In today’s world of info-overload and smartphone addiction, where it’s difficult to maintain someone’s attention for longer than a few minutes — have I lost you already? — it pays to understand how people think.

When you understand how people think, you don’t use the knowledge to manipulate your customers and trap them into buying something they don’t want. Rather, you use it to shape your marketing efforts so that they better suit your audience and are better able to give them what they already want, faster.

Enter cognitive biases. Cognitive biases are a set of irrational behaviour patterns we exhibit whilst believing we’re acting in a logical and rational manner. Common ones include things like the bandwagon effect, confirmation bias, and the placebo effect.

There are an endless number of ways in which we can use cognitive biases for digital marketing, and in this article we’re going to discuss three of the most important and effective to know today.

Choice-supportive bias

Choice-supportive bias or post-purchase rationalisation describes the tendency to rationalise decisions or opinions we’ve already made and favour the things we’ve already bought.

For example, you’re more likely to support the fact you bought a BMW and become a ‘BMW driver’ than realise your choice was random or irrational. Or you may be more likely to favour your android phone over an iPhone even though you hate your phone and know nothing about iPhones.

You can use the choice-supportive cognitive bias for digital marketing by supporting the decisions your customers made to choose you over other businesses. By reinforcing this choice and going out of your way to look after your customers, you greatly increase the chances they’ll stick with you and make the decision again to buy from you in the future.

The Framing Effect

The framing effect works on the idea that it’s not what you say, but how you say it. And as when selling digital products and services the words we use and the way in which we come across is everything, the framing effect is less a cognitive bias and more an essential marketing principal.

Marketers thus can be seen using the framing effect all the time. For instance, in highlighting what customers will lose out on rather than what they’ve got to gain. Or by focusing on the unique benefits of a product rather than its higher price.

To use the framing effect well, it helps to look at and approach a situation from both sides — glass half full and glass half empty. In this way, you can see which frame may come across as more appealing in any given circumstance and to a particular type of audience.

Loss Aversion

Often put to use in the framing effect, loss aversion describes how people often prefer to avoid losses than acquire the equivalent in gains. I.e. it is better to not loose £10 than to gain £10.

Loss aversion works on the basis that the fear and regret that comes from loss weighs much more heavily in our minds than the enjoyment that comes from winning. But rather than making people scared and fearful of what they have to loose in life, you can use this cognitive bias for digital marketing by making it clear that what you have to offer is an opportunity customers don’t want to lose.

For example, you may offer an unmissable discount on your service with a time limit attached to it. Or maybe there are only a certain number of your products available at this time. Or maybe you’re offering a special deal to the first X number of customers that buy. The key is to make it clear that people have much more to lose from missing out on the offer than from taking it.