Marketing is all about finding the trigger between ability and motivation to drive behavior.
The online retail industry is a tough place to be a marketer. Not only is your market congested with hundreds of brands trying to differentiate themselves, all firing marketing trigger messages at your dearly beloved target audience. No. That’s not the worst of it.
One of the hardest parts of being a modern retail marketer is that you have to find a way to capture the attention of unmotivated passersby and get them to act in a certain way.
It’s a tough life out there in the wild wild web. I feel you.
But I come bearing good news!
There is a way to cut through the crap so you can drive behavior. In this article, I will explain how you can effectively use marketing triggers to activate and drive purchase behavior.
And the best part yet? It’s all using empirically tested methods. In fact, the model that I will shortly introduce is among the most popular when it comes to UX, behavioral, and experience designs.
This is some Grade A content lads and lasses. Let’s jump in.
We can all give our thanks to none other than the chipper B.J. Fogg. Fogg is a behavioral scientist who has made waves in both academic and practical fields.
He was the first to show how computers can persuade people. While this seems like common knowledge to us now, he started on his persuasive technology research in 1993. How many of us even had a computer at that point?
Fogg has since shifted his focus to Behavior Design, which seeks to understand how human behavior works. His model, the Fogg Behavioral Model (FBM) can be applied in virtually every situation (as can be confirmed by anyone in my friend group, who are most certainly sick of hearing me explain why they behave the way they do - oops).
Whether you’re trying to drive behavior or change habits, this model is applicable.
It’s simple. A person needs to be motivated and able to do a task. And, most importantly, there needs to be a trigger to “remind” them to do it.
For example, last year I wanted to get myself into the gym. But, judging from my history, these kinds of commitments have always been hard to maintain. I knew I had to get over the initial barrier to make it a habit.
To set myself up for success, I decided I would use the FBM. First, to increase my motivation, I started telling anyone within my circle I wanted to start going to the gym the following week Monday. Herein playing off the “commitment/consistency” Cialdini principle.
When the day finally arrived, to increase my ability, I brought my gym stuff to work - so I didn’t have the option of going home first and sinking into the couch for the foreseeable future.
Finally, I “strategically” chose the gym that is underneath my apartment building to act as my trigger. I knew if I wanted to make it a reality, I had to have the constant reminder of walking past the gym every single day.
Following the initial workout (and nervously signing up for the one-year contract), I made sure that I signed up for classes three times a week - again milking the commitment principle. I also put dedicated gym time in my calendar to act as the recurring triggers that helped me not only to make time for it but also forced me to go at that moment.
In case you’re wondering, one year later, I haven’t missed a beat (give or take a few of those summer nights ;).
When put into a graph, it looks a little something like this. The higher the motivation and ability, the more likely the trigger will be effective. Each element is essential when it comes to driving behavior.
If you’re interested in reading more about the model in its entirety - check out this blog post for an overview on how to employ the FBM for persuasive design.
For now, we’ll focus on the marketing trigger aspect of the FBM.
Based on the FBM, Fogg defines three categories of triggers that can be applied in countless situations. For the sake of this article, we’ll set these in a marketing context.
Spark triggers can be used to activate behavior in situations when an individual is lacking in motivation but is able to complete the task.
Keep in mind, motivation is generally the most challenging element to increase, but various methods have been successful
Product badges can be used to draw attention to products that speak to the shopper’s shopping preferences or ways of self-expression. For example, shoppers who are looking for products to express their uniqueness will respond to rarity scarcity messages (e.g., limited edition).
An increasing number of web shops are implementing badges that relate to Cialdini’s 7 Persuasion Principles (social proof, scarcity, reciprocity, authority, unity, consistency, and liking).
But the opportunities don’t stop there, you can also draw inspiration from persuasion techniques such as the endowment effect, price sensitivity, reason’s why, and so on.
It’s likely that you’ve seen or used an exit intent pop up. These popups try to keep shoppers on the site by offering a discount.
Where many brands get this wrong is by triggering it after an individual has just landed on the webpage. Exit Intent pop-ups can be more effectively used when an individual shows exit behavior later in their journey.
Copy offering discounts will especially appeal to those who are sensitive for price. The extra discount can motivate them to complete their purchase with your brand rather than searching elsewhere.
Native nudges are embedded in a landing page. In the example above, the copy under the Order Summary motivates the shopper by telling them that their transaction is almost complete.
These offer motivating reasons why they should make a purchase on your site. That may be providing them with shipping information, letting them know where they are in their buyer’s journey, or any other reason why they should continue with their transaction.
Smart notifications can be a bit tricky and prone to overuse, which can be straight up annoying. But, when used effectively, they can add the needed push to activate behavior.
Tread carefully if you want to use these triggers on your web store. Our data indicate that it’s one of the more difficult persuasion techniques to execute, ending in many shoppers exiting the notification out of habit.
Now, moving off-platform, you can use social advertising triggers to attract passive shoppers who have notoriously low motivation.
Retargeting campaigns or segmented advertising can capture the attention of individuals by reminding them of relevant products that appeal to them personally.
I don’t need to tell you how big of a problem cart abandonment is. It’s been preached and pitched to death already.
So how can you get those valuable shoppers back on your site to complete their purchase? Cart abandonment emails have been proven to make a difference for shoppers who may have run out of time or got sidetracked in the middle of shopping.
Retention emails can also serve as a great way to get previous customers back on your site for a repeat purchase.
This clever example of a skin product brand was timed to arrive just when the purchased products were estimated to run out. This well-timed trigger with a small incentive can activate behavior before the individual has time to look up another webshop selling the same products.
Retention emails can also be a new line or sale announcements. Just be sure to personalize these emails to avoid losing subscribers due to irrelevant product announcements.
Aka, as a single female, I do not need to receive men or children product updates.
Ask your subscribers identifying questions when they subscribe. I promise, it makes a big difference.
A more luxury situation to be in for activating behavior is when dealing with individuals with high motivation to complete a goal but low ability. Although facilitator triggers often require more developmental work, they are generally more effective in increasing purchase behavior.
This is because making the customer journey is more fluent with fewer barriers, which can be achieved by paying particular attention to the UX.
Adding a quick shopping option on your product detail page can help your more goal-oriented shoppers buy the products they know they want. All without forcing them to go through another step to completing their transaction.
The launch of Instagram Shopping was especially newsworthy. Why? It removes the barrier of users having to search the web shop to find the products featured in Instagram posts or the hassle of updating the bio link every time a new product is featured.
Instagram users looking to investigate featured products further now have all the tools at their disposal. With the click of a button, they are provided the product prices with direct links to the product detail page to purchase the product.
If I’m honest, this shiny feature has gotten me on far too many occasions. Darn you weak self-restraint!
Could an eCommerce-related article really go by without mentioning Amazon? I think not!
But seriously, Amazon is a pioneer when it comes to making the shopping process more straightforward. The one-click checkout created a new standard of efficient shopping, leading to eCommerce platforms enabling widgets for retailers of all sizes to start using it.
Shopping wizards like HelloAva's above can help shoppers find the right product within complex or extensive product offerings. These wizards replicate the presence of a salesperson in a shop by transferring product knowledge into personalized recommendations.
Many beauty brands have invested in this technology, which has helped ease the barrier to purchase and return rates.
Similar to shopping wizards, chatbots can help guide highly motivated customers through complex product assortments.
By programming frequently asked questions, connecting it to your customer service, or offering expert advice, shoppers can get the desired information with low effort.
Recommendation systems make a significant impact on keeping people on a website. They drive traffic throughout the site by offering relevant product recommendations.
The system by Net-a-Porter is especially impressive, offering not only products that complete the look but also closely related products.
Last but not least are signal triggers. These are your typical Calls-to-Action that help shoppers complete actions that they’re already motivated and able to do.
These CTAs don’t need much explanation. I mean, without them, your site wouldn’t be capable of selling any products.
If you want to get the best results with these triggers, try experimenting with the copy, color, and location of the buttons to find the best performing combination.
Email notifications can be used to notify users when their products are available or restocked.
A final way for implementing signal triggers for your highly motivated and able shoppers is to invest in search ads or google shopping.
Those searching with precise keywords are likely to click on the first products they see that fit their needs. By showing your products' photos on the first search engine page and streamlining the shopping process, you're more likely to win those shoppers over.
The Fogg Behavioral Model can be a great source of inspiration when you need to design triggers that match your audience.
Hopefully, this guide serves as a starting point to start driving behavior on your site. Before you move on with your day, here’s a quick summary.
Triggers can be used to activate behavior by increasing a shopper’s motivation, ability, or reminding them to complete an action
Increasing motivation is the most challenging thing to do, but Spark Triggers are generally easier to implement than ability enhancing triggers
Increasing ability is easier because it involves making changes to the buyer’s journey and not the buyer’s emotions. However, Facilitator Trigger implementation can be costly.
Signal Triggers are necessary to complete any transaction, so you probably already have them on your site. This doesn’t mean the work is done, you still need to experiment to find the best visual appearance of the triggers.