Understanding how the brain works can be extremely beneficial to the B2B world. Far gone are the days where experiences were simply labelled as ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory’. Kavita Singh spoke with Steven Cozens, co-founder of Think Beyond, to find out how neuroscience can help marketers deliver optimal customer experiences.
What is neuroscience in marketing?
There are many tools and techniques for marketers to better understand their customers and market. Some of the obvious ones, such as surveys and interviews, are fairly commonplace, even in the hectic world of B2B marketing. But do these techniques tell us what’s really going on under the hood?
Neuroscience used to be a novelty but is gradually entering the mainstream and it offers us a powerful tool to understand customers. By using scientific techniques to understand how the brain influences our behaviour, we can better tailor our campaigns and experiences. When a large customer comes up for renewal, can we really leave it to chance that they will stay? Do we really know how they respond to a CX journey? Did we open the door for another player?
To better prepare ourselves for an optimal customer experience, let’s take a look at how the brain works with a little help from Steven.
Understanding how the brain works
One phrase Steven uses to describe the brain is the ‘ultimate slouch’. Believe it or not, the brain’s whole survival routine is based on saving energy and taking shortcuts whenever possible. Because the brain utilises up to 30% of your energy in a typical day, if you didn’t take these shortcuts or create habits to save energy, we as humans would literally fall over and die. It’s very much in self-preservation mode.
Steven explains: “It’s a little bit like the battery saver on your mobile phone in a way. Customer experience is something that happens with every interaction with a business whether it be service, sales, products or an experience. Every one of those creates some sort of emotional response, that in most cases leads to a physiological response, which in turn uses energy. During the experience in particular, your brain is trying to work out the process and trying to get to a conclusion.”
With every touchpoint, your brain is wiring itself to be as lazy as it can get away with. With that in mind, if you put all these obstacles in the way of the experience, you’ll be stimulating too much conscious thought about what is happening and as a result, you’ll feel tired. This type of cognitive load can have a detrimental effect on customers’ perception of a brand or business and, in the long-term, can prevent their willingness to buy from you again.
Steven says: “You want every customer experience interaction to be straightforward, you don’t want to create a high load on the brain. If, for example, you’re using Amazon regularly and buying on Prime every few days, and then one day, Amazon changes the process to be completely different, you would go ‘Argh!’. You’re so used to just clicking and then it arrives tomorrow, so this is a very easy example for B2C.”
How it reacts to friction
To apply this in a B2B space, we’ve seen the word ‘frictionless’ and ‘seamless’ being thrown around to describe ideal customer experiences. If you can incorporate these neuroscience learnings into your company, you could have a competitive edge.
Steven explains: “There are thousands of B2B and tech businesses out there. They get customers on board, and, if the offering is unique, then maybe they’ll renew after two years, three years, etc. However, if there is an alternative and your cumulative emotional response to your current provider is negative, you may not renew if an alternative is marketed at you. For example, I know a tech business that changes the UX every few months and integrates new features. This increases the neural load on the brain and may cause a negative response, which is precisely what we’re trying to avoid.”
Steven even says he’d go as far as interchanging the word ‘friction’ for ‘challenge’ to give marketers a clearer understanding on what the brain does.
He says: “If you’re driving on a straight, smooth road and familiar road with good visibility at a constant speed you need minimal steering input and your neural load is very low. You sometimes get to a point where you feel like you could do it blindfolded – although that could be dangerous so don’t try this at home. It’s all very subconscious. Now if we change the route midway through this journey and we now have to drive through a roundabout with some tight, blind bends in the road in the pouring rain, you suddenly have factors that you simply didn’t have to process before. This makes you more aware, alert and anxious.”
When your brain has a challenge or possible risk presented, you typically conduct a rapid fight or flight assessment. So, if you’re a buyer, you’ll want predictable, reliable and positive experiences throughout. Therefore, it’s imperative to create a consistent and efficient customer experience through and through. If you keep making changes and don’t know for sure if they will improve CX, you may just cause frustration.
What can we do to understand customers’ responses better?
So, how can we understand our customer’s responses more succinctly? Before having any sort of method, research is valuable. The more we put ourselves in our customer’s shoes, the greater the chance of striking gold. And if you haven’t done any of this, you might be generating negative customer responses without even realising it.
At Think Beyond, there are three levels of analysis using neuroscience.
- Offline: Using doctors to apply neuroscience to business and marketing through studies and research.
- Online: The online approach uses apps and websites to expose people to experiences. Think Beyond has access to basic psychological reactions to various experiences, measuring aspects like facial expressions and eye tracking to see how users are interacting with apps, systems and web pages.
- In-person: Although less popular since the pandemic, in-person analysis is both deeper and more accurate, using a whole suite of sensors overseen by a neuroscientist. This approach gets the most accurate data on how clients are responding. There is also a neuroscience structured interview to help reduce bias.
Whilst these approaches can be extremely useful, the way the mind works is far more complex. While we might be excited for a virtual event and the content that might be provided, equally, we might be dealing with Zoom fatigue at the same time. Emotions are not one note, but the more knowledge we can gather, the better.
Steven says: “One of the key things missing in most research is being able to map emotions because most emotions are followed by a physiological response. If we ask a question, we’re all susceptible to giving misleading answers. One person might say that they’re psyched about an event, but might also be anxious to get on the tube to the event. It’s more multifaceted than a single experience.” This gives us something to think about as we move towards hybrid working and face-to-face interaction.
Source: B2B Marketing