Win Customers’ Hearts Online by Understanding How the Brain Makes Decisions

Paul Bullock

Published Wed 28 May by Paul Bullock in Marketing More Effectively

How understanding basic human psychology can help you design your website with users in mind, appealing to their instincts, their emotions and their intellect

Eyes down, brains in gear, listen in....

How to please, engage and rev the trilogy of the brain...

The Primal brain is retro, old school.

It is first at the decision-making party and likes familiarity, comfort and security. Its ‘fight or flight’ instinct protects us from perceived threat and stops us doing anything risky (like committing to a purchase unless we feel secure and reassured).

So how can your website please the primal brain?

  • Beauty and sex: The primal brain loves to see beautiful, happy faces
  • Food: We associate gorgeous-looking food with pleasure, so including simple images of food, or invoking appetite by mentioning sweet eats (French Fancies, anyone?) can noticeably increase your popularity online
  • Lazy brain: The primal brain’s love of rest and play means that it would rather see an evocative image than a whole page of dense text (too much like hard work). Keep your copy light, simple and short and make images clear
  • Opposites attract: The primal part of our brains responds well to contrasts
    An example?
    Show-casing ‘Before’ and ‘After’ scenarios: Think of the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ as the bread of a sandwich, and your product the juicy filling in the middle..... 
  • Quickly does it!: Our primal brain is a sucker for competition, especially if it perceives something as being scarce. Tagging products or services as ‘limited’ can be a powerful motivator for customers.
  • Don't fuzz the issue: The primal brain likes familiarity, to feel cared for and reassured. So don’t try to be too clever or oblique. Call a spade a spade (if you’re selling spades, that is....)

Next up: The Emotional Brain

This part of the brain assesses the emotional value of what we see. It is connected to memory: so give your customers something their brain associates with a feeling of happiness, and you’re onto a winner

Here’s how:

  • Appeal to the emotions: Customers are more likely to remember how you made them feel than what you had to tell them
  • Keep it positive: Positive web content is more likely to go viral than its negative cousin. All in all we’re a soppy, sentimental lot, really. We like cute kids, family reunions, human altruism in action (yes, you’ve got it, DIY SOS)
  • Tell a story: Story-telling is as old as language itself. A good story never fails to engage, delight and emote. And we remember characters, faces, voices and songs much more than we do company spiel

Last but not least... The Rational Brain

The Rational Brain may be the latecomer to the decision-making party, but if your website doesn’t please it.... the party’s over

Help your website rev the rational brain:

Answer the questions without being asked:

Your customers’ rational brains will revel in you and your product if you answer these questions before they have even been asked:

1. Why should I buy this?

2. Is it worth the money?

3. What makes this product different?

5 fool-proof tips to remember:

1. To make a purchase, your customers need to feel reassured, positive and well-informed

2. Images appeal to the emotional brain more than words... Unless you engage your customers’ emotions, you’re not going to convince them to buy or use your product

3. Telling a story works wonders... Stories directly appeal to people, regardless of ethnicity, gender or age

4. Anticipating your customers’ questions and answering them can seal the deal... It’s the rational brain that makes the final decision about whether to make a purchase or not

5. We remember people, faces and stories.... so forget the ‘company spiel’ and be open, honest, friendly and trustworthy

What do you think? Tell us in the comments section.

Got a question abut this or any other web topic? Visit our ask the expert page!

1 Comment on Win Customers’ Hearts Online by Understanding How the Brain Makes Decisions

  • Left at 11:35 Jeanette Helen Wilson

    Some good tips in here for anyone who is wanting to make their website more customer-focused. However individual we deem ourselves to be, at the end of the day we are all human! And individual differences aside, our brains are wired in the same way when it comes to making decisions. 

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