Why do people buy things? Sounds a simple question. In the copywriting world, you’re taught to use a combination of aspiration, emotion and logic to secure a purchase. But there can also be subconscious irrational reasons at play.
Over the last decade ‘behavioural economics’ has grown in popularity as a way of identifying the irrational reasons behind buying decisions. These are reasons that fly in the face of commonsense or logic, and aren’t recognised in classic economic theory.
After identifying what these irrational triggers are, behavioural economics aims to use them as a way of influencing how people behave and nudgethem towards taking action.
A popular book on the concept, ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness’, is believed to be required reading in UK government circles, and Obama is believed to use its principles to guide his reforms.
So maybe there’s something in it for us copywriters¦
4 key principles of behavioural economics you can weave into your copywriting
1. Price context/framing
People will gauge the value of something based on the other options available.
Restaurants will stock an exceptionally expensive bottle of wine because it increases the sales of the next bottle down by making it will feel as though youâ€™re splashing out without going overboard. Similarly, the second cheapest can be a top seller because it feels like youâ€™re saving money without being like a cheapskate.
Another great example of price framing is the supermarket chain M&Sâ€™s â€˜Dine in for 2 for Â£10â€™. This positions the range as an alternative to eating out in a restaurant, thus subconsciously raising its value.
2. Fewer choices makes it easier to buy
In an experiment, one shop sold 24 types of jam whilst another sold 6. The shop selling 6 jams outsold the other shop by 5 times. Why? Because if you give people too many options it makes it harder for them to make a decision. It simply increases the variables in play and the potential objections to each choice.
3. Power of the default option
When you give people an automatic default option it gives them a sense of ownership. It feels like something they already have. The sense of loss people feel from giving up that option is stronger than the sense of gain. So if thereâ€™s a particular option you want to direct people towards buying, set it as a default.
4. Make the cost less painful with delayed payment
This is a trick retailers of high price products, like sofas and high end TVs, have used for decades. Offering delayed payment reduces the pain people feel at the point of purchase. They donâ€™t feel the sense of loss of money being sucked from their bank account at that moment. Delaying payment softens the sting and makes it easier for people to say â€˜yesâ€™.