Pay Attention: Understanding How Your Customers’ Brain Work #ConvCon

Pay Attention: Understanding How Your Customers’ Brain Work #ConvCon

28th November 2012

The first session of the second day at the Conversion Conference is titled Pay Attention: Understanding how your customers’ brains work. If you understand how the brain functions and treats infromation, you will be better equipted as marketeers to influence visitors when they land on a website to complete a desired goal or conversion.

There are two speakers for this session:

Rob Jackson the UK Managing Director at Elisa Interactive was moderating the session. Let’s get started.

Pay Attention: Understanding How Your Customers’ Brain Work – Stephen Pavlovich

People are irrational – and that will not change. Ever. Deeply rooted mechanisms in us have not changed in the last 20,000 years. Stephen Pavlovich will take you on a wild ride through neuroscience to understand the basic functioning of the brain and how it perceives the world. By understanding how the brain functions and treats incoming information you will be better equipped to influence your website visitors to complete your conversion action.

This talk was focused on taking a very neuro-scientific view on how the human brain functions. Many of our deeply rooted brain functions have not changed for thousands and thousands of years, therefore when designing for online means understanding these mechanisms in more detail is essential to be able to influence and persuade.

Stephen said that by reading a large amounts of the books out there, you end up focusing on the short-term solutions by actioning little tips. The conversion industry must avoid becoming an industry of ‘fiddlers’ and should look to magnify these benefits as part of a larger persuasion strategy.

Kahneman presented his way of how the human brain works in ‘Thinking, fast and slow’, saying that it is based on 2 systems:

  • System 1 – reactionary actions, often acted based on intuition
  • System 2 – slow to respond that involve reasoning

Thinking, Fast and Slow - How the Brain Works

eBay shows a great example of using persuasive techniques on a large scale, creating increased demand through competition. He even used an example of an auction from yesterday where someone paid over the odds for an Apple iPhone 5 on eBay, purely because they were embroiled in competition with others.

eBay Apple iPhone Auction

Persuasion stretches back in history for thousands of years, and many of the tactics that were just as relevant 2000 years ago still work today.

Google did a study where they asked some 90 people in Times Square what browser do you use, most answered Google (not Chrome). “We represent a far more sophisticated audience than our customers (in terms of tech)” – we must understand this when attempting to influence or persuade customers to drive conversions.


  • DeBeers are a great example of a company that have applied scarcity across their whole business, by utilising their market share they can effect the world-view on the scarcity of diamonds.
  • Facebook is another example of positioning social proof at the heart of everything that they do.


  • Basecamp do this effectively, but think of the amount of products that offer free trials online.

Sales Funnel

  • Some of the biggest increases in conversion are made through removing steps that you would normally need to do, Posterous are a great example of this – they don’t have a sign up process.
Copy, Images and Interface Elements
  • Ensure that you pay close attention to the copy and images and interface elements; these are far too commonly overlooked.
  • Copy testing is very easy to get client buy in and is very easy to test. It can be incredibly powerful in persuading those in the sales funnel.
Add Holiday Insurance to Booking Example
  • Most people in this example chose option B,  the radio button forced people to make a choice; showed a 37% increase in users taking travel insurance.

Consumer Psychology & Conversion – Gerben Langendijk

Want to gain insight into the booker’s psyche? In the second part of this session will share learnings from a workplace where business and theory meet and customers are predictably unpredictable. Using the knowledge available from psychological research in academics and within the company, from persuasion tactics to cognitive bias, tries to increase the positive consumer experience and ultimately conversion.

Gerben works for as a consumer psychologist. boast:

  • 30+ million unique visitors monthly
  • 17+ million reviews online
  • 400k room nights every day
  • 250k properties
  • 175+ countries
  • 4400 employees
  • 85+ offices worldwide
  • 1 consumer psychologist

Overall’s mission is the ‘to help travellers easily discover, book, and enjoy the best places to stay’, it is Gerben’s job to find out what customers like. visitor-booker cycle Unofficial Visitor-Booking Cycle

Beware of Attentional Blindness

Selective attention has a big place in online. Through using user journeys and testing understand that some people will have selective attention, where they are unable to see important call-to-actions like price, even when have added feature deals to results pages.

The use of scarcity can lose it’s impact, especially on travel sites where there are multiple options for hotel choices, some people may ask different questions…

Questions on Decision Making on travel sites

Decision making

Online, people have a lot of choice; often too much. Ask yourself ‘can there ever be too many options?’, the answer is most probably yes!

Too Many Options Online

Moderator variables – we have to identify who does like a lot of choice and separate these from the rest.

Loyalty or Returning Visitors

Loyalty is a form of commitment, but there are multiple forms of commitment:

  • Continuance commitment: using being I have to.
  • Affective commitment: using the brand because I like it.

Get to know your customer, but do this using multiple methods. This will allow you to personalise in a way that is not constrained by the type of people in your sample set or the environment they are interacting with your product.


Speaker Bios

If you want to find out more about the speaker, check out the below or follow them on Twitter:

Stephen Pavlovich Speak Profiel Conversion Conference London

Gerben Langendijk Speaker Profile Conversion Conference London


Written By
Ned Poulter is CEO & Founder of Pole Star Digital, a Digital Marketing Consultancy he runs alongside a number of entrepreneurial ventures. He spends his time developing and overseeing digital strategy for a number of well reputed international clients, developing creative approaches to achieving organic search results, increasing inbound traffic,...
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