In advertising, Brands constantly use communication appeals to influence the behavior of their target audience. As the science moves forward, marketing professionals improve their knowledge of the more profound pathways of human mind, and how to hit the right buttons in consumers’ brain to increase the persuasive power of messages.
In the last years, this approach has also been extended to one-to-one marketing, giving Brands the opportunity to hyper-personalize interactions with every single user based on their distinctive traits: values, attitudes, motives, interests, lifestyles and personality traits. In a word, Psychographics.
This methodology has been employed in many sectors, with very different purposes. In the B2C world, to increase customer purchases and conversion rates, in health education, to encourage and support patient behavior change, up to politics, to influence citizens choices.
And it’s just from politics that a question has recently arisen around the methods used by some parties to influence the result of the elections - just remember the controversy that followed the last presidential elections in the United States. In fact, there has emerged an increasingly massive use of data analysis and machine learning techniques to define the best way to convince each citizen of the reasons for one or the other political party.
Our purpose is not to dig into the merits of a story that has already been over-discussed, but to think about the consequences of two big issues that it has brought out. On the one hand, the enormous positive potential of psychographic models to improve the ability of companies to communicate effectively with their customers, taking into account the uniqueness of each person; on the other, how much these tools can be abused without shared deontological principles and rules.
For this reason, in Neosperience we think it has become increasingly urgent to support and promote ethical use of psychographic profiling, through AI tools. Especially in the B2C world, building a culture that directs and controls the application of these methods is now more important than ever, given the essential need of Brands to gain a deep understanding of who their customers are as people as, no longer simply “consumers”, and so be able to deliver increasingly personalized, valuable and useful experiences.
From the suggestion of products and services to the creation of offers, messages, and content, psychographics open up new opportunities for higher-value, human-centered customer experiences, tailored to the needs, tastes, desires and interests of every single user.
Let’s Make an Example
Think of an online fashion retailer selling branded and own-brand products through its website and app. And think of Maria, a new customer. In a typical situation, the retailer would know that Maria is a Millennial, lives in New York and in the last months has bought an evening gown and a pair of dress shoes of the spring collection, spending $ 215. She made her purchases on the website, but yesterday she downloaded the app too, following the invitation of a friend.
Now, the retailer will have to ask: What is the next step to keep Maria involved? With that information the retailer can offer to Maria, on her first access to the app, a special discount on the purchase of a garment easily matchable to those she has already bought - adopting a “content-based” approach. Or, the retailer can suggest to Maria a specific garment that is highly appreciated and frequently chosen by customers who share many similarities with her - using a “collaborative filtering” technique.
Now, imagine that the retailer can also have access to another set of information about Maria. For example, the marketer might find that she is very creative, likes to mix different styles into a single outfit, and prefers variety over the routine of "fashionable" products. He might discover that she is always looking for original and uncommon clothes, with which she can stand out and show her personality.
In possession of this information, the retailer could choose, to be more relevant to Maria, to offer her, at a special price, a garment from the brand new collection that she would be one of the first people to buy. It will not recommend the most popular clothing matches but propose multiple styles that she can mix creatively. Moreover, it will not suggest the most chosen clothes by users “like her” but will offer something new at every access to the website or app, to meet her need to feel unique: an important psychographic trait.
Psychographics, just like any tool, traditional or innovative, can be used for good or bad. It all depends on how and why they are applied.
Being more interesting and more capable of satisfying the needs of a customer, for a fashion Brand, is a good example of ethical use, especially if the Brand itself aims to meet the customer's needs at best.
On the other hand, a tobacco company, targeting young people who show the personality trait "sensation seeking" - typically related to the propensity to addiction - to increase the economic results, represents for us an example of unethical use, for which Neosperience Cloud platform is not available, by choice of our organization.
Starting from this premise, and then dealing only with use cases that are consistent with our ethical vision, in Neosperience we are convinced that changing the way Brands connect with customers represents the biggest challenge. And that’s because they still lack a profound understanding of “Who” their customers are and, therefore, the ability to think like a customer, as Paul Gillin would say.
This barrier prevents them from offering personalized and memorable experiences, in line with the distinctive traits of each customer and capable of satisfying their deepest needs and emotional inclinations. In short: being truly useful to customers. The companies that continue to behave according to old paradigms fail to face the challenge of creating innovative models to handle seemingly meaningless and heterogeneous data and transform them into valuable insights.
Transparency, ethics and the creation of value for the customer are the fundamental principles that must guide both the creation - for Neosperience - and the use for companies of such a powerful tool as psychographic profiling; a tool that can humanize the relationship between Brands and customers, adding priceless value to every experience.
Photo by Ryan Pouncy on Unsplash