Conscious vs Subconscious Decision Making
We all believe we make conscious decisions every day.
The power and influence of the subconscious is often overlooked and we often fail to see the impact it has.
How many times have you made a decision in the moment?
How many times have you simply made a decision based on “Gut” feel?
Do you remember actually thinking and processing options and alternatives in that moment or before you “felt” the right decision to make?
Do you remember thinking it through and whether it was assisting you in achieving a goal?
The subconscious is a very powerful influence in our day to day lives. It is always processing options and collecting information based on innate factors coded over years of evolution. We live in our internal mind and external world with this constant ingestion and consideration of inputs with a mind ever prepared for fight or flight. It is how we have survived and thrived for millions of years. It simply isn’t something we can change, it isn’t something a business can change and it isn’t something a technology can change.
What does the subconscious mind and evolution have to do with digital?
Our interaction with digital technology and the general online world we now live in is constantly being assessed and interpreted by our subconscious. It greatly influences our consumption, our behaviors and our actions. Add complexity to the outcomes and behaviors by adding in hormones, particularly dopamine.
The Dopamine Effect
How do you feel when someone likes, comments or shares your posts, links or content?
How do you feel when your mobile devices or local email client offers a sound to let you know an email has arrived?
Let us be honest here, whether you realize it or not, the mind has registered the sound and signaled the body to react and see who has reached out to you. It’s up to you to decide if you consciously reacted or those embedded genes kicked in.
The subconscious mind knows that the action might lead to a reward (satisfaction, happiness, contentment or the like). The moment you go to open the email it releases a bit of dopamine because, well, it is going to reward you for checking your mobile device or email client to see who reached out to you in hopes of creating the feeling.
This action and behavior can be considered achieving or attaining a goal.
The subconscious and conscious mind are wired for goal attainment.
The mind rewards us with hormones that generate a good feeling to confirm the outcome was positive and that we should do it again or move to achieve another goal.
When we cannot achieve our goal, frustration ensues and we don’t get that reward.
Where does that leave us?
What happens next?
We don’t want to interact or participate in something that makes us unhappy, frustrated, depressed or angry. We avoid it or have great apprehension if we need to make another attempt.
We then often share our feelings and experience with others. Why? Because we tend to like to share negative experiences as a survivalist bonding experience. Think about conversations focused on the weather. Are we ever sharing we are happy? Or do we share that it is too hot, too cold or too windy? If you live in the DC area like I do, I am sure you can relate.
Despite wanting fodder to share and “complain” about, we seek other ways to achieve goals that have positive experiences and outcomes. We want the dopamine because it makes us happy and content.
If your company was responsible for the negative feelings given a poor and frustrating digital experience, well, you lost a customer and the revenue that could have been your reward.
What if they were a prospect customer?
You lost them in the funnel before conversion and lost the possible sale. The kicker is that you lost a prospect customer without even knowing who that person was.
Due to the self-service expectation and nature of digital, you lost ability to impact and interact with that prospect customer and didn’t even know it.
The prospect customer is now highly frustrated and is ever ready to share the experience and feelings with others around them. The sharing may now be amplified ten or even a hundred fold as others hear of the experience. They might be your current customers or other prospects that are now walking around with the knowledge that their family member, friend or peer had a negative experience with you.
Like all humans, those current or prospect customers want to achieve goals (purchase a product, subscribe to a service, gain information) and get the reward of a positive feeling. If that is not what you are delivering, they are going to go elsewhere.
Your digital experiences and offerings must be at a level of quality that ensures your current and prospect customers are able to achieve goals and create that dopamine burst that leads to happiness and satisfaction.
How do you step up and ensure you are at the level of quality that is necessary for positive goal attainment and reward?
The Value of Behavioral Data
The first step is understanding the experience and behaviors of your current and prospect customers. A company needs to begin collecting and analyzing behavioral data along with the traditional transactional data.
Behavioral data is the clicks, views, interactions, the path they take, the content they consume and other ways current or prospect customers engage with your digital sites and properties. The behavior occurs in the top and middle of the funnel and is often overlooked except where conversion to purchase has occurred (transactional data). Those that converted survived, those that didn’t left. Both classes of user are carrying the negative feelings around and ready to share.
The behavioral data can enable you to see frustration points, funnel leaks or experience abandonment. The behavioral data’s value isn’t subject to bias as is survey or other forms of collected opinion data.
The behavioral data correlates and demonstrates the subconscious decision-making which is something that isn’t readily available or explainable in a survey response.
Its real and tells you where you need to make adjustments to ensure your current and prospect customers can achieve their goals and get their reward.
Your reward for aiding them in achieving their goal is of course positive word of mouth and revenue. See you can get that dopamine burst too!
How to Collect Behavioral Data?
Companies should be using some form of a digital analytics tool joined with a marketing automation platform or solution that bridges the collection of objective (transactional) and behavioral data.
It isn’t enough to simply be collecting this data, you need to do something with it, like conduct reviews and analysis to identify the challenges and interruptions to goal attainment.
Companies can also explore video or similar solutions that record and capture how a current or prospect customer moves through the digital properties or sites down to shaking mouse pointers. The captured behaviors can demonstrate where they may be hesitating or experiencing a challenge.
These additional capture tools can be leveraged against the behavioral data and lead to a true connection between specific customers and their interactions with you.
The next step is to review your customer journey map, if you don’t have one, create it and use it to compare the journey you expect your customers to have and the experience they are actually having on your sites and digital properties.
Because we are human and all unique, the behavioral data can demonstrate the quantity of current or prospect customers having challenges and allow you to prioritize what you need to adjust or change first.
The capture and incorporation of behavioral data isn’t challenging. Technology has made it fairly simply. Your challenge is taking the time to understand it and take action.
It is your imperative if you want to continue to generate growth in your marketplace and in keeping your current and prospect customers happy in the pursuit of their goals.
Remember, we walk around every day with our subconscious making decisions for us as we seek to accomplish our goals and get that short burst of dopamine. Help your current or prospect customer get that short burst from their interactions with you. Start capturing and reviewing behavioral data and protect your revenue and the word of mouth about your company, its brand and its products.
If you are interested in learning more about conscious and subconscious decision making and goal attainment, please explore recently published research in the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing Research: Exploring the differences between conscious and subconscious goal attainment.
If you want to read more about human behaviors and the correlation to digital, please see my human behaviors blog post.
And please continue reading with the second post in this series: What is Behavioral Data?
As always, we are here to help you on your digital journey. Contact us today.