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Why you can’t trust psychological analytics to improve your conversion rates

Why You Can’t Trust Psychological Analytics To Improve Your Conversion Rates

Why you can’t trust psychological analytics to improve your conversion rates

Psychics are just charlatans with a half-decent stage show. Those ‘mystical’ mind readers who ply their trade on downmarket cable channels all use the same set of techniques:

  • cold reading (making guesses and drawing information out of their target)
  • warm reading (using information they already had to hand from prior research)
  • time-shifting (asking questions then claiming the information came from the spirit world)

It’s a bag of tricks that appears to offer answers but actually leaves you with nothing. If you’re interested in conversion rate optimization, that should sound depressingly familiar…

Just as make-believe mystics should be facalled out for their fakery, you should reject the purveyors of so-called psychological analytics.

They promise you insights about customer behaviour drawn from a rich seam of research and mapped to the actions you see your website visitors taking every day. But their promises are hollow…

Cold reading your customers

Woman with jumper pulled up over head

Her jumper is a little too matchy-matchy. What was she thinking? (Image by Ryan McGuire)

You can observe and analyze customer behavior.

You can ask customers for their feedback.

But you can’t read customers’ minds.

That technology doesn’t exist yet and I’m not sure you’ll want to use it when it does. There’s a reason why Minority Report is set in a dystopia.

When solutions promise to let you delve directly into a visitor’s mindset, by examining no more than a subset of their behavior, they’re destined to over-promise and under-deliver.

You can tell a broken ‘submit’ button is causing visitors to drop out of a conversion process. You can’t prove that choosing a particular shade of blue is causing an outbreak of melancholy among a certain customer segment by simply reviewing sessions.

Of course, you know there are psychological triggers that encourage website visitors to take certain actions — signing up for a free trial, downloading an eBook or liking your Facebook page, for example.

What the data tells you is when those triggers are effective not why they were effective for those particular visitors.

One solution that pushes its psychology-driven approach, promises that you’ll be able to “sense whether a visitor is goal-oriented, browsing, disoriented or exhibiting a different state of mind” using its tools.

That word — “sense” — is an interesting choice. It unintentionally reveals the truth about what it’s selling — computerized cold reading dressed up as intelligent analytics.

Confusion, frustration and engagement are all behaviors that you can identify within data but they’re side-effects for a wide range of states of mind. They don’t distinguish a bad-tempered visitor from one that’s just a little bored.

Just because a solution is able to slickly move the Ouija board, doesn’t mean it’s showing you genuine messages from the world beyond.

How much do you love salad?

Beetroot and rocket salad

Yes. It’s a picture of salad. I explain why below. Stop wasting your time with this picture caption…

That’s a picture of a salad. If your mouse pointer hovers over it for an unusually long period, what do I learn from that? You might really love salad but equally you could have just wandered off or found yourself caught in a daydream, thinking of the Simpsons episode where Lisa goes vegetarian.

The way you interact with that picture of salad will produce lots of data but it honestly won’t tell me how the salad makes you feel. Not everyone agrees though; in a recent webinar, an advocate of psychological analytics actually said they could reveal a visitor’s emotional connection to salad.

If your customers feel that level of love for the humble lettuce, you’ve probably got a lot of questions that no analytics can answer.

What most solutions that purport to deliver psychological analytics are doing is akin to psychics doing warm readings. They gather up some answers then force an interpretation onto them.

You’ll find they often rely far too heavily on heatmaps or survey responses to prove some psychological effect.

But as I’ve said before: There’s no point in leaning on a heatmap just to support your existing assumptions. Solutions that claim to offer psychological analytics force you to do that: They want you to find customers exhibiting one of their pre-defined mindsets to justify them in the first place.

Insights are better than imagination

Teddy bear head and shoulders

Your website isn’t a ravenous bear. It’s more like this guy. (Image by Ryan McGuire)

We approach conversion rate optimization from a starting point of what’s really happening — a true picture of your website traffic flows — rather than some abstracted level.

Of course, your conversion processes can be extremely complex. That’s why our Customer Struggle algorithm takes into account hundreds of visitor behaviors and browser events. But you need insights that assist you in making effective changes and that’s what we focus on.

Take scroll speed and distance. Those are both factors that we take into account when measuring customer struggle but they’re appropriately weighted within the full picture of a visitor’s behavior.

Now consider the way one of mystics of psychological analytics thinks about scrolling behavior:

“[Humans] feel the need to scroll down because of our inner need to complete the shape. The source of this need lies in our sensitivity to surprises. Every pattern that deviates from what we’re used to can be a potential threat.”

Your website isn’t a hungry bear and your visitors aren’t cave-people forced into a fight or flight response.

If your visitors are scrolling erratically or just not scrolling far at all, they’re

probably confused or bored but that action alone doesn’t prove that. It certainly doesn’t tell you they’ve been struck down with existential angst.

Your time is too precious to be wasted on half-baked theories. That’s why we’ve built intelligent features like the Customer Struggle algorithm and Key Journeys that deliver valuable insights based on what your visitors are doing, not what you imagine they might be feeling.

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