Nudge marketing, or the power of small persuasive pushes

Nudge marketing, or the power of small persuasive pushes

21 November 2023 Off By Oscar Giacomin

Among the marketing techniques that can be used to guide the preferences of potential customers (of an e-commerce site, a physical store, another location, etc.), one that is highly effective and at the same time non-intrusive is “nudging,” or subtle persuasion. Nudge marketing refers to a set of communication strategies aimed at indirectly influencing individuals’ decisions through suggestions, stimuli, or hidden positive reinforcements.

It is well known that consumers are irrational and base their behavior on this irrationality to make purchasing decisions. This irrationality leads the consumer to take shortcuts to make the best decisions based on past experiences or learned knowledge in order to act quickly, preferring convenience to rationality. Nudging capitalizes on this aspect by making the shopping experience leaner and less stressful, without deceiving customers. It is not about manipulation, but rather a kind of gentle push. Nudging does not impose the absence of a choice but modifies the decision-making process so that the individual autonomously chooses the path desired by those implementing the strategy.

A common example of nudging that we all experience every time we go to the supermarket is the placement of products not on the usual shelves of the aisles, but in promotional islands or in the so-called ‘end caps’ (at the end of the aisles). In a context crowded with products like a supermarket, what is not seen cannot be chosen: off-shelf positions, in high visibility and accessibility points, are therefore gentle pushes that capture attention and stimulate the purchase of the displayed products.

Leveraging psychological aspects and impulses seems to be a key factor also in e-commerce, as they are clearly applied in this area as well. Here are the most used:

Emphasizing reviews (social proof). The product’s evaluation (positive or negative) by other buyers, the inclusion of photos, star ratings are all very important elements when making an online decision. They help to better evaluate products and are therefore effective nudges to improve the shopping experience.

Labeling products. Creating personalized labels that target the consumer’s specific needs makes navigation and purchasing choices easier. Ikea, for example, has created various labels to quickly identify desired products. Labels like ‘family’ or ‘new’ allow the site to immediately provide products in line with customer needs and for the customer to feel understood and immediately receive the offer of what they are looking for.

Providing smart notifications. These are prompts that provide a variety of information such as showing discounts/offers; conveying information about a product to make it more attractive, and suggesting related products that might fit the customer’s taste based on expressed preferences. Often, notifications also focus on the scarcity factor and the so-called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), creating a sense of urgency that prompts the customer to act quickly by showing that product stocks are limited, or the product is exclusive.

Simplifying the payment phase. No one likes the moment of payment; it’s the most stressful part of the purchasing process. Consequently, making it fast and simple psychologically predisposes positively to repeating of the shopping experience. Amazon is a master at this: with one-click checkout, default options, free shipping, and more, it alleviates the ‘pain’ of payment for the customer.

Managing cart abandonment. It may happen that a customer puts various products in the cart and then abandons the site or is about to do so. What to do? In the latter case, ‘exit-intent overlays’ can be used, i.e., pop-ups that appear when a user is about to leave the page. These can offer, for example, a discount code, promotions if you subscribe to the newsletter, or simply an invitation to complete the transaction. In the case of site abandonment and incomplete purchase, different strategies can be activated. Some involve, for example, sending emails the next day reminding the user that they have not finalized the purchase or communicating that the chosen product, still in the cart, has dropped in price and is now more convenient.

The techniques are numerous, but they all have a common denominator: the consumer as the central focus. The entire process must revolve around customer satisfaction, not increasing sales. The latter will be a direct consequence of customer satisfaction.


Oscar Giacomin  / General Manager, Facto Edizioni

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