The Psychology Of Buying

The recently launched 7 Billion People is an intriguing application to e-commerce of the real-world psychology behind buying behaviors. As CEO Mark Nagaitis tells us, his new Web analytics system tries to discern in a site's audience different "buying personalities" that marketers can talk with in very different ways.

Behavioral Insider: Tell us about your company's roots in specific psychological research.

Nagaitis: Our co-founder Bill Minnis is a behavioral psychologist. He spent the last 40 years focusing on the human interactions, human communications and behavior around selling. His model around face-to-face selling really digs into the psychology behind how people communicate. He used that in consulting engagements with major retailers and marketers. We focused on Bill's expertise in the face-to-face selling environment and what happens in e-commerce. How does e-commerce sell versus how face-to-face salespeople sell. We looked at some key statistics like the 3% industry average of transaction closure rates. It is a weird behavior of e-commerce that customers go through the whole buying and investigation process, add products to the cart, then abandon. In a live brick and mortar environment that type of behavior would be absurd.

BI: Other than the obvious, in what ways are e-commerce sites not like face-to-face buying?

Nagaitis : Companies are really focusing on the non-human aspect of buying: what products to put in front of the customer, what product is relevant to that customer based on their past purchase history, their demographic and location. In face to face behaviors, we found that a lot of the selling process was really around this concept of developing a rapport and relationship with the customer in the early part of the selling process. What that means to a salesperson is a dynamic and constantly changing method to align language and behavior with the customer.

BI: How does a human dynamic translate into a site making a connection with a visitor?

Nagaitis: The best salespeople will sit down with the customers and ask a few qualifying questions, and those questions get some key attributes, how that customer wants to buy, how that customer makes decisions, what is his motivation? You can pull those attributes out of a customer just by observing the language they use in the interaction. So if a customer keeps saying 'I see' and pushes you along, they are saying 'I got that, move on to the next thing.' If a customer says 'hey, what do other people think about this product' or 'who else is using this product.' you can pull this language out of the conversation and forgetting the content start to understand more about why that customer is talking to you and therefore how you [should] talk to that customer.

BI: So what is the key difference between how a Web site sells and how a salesperson sells?

Nagaitis: In e-commerce it is about pushing massive information, and you have to pick your way through. There is limited content change on a face to face environment. You have a dynamic conversation with a customer and it is more about the emotional aspects of buying than it is about the actual product relevance. And the pitch is modified.

BI: How do you translate that dynamic into a digital experience?

Nagaitis: We provide hosted software that intercepts and observes customers' clickstreams, their search texts, search terms phrases and we pull the language out of the customer's interaction with the Web site. We are really observing the language they are using in that Web interaction. Then we have a model which is built on face to face observations that says if a customer is doing this what does it mean in terms of her psychology of buying. How do they want to buy? Then we can align the language of the Web site and language of marketing with those customers' motivations.

BI: Do different buying attitudes even affect how customers respond to the checkout?

Nagaitis: I would think 99% of checkout processes across the Web are exactly the same. Once you get into the process you lose all imagery and all brands. Step one, customer information. Step two, payment information. Confirm and get the hell out of there. There are many people with different preferences, psychologies and buying behaviors that don't want to be regimented through a checkout process and require some sort of choice around that checkout process itself. So we think if you understand that about the customer coming in, there are massive areas for improvement around that whole process.

BI: At this early stage, how does the product fit with the publisher's Web site?

Nagaitis: The first product is MarketMaestro for emarketers and content owners to determine whether there are opportunities in either their outbound marketing or their site to make changes that will allow them to satisfy different types of buying behaviors. Every user has a real-time buyer behavior scoring across many psychological attributes. We build the portrait. When you have an interaction with the Web site we output what we call the behavioral analytics. The marketer will go to our portal on the Web and see charts and graphs around their customer set.

We have taken many hundreds of different psychological attributes and for simplicity we have condensed those to eight different buying behaviors. Each has a distinct set of language associated with it.

BI: How is this information implemented effectively for a marketer?

Nagaitis: If I am seeing that the majority of my visitors to the site are Portrait 1, it means the marketer is using language in their outbound marketing, print marketing or Google AdWords, that appears for that type of portrait ands brings that type of portraits.

What if I look at a transactions and conversion chart and I find that my Portrait 1s are actually my worst closers of all my portraits? That means there is a mismatch in the way the Web site behaves and talks to customers and the way the outbound marketing talks to them. If I have a Google ad that says my site is the broadest choice of all the books on the Internet and we are rated number one by a book-buying magazine, that will pull a certain type of person to my site. If I get to that landing page and my language is suddenly about the specifications of the book and nothing about reviews and no reassuring language about the fact I am number one, then there will be a dissonance, and that is a big part of getting closure. We build systems into the product so we provide not just the data but also recommendations for what to do to your Web site in this particular page to bring in this type of portrait.

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