Kean Edwards, Experience Design Director at MediaMonks ANZ shares his perspective on how brands can improve customer experience through behavioural design in this opinion piece.
Think back on all the things you used to do a year ago that may feel so foreign now: shaking hands, trying a sip from someone’s drink, standing close together with others in a queue.
While Australia has managed to flatten the COVID-19 curve, the pandemic has made a lasting effect on behaviours around the world—changes in behaviour that have been ingrained in us, through government campaigns and brands utilising behavioural design techniques.
Consider the last time you went to a pub, where you may have seen a QR code that prompts you to place an order using your smartphone to reduce queues at the bar.
Or when ordering a meal at home, your delivery app might suggest you try contactless service. These are common examples of behavioral design—small nudges in the user experience to prompt a certain behaviour.
Often, human-centered design practitioners sought to remove friction from the customer journey, making the path to an intended action or outcome as smooth and seamless as possible.
But behavioural design introduces a positive kind of friction that motivates and supports people into making decisions that positively affect themselves or the people around them, and is becoming an increasingly important factor in forging long-term relationships with consumers who seek brands they can trust.
Why Behavioural Design Matters
Humans are irrational. But that’s okay—it’s why we turn to others, including the brands we trust, to help us learn and make decisions. And while we often don’t know why we sometimes make a decision, the good news is that people are predictably irrational.
Consider the all-too-common challenge of resisting junk food all day but then sneaking a snack at night: at the end of the day, your brain’s ability to make good decisions has worn out, making it more likely to give in to indulgences.
Effective behavioural design anticipates the biases and behaviours and nudges users towards a positive decision. Now I know what you’re thinking—behavioural design can sound exploitative. But no matter the experience, subtle changes in the way information or a choice is framed will inevitably influence the decisions that users make.
We as creatives should be conscious of the ways UX can achieve better outcomes for people to benefit from the customer experience.
Using Nudges to Fulfill Brand Promise
Behavioural design is not about manipulating people. Nor should it aim to limit the choices they can make. Instead, good behavioural design relies on nudges and non-coercive techniques.
In their book Nudge, Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein write, “to count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”
The best uses of behavioural design are rooted in trust, and today’s consumers are eager to support brands and products that they can believe in. As you begin to consider the use of behavioural design in your own products and services, think of it as the intersection of consumer insights and best-in-class UX to deliver on the brand’s promise—ideally to achieve a broad range of goals.
Pay equal attention to pointing the user toward positive outcomes and steering them away from negative ones. Family-friendly videogame developer Nintendo, for example, often reminds players to take a break after 30 minutes of gaming to limit uninterrupted screen time.
How to Identify Your Behavioural Approach
Building user personas is a great initial step in designing behavioural design principles. In addition to a standard persona whose objectives and needs are clear, you can create ones that are more data-driven and built around different mindsets and behavioural attributes.
These factors help you dig deeper into what drives your persona, helping you understand your audience even more.
Defining the goals and desired outcomes and how behavioural design can achieve them relies on understanding consumer behaviour. Free yourself from the notion that data should merely be used for targeting, gaming algorithms and conversion.
Instead, take a more holistic approach to how, where and when you apply consumer insights that point consumers to outcomes that benefit their lives and maintain their interest for months and years down the line.
When done well, behavioural design does more than simply benefit the customer experience; it can also reduce costs and market failure, much to the benefit of your business.
So, while it is common for UX practitioners to remove friction, gentle nudges can both aid users and help move the needle for brands—a powerful combination as today’s consumers seek more from the brands they engage with.