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).)