Design Thinking Opinion

How To Sell In The Digital Era (Hint: It’s Not About Technology But Human Emotions)

Contrary to popular belief, humans aren’t inherently rational when making decisions. Our buying decisions stem from the subconscious mind 95% of the time. The rational mind is good at justifying what the emotional mind has already decided.

A good brand understands this well and builds digital products and experiences that tap into the emotional and irrational side of the users’ brains. They apply design principles and theories of psychology to understand what resonates with users and create digital platforms and apps around it.

To build a successful digital product, you can start by understanding and applying the following design theories and frameworks.

1. RWW Framework: The real-win-worth it (RWW) framework is a go/no-go screening method that helps you eliminate bias from the decision-making process and maintain objectivity. Ask yourself questions such as:

  •  Is it real? Is there a market opportunity for my product? Is it feasible to build it?
  •  Will it win? Is there an opportunity for the product in the market? Can it help my brand gain and sustain a competitive advantage?
  •  Is it worth the effort? Is the idea worth implementing? Will it help me achieve my business goals or open doors for future opportunities?

2. Tim Brown’s Design Thinking: Tim Brown defines design thinking as a set of cognitive, strategic and practical processes that help you develop design concepts. The five components include:

  • Empathizing with the users and understanding their challenges.
  •  Defining the core issue that they face while using your product.
  •  Ideating potential solutions to solve the problem.
  •  Building a prototype of the solution to check if it can address the user’s problem and work on the product if it’s successful.
  •  Evaluate the outcome of the solution by defining the metrics and measuring them regularly.

3. Don Norman’s Three Levels Of Design Appeal: Great products always make users feel things. They trigger an emotional response and spur behavioral changes based on those responses. Don Norman calls it the three levels of design appeal in his book Emotional Design. The three levels are:

  •  Visceral: Evoke the proverbial love at first sight response within your users by targeting their old brains with your product design.
  • Behavioral: Build an immersive experience that helps users feel empowered and derive value. They should feel happy or productive after using the product.
  • Reflective: Target the logical side of the human brain by making the users feel proud of using the product and enabling them to share their experiences with others.

You can implement these principles by:

#1. Demonstrating trustworthiness. Most users (66%) revealed that they would purchase a product because of positive reviews. Request users to rate and review your products and publish them on all channels. Offer them freebies or discounts for their unbiased reviews. Use pictures of real people endorsing the product to build trust. An A/B testing experiment by a web company revealed that using real, happy people’s pictures on a landing page increased sign-ups by 102.5%.

#2. Facilitating snap decision-making. Facilitate quick decision-making on your digital platform or app. One in five users abandons their purchases due to an inconvenient checkout process. But one-click checkout options, for instance, can allow users to save their address and payment methods as a default option to accelerate the checkout process. Find out what stops your users from completing the desired action and eliminate those deterrents to create a seamless experience.

#3. Addressing by name. The bystander effect theory states that if one person sees someone in distress, they are likely to help them 70% of the time. If multiple people see distress, that number would be around 40%. Eliminate the bystander effect by addressing the user by name. This will elicit their response faster. You can do it through personalization. Research shows that 60% of people want personalized offers in real time.

#4. Using the power of commitment. Social validation compels users to complete a task. Allow users to make their private commitment public. If the user is participating in a 30-day fitness challenge, for example, give them an option to share their progress or completion badge on social media platforms. The response from friends and followers will boost engagement.

#5. Talking to the reptilian brain. Humans have three regions in the brain: the reptilian brain, the emotional brain and the rational brain. The reptilian brain works on instincts and controls the behavior for survival. Talk directly to the reptilian brain to improve conversions. Tap into emotions such as fear and greed through images and text. Center the experience around the user, such as their challenges and victories, through stories and powerful words like trust, safety and love that imply an emotional connection.

#6. Performing usability testing. Always perform usability testing to understand the interaction between your users and the product. Empathize with their challenges to build a better human-centric product. You can conduct various usability tests, such as the thinking aloud test, in which you ask the participants to express what they feel about the product as they use it to get firsthand, undiluted responses. You can also use eye-tracking technology to track participants’ eye movements. This allows you to record areas where the eye movement stops or moves faster. Observe and collect empirical data such as how long it takes for users to complete the desired action to identify the possible bottlenecks and fix them.

Ad guru Bill Bernbach said, “Advertising is fundamentally persuasion, and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.” His words still hold true in today’s digital era. New technologies and platforms have come, and the metrics to measure effectiveness have changed. But selling is still about how we persuade and sell to humans centered around users’ experiences.

As Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group put it, “True user experience goes far beyond giving users what they say they want or providing checklist features.” So, understanding human psychology and appealing to their emotions is key even in the digital era.

This article was originally published in Forbes Technology Council.

Ravi Teja Bommireddipalli
Design Thinker, student of Ontology (science of being), digital advisor, MBA in Technology Management, global traveler - Ravi is all of this and more. As MD & CEO of Robosoft, he leads our charge as a full-service digital transformation company.

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