Category Archives: Endowment Effect

The Psychology of Pokemon Go

Learn the psychological secrets of Pokémon Go’s success!

In just two weeks Pokemon Go, the augmented reality smartphone game designed by Niantic, achieved over 21 million active users in the US, more than Candy Crush did at its peak. The game’s popularity has quickly spread in other countries  and it is now becoming a global phenomenon. So, why did Pokemon Go become a such an instant success and what are the psychological buttons that it pressed to create so many engaged users?

1. Nostalgia from a childhood brand:

Pokemon is a brand that has been established and has grown across multiple entertainment categories for over 20 years. This provided Pokemon with the opportunity to target an existing and passionate audience of players who grew up in the 1990’s and wanted to indulge in an old obsession. This instantly helped Pokemon Go establish itself on a new platform (smartphones and tablets) and created the conditions for the game to spread through social networks to a more diverse and younger audiences.

Image of implicit goals
Source: Decode Marketing

The desire for adventure and escapism is just one of a number of implicit psychological goals that motivate brand choice. Using the latest research from psychology and neuroscience marketing consultant Phil Barden has identified 6 key psychological goals that brands can be perceived to meet. The extent to which people perceive that a brand will fully meet certain psychological goals that they find compelling will help determine which one they choose.

Image of Pokemon Go in App store
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc, iOS App Store

Learning: Leverage brand equity by targeting existing engaged customers to give you a head start to building your app store presence.  Ensure brand communications target appropriate psychological goals that can help generate a strong emotional response to your game or product.

2. Herd mentality:

As social beings our decisions are heavily influenced by what we think other people around us are doing. When in a new or uncertain situation we naturally look to see what other people are doing as a guide to desired behaviour.  Pokemon Go benefited from copy-cat behaviour as our herd instincts assisted the spread of the awareness and adoption of the game through our social networks. Once the number of downloads gave Pokemon Go entry into the download charts this would have further boosted its desirability among trend seekers or gamers unsure about the nature of the game.

 

Top iOS apps in USA for 23rd July 2016
Source: App Annie top iOS apps in USA for 23rd July 2016

 

Learning: Using social proof and encouraging people to interact with your brand across offline and online social networks is a powerful influence on success or failure. How people interact with each other and what they do with your product or idea will determine the nature of your brand, not what you set out in your brand guidelines.

3. Novelty gets attention:

Our brains are hard-wired to be wary of change and so the blending of the real world with the digital world of augmented reality brings fantasy into the game experience in a seamless and engaging manner. This creates a novel user experience that attracts attention. Novelty is a powerful psychological trigger for stimulating our brain. Although augmented reality has been around for a number years, Pokémon Go cleverly integrates it with a real-world game that also activates user’s curiosity.

Image of Pokemon Go Drowzee

Learning: Use novelty to grab attention and create curiosity about your brand.

4. We desire control:

The design of Pokémon Go means that players have a good chance of intercepting a monster where ever they travel. There is no necessity to head for a Pokestop or Gym if it doesn’t fit in with the user’s plans. Monsters often pop-up randomly as players go on their daily business.

Pokémon Go allows players to remain in control and it is up to the user to decide how much effort they want to put into the game. This is important from a psychological perspective as autonomy is one of three basic drivers of human behaviour identified by psychologist Daniel Pink that make people happy and engaged in activities.

Image of Pokemon Go with Venonat showing

 

Learning: Autonomy and our desire to act with choice is something people naturally seek and psychologists believe that it improves our lives. Where possible always offer people choice as we dislike doors being closed or being forced down a particular path.

5. Mastery :

Pokemon Go uses achievements to reward players for progressing through the levels of the game. People love to obtain a high degree of competency in activities they undertake, but can easily get frustrated and abandon a game if a task is not realistically achievable. On the other hand if it is too easy to complete players can lose interest in the game. Pokemon Go achieves a balance by setting a low degree of initial difficulty for new players and using a distance/time barrier to ensure it takes some physical effort to discover more creatures.

Learning: Ensure challenges and tasks are realistically achievable, but not so easy that players lose interest. Mastery is one of our most powerful and intrinsic motivators which drives our passion for achievement.

Pokemon medal for 10 normal Pokemon
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

6. Variable ratio schedule reward model:

In the 1950’s the American psychologist B.F. Skinner conducted experiments to understand how people respond to different reward schedules. He discovered that a variable ratio schedule, where the reward is based upon the number of times the task is undertaken, but the timing is randomised to make it unpredictable, is the best method for encouraging repetitive behaviour. This type of schedule encourages people to complete the behaviour over and over again as they are uncertain when the next reward will be received. It is also resistant to extinction by its very nature and can make some behaviour addictive.

Learning: Link rewards to the frequency of the behaviour, but use a variable ratio schedule to make the timing of the reward unpredictable.

Pokemon Go level up 4
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

7. Use classical conditioning to obtain an automatic response:

When a user walks near a Pokemon, gym or Pokestop, their smartphone gives an audible buzz. As the players is then rewarded with a new Pokemon or other creature this sound becomes associated with the forthcoming reward in the same way that Pavlov’s dog would salivate at the sound of a bell. Classical conditioning creates automatic behaviours by paring a stimulus (a sound) with a response (search for monster nearby).

Learning: Use audible sounds, smells or movement to create automatic behaviours through classical conditioning by pairing a stimulus with a response. Once users have become conditioned to react in a certain way, you may pair another stimulus to the desired behaviour and create a new automatic response.

Image of Pokemon Zubat before capture
Source: Pokemon iOS app

 

8. We are all social beings at heart:

Unlike most apps, Pokemon Go provides the opportunity to meet new people because it requires you to visit local landmarks and walk to places nearby to find Pokémon’s. As human beings we are hard wired to connect and interact with other people. Indeed, social isolation and loneliness are harmful to our long term health and can trigger depression. Playing Pokemon Go therefore benefits are psychological health by creating opportunities for gamer’s to meet and interact with other people.

 

Image of Pokemon Go gym

Learning: Allow people to share or interact with other people as this is an important human characteristic with many benefits for the individuals concerned.

 

9. We benefit psychologically from walking:

There is increasing evidence to suggest a sedentary lifestyle is harmful to our health and that walking is beneficial from both a psychological and physical perspective. We have an innate desire to get outside and research suggests that walking can reduce depression and our risk of diseases such as diabetes.

 

Learning: Creating a game or product that requires or encourages physical exercise has health benefits for the customer and can create natural breaks in product usage which improves attention and engagement.

Image of Pokemon Go map
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

10. Good timing:

Launching the game in the summer and just at the start of the holiday season meant that people are already primed and ready to go outside and explore. We are naturally drawn to sunlight because it increases the amount of vitamin D in our bodies which can help prevent cancer and improves our alertness and mental performance.

Learning: Always consider timing and how it may influence usage to give your product or campaign the best chance of success. Research your audience to identify key factors influencing adoption or likelihood to view your content.

Image of Pokemon Rattata outside Pets at Home store
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

 

11. Easy equals true:

The app is so simple and intuitive to use that it does not require any detailed instructions or much practice to become competent. This means there is little friction associated with getting started and this minimises cognitive load which encourages continued engagement with the app.  Many apps are so poorly designed that they require extensive onboarding instructions and navigation aids. Such complexity can cause cognitive strain and frustration which often leads to apps being abandoned.

Learning: If your user interface requires detailed instructions or navigation aids to allow users to learn how to use it you have failed. Keep user interface designs simple and intuitive.

 

Image of Pokemon Gym description
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

12. Piggy back on existing habits:

People are creatures of habit and so adoption is much easier if you can piggy back off an existing habit rather than having to create a new habit. Most smartphone users take their devices with them as they go for a walk or travel to the office or the shops. Pokemon Go was therefore able to benefit from habitual behaviour which assisted take-up of the game.

 

Learning: Where possible identify existing habits that your product or campaign can benefit from rather than trying to create a new behaviour.

Image of Pokemon Horsea creature
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

13. The power of free:

We are attracted by free apps because people are inherently afraid of loss and free is a powerful motivator because we don’t like to miss out on a bargain. Further, allowing users to play for free minimises the perceived risk of signing up to Pokemon Go because there is no monetary cost to the player if they subsequently find they don’t enjoy the game.

In addition, even partial ownership (e.g. a free trial) tends to make people more attached to what they have and make them focus on what they could lose rather what they may gain. This is why free trials offered by the likes of Spotify and Netflix are so successful.

Pokemon Go generates revenues by players purchasing  virtual coins to exchange for items such as Pokeballs to capture monsters. Once players have moved up a number of levels they may also want to pay to store, hatch, train (in the gym) and battle opponents. Companies also have the ability to sponsor locations to attract players to a real location.

 

Learning: Ownership changes are our perception of things and our aversion to loss makes it more difficult to give up things that we have. For non-fremium apps, offer a free trial to give users ownership and allow them to check out the user experience. To monetise a free app allow players to buy in-app currency to spend on digital goods or enter competitions.

Image of loading screen for Pokemon Go
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

 

What should we take out from Pokémon Go’s success?

Good marketing planning and having the right partners for a venture certainly help. Although we may not be lucky enough to have a global brand that has 20 years of heritage behind it, we can still be careful to create a compelling proposition and ensure that implementation is not rushed. What Pokémon Go does show is that if you can align your marketing with human psychology you will benefit from important drivers of consumer behaviour.

Thank you reading my post. If you found this useful please share with the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

17 Psychological Tips To Boost Your Conversion Rate.

Image of mri-head scan
Source: Freeimages.com

How To Apply Psychology To Website Optimization:

Persuasive website content that  utilises psychological triggers can help you significantly improve website conversion. Outlined below are 17 ways you can use such techniques to more effectively engage your visitors to increase your conversions.

1. Ownership focuses our attention on what we might lose!

 

Image of Amazon Prime 30-day free trial offer

Even partial ownership (e.g. a trial subscription) tends to make people more attached to what they have and make them focus on what they may lose rather than what they may gain. Ownership changes our perception of things and our aversion to loss makes it difficult for us to give it up.

A great example of this is Amazon Prime which offers a 30-day free for unlimited streaming of moves and TV shows. This combines the power of FREE, that we cover later, with a limited trial that makes customers focus on what they will lose if they cancel their subscription. Try testing different trial promotions, or give more prominence to money-back guarantees, cooling-off periods (for financial services) and ease of returns for large or expensive items.

2. We are motivated by meaningful tasks and acknowledgement of our effort!

Image pop-up for when Buffer is full for free plan

None of us like to think our effort is meaningless and we all appreciate positive feedback. Visitors want to know that any information you request from them is essential and not just for your benefit. People also like feedback to confirm they have successfully completed tasks (e.g. registration or add to basket) as this reassures and motivates them to continue.

Buffer congratulates you when you you’ve completely filled your free plan with posts. But it also uses it as an opportunity to promote upgrading to Awesome subscription plan.

For registration and sign-up forms remove any fields that are not absolutely necessary and try different words or phrases to explain why each piece of information is required. Also test different ways or congratulating customers when they have completed a task or journey.

3. Everything is relative!

Image of Hotjar.com pricing options

 

People find it difficult to make new decisions and like to compare things that are simple to compare (e.g. one LED TV against another LED TV). Until a person has made such a comparison they often don’t understand there own preferences or know what they want.  Giving just two very different options will make it difficult for people to choose. They have nothing to compare either option with and they may not select your preferred option.

This is why sales people will often show you a premium option, a medium option and a value option that appears inferior. They know most people will choose the middle option. So by testing different alternatives on a given page may allow you to nudge visitors towards your preferred option. This could be different subscription options or alternative targeted content (e.g. recently viewed/wish list items etc).

4.  The first time we go to purchase is critical for the price we are willing to pay! 

Image of Survata's plans with prices

Once a price has been established in our minds it will largely determine our perception of current and future prices. Sensitivity to price changes is heavily influenced by our memory of the prices we have previously paid or seen.

When launching a new product if you can associate it with a premium category you are more likely to be able to charge a premium price.  You should always show your most expensive plan first as this helps create the highest possible anchor price. Test different ways of presenting prices, change the location of the price, and see if by offering a premium alternative you can boost sales without having to make large price reductions.

5. The power of FREE!

 

Image of Neflix free for a month offer
Netflix – “Join free for a month” offer

The impact of offering something for FREE is often underestimated. People are afraid of loss and because of this FREE is a powerful motivator. As a result consumers will often perceive a FREE offer as substantially more valuable than it really is.

This can result in the cost of offering something for FREE being easily outweighed by the benefit from an uplift in conversion. Alternatively, if you offer a free benefit as part of your proposition that perhaps your competitors don’t, then try testing the impact of promoting this as a FREE benefit of your service.  But whatever you do don’t mention how much it actually costs.

6. Scarcity makes us value things more!

Image of Booking.com with scarcity indicators
Booking.com scarcity indicators include “Booked x times today” and “Only x rooms left”.

 

People value things that are scarce partly because they are loss averse. We are particularly motivated if we believe that we are in competition with other people to purchase a scare item. This is why eBay auctions can get out of hand and we end up paying far more than we originally planned for an item.

Stock level indicators (e.g. number of rooms left, low stock, number of items remaining, bids etc) are powerful drivers of conversion. Scarcity is used everywhere online, including hotel and flight booking sites, flash sales, exclusive pre-sale registration, offer ending soon, and limited edition item.

Booking.com is especially good at using scarcity. As well as showing the number of rooms left, the site also shows the number of times a room has been booked today and for locations with high demand a further message is displayed (see below). They key thing here is to  Test, test and test!

Image from Booking.com showing location has high demand

 

7. We are more motivated by a cause than by money! 

Image of Tesco.com communities
Tesco.com Communities including Cancer Research UK Race for Life food partner

 

People are much more willing to spend time and effort for a cause than for money. This is because social norms are much more powerful motivators than cash. Research has shown that focusing on money can result in more independent and selfish behaviour and a reluctance to be involved or help others. People who believe in cause are much more passionate and more willing to offer  to help others.

It can be advantageous to align your brand or site with relevant good causes as it helps to build loyalty. However, taking such an approach often needs to be part of a long-term commitment to a cause as people can react negatively if you chop and change according to short-term business needs. If you do go down this route focus on the material benefits to the good cause (e.g. Computers for Schools vouchers) rather than the actual value. Test different methods of giving to good causes to understand which most engage with your customers.

8. The power reciprocation!

image of Copyblogger.com site and free resources

We feel obliged to the future repayment of favours, gifts, good deeds and the like. Organisations can use this social norm to their advantage provided they offer help, free resources, advice or samples without obligation.

Online video guides are becoming the norm, but other ways to benefit from this rule include online tools and planners, free smartphone Apps, money off coupons and how to guides. The skill here is to find something that really catches the imagination of your customers so that they value it so much that they almost feel obliged to maintain their relationship with you.

9. Sex sells!

Image of beautiful woman on Beaverbrooks.co.uk

 

Great images of beautiful people grab attention and can help to sell product. Sex sells and will always sell because we respond to material differently when we are in a state of arousal. Neuroscience indicates that this is because it engages the pleasurable reward centre of our brain. People also automatically assign positive traits to attractive looking people.

Try testing models of different age, gender or family groups on high converting pages to see if aligning the images more closely with your target audience improves conversion. People are naturally drawn to looking at eyes so this could also be incorporated in your tests.

10. Customers will procrastinate if you give them a chance!

Image of incentive to open a Very,co.uk account

People like to put decisions off until the last minute and avoid doing things that they don’t enjoy. To avoid visitors procrastinating use different strategies to motivate them to convert now!

Online only discount can be used to encourage visitors to sign up. Also have you considered using gamification techniques to make a recruitment email or registration process more interesting and enjoyable. You can also test different incentives (e.g. money off vouchers or prize draw entry) to see what attracts new customers the most.

11. If uncertainty exists people look to the actions of others to guide them!

Image of social proof on Dropbox.com

People naturally follow a crowd as it provides us with reassurance about our decisions, especially when we are in a new or uncertain situation. Sometimes we also consciously copy others we want to associate with or admire to project a certain image to the outside world.

If your site has built up a sizable number of subscribers ensure this is clearly sign posted on your landing pages. Inform visitors about what is most popular on your site and include testimonials from existing customers.

12 People respond more positively to someone they know and like!

Image of testimonial on Google Analytics homepage

 

People want to like organizations that they buy from and they respond positively to indications that you have similar values and attitudes to them. Companies that have a clear vision and strong customer centric culture can project this through their online presence to their advantage.

Market research can help you understand your prospects life style, values,  interests and motivations. This can help you avoid having policies or promoting causes that conflict with your visitors’ vales and interests. Having photographs of real people who work for an organisation in relevant posts can improve how visitors relate to a website and have been known to significantly improve conversion rates. Further, the perceived age of a model on a page can also affect the conversion rate if they are too young or old compared to your visitor profile.

Sites that are perceived to use deception or trick customers into decisions may benefit from short-term gains in conversion but this is likely to be more than off-set by a loss from life-time customer value. Experiments have found that even a low level of irritation can make people irritated and act vengeful towards companies that annoy them.

13. People don’t like closing doors!

 

Image of a closed door
Source: Freeimages.com

People like to keep their options open as it gives them a sense of control over their own destiny. Even when people are at the last stage of a transaction having a get out option (e.g. back to shopping) may be more motivating than than if you make it difficult to abandon or change items in the basket. Otherwise customers can feel trapped and out of control.

Test different sign-posting at each stage of checkout as it is important to communicate to customers where they are in the process and give them clear options. Try testing more prominent ‘Return to shopping’ or ‘Back’ buttons in checkout to see if it actually improves rather than decreases conversion.

14. The power of the written word!

Image of a pen lying on paper which has writing on it
Source: Freeimages.com

People like to be perceived to be consistent and it is an important motivator of our behaviour. Inconsistency is perceived to be an undesirable personal trait. Commitment is the key to consistency and is the reason why Amway Corporation ask their members to record sales goals on paper. Similarly, just writing something positive about a subject can cause a shift in a person’s attitude and behaviour towards the views they express.

Reviews and testimonials are great for putting on your site but also they help reinforce attitudes and behaviour of those who write them. Have you analysed the value of customers after they have written a review? Test different ways of promoting testimonials and reviews and see if you can obtain permission to use them on landing pages.

15. Obedience to authority!

Image of meaning of Never Knowingly Undersold means from John Lewis
Never Knowingly Undersold – John Lewis

 

People often have a compulsion to comply with the commands of someone in authority. Even the appearance of authority can be enough to influence our behaviour. Some brands also are so well respected in their market that they have a certain authority that their competitors lack.

For many years in the US an actor who played a doctor in a popular TV series successfully promoted caffeine-free coffee. It’s success was partly explained by his association with being an MD on TV. Personalities associated with your category or service can be powerful symbols of authority.

Other sources of authority include independent surveys that benchmark your service. John Lewis (above) is well known for high service standards and its “Never knowingly Undersold” strap line. Awards, and testimonials from recognized experts can also add to your credibility. Try testing different ways of indicating your authority to see what works best on your site.

16. Don’t underestimate the importance of presentation!

Image of Haikudeck.com homepage

Expectations affect every aspect of our life and how you  present your value proposition will influence how visitors respond to your site now and in the future.

Research can help you identify your potential customers’ expectations. If you    understand new visitor expectations you can test aligning your key messages and presentation accordingly. For landing pages test different benefits for signing up and see if aligning content and imagery to reflect new visitor search activity improves conversion.

17. We put greater value on things that we have helped create!

Image of Customize option on Converse trainers website
Converse trainers allow you to customize your own trainers

 

The ability to customize a product by investing our own time and effort often leads us to value it more than something we buy off the shelf. Converse allows visitors to customize casual shoes and Moonpig.com enables customers to create their own greetings cards.

Where people value the ability to personalise a product this can be a great way of improving the perceived value of your product or service. Try testing in different categories or the level of personalisation to see what catches your customer’s imagination.

 

Thank you reading my post. If you found this useful please share with the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

 

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.