thinking

Uncovering user needs through behavioural experiments

How well do you know your audience? Experimenting with your ideas and existing knowledge is the best way to get into your users’ digital mindset.

How can you be sure of what your audience expects from you? More than that, how can you tell that your target audience will be really excited and satisfied about a new service or product? Experimenting with your ideas and testing your existing knowledge may be the only way to know how to truly fulfil user needs.

We all have opinions on what we think or believe will work. But behavioural science has taught us that people differ in their perceptual and processing preferences and that people don’t always behave in the way you would rationally expect them to. Even more, very often they don’t behave in the way they expect themselves to. They say this will act in one way, but in fact, act in another way entirely.

Things are getting even more complicated when the discussion comes to the digital world. Shlomo Benartzi’s studies into digital behaviour have shown us how the cues, frames, and nudges that influence our choices on screens are drastically different from the ones that work in the analogue world. Visual biases play a significant role in the online behaviour, affecting the way we look for information and make decisions.

Earlier this year we worked with Catalyst Housing on an experiment using their “report antisocial behaviour” form to try to increase the quality of data provided by their users and to reassure users that Catalyst were dealing with the problem. Better data means that the team are better able to deal with problems and resolve them with minimal additional contact with the customer.

We tested variants of the online form based on different psychological principles and measured users’ trust and problem-solving skills through survey questions as well as the data they provided in the forms. The experiment showed surprising results, particularly with regard to the way that customers of different tenure types responded to the different forms. These insights have informed the way that Catalyst deal with their customers, design services, and how they seek to elicit better information from users online.

We are also currently working with ŠKODA to test whether behavioural science can be used to prompt choice and get significantly more people to request a test drive. We ran a multivariate test in which we altered marketing messages according to different behavioural principles to test which of these would be the most effective. We are still analysing the results, but so far they look to yield some exciting insights.

Testing is the best way to discover what really influences behaviour. It can provide you a wealth of feedback on what really motivates people and you can use this knowledge to further improve your services and products.

Here’s a few steps that you can take in order to test your ideas against user needs:

Review some insights from behavioural science. It’s likely there’s already research that has been done that can inform your thinking, and help you to conduct a test. Conduct an experiment to test and trial the different ideas and interventions in order to determine which of these are going to have the biggest impact. Analyse your results using statistical techniques that can provide you with robust scientific evidence of what people think –that’s how you can support your ideas. Learn more about what motivates different people in different contexts. Refine your ideas and services to make sure that they reflect your experimental findings.

Here, at Reading Room we apply the latest research on behavioural science and we use randomised controlled trials (RCT) to improve our understanding of what really works for people. If you"re interested in testing your ideas, please get in touch! We’d love to help you.

Written by Dr. Chryssa Stefanidou, Behavioural Scientist

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