How we develop our experiments using universal psychological truths
😁 Who is ‘we’?
Our squad — Beetroots — has a simple fundamental focus: to increase the rate at which prospective customers sign up to Gousto. Basically, so long as more people sign up to receive their first box of delicious ingredients (complete with easy-to-follow recipe cards), then we’re achieving our goal (in simple terms).
As a Product team, our forever-baby is the website’s Sign-up Flow, on which we are constantly iterating, revamping and, most importantly, A/B testing.
To do this well, we need to have a deep understanding of how fresh users perceive and interact with our site.
…and to do that, we need to know how they think.
🧐 Thinkin’ about thinking
I think that most people’s initial impression would be that we’re all rational beings. When posed with making a decision, we absorb the information presented to us and form a decision based on what suits our needs best — it’s logical.
For instance, when deciding on a bike to take you to and from work every day, it would be illogical to choose a slower, heavier cruiser-style bike that costs twice as much as a neater, more practical hybrid option. You’d be saving money and getting there easier and faster.
This is all well and good, except that this cruiser in particular does look a lot like that one that all of your friends used to have as a kid and it’s got a gorgeous bright red frame, which starts to make you think that perhaps 20 minutes extra on your commute isn’t too bad. A week later, you’ve quite literally saddled yourself with a two-wheeled tank that’s eaten half of your salary this month when you could’ve opted for a much more suitable (boring) product.
The point is that we’re not purely fact-based decision makers. We have emotions and intuitions that inform our conscious thoughts and drive our subconscious brains. These, often irrational, feelings point us in certain directions throughout any decision-making process greatly influencing the outcome of any decision we make.
Interestingly, diversions from rational judgement like these are called Cognitive Biases and are very easily predictable. The study of predicting and explaining these traits is known as Behavioural Science (BS), and we refer to the traits as Behavioural Principles.
In Beetroots, we consult these traits when ideating about how to improve the Sign-up Flow.
📖 The Behavioural Playbook
Our Behavioural Playbook is a list of Behavioural Principles (kindly introduced to us by some of the team at Ogilvy), which underpins many of our ideation sessions — plastered on our Opportunities Board, like an inspirational poster telling us to hang in there (except a lot more functional). We draw from these traits to generate ideas, knowing that they are grounded in actual human behaviour, rather than perceived behaviour.
👫 BS 1: Social Proof
This experiment provides a great example of BS for BS’ sake: choosing a Behavioural Principle and exploring how it can be applied in our product.
Social Proof is the idea that we tend to follow the behaviour of people that are similar to us, especially in unfamiliar situations. Primarily, because we gain confidence in an action when people ‘like us’ are also doing it. “If my neighbours (people who I believe to be of a similar socio-economic status, and share my cultural-background and paperboy with) love Gousto, then surely it can’t be utterly horrific.”
To make the most of this principle, we showed users how many people in their area/postcode had tried Gousto.
A really simple idea which led to a significant rise in Sign up Conversion Rate!
😫 BS 2: Loss Aversion
This experiment capitalised a principle called Loss Aversion. This is the tendency that we humans have to experience losing something far more intensely than we experience gaining something of equal value. In fact, the pain of losing is twice as psychologically powerful as the pleasure of gaining.
Slightly different to the previous experiment, this one was born out of a technical constraint that was having an impact on some of our users’ checkout experiences.
After having configured their first order, users have 30 mins to complete their order. Which was leading to some users having to restart at the menu stage after their time was up at the checkout stage.
To combat this, learning from our all-knowing Behavioural Playbook, we put in a timer at the top of the page that plainly told the user to “Checkout within 25:00 to avoid losing your recipes”
The idea that they might lose the recipes that they had chosen for their inaugural box, along with a little sense of urgency did the job at this late stage in the funnel and gained a further sizeable uplift in Sign up Conversion Rate!
🥺 Is this BS behaviour morally sound?
It’s interesting to consider the moral implications of persuading people to invest in a product using extra techniques like these. Some would suggest that subconsciously influencing people to make decisions is unfair. Look at what happened when Russian operatives (allegedly) targeted Americans who they deemed easily influenced using Behavioural Science techniques during the 2016 election (no spoilers)!
- Social Proof: “All of your peers are voting for Trump”
- Loss Aversion: “You don’t want strangers to come and steal your job, land and family”
Of course, these traits can be exploited to deceive users with misinformation — as they were in the above example — but in the Beetroots, we ensure that our use of Behavioural Science experiments:
- Are completely Fact Based; no BS in our BS!
- Help the customer; our experiments must add value to their decision-making process
🚀 What’s important?
Finally, I’d like to highlight the fact that while Behavioural Science is a brilliant tool for influencing decision-making in the right direction, it’s important to remember that these tactics aren’t enough without a solid strategy to drive value in your product. But anyway, happy experimenting!