How to improve customer experience with neuroscience?
Customer experience is a key differentiator for brands. The quality of the sensations and emotions felt, the guarantee of successful experiences, can be greatly improved in the physical and virtual world by neuroscientific knowledge.
In a society where new business models privilege use over possession, the customer experience becomes essential because it constitutes the offer itself. The sustained growth of e-commerce also reinforces the need for stores to reinvent themselves to offer an experience that justifies the trip.
At the same time, the increased use of digital technology means that these virtual experiences must be optimized or they will quickly be criticized or abandoned. How can neurosciences help in the development of neuro-compatible customer experiences, i.e. in phase with the mechanisms of the brain, seat of our conscious and unconscious decisions?
The sensory and emotional dimension of the customer experience
A fairly clinical and functional vision of the customer experience consists of describing it through customer journeys and the different points of contact or potential disengagement with the brand, in other words through behaviors. A more dematerialized but powerful vision is the one put forward by neurosciences: it reminds us that it is also and above all about sensations and emotions that synthesize this experience and link the consumer to the brand's universe.
As neuroscientist Antonio Damasio says, "Humans are... feeling machines that think": emotions are a powerful and essential filter for our decision-making. A consumer can forget what a brand does or says. It is rare that he forgets how it made him feel and the web often echoes this by sharing what we like. The customer experience, through the emotions it creates, has the power to permanently inscribe the brand in the consumer's memory.
Re-enchanting the in-store customer experience through sensoriality
Neuroscientists emphasize the importance of the senses, which are the gateway to and activation of emotions and emotional memories stored in memory. Their appropriate solicitation contributes to making the experience in the points of sale or service in phase with the expectations and objectives of consumers. Thus, cold colors and reassuring smells such as vanilla promote a state of calmness and tranquillity, which is conducive to the banking world, for example.
Conversely, bright colors and fast-paced music accelerate consumer movement, allowing for short waiting times like those desired in fast-food restaurants. This coherent solicitation of the different senses, sometimes aided by innovative digital techniques, favors positive emotions, pleasure and surprise felt in these new experiential spaces whose conviviality and sensoriality are far from the coldness of the Internet.
Optimizing the online customer experience through neuroscience inspired design
Online experiences can also be made more effective by applying neuroscientific principles. The design of websites and other virtual content must first take into account the "egocentricity of the brain" which appreciates more easily what relates to its own concerns or objectives. The latter must therefore be the prism through which the brands' offer is exposed.
The ease, fluidity and speed of information processing are key to a successful virtual experience because they guarantee the best conditions for the customer to quickly reach his objective, such as buying a train ticket, finding a sports article, etc. The brain is inclined, for survival and economy, to rely on automatisms that avoid the expenditure of energy that is essential for complex cognitive tasks. It appreciates what it can understand quickly and thus without energy reinforcement.
Images are thus to be preferred to texts which require a heavier cognitive work. Research also recommends placing images on the left and texts on the right, favoring vertical rather than horizontal symmetries, and giving a contrasting and therefore more visible treatment to the buttons qualified as calls to action, thanks to which the customer can easily advance in his purchasing act. To compensate for the lack of sensoriality on the Internet, consumer opinions, qualitative comments on the texture of products or their scent, as well as the use of 3D, are invaluable aids.
Alongside these actions that contribute to optimizing the customer experience, other techniques seek to take advantage of the cognitive biases used unconsciously by the brain; they are similar to "nudges", these incentives to activate the brain's automatisms in a predictable direction. This is the case with mentions that play on the fear of running out by emphasizing the scarcity of the remaining products, or with the descending price rankings that make the highest price the reference point from which the other prices are judged, making them unconsciously more acceptable.
These techniques, if they are not based on the actual number of products remaining or if they do not propose other methods of ranking offers, are ethically questionable: they potentially act to the detriment of the customer, contrary to the previous principles which aim to make his task easier. Moreover, they are not in the interest of companies because they risk damaging the trust that is a primordial element on the Internet.
Education, protection and ethical charter
These ethical reflections on the use of neuroscientific knowledge are essential. They involve educating employees about the potential dangers of manipulation and could be the subject of charters. Already, the free product return measures proposed by many companies are excellent means of consumer protection and a strong guarantee of a healthy and lasting relationship that successful customer experiences contribute to build.