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Behavioral Science For Better Hypothesis And Insights

Watch to learn how much information can behavioral science reveal about shoppers' buying behavior.


Chris Goward discusses the integration of Behavioral Science in business, particularly in understanding customer behavior and decision-making. He begins with the historical case of Phineas Gage, illustrating early insights into brain function and decision-making. Goward highlights the evolution of understanding in brain science, emphasizing the symbiotic relationship between emotion and reason in decision-making, contrary to earlier beliefs of their separation. He references Antonio Damasio's work, which underscores the influence of emotions on rational decisions. Goward also mentions Richard Thaler's Nobel Prize-winning work, which challenges the notion of purely rational economic decisions, acknowledging the role of emotions. He stresses the importance of emotional connection in brand value, showing how emotionally resonant experiences can significantly enhance customer value.

Goward then delves into applying Behavioral Science in business, cautioning against oversimplifying it to cognitive biases alone. He illustrates this with examples from Starbucks and McDonald's marketing strategies and an e-commerce retailer study, demonstrating how understanding customer emotional types can lead to more effective marketing and website design.

Key Takeaways

  • Behavioral Science is a broad field that goes beyond cognitive biases, encompassing various methodologies to understand customer preferences.
  • Emotional resonance is key in brand differentiation and customer loyalty.
  • Tailoring experiences to different emotional types (e.g., stimulant vs. dominance) can lead to more successful customer engagement.


Utkarsh: Hello everyone. Welcome to ConvEx where we are celebrating experiment-driven marketing. My name is Utkarsh Rai and I take up Customer Marketing at VWO. If you’re looking to understand your customer funnel, try VWO. For today’s session, we have Chris Goward who is the founder of Wider Funnel. Wider Funnel is a renowned digital agency, which has customers across the world and is also an exclusive VWO partner. We’re excited to host Chris. Hey, Chris!

Chris: Hello. Thanks for the invitation.

Utkarsh: Before we start this presentation, I want to inform you that you can join the official ConvEx LinkedIn group to ask question from this presentation. With that Chris, the stage is all yours.


Chris: Great. Thank you so much. And thank you VWO for hosting this great event. I’m excited to be here. So first I want to start by thanking the attendees as well for joining. We’ve got some interesting content. This is as I said earlier to my lovely VWO host, this is a brand new content that we’re pulling together from some of the latest research in behavioral science and experimentation. The latest research in Behavioral Science for creating great hypotheses. So let’s start off with a story of Phineas Gage. Phineas Gage was a coal miner in the mid-1800s and one day he made a terrible mistake. He set off an explosive accidentally that shot a metal rod straight into his jaw through his skull and came out the top of his skull. So what happened is you would imagine that he would not have survived this but somehow miraculously he survived and he was able to function after destroying his orbital frontal cortex.


Now afterwards, he was able to function, he was able to do his job but his co-workers and family noticed that he acted very differently. He was almost like an impulsive child with no self control, and he changed from being a decisive crew manager that was well-liked, to almost inexplicably not be able to make even some of the most simple basic decisions in his day-to-day life. Now, this was the first time that people realize and had evidence that different parts of the brain perform different functions. And scientists have determined that what happened is that his prefrontal cortex happened to be disconnected from his limbic system, which is where emotion, the emotion center of the brain.


Now this was a really interesting piece of research, one of the very important stories in Psychology. But you know, we’ve of course gathered much more updated and accurate information since the 1800s based on brain tumors and different brain studies. And now we know so much more about how the brain works even up until very recently. You know, the old way of thinking and brain research was that reason was in your frontal cortex and emotion was in your limbic system and instinct was in your basal ganglia, and your decision-making only happen in the front of your brain. And you may think of this this way because it’s only up until recently that we’ve actually changed this thinking in science.


In fact from the early days of human history, Plato actually described emotion and reason as two horses pulling us in the opposite direction, which you know, seems like a terribly painful way of making decisions. And what he says and what we’ve always believed as humans is that emotions are actually interrupting our rational self. Almost like demons in our mind confusing us when our rational self really wants to make good decisions. But that’s actually not the case. Latest research from people like Antonio Damasio shows that emotions actually bias every single one of our decisions. Emotions influence and drive a lot of our decision-making. And in fact, he argues that Descartes’ Error, which was one of the philosophers who proposed this disconnected way of decision making, is that there is no separation between emotion and logic. And what’s interesting is this was 1995 when this was published. This is very recent research. So the old way of brain research said that reason and emotion are separate.

The new way, we now know that just over the last 25 years, that emotion and reason work together. They’re in a symbiosis of decision making and in fact research by Joseph Ledoux now shows that emotion can actually improve decision-making. So they’re not separate things, and this is being recognized now. In 2017 Richard Taylor won the Nobel Prize in Economics by showing that people don’t make decisions rationally. In fact, they make decisions based on emotion and reason. And why this was so important is that historically all economic models have been based on this assumption of the rational man, the rational human. And what Richard Taylor showed is that economic agents are human and that the economic models need to incorporate that understanding. And this is important for business leaders, and that’s why it’s becoming so popular. You know  Harvard Business Review is publishing stories about the new science of customer emotions. So much is being talked about in marketing and all kinds of areas about how important emotion is and it matters to the bottom line as well. You see that this actually was a study published by HBR showing the customer value of an emotionally resonant brand experience: those brands who are not emotionally connected to have an 18% harm in their customer value; those who perceive some brand differentiation have a 13% improvement; and those who have a fully connected resonant emotional experience with your brand actually have an increased value of 52% to your brand. 

So it has a bottom-line impact, and I’m going to show you today how to actually take these Behavioral Science inputs and insights and use them into creating better experiments, better hypotheses, and ultimately better customer insights about how your customers actually act. So products that connect to customer emotions are more successful.


Let’s take a step back and look at what is Behavioral Science. It’s used in a lot of different ways and people are sometimes confused about how it’s actually used. Behavioral Science really is a broad study that involves many different aspects that were formerly disparate and it really looks at how to study human habits, actions, and intentions. Now, as with most Sciences, unfortunately, the basis of most of our insights are really based on a narrow set of audiences. Usually, these studies are done in universities with university students and it’s limited to academic studies, not in real-world situations, and understandably, this doesn’t necessarily lead to real-life insights all the time.


But we now have access to some real-time digital and real life situation tools that we can now use rigorous Behavioral Science processes within organizations, within real buying experiences to understand new insights that corroborate or disprove old Behavioral Science understandings. So in the last few years, that’s why at Wider Funnel we’ve created a Behavioral Science group within Wider Funnel Behavioral Science practice. And the goal is to understand how people think, behave, and make decisions for some of the world’s greatest brands. And we’re fortunate to have the trust of a lot of global brands in industries all over, all kinds of industries and we partnered with them to develop experimentation optimization program since 2007, including Behavioral Science and truly understanding the human mind and how customers behave and how to give them the best experience with your brand. So regardless of your industry, you can put this to practice in your business.


And just so we have the background to understand who we are, you know, like I said, we’ve been in the experimentation world-leading conversion optimization experimentation since 2007. I wrote a book about this called You Should Test That published by Wiley Cybex, partnered with Google Optimize and VWO. And our goal within this Behavioral Science group is to find insights about your customers, about their emotional needs that lead to positive resonance and behavior. That’s the outcome. Now, unfortunately, as soon as there’s a new exciting practice in business and marketing a lot of people go out there and try to assume they you know, they can read a blog post and understand what it is and then go and talk about it right, as consultants. So a lot of people are talking about cognitive biases and their equating cognitive biases with Behavioral Science. And cognitive biases are important, don’t get me wrong. We know of nearly 200 cognitive biases that marketers are using and that are important to help facilitate great experiences.


But that’s only one small sliver of the story and I’m going to show you an example later in a few moments of how these cognitive biases work. But that’s only one part of the picture okay. So think of Behavioral Science much more broadly. It’s more than just a list of cognitive biases. It requires actually many different methodologies to truly understand your customers, understand their experiences, their loves and hates, and likes and dislikes, and what makes them feel connected to your brand. So let’s get past the theory and I want to show you a couple examples. So first I’m going to show you two images and they’re representatives of two different brands and I want you to guess who the who published these two images. And don’t think about it too much –  you can probably guess right just by going with your gut feeling. Now, I’ll tell you one of these, I’ll give you a hint, one of these is McDonald’s and the other is Starbucks.


So guess which one you think is McDonald’s and which one is Starbucks?


Now you might be able to guess right but I’ll first of all tell you a little bit about what’s happening here. What’s interesting is that both of these have the same type of design, don’t they on the cups? This is a new spring campaign for coffee promotion. Both of these brands are very popular. They sell coffee to millions of people every day. So why would Starbucks and McDonald’s have the same campaign? It doesn’t make any sense, right?


Why aren’t like aren’t their customers different? You’d assume that they’re different types of people. Of course, they are! McDonald’s and Starbucks customers are completely different, even though they probably have some overlap.


So I’ll tell you what happened.


If you guessed that the left one is Starbucks and the right one is McDonald’s. You’re right. You probably implicitly knew that. And that’s because these are very different presentations of the same thing, but they’re actually quite different from a Behavioral Science perspective. You see there are implicit cues that drive a different message and these are what we have to look at. Starbucks values individual expression, artfully placed with matching background, you know, perfectly Instagramable and it’s one hand right? It’s one person holding it up. That’s individuality. Whereas the McDonald’s they’re in a car, it’s more casual, the cups a  little tilted, there’s two cups, and they look almost doing a coffee cheers, right? It’s a social family experience – more casual and relatable. That’s the difference between the implicit codes, even though the explicit message is exactly the same.


So, how do we work with this? How do we understand this from a business perspective? First of all, we have to step back for a second and think about how people think. If you’ve read the book by Daniel Kahneman Thinking Fast and Slow he talked about how there’s a system one and a system two process of thinking, and he won a Nobel Prize for this understanding. System one is a fast and effortless, uncontrolled way of thinking – it just happens. It’s just an intuition. System two is slow, it takes a lot of effort and it’s a very controlled, rigorous, logical process. That’s the thinking slow process.


Now both of these things happen at the same time and explain why.


There’s other research from the University of Ottawa in 2006 that showed that emotional relevance or emotional resonance can actually be assessed by a person within 50 milliseconds of seeing an experience. So you can measure that by simply using first impression testing – people know immediately within 50 milliseconds whether it’s emotionally relevant.


So why is that? Well part of the reason is because life is hard. We’ve evolved the ability to gather piles of information implicitly and only reserve the majority of the high effort work for the explicit process of processing which takes a lot of energy, right? We all have scarce energy resources. So how this works – if you look at our inputs, the implicit process of your mind is able to take millions and millions of bits of information per second in your perception, but you don’t have the mental energy to explicitly process all of that. In fact, your explicit processing in a human mind is infinitely smaller.


You can only process a handful of bits of information per second with conscious system 2 thinking. And so because it has so much lower capacity, what’s interesting about this is that system one actually dominates your thinking process. Your implicit process of thinking is the gatekeeper for your explicit decision making. What I mean is that you are gathering all this information, every person gathers in implicit codes, and then your implicit process decides which of these like few little bits of information actually is pushed over to your conscious thinking. So it incurs, without your awareness, it leverages pattern recognition, the heuristics are rules of thumb to make decisions, and also based on mental models. Mental models are associations, emotional associations that we have made with past experiences. Both of these things are important within your implicit processes that are learned over time.


So the past memories that you have actually bring emotional associations that influence the implicit processing for what becomes your decision making. Okay, so I’ve said a lot here about how the mind works and how psychology works and all of these things. And before we get too overwhelmed with that, let’s boil it down. What we need to understand is these emotional associations that people have built through their past experiences, and the rules of thumb that they use, and the biases that clap, that influence their thinking and how those influence your customer resonance with your brand and experiences to make better experiments and hypotheses. All right.


So what we’ve done is we’ve taken a step back to understand the emotional systems of the human brain. So within Neuroscience, we found that there are three main emotional systems, which then define the types of customers and the types of customer contacts that you have in place. There’s the three types of systems are the balance system which leans towards security, avoiding risk and stability. There’s a dominant system, which is more about self-assurance winning over the competition and autonomy and getting an edge. The stimulants is more about exploration discovering new things and learning new skills.


So each type of person is more inclined to be in one or more of these areas and different decision contexts actually require one or more of these types of areas as well. So we can apply this, we’ve actually been partnering with a consultancy out of Germany called the Nymphenburg group who has done 20-25 years of research in this area.


And what we’ve worked with them on is this model called the limbic map. What they’ve done is taken the emotional values of people and mapped them relatively along these three main emotional systems and how they relate to each other. So that still can be a little bit overwhelming sometimes and so they’ve actually simplified it even more and translated this into applicability for a business and marketing, and what we’ve got now are the main archetypes of people and contacts that then we can use these types of archetypes to create experiments and experiences that are emotionally resonant for your type of customer.


Okay, so that’s some of the theory behind it. How does that play in practice with the Starbucks and McDonald’s example? So what we did is we actually ran a study on coffee drinkers. So we went and we did a survey or gathered a sample of coffee drinkers, and we ran a study with them that we call a motivation lab. And what we did is we looked at the emotional associations of these types of customers with this campaign. So when you look at coffee drinkers, you can see that when they evaluate the Starbucks experience from an emotional perspective, it’s very highly associated with creativity and pleasure in the stimulation area. And when you look at the McDonald’s experience, it’s very different. It’s much more down in the balance area around friendship and sociability, tradition. And so both of these resonate very well with their respective brands.


When you compare the difference, right you can see that Starbucks and McDonald’s even though they’re the same product, the same actual design of the product, the implicit codes that that resonate with the emotional associations are very different and match with their brands. So, the Starbucks ad is more emotionally relevant to stimulants which are more creative types, which is it’s who they target. McDonald’s is more emotionally relevant to the balance right: caring family, family harmony, sociability. So those implicit codes signal different emotions.


All right. So let’s go to an example of how you can apply this to your website and your on-site experiences. So how do you use emotional types for website experience design? So let’s look at another study that we ran for an ecommerce retailer. And so what we’ve got here are two different design concepts for retail ecommerce. And so what we did is we wanted to evaluate two different designs and their associated implicit codes, and the emotional relevance for different customer types. So we ran a study – we created two different sets of respondents based on their limbic type, which means that we went out and gathered respondents and we use the questionnaire that helped to identify their limbic type. One of them was more of the stimulant type, and one of them was more down in the discipline, control, dominance area. And this was important for this particular retailer. And so when we ran this study, we had them create emotional associations and triggers based on different types of design. And so when we look at the. for example, the stimulant you can think to yourself, if you had to guess which of these two design approaches would be emotionally resonant with a stimulant type. The stimulant is more of the, remember, energetic creative, you know, less constrained type of person. So how would you or which would you guess is more resonant with them?


I’ll show you that when we ran the study was very strong result that the one on the left was much more preferred by that stimulant type. So, and when you look at it, you can understand why, right? It’s clean, modern, it’s got a unique limited kind of feeling, its local niche,  sort of more more about curiosity and exploration. It’s more about the imagery and less about facts and details right. Then when we look at the dominance type, of course, you can probably guess that they had a completely different experience, right? They preferred is this right design. So why is that? Well, it’s more logical or structured,  it’s more functional, it’s got more information, it’s more conservative, it’s got the price in there, right, so (they don’t have to) they’re not thinking about exploration and creativity. They’re thinking about decision making and logic, right. And when you show them the other experience they think of it as frustrating, and on the flip side when you show the stimulant person their preferred design, right its traditional and boring. – it’s much less exciting. So by understanding the limbic type associations of your customers, you can now create experiments and experiences that match-up resonantly, and remember it was worth 52% increased brand value by having the right emotional association that we saw on the research at the beginning.


So, let’s look at another example. Now, that previous example was about emotional associations and limbic types. Now, we’re going to look more at the other side of these system 1 thinking shortcuts, and which is the heuristics or rules of thumb, or the cognitive biases. So, how do you use, how do you think about subconscious heuristics in designing your experiences? Well, we actually ran an experiment here with a non-profit organization called Heifer International. You may have heard of heifer – they do some great work in raising funds to contribute economic creation for people in need all around the world. So they’ll donate cows and create villages, and water supply and create environments that people can actually produce their own income, get on their own feet, and feel confidant about building their own wealth.


So we wanted to do is two things in this experiment. We realized that there’s potentially a cognitive bias here that could help people do what they want to do – which is to donate. And so we thought that, and this was actually a brilliant experiment but from one of our experimentation strategists and they picked out the self-consistency bias as a strong potential for how they could increase their donations. So what is that? Self-consistency bias, if you’ve read Robert Cialdini’s book called Influence, is one of the six that he outlines there and what it means is that we like to be consistent with what we think, say and do – the decisions that we make and the way we see ourselves and the way we talk about ourselves – and we’re going to do all kinds of things to make sure that we stay consistent.


Now I actually don’t think it was a brand new idea in 2006. It’s to me the flip side of something cognitive bias from 1957, which is published by Leon Festinger and it’s called cognitive dissonance. This is incredibly important in all human interactions because what it says is that when we hold contradictory beliefs or when we try to do something that’s contrary to what we’ve said before, we experience mental pain. And in fact, we will stop ourselves through almost any means from doing something that gives us that cognitive dissonance. That’s why it’s so difficult for people to try to debate for example, their opponents beliefs. Like imagine, you know, you have a political belief that you hold very strongly, imagine trying to argue the opposite belief. For most people that’s very difficult. And in fact, that’s the hallmark of one of the most intelligent people is the ability to argue both sides of an equation, both sides of an argument.  And it’s interesting, you know, a few months ago I took our whole company at Wider Funnel on a retreat; we do this every year and one of the exercises I wanted to do was to try to encourage this kind of thinking. So on the bus ride up to the retreat, we’re going a few hours into the interior of Canada to find some peace and quiet, and I had everyone in the bus write down on a piece of paper a very strongly held belief that they have, and what they did is they put their name on the paper. So then I collected all these strongly held beliefs, they didn’t know what we’re going to use it for. And then the next day we got to the campsite, and we had our resort set up, and we had our exercises for the day. And then I put them into groups and I paired them up. And I handed out strongly held beliefs and I made sure that the strongly held belief owner was in each of the little groups. And then I assigned which perspective they would take- whether they agreed with the belief or disagree with the belief. And those who had written down their strongly held belief, I made sure that they had to argue against it and we had a little debate clubs. It was fascinating to watch people – some people, you know jumped onto this idea and were like, this is such a great stretching experience; other people literally could not do it. They could not bring themselves to argue against a belief that they hold so strongly even in a fictional exercise. And I encourage you to try this because this is a great way to exercise your ability to overcome your own cognitive dissonance. Anyway, that was a little digression, but it’s fascinating and important study in how to become more intelligent and capable. 

So back to the point for Heifer International. What we did was set up an experiment where we didn’t change anything on the website except for a self-selected survey. So a survey popped up after we had some business rules in  place, after a certain amount of time on the website. And it asked visitors to self identify – whether they are a regular donor, an occasional donor, or a first-time donor. Now, if you read between the lines here, they’ll realize one option we didn’t give them is to say ‘I’m not a donor’ because we didn’t want them to self-identify as not being a donor. What we were doing was allowing them to realize the kind of person they see in themselves and who they are.


So what does a donor do? They’re going to donate right? Like if I’m a donor, I believe I’m a donor, I just said I’m a donor, it’s going to make me want to donate. So when we ran this experiment what we saw is that we hadn’t improved the experience at all. In fact, you could argue that we had hurt the experience by adding a pop-up survey, right? Nobody likes these. But what had happened is that we had encouraged people to self-identify as a type of donor. And if they’re this type of donor, they’re going to be more comfortable donating. In fact, we’ve allowed them to do what they wanted to do anyway. They’re there for a reason and now they’re more likely to donate because we’ve removed their inhibitions – we’ve made it more easy, we made it easier for them.


And in this experiment we saw that conversion rate increased by 2%, average donation value by 3%, and the revenue per visitor by over 5% – simply by adding the pop-up survey.


And then we looked into the data in the backend of the experiment and found that those who had selected one of the donor types were actually only 14% of the visitors, but they were 68% of the donors, and the non-responders were 86% but only 32% of the donors.


So now not only have we increased donor value – donations per visitor on the website, we’re now able to identify some particular segments and run individual personalization experiences and experiments to understand how to create the best experience for each of these types of donor types that’s personalized to their needs.


So I’ve gone through, you know, some specific examples, some context about Behavioral Science, and I want to bring this back together and show you that what we’re seeing and why this is important is that conversion optimization and A/B testing has evolved so much since 2007 when we started this practice. And all of these Behavioral Science insights, you know, it’s tempting to go and take them, and just go and implement on your website or your advertising but again, experimentation is critical to make sure that these insights are actually applicable to your particular customers. So how this works in practice is that it’s actually created new swimlanes of insights. You know, everything that we do in experimentation is about two things: generating business growth and generating customer insights, And we should be aiming for both of these in your experiments by creating hypotheses that isolate for those kind of insights and growth. So now customer research becomes a new swimlane of insights, qualitative insights that feed our rich deep pool of data that you can pull into your experimentation program.


So what you do is running interviews and surveys through your research that then leads into insights and potential insights that can feed into your experimentation program through all of your different customer touch points – whether it’s on social email website desktop sites. Then those insights can feed back into your surveys for more rich information back and forth creating an ongoing what we call the telephone wires connection of insights back and forth from qualitative, deep insights to quantitative, validated experimentation insights. That’s the way great experimentation  programs are running today and it requires continuously upgraded frameworks and operating processes to be able to handle all of this information and really aim at getting a crystal clear understanding of your customers experiences, and their emotional relevance and resonance to the experiences you create. 

So there’s much more on this topic of course. It’s just scratching the surface but it’s really exciting and developing. We’re continuously running new experiences. In fact, we’ve got some great new projects that were working on in the coming months that are going to advance this even further. But I want to give you a little more opportunity to get more depth on this as well. We’ve published a guide – it’s a free download that you can go in if you want more on this topic. Just go to widerfunnel.com/convex. It’s the complete guide to building emotionally resonant customer experiences. And of course, you can always email us at iwant@widerfunnel.com. If you’d like more information about how this works or how we can help you with your business to create these kind of experimentation programs and Behavioral Science projects, feel free to reach out and email us at any time and one of our expert consultants will happily answer your questions.


Utkarsh: Thanks Chris. That was a really insightful session. We have a few questions to ask you. Maybe I can ask a couple of questions to you and you know I’d get better with whatever insights we got through the session itself. So my first question is how do you understand customers using Behavioral Sciences? And what are the different principles or you know techniques you would want to recommend to our listeners in terms of how they can better understand the customers through them?

Chris: Right. So, we look at Behavioral Sciences as as being one of the ways of understanding customer emotions, right? And if you think about the interplay between qualitative and quantitative or exploratory and validation side, so think about we have a framework that we publish called The Infinity Optimization framework. And if you look at that, that gives the context for how Behavioral Science fits into the growth and insight operation. So within Behavioral Science the difference between that and experimentation is that you have the opportunity to gather rich, deep context and data. And so with Behavioral Science we’re gathering a lot of voice of customer as well as emotionally driven insights into why they act, which you can’t just get straight from experimentation. But then you can’t stop there; you have to then validate those things and where they apply within experimentation. So Behavioral Science is one of the inputs that allows us to have that depth and richness of context that then feeds into a better experimentation program that should generate more valid insights faster. 

Utkarsh: That was a great answer. Like how can we understand that entire journey from from an example? Maybe you can take an e-commerce example where the persona and the experience are kind of marrying  each other.


Chris: Yeah, sure. So the way this works in practice, you know in addition to the examples I showed you, is often what we’ll do is we’ll take, for example, an e-commerce retailer and we’ll run a study of a few of their customers and well actually profile them by limbic type. And then we’ll take their competitors customers and profile them by limbic type, and compare their experiences within their shopping experience and we’ll use those insights to understand, based on their resonance, emotional resonance with the experience, how to create experiments in that experience that then have the right implicit codes built-in. So I talked about implicit codes earlier. The implicit codes can be things like the background color of the website, the main dominant color of the images. If they have models in situation with the products or if they don’t, like, different limbic types and different limbic context will actually appeal to different types of those implicit codes. So think about the Starbucks example, even the lighting and whether or not there’s two cups and whether or not they’re tilted, all of those things are implicit codes that our design and copywriters can then craft the experiences around that type of archetype. 

Utkarsh: All right, and I think that has a lot to do with the brand identity as well. As you mentioned, Starbucks is more appealing towards the individual side of things and McDonald’s is more focused towards union or the social aspect. 

Chris: Right. Exactly. And you can also, for a lot of brands, find an evolution of their brand experiences and their brand positioning by doing these types of studies to find out what actually is appealing about their brand experience. And maybe, they need to evolve a little bit more this way or a little bit more of that way to have more emotional resonance, and get the full benefit of the the customer emotional interaction.

Utkarsh: Another question which we get a lot is how you can make the Behavior Sciences insights come into action with experiments, and how can they kind of narrate the entire story with experiments. What’s your take on that? 

Chris: You know, so that’s really a lot of the art of the strategists of going in there and taking, because the Behavioral Science insights are very deep and rich, but there’s usually a lot, right? And you can only experiment with so many things at once. So what you need to find is what are the important questions from those insights that you can then prioritize and feed into the right experimentation program. So with each of these questions in how to run your experimentation program, the best answer is to find a framework that answers the question. So for example, we’ve published The PIE framework which you might be familiar with. The PIE framework shows how to take potential insights out of your qualitative exploratory area and prioritize which ones are the highest opportunity for growth and insights in your company at any one point in time.


So the PIE framework can prioritize them based on the potential for improvement, the importance to the business, and the ease of implementation. And you can actually create quantitative rankings of each of these Behavioral Science insights based on PIE and then prioritize how those should be run within your experimentation program to validate

Utkarsh: And, how do you see that data fits into this entire story? Like, they’re different things like, you know, understanding the visitor journey through session recording and other things. So how do you feel that this context fit into this story? 

Chris: Well all of these things are interrelated. So, when you think of the Infinity Optimization Process that I’ve mentioned many times and is  published, the Infinity Optimization Process is the driver of, like the framework to hang all of these concepts within. And, within the Infinity Optimization Process on the one side, you have the explore process of looking for information. Behavioral Science fits in there – session recordings, digital analytics, you know, previous experimentation insights – all of the business contexts and competitive analysis. So all of these pieces of information are, it’s a messy process of gathering information from all of these sources to try to create a picture in your mind of their your customers experience and their understanding and and then you use that, like the little bits that should start to fit together – it’s like a puzzle. You can gather a piece from the Behavioral Science and motivation lab study over here, you have a customer survey over here, and you have a social media campaign over here, and you put them all together and a picture starts to emerge. And then you take those potential insights or the results of that picture, run them through a validation experimentation program, and confirm whether your picture is becoming more accurate or it’s going off track and through that interplay of expansive and reductive thinking you you get the best back and forth movement towards an ideal growth picture.


Utkarsh: That’s, that’s great! Another thing which I want to ask you that you mentioned about the Behavioral Science group at Wider Funnel, and how it had kind of help with greater understanding in building optimized experiences. What you can share with the listeners in terms of how they can start similar groups within their organization and have these propagated thinking within their organization itself?


Chris: Yeah, well having a Behavioral Science group requires some unique skill sets and backgrounds, as well as a lot of research and understanding. So there’s new content, there’s new studies coming out every single day, it seams, on this area. And so we’ve created a group that is constantly harvesting all of this information, processing it, and feeding it into the experimentation program. So, we have, for example, weekly sessions where all of our strategists gather together with the Behavioral Science group, gathering the latest insights, and trying to find out how do we constantly improve our group understanding that can be informed by all of these insights? So, you know, reading journals, the latest books that are coming out in Behavioral Science, actual behavioral scientists that are then, you know, creating the research structures. So, what we need, and what we’re actually evolving now is different research methodologies and relating how they apply to different business contexts. So, it takes a lot of development and expertise to put this kind of a structure together. You’re going to hire the right people, have the right insights, and then have the right exposure to all of the different types of business contexts to see how they apply it. You know, it just takes a lot of research and development to build that.


Utkarsh: All right. So I see that there’s a lot of amazing things which comes with Behavioral Sciences. But, are there instances where businesses have gone overboard with their application of behavioral sciences and have actually hurt their conversion rates?


Chris: Well, you know what? Yeah, I think that one of the biggest risks is, it’s actually been a risk in marketing since the beginning of marketing since you know, we realized that half of your marketing budget is wasted, we just don’t know which half. You have to test and find out. So, with great power comes great responsibility. And the big risk that’s always been in place in the Conversion Optimization industry, and in marketing from way back when, is using these tools appropriately. So, the biggest problem and overuse of Behavioral Science is when people are actually trying to manipulate people using dark patterns. And it becomes more and more powerful the more data you have about your customers.


And so Behavioral Science needs to have an ethical lens put onto it, and you can’t do things that are using cognitive biases to force people or compel them or restrict them in a way that makes them do things that they wouldn’t want to do originally. So creating great experiences that will facilitate people when they’re arriving on a website and they want to do this, that’s one thing. But if you’re using those dark patterns to create unhappiness or to create experiences where you’re manipulating people, that’s where it really gets into, you know a bad zone. But that’s not a new thing. Marketers have been doing that for decades. So, it’s really just about having more power to do the right thing. 

Utkarsh: Any examples which you come across where a business was trying to manipulate you and it kind of backfired to them? 

Chris: You know what, I have actually; it was interesting. A couple of days ago. It wasn’t necessarily their fault or anything bad, but it’s a kind of bias we all know which is I got a letter in the mail with my renewal for my automobile association membership which just means that they’ll save me if I am somewhere, stranded with a flat tyre right? Well, hopefully I know how to change a flat tyre but  something more serious. 

So I got this letter and it sat on my desk for a couple days because I just didn’t want to think about it, right? And then I picked it up and I was like, oh, how do I make this decision? I’ve never used this service, and I have to pay a couple hundred bucks a year. Do I really want to renew this again? I don’t know! Like I’m sort of weighing the pros and cons. And so I put it on my desk again and then I picked it up later in the afternoon. Like, I have to just get this off my desk, I don’t want to pick it up again. And then I looked at the bottom and it said your membership will auto-renew next week. And then I realized, now I don’t have to think about it. Because it’s already, it’s going to do it for me, and then I sat there and I was like you literally study this stuff all the time and you’re actually allowing a cognitive bias to make the decision for you because you don’t want to decide whether to cancel it. And so I realized that whether or not that’s good, I still have my membership because it auto renewed for me, and I didn’t have to make the decision. So, you know those types of cognitive biases, you know, it helped me to keep the service whether or not that’s a good thing. I still haven’t thought about it.


So that was just surprising to me realizing how manipulated or biased I am by the things that I  know when I talk about all the time.

Utkarsh: And we as marketers have this paradox right? Like, so when somebody tries to market to us and we kind of catch them there. So yeah, like it’s that feeling, and I kind of totally get that. Now, let’s switch gear and try to understand a little bit about you. You would want to tell the audience what type of books are you currently reading? 

Chris: Hmm. Yeah. I’ve been lately, reading more and more about team performance and leadership. And, so, actually the one most recent called The Power Of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr, which was fantastic. I highly recommend that one. Also, you know, Jim Collins, of course is well known for his Good To Great.


But recently he released a small excerpt called Turning The Flywheel, and that’s been really powerful for us as Wider Funnel realizing that we’ve always had a flywheel in place, which is sort of a business driver of growth. But I hadn’t really made it tangible to communicate with the rest of the team and leadership. And so we’ve done that, put that in place. Yeah. Those are a couple of the recent ones that come to my [mind] … oh the other one that I actually am reading on audio book or listening on audio book is by Yuval Harari. It’s the 21 Insights For The 21st Century, which has been excellent and startling and fascinating and he’s always sort of shaking up thinking.

Utkarsh: And how do you think the audience can connect to [this book]. What are the learnings which you would want to pass on to the listeners?


Chris: Well, every book I read and I read, you know, at least 50 books a year, it’s if you can pull an insight from, just one insight from any one of them that becomes embedded into your way of thinking and acting it creates a better performer. And so, the more I can use things like techniques of The Power Of Full Engagement for understanding (how to use) how to get the most out of your days, can multiply your effective lists so much. The 21 insights book I think is really just, you know about realizing that there’s more to life than experimentation and marketing, that there’s, like the overall context of what’s happening in the world is really important, and to think about how long do we have to exist on this Earth, and can we do something to make the world a better place? Those are kind of the things that I’m thinking about as well. So, you know, I think all of them are relevant to anyone.


Utkarsh: All right, and here goes the last question – how can the listeners connect to you? 

Chris: Yeah. Sure. Well, so I think the best way is to start reading the blog that we have where we are always publishing content that’s the latest thinking, that’s not yet in books or webinar. So it’s  widerfunnel.com/blog, and there are a lot of different resources there that people can tap into as well. Or email at iwant@widerfunnel.com if there’s any question that any listener has, if you are managing websites or business for any type of business that has high-traffic experience. Generally, we can help create a better experimentation program, and we’re happy to evaluate whether it’s the right fit for what we’ve got available, whether in Behavioral Science or user experience experimentation or creating an internal program within the company; we’ve got frameworks for how to build the best experimentation program in high volume brands, and happy to talk about how to do that.


Utkarsh: Alright! Thanks a lot, Chris for giving us your time and the experience. It was a great session, we had a lot to chat. And it was really great to have you. Thank you. Thanks a lot. 

Chris: Thank you. Enjoy.


Chris Goward

Chris Goward

Founder of WiderFunnel & GO Group Digital, WiderFunnel

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