Dark Patterns for Marketers, or: Practical Behavioural Economics

Taking a systematic approach to implementing findings from behavioural economics into a sales cycle can “unlock significant value”, according to McKinsey’s Ned Welch. To help business do exactly that, Welch–in what, at times, reads a bit like a ‘dark patterns guide for marketers’–has written an article looking at four practical techniques from behavioural economics that marketers should use to persuade purchasers. The techniques:

  1. Make a product’s cost less painful.
  2. Harness the power of a default option.
  3. Don’t overwhelm consumers with choice.
  4. Position your preferred option carefully.

There’s not much new here, but the summaries are nice and succinct. From item four, I found this bit of grocery store choice architecture interesting:

Another way to position choices relates not to the products a company offers but to the way it displays them. Our research suggests, for instance, that ice cream shoppers in grocery stores look at the brand first, flavor second, and price last. Organizing supermarket aisles according to way consumers prefer to buy specific products makes customers both happier and less likely to base their purchase decisions on price—allowing retailers to sell higher-priced, higher-margin products. (This explains why aisles are rarely organized by price.) For thermostats, by contrast, people generally start with price, then function, and finally brand. The merchandise layout should therefore be quite different.

via Nudge

(If you don’t have a McKinsey account, you can read the article here or here (PDF).)