are dealing with conscientious customers, you should mind that they:

  • Look for the utilitarian, functional, task-related, and rational value of shopping (4)
  • Tend to be prestige-sensitive (9)
  • Manage their money more because they are future oriented and have positive financial attitudes (3)
  • Are more favorable toward comparative ads than non-comparative ads and informational ads than transformational ads (8)

And if your customers are open-minded, consider that they:

  • Support technological innovation (13)
  • Place greater importance on reliability rather than on style when buying a computer (10)
  • Are less prestige-sensitive (2)
  • Tend to make more online purchases (1)
  • Are more favorable to recycled and sustainable products (12)

These are some of the personality traits included in the Big Five Model, also known with the acronym OCEAN: Openness to experience; Conscientiousness, Extroversion; Agreeableness; Neuroticism.

One of the major arguments against the use of the Big Five Model - and personality traits in general - in marketing is the difficulty of obtaining such kind of information about customers.

However, the expanding of digital and social platforms makes available terabytes of data about users, including subjective qualitative data. This gives marketers the unprecedented opportunity to understand customer personality and deliver AI-driven personalized contents on a large scale.

This is more than moving from a partial view of customers to a more comprehensive one; it is shifting from a merely commercial approach, what we know as "customer-centricity", to a more intimate and long-term relationship, what we will call "people-centricity".

To enter this new era, start thinking about it: how will you enhance your marketing when you also get the human side of customers?

Photo by Marina Vitale on Unsplash

Notes:
(1) Bosnjak, M., Bochmann, V., & Hufschmidt, T. (2007). Dimensions of brand personality attributions: a person-centric aproach in the German cultural context. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 35(3), 303-316.

(2) Casidy, R. (2012). An empirical investigation of the relationship between personality traits, prestige sensitivity, and fashion consciousness of Generation Y in Australia. Australasian Marketing Journal (AMJ), 20(4), 242-249.

(3) Donnelly, G., Iyer, R., & Howell, R. T. (2012). The Big Five personality traits, material values, and financial well-being of self-described money managers. Journal of Economic Psychology, 33(6), 1129-1142.

(4) Guido, G. (2005). Shopping motives and the hedonic/utilitarian shopping value: a preliminary study. ACR European Advances.

(5) Matzler, K., Bidmon, S., & Grabner-Kräuter, S. (2006). Individual determinants of brand affect: the role of the personality traits of extraversion and openness to experience. Journal of Product & Brand Management, 15(7), 427-434.

(6) Matzler, K., Faullant, R., Renzl, B., & Leiter, V. (2005). The relationship between personality traits (extraversion and neuroticism), emotions and customer self-satisfaction. Innovative Marketing, 1(2), 32-39.

(7) Mooradian, T. A., & Olver, J. M. (1997). “I can't get no satisfaction:” The impact of personality and emotion on postpurchase processes. Psychology & Marketing, 14(4), 379-393.

(8) Myers, S. D., Sen, S., & Alexandrov, A. (2010). The moderating effect of personality traits on attitudes toward advertisements: a contingency framework. Management & Marketing, 5(3), 3.

(9) Myszkowski, N., & Storme, M. (2012). How personality traits predict design-driven consumer choices. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 8(4), 641-650.

(10) Nevid, J. S., & Pastva, A. (2014). “I'm a Mac” versus “I'm a PC”: Personality Differences between Mac and PC Users in a College Sample. Psychology & Marketing, 31(1), 31-37.

(11) Ranjbarian, B., Forghani, M. H., & Ghafari, M. (2013). Personality traits and the use of word of mouth communication as a source of travel information among inbound tourists who visited Isfahan. International Journal of Academic Research in Economics and Management Sciences, 2(3), 20.

(12) Sandy, C. J., Gosling, S. D., & Durant, J. (2013). Predicting consumer behavior and media preferences: The comparative validity of personality traits and demographic variables. Psychology & Marketing, 30(11), 937-949.

(13) Wood, S. (2012). Prone to progress: Using personality to identify supporters of innovative social entrepreneurship. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 31(1), 129-141.

Download The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty to define the foundations on which to build your engagement and loyalty strategy, create innovative experiences and establish a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers.

Marketing and Soft (vs. Hard) Data – 4 Ways To Empower Your Strategy

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One-to-one marketing is a strategy of customer relationship management that relies on the personalization to foster customer loyalty and make a better return on marketing investment.

The idea behind it is that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to communication; so, treating each person differently is essential to be convincing, persuasive, and effective. To empower your strategy, in fact.

This is true between Brands and customers as much as between human beings. But, while people's capability to adapt their communication depending on the interlocutor is potentially endless, determined by their social and empathic skills, Brands often do not have this ability.

To some extent, this is due to what kinds of data Brands possess about customers, which are incomparably lower - in the number and types - compared to those that people have or can get.

“Demographic and behavioral information only give marketers part of the story they need to effectively segment a customer base. The problem with both of those types is that they do not tell us why people are doing things, which, as marketers, is the most important thing for us to know.” (Susan Baier)

By using only socio-demographic data, all customers that fall in a specific category (i.e. new moms, Millennials, Londoners) would be marked identically. These are necessary information but, taken alone, will lead you to a vague image of your customer, and few indications as to whether they will be interested in your product.

Adding “soft”, subjective and qualitative data to traditional “hard”, socio-demographic data like age, location, and economic status enables the understanding of who your customers truly are and why they make certain choices, so that you could envision what they will appreciate most and how they will behave in the future.

We are talking about customer attitudes, aspirations, values, lifestyle, and personality - so relatively stable information - on the one hand, and about their feeling, perceptions, and emotions - which are temporary and contextual - on the other.

Unlike hard data, soft data are not readily available. To find them, you have to dig a bit deeper into the virtual and physical touchpoints where your relationship with customers takes place.

What are these touchpoints? Here are four that represent optimal sources of soft data.

SOCIAL PROFILE
The social profile is undoubtedly where you can find the most heterogeneous information about a user: images, videos, text posts, self-descriptions, likes, comments and content sharing offer a comprehensive picture of a user's interests and way of thinking, but also of his/her hobbies, lifestyle, and personality.

WEBSITE AND ECOMMERCE
The massive amount of data resulting from a user's behavior on your brand's website and eCommerce can be analyzed and interpreted at different levels of depth. For example, for a fashion brand, information can go from what the user has purchased to what are his/her own style and emotional relationship with clothing.

STORE
If you think that customer analytics have to do only with your digital properties, you are wrong! By recognizing biometric and audio cues with in-store analytics solutions, you can identify customers’ in-the-moment feelings and state of mind.

For example, facial recognition technology and GSR sensors can be used to show:
• What areas of your store are most engaging
• Whether and when customer feel stressed or disengaged within your store
• What products and elements are most appealing
• What emotional reactions your store layout and your shop window generate

CONVERSATIONAL INTERFACES
Today they are almost exclusively employed as customer support tools, to answer simple questions and provide guidance in well-circumscribed domains, but conversational interfaces (the so-called “chatbots”) can potentially become much more.

If put in the role of "virtual interviewers", they become a new tool to perform market research, both quantitative - by administering a structured questionnaire - and qualitative - applying natural language processing to open questions.

What is important to be aware of is that your online and offline properties can offer much more insights than you already collect, and these insights can help you build a picture of your customers as "people", not just consumers.

Moreover, analyzing these soft data with artificial intelligence techniques enables you to build predictive models of consumer behavior and individual traits. Then, applying them to your content delivery system allows you to personalize messages, offers, and experiences based on the unique features of each customer, thus taking your one-to-one marketing to the next level.

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Download The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty to define the foundations on which to build your engagement and loyalty strategy, create innovative experiences and establish a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers.

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May 24 and 25, 2018, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: the future of technology was there, at the TNW Conference 2018, the award-winning 2-day European festival dedicated to innovation, marketing, communication, and creativity.

With 19 tracks of content, a huge variety of topics was covered: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning changing companies' businesses; Design thinking transforming our work and helping us solving complex problems: new Marketplaces growing retailers' e-commerce exponentially; Virtual and Augmented Reality making physical and digital objects coexist simultaneously; and many others.

In this wide range of specialties, what are the key insights for the digital experience leaders? Here are the three main trends we have observed.

Artificial Intelligence will turn into Emotional Intelligence
Opening the 'Machine: Learners' track, Cassie Kozyrkov, Chief Decision Scientist at Google, shares her thoughts on the decision intelligence engineering, the emerging discipline that focuses on using ML and AI to improve companies’ businesses.

In a statement, she has captured the attention of the entire audience: 2030 will be the age of emotional intelligence. The Human-AI symbiosis that will take place in the next years will shape the way brands connect with customers across all digital and physical touchpoints, making their relationship closer, personal and intimate.

That will become possible thanks to the ability for Machine Learning and Deep Learning to foster and advance brands' social skills, enabling them to change their communication style depending on what customers’ emotions and reactions are.

If the customer is in a hurry and impatient, or anxious and stressed out, brands will be ready to deliver a different experience than if s/he's calm and relaxed; just like a good seller does when dealing with customers in the store.

Context-aware Artificial Intelligence unlocks the power of Customer Experience
In a world where customer expectations are constantly evolving, 89% of companies believe that customer experience will be their primary basis for competition (Gartner, 2015). That is how Adrian McDermott, President of Products at Zendesk, started what has been one of the most eye-opening speeches of the event.

Artificial Intelligence solutions can help companies to increase customer satisfaction by providing:

- Automation, which removes repetitive work - think of an answer bot instead of a customer service professional).
- Recommendation, that uses content cues to inform decisions customers make - by offering, for example, the right information and help at the right moment.
- Prediction, able to spot trends that humans can’t see - such the expected customer satisfaction, the probability that a customer will become loyal to your brand, or that s/he will recommend your product to others.

Over the coming years, these three AI-based levers will allow leading companies to:

- Embrace a people-first approach, which means, capturing the customer behind the analytics and beyond purely objective data such as demographics.
- Adopt a growth mindset, by figuring out what their customer segments look like and A/B testing what kind of interactions they should activate across those segments.
- Deliver seamless omnichannel experiences and context-based conversations with customers, to close the gap with customers' habits and make them live comprehensive shopping experiences.

Digital communication will move to dialogue
By 2020, the average person will have more conversation with their bot than with their spouse (Gartner, 2016). What is certain is that, within the next few years, having a bot in your app and website will go from being an optional nice-to-have to an essential must-have.

If misdesigned, however, you’ll have a frustrating user interface that will drive your customers away, explains Purna Virji, Senior Manager of Global Engagement at Microsoft. Convinced that we can do much better than state of the art, she reveals us the key principles of designing conversational AI; those that she calls the "4 C's":

A. Clarity.
Mind your language, create a conversational flow and see what sounds natural. To avoid "robotic" perceptions, write for the ear and not for the eye, as the right words to create engagement and trust are not those beautiful to read but those that are nice to hear.

B. Character.
People prefer a virtual agent with an easy-to-perceive personality: it can be warm, formal, or even funny ... For example, if a customer says “thank you” at the end of a conversation, a professional bot will reply “you’re welcome,” while a more empathic bot can answer “you bet!”, and a very friendly one can say “no prob.”

But be careful: do not fall into the trap of turning the bot into a fake human. The goal isn’t for the customer to think they’re talking to a real person, so it’s best if the bot is easy to get to know, with a specific personality, but still clearly a bot.

C. Compassion.
Stepping into your customers’ shoes and making your user interface better understand and resonate with them is probably the most struggling point for today's bots. Think, for example, of their common reactions to small talk.

Even though encountering small talk is pretty common for a bot, that's where conversation often breaks. Quite simply, if a customer says "tks" instead of "thanks" it is pretty common to see the bot reply "Sorry. I do not understand”. Thus, building small talk scenarios becomes essential to avoid the embarrassing “Sorry I don’t understand.”

D. Correction.
There are lots of ways to correct an error without having to say "Sorry." One possible strategy, which also promotes sales, is to offer alternatives: if a customer asks for ordering red tulips, but these are unfortunately out of stock, instead of saying "Sorry, we are out of stock of red tulips" the bot can reply "We’re out of red tulips, would you like yellow or orange tulips instead?". After all, is that not what a good seller would do?

To conclude, this year's edition of the TNW Conference has given us significant insights that we can bring to the Digital Customer Experience environment. If “the world is machine readable,” as stated by Kevin Kelly, Co-founder of WIRED, during his compelling speech, we can add that it should be the same for customers, and for the way they think, feel and behave towards brands.

But - citing McDermott's words - “Oil has no value as you can’t extract energy from it. The same is for data. They have no value as you can’t extract knowledge from them.

That is why companies need to learn how to use Artificial Intelligence solutions to understand who their customers truly are, and thus build better products and experiences, designed for humans.

Download The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty to define the foundations on which to build your engagement and loyalty strategy, create innovative experiences and establish a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers.

A Culture for Psychographics in Marketing: Neosperience Vision

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What Customer Personality Can Teach You About Your Marketing Strategy

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Conversion optimization is a matter of persuasion. And persuasion is, first of all, a matter of psychology. As you may know, nobody is better than Robert Cialdini in teaching us about persuasion and psychology as a way to understand how customer's mind works.

Not surprisingly, marketers regularly base promotional techniques on Cialdini's principles of social influence to increase the desirability of their products among customers. The choice of what tactics to use, however, is primarily determined by their business goals, while ‘who’ their customers are - from a psychological point of view - is often pushed into the background.

Reciprocity, Commitment and Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority, and Scarcity. These six principles rely on different psychological motives:

  • The desire to give something back when we've received something (Reciprocity).
  • The need to behave consistently with our previous choices (Commitment and Consistency).
  • The tendency to perform actions that reflect other people's actions (Social Proof).
  • The tendency to like someone or something that seems similar to us (Liking).
  • The tendency to follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable figures (Authority).
  • The desire to have more of those things we can have less of (Scarcity).

Each of these principles is related to our inner needs, which make us different one another. As a result, their effectiveness can be stronger or weaker depending on who is the target audience - always from a psychological perspective.

Here are three good examples.

SOCIAL PROOF

People look at what others do to determine their own behavior, especially when they are uncertain or doubtful. Conforming to others, in fact, helps us to feel part of a social group and avoid social faux pas. This kind of "peer power", however, works only with certain types of people.

The ideal customer personality

Social proof is typically more persuasive to people who have a high need for approval and a desire to conform, but it can't work with those who seek uniqueness. Having a high need for uniqueness, in fact, undermines the influence of majority (Imhoff & Erb, 2009). As a result, recommendation techniques such as "people like you bought this" may bother uniqueness-seeking customers while attracting conformity-seekers at the same time.

SCARCITY

People perceive products as more attractive and valuable when their availability is rather limited. So, when they believe that something is in short supply, they want it more. Because valuable things are often scarce, people tend to conclude that scarce things are valuable and more desirable. That is why customers are so attracted by products promoted as being "scarce" (versus abundant), in time or quantity (Cialdini, 1993).

Promotions such as the 'limit one per customer' sales and the 'limited editions' are designed to harness the persuasive power of the scarcity effect. However, as they rely on specific psychological mechanisms, the effectiveness of scarcity changes according to "whom" they are addressed.

The ideal customer personality

Scarcity effect by its nature conveys a feeling of urgency and the belief that you will be missing out on something if you fail to act quickly. A personality trait called "need for closure" refers to one's desire for gaining a definitive answer to a question, thus avoiding uncertainty.

People who are high on this trait feel the urge to come to a quick decision, and scientific research demonstrates that scarcity affects them more compared to people who tend to avoid closure and are more comfortable with ambiguity (Jung & Kellaris 2004). As a result, customers with higher need for closure would be more prone to buy something if they know that it is the very last one or that a special deal will soon expire.

RECIPROCITY

People feel the need to give back to others the form of behaviors, favors or gifts that they have received in the first place. In other words, they want to treat others the same way they have treated them before and, more importantly, be the last to give.

Running a blog that offers highly actionable and useful insights for free; a waiter or waitress that gives you a gift - such as a fortune cookie, or a mint - when bringing your bill; offering a gift incentive upfront rather than at the end of a sale.

All these common-used tactics apply the principle of reciprocity to make your readers more willing to buy something from you or provide you with a conversion and to be more generous tippers. As we all know, however, the feeling of being indebted to others, the sense of gratitude and the desire to repay a kindness, are not equally present in each of us.

The ideal customer personality

Studies have found that such "prosocial" tendencies are strongly rooted in personality and, especially, in individual differences in agreeableness.

Agreeable people are typically more grateful, thankful, and trustful. They are also more likely to attribute their positive outcomes to the intentional behavior of others, while distrustful people tend to be suspicious, skeptical, and address others' kindness to personal or selfish gain. So, agreeable customers are perfect for reciprocity-based engagement techniques.

If you think that customers decisions are just based on past behaviors, you are wrong. They mainly depend on who they are. That is why it is imperative to put effort into knowing the human side of your customers and choose how to communicate with them on a personal level.

In a world where hyper-personalization is an essential factor for success in every business, blending empathy in your marketing strategy becomes the key to meet the challenge. Add technology to the equation, and that is the key to make it scalable.

References:

Cialdini, R. (1993). The psychology of influence. New York: William Morrow & Co.

Imhoff, Roland, Hans-Peter Erb. 2009. What motivates nonconformity? Uniqueness seeking blocks majority influence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 35(3) 309–320.

Jung, J. M., & Kellaris, J. J. (2004). Cross‐national differences in proneness to scarcity effects: The moderating roles of familiarity, uncertainty avoidance, and need for cognitive closure. Psychology & Marketing, 21(9), 739-753.

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Soft Skills are the New Core Skills – and Technology Can Hire Them

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Mark Murphy, the author of Hiring For Attitude, leadership trainer and CEO of Leadership IQ, has trained companies like Microsoft and IBM. In one of his research he tracked 20,000 new hires, and found that 46% of them failed within 18 months.

Even more shocking than the failure rate was the fact that 89% of the time it happened for attitudinal problems towards work and colleagues, and only 11% for lack of expertise. The attitudinal deficits included low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation, and temperament.

In today's fluid and interpersonal workplaces, skills such listening and learning from criticism, collaborating with others, working under pressure, presenting ideas effectively, and a having a positive, flexible attitude become all vital qualities for career success.

And while studying takes us on a path towards acquiring those hard, technical skills that we need to manage our job operationally, soft skills have little to do with knowledge or expertise. They are closely linked with our character.

As a combination of social competences, communication abilities, and emotional intelligence, soft skills are the spearhead of our inner nature and a direct result of our personal inclinations, which can strengthen or weaken them.

Some personality traits, in particular, have proven to be strong predictors of career success, leading to superior performances in general people’s working lives and within different jobs.

Let’s look at two important - yet not so well-known - personality traits: Internal Locus of Control, the key to success in any work environment; Need for Closure, which can have a different impact in various job functions.

Locus of Control

Locus of Control is our tendency to believe that 'control' resides internally within us, or externally, with others or the situation.

Individuals with an internal Locus of Control (called "internals") feel that they are in charge of their life and have primary responsibility for their actions, whether they are successes or failures.

Individuals with an external Locus of Control (called "externals") tend to feel more vulnerable and view themselves as victims of circumstances, fate, luck, and the influence of other people. They are more likely to make excuses or blame other people, events, or things, rather than taking responsibilities.

Having an internal Locus of Control is a source of energy, motivation, and confidence, which represents an advantage at all levels within an organization in many areas and situations. For example:

Effective Leadership. An "internal" leader is more likely to be favored by group members. One reason is that "internals" are perceived as more influential than "externals" because they take responsibility for events, emphasizing that they can change unfavorable conditions.

Taking the Initiative. Effective managers demonstrate a strong self-efficacy and an internal Locus of Control when they take steps to circumvent obstacles, actively seek information to solve problems, and usually initiate action, rather than waiting for things to happen.

Occupational Well-being. Amongst other things, Locus of Control is found to be a strong predictor of occupational health, and 'internal' employees show higher levels of job satisfaction and lower levels of job insecurity.

Need for Closure

Need for Closure (NFC) describes people's desire for a firm answer to a question or an issue and an aversion toward ambiguity.

A person with a high NFC prefers order and predictability and, in uncertain situations, tends to seek closure urgently. In contrast, a person with a low NFC tends to tolerate more, or even to look for the fluidity of uncertain situations.

In business and management, this personality trait has significant implications. For example:

Decision Making. Employees' level of NFC can serve as a useful criterion to select decision makers in organizations, by identifying the decision-making style that fits better with a job function. People with a high NFC prefer to think about black-or-white solutions and simplified dichotomization. They are more willing to make instant decisions, whereas people with a low need for closure prefer to postpone decisions and carry out a more in-depth evaluation, even if it takes extra time.

Leadership Behavior. Experimental findings have highlighted that individual differences in the desire to reduce uncertainty affect people's leadership style. For example, supervisors that are high on NFC tend to show an autocratic leadership and a preference for 'hard power' tactics of social influence, whereas 'soft power' tactics are those that managers with a low NFC value most.

Coping with Change. Because of their desire for stability and permanence, people with a high NFC feel uncomfortable with change. They are also more resistant to changing their minds and yielding to persuasion attempts. For example, high NFC levels are associated with political conservatism, an ideology whose core definition involves resistance to change.

Personality assessments have always been a common practice amongst large companies, to identify peoples' strengths and weaknesses and help HR managers decide whether or not an employee is a good organizational fit. To this end, traditional paper-based and web-based questionnaires are still today the primary tool used by companies.

Technology, however, is changing the face of the HR world by progressively, but rapidly, automating processes on previously unimaginable scales. Today's softwares can do much more than grade multiple-choice questions to measure people's technical skills.

With natural language processing and machine learning algorithms analyzing things like keywords, intonation, and body language, it becomes possible to capture more intangible human qualities. This data can then be used to create a psychological profile that allows HR managers to predict whether a person's attitudes fit with the company’s culture, values, and desired behaviors.

For the past year, the consumer-goods giant Unilever - for which about 170,000 employees work worldwide - has been using artificial intelligence to screen all its entry-level employees, and neuroscience-based games to measure their inherent traits. The company needed to renew itself, and transforming new talent recruitment by digitizing the first steps of the hiring process was a great way to do so, says Mike Clementi, VP of human resources for North America.

More and more, it has become clear that Artificial Intelligence not only improves the work processes of employees by automating time-consuming daily tasks; it is revolutionizing the HR world at all stages. Let’s look at some of them:

Hiring Process. By scanning resumes, machine learning algorithms can do initial screenings to identify the best candidates, eliminate unqualified prospects, and then create shortlists that can be organized based on specific skills, keywords or employment history.

Training Methods. By recording how an employee is responding to an ongoing training program, AI can help HR managers to better tailor future training sessions to each worker.

Performance Evaluation. By analyzing productivity data, AI can help to measure how well an employee is performing, thus becoming a supplemental tool to management decisions.

Turnover Prediction. By analyzing employee engagement data, gathered from quantitative surveys or qualitative methods, AI can determine an employee’s level of commitment or satisfaction, and better predict if he or she is at risk of leaving. That allows HR managers to decide whether to adopt some backup retention measures or provide new growth opportunities.

There have been great strides in the HR world, since technology was usually seen simply as a tool to streamline technical procedures. A turning point comes when AI applications are increasingly expanding from specific standardized, low cognitive demand tasks, to typically human jobs, such as discovering the human side of employees, from their temporary feelings and emotions to their stable personality traits.

We cannot predict the future of HR with a 100 percent certainty, but what we can see is undoubtedly a world where technology will embrace more and more the human side of people.

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

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Be Human – Matching Customer Personality is the New Key to Relevance

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There came a time when the digital era took over the analog world and completely changed the face of marketing, with no possible turning back.

If you ask how things changed, most marketers will likely point at three main areas of marketing that have been disrupted: Speed, Relevance, Reach. The rise of digital means you can (must) be incredibly fast and get an unprecedented coverage - something you could only dream two decades ago.

If we focus on the mere numbers, there is no comparison between the analog and the digital worlds. It gets a bit more complicated when it comes to relevance, a purely subjective concept.

When we say or hear that digital technology has given us highly relevant marketing and branding campaigns, what are we referring to?

In our previous article about the Psychographics we have emphasized how a good seller always understands his customer, and has an easy game knowing how to communicate with him - not just what to propose but how to sell it. In his own way, he is surely relevant.

In the digital communication, this kind of ‘human’ relevance is lost: messages are targeted to specific groups of users, which are segmented and profiled based on some objective, explicit and observable data (typically demographic and behavioral).

Attitudes, emotions, and personality are almost never considered, although they are a big part of what makes the human communication so appropriate, empathic, and relevant.

Here, we are talking about the importance of psychology and the influence it has on the development of marketing and technology. What can psychology do to increase the relevance of your Brand’s communication on digital channels, where technology - with its speed and reach - has replaced the human touch?

For decades now, psychological studies have played a prominent role by identifying strategies to improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns through the principles of persuasion. One such strategy, known as message tailoring, involves the adaptation of communication to the characteristics of the customer.

As researchers have shown, messages that fit with an individual’s attitudes and dispositional motives are processed more fluently and evaluated more positively than incongruent messages. These effects have been observed across several domains, including prevention, behavioral change, and consumer purchases.

For marketing and advertising professionals, this means that tailoring the messages so that they match customer personality can be a promising tactic to increase the effectiveness of campaigns.

To better understand this interweaving of disciplines, we have to pass from theory to practice. For example, by framing the messages through the well known Big Five model of personality, it becomes possible to target a broad variety of motives, including:

  • Desire for excitement, social rewards, energy, and fun - powerful drivers for Extroverts.
  • Sympathy, interpersonal harmony, connection with family and community - values more significant for Agreeable people.
  • Efficiency, order and goal pursuit - primary motives for Conscientious people.
  • Quiet, carefree, safety and security - people with lower Emotional stability pay more attention to these benefits.
  • Creativity, curiosity, innovation, imagination and intellectual stimulation - perfect features when interacting with people Open to experience.

As a result, an advertisement emphasizing a specific motivational concern, congruent with the user’s personality traits, would be more effective in term of attention, evaluation, and impact.

To sum up, in an era where the customer centricity is more and more about personalization, understanding customers as human beings in their uniqueness is the only way to anticipate their needs and desires.

If you know what they are about to do before they actually do it, you will unlock the true power of digital and mobile technologies; Technology may make giant leaps forward in all areas, but communication is definitely where Natural Intelligence still wins.

We are empathetic human beings, and we can flexibly adapt our attitude, language, and relational approach. In this perspective, machines are still far away from us, and will probably always be.

That is why you should strive not to replace human with technology, but to fill the gap between the two by infusing more human capabilities into technology. Talk to your customers as humans, and you will ultimately build strong, intimate, long lasting relationships.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Psychographics – Turn Mass Personalization into Customer Uniqueness

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Mass Marketing is dead, that's nothing new. In a world dominated by the culture of "Me", one size doesn't fit all. Customers - no matter what their socioeconomic status is - want to take center stage. They want to be loved by the Brands they love, in return for their loyalty.

If you are not willing to take care of your customers’ emotions, desires and needs, they will devote their soul and heart to your competitors. In this ever-customer-centric scenario, personalization goes from being a nice-to-have to becoming a must-have.

For over 15 years, one-to-one marketing (also called personalized marketing, or individual marketing) has moved in this direction to help companies engage with customers the right way, based on their needs, preferences, and behaviors.

Global players such as Netflix, Amazon, and Spotify, to name a few, are well-known for being data-driven companies aiming at the customer excellence.

Netflix knows the ‘completion rate’ for a TV series; how many users started and finished it til the end of the last season; where the common cut-off point was; how long has passed between when they watched one episode and then the next.

And the data go even deeper: when you pause, rewind, or fast forward; when you watch a specific type of content; where you watch and what device you use; the ratings you give, what you do after any episode - if you leave the app or go back to browsing.

The same way, Amazon constantly analyzes what items you purchased; what is in your wishlist; what you search for the most; which products you reviewed and rated; and uses this information to recommend you additional products based on what the other customers purchased in the same situation.

Given this continuous evolution towards a more and more detailed knowledge of a customer’s ‘moves’ and features, the question is: What is the missing piece that will enable Brands to create a more intimate, long-lasting relationship with customers?

Tracking behaviors is a critical task, no doubt about it. However, it is not enough to explain, discover or predict the 'Why' of our behaviors, feelings, and choices, that is deeply linked to our inner world and is a consequence of 'Who' we truly are.

Who we are - our unique personality - affects our behaviors more than people think or realize. And even more than marketers do. Understanding this simple fact is the basic requirement to persona-lize your strategy.

A crowded place full of new people can excite an extroverted and annoy an introvert. An extreme sport or a transgressive experience will attract those who love taking risks, and scare those who avoid them. An open-minded person will be excited to try an entirely new product, while a conservative person will prefer to wait for that product to be tested by others.

It is evident that we - as marketers - are missing something important, the human side of customers.

The interesting thing is that our personality determines not only what we like, but also our communication preferences and, consequently, what is most likely to persuade us. As empathetic human beings, we can flexibly adapt our language and relational approach from time to time, depending on who we are dealing with.

A good seller who understands his customer has an easy game because he knows how to communicate with him - not just what to propose but how to paint it.

As an example, let's take a personality trait known as Need for Uniqueness, the pursuing of differentness relative to others, that can be obtained through the purchase and use of goods and services.

This personality trait can be a key buying reason in various contexts, such as shopping for clothes. Some people usually look for items that visibly distinguish them from others, and when they realize that another person also wears something they just bought, they lose interest or even get annoyed.

Other people, on the other hand, prefer to blend with others - especially their reference group - and use their dressing style to emphasize this membership and belonging.

Now think about this. What if fashion brands had this information readily available for each customer, exactly as they already know the age, sex, and last purchase?

Would they communicate their offer in the same way? We hope not. Such information would radically change the way they see customers, interact with them and deliver unique customer experiences.

One-to-one marketing, as we know it, is surely getting smarter thanks to the huge amount of detailed data on what customers do across all stages and channels of their journey. But if this is useful, it is not necessarily exponential.

The innovation here does not come with the increasing of the data managed, but by introducing new ideas and criteria to evaluate those data (i.e. the Psychographics, based on techniques that have been developed and refined over 100 years of cognitive, behavioral and social psychology).

Mass communication is dead, and mass personalization is evolving to embrace the human side of customers progressively. Starting from now, an empathetic marketing strategy will take marketing and customer experience to the next level.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash