lying down on table
PHOTO: Pim Chu

As a psychologist, I often think that marketing and my own profession need to spend more time together.

Psychologists are in the business of understanding people’s behavior and mental processes, and then applying those findings in efforts to solve problems in various spheres of human activity. Marketers are also in the business of understanding people — their customers — and then applying their findings to efforts in which their companies develop products and services to solve their customers’ problems. Sound familiar?

But while psychology is all about people, marketing seems to be slowly losing focus on the people aspect of the job. You only have to Google “big marketing trends” and click on the first result (which, in my case, was a Forbes article titled “12 Marketing Trends to Take Advantage of This Year”) to find that most of the trends that journalists write about aren’t really about people but about technology and new platforms available to marketers.

Understanding Customers Should Be a Priority

And, of course, while there is nothing essentially wrong with these trends, focusing on them can cause marketers to forget about the fundamentals of their profession. Understanding customers and prospects has always been the No. 1 objective for marketers. Get that bit right and your strategy and tactical execution will have much greater chances of success.

Traditionally, understanding customers involved market research that included quantitative and qualitative studies and gathering demographic data on who actually buys your products. And such insight is fantastic. Marketers can’t do their jobs properly without doing those steps first. But conducting studies and collecting demographic data is a bit like gathering information on a first date. We may find out how old people are, where they come from and, broadly, what their preferences are, but we still don’t really know them. We need to go on many more dates to really see what drives people and understand the subtleties of their body language and get some insight into the emotions that affect their behavior.

Related Article: How to Create a Unified Customer Ecommerce Journey

Body Language Analysis in the Digital Era

In the digital world, understanding customers’ emotions and body language is much more difficult than it is in face-to-face interactions, like those in retail stores. But it’s not impossible to analyze emotions online — and when you do it effectively, you start to understand your customers in a new way and adjust the ways you target them.

A new era of “experience analytics” is now upon us, where technology can measure how your digital visitors interact with your site or your app in granular detail. This type of analytics measures clicks, screen taps, hovers, scrolls and mouse movements to understand the “digital body language” that customers exhibit. Interpreting digital body language enables marketers to identify patterns and anomalies and thereby infer customer behavior, mindset and intent. And if you understand the state of mind of individual customers, you can meet their needs much more effectively.

To that end, my company, Clicktale, conducted research with 2,000 US and UK consumers who use retail sites to uncover their state of mind. The results? They’re stressed.

Stress and the Digital Shopping Experience

First of all, one of the biggest factors driving people to online shopping is stress alleviation. Our study found that 40 percent of shoppers use “retail therapy” as a way to calm down, while 74 percent of the participants said they have “stress-shopped” in the past.

So people are likely to be in a stressed state of mind when they visit a brand’s website, but often the experience that follows just exacerbates the problem. According to our research, 86 percent of shoppers experience low levels of anxiety if a voucher code doesn’t work at checkout, 83 percent find it stressful when apps freeze at checkout, and as many as 15 percent of people have actually lost their temper with an app or ecommerce site.

Given that shopping is supposed to be fun — and even relaxing — for people, these raised stress levels suggest that something is going seriously wrong when it comes to online shopping experiences. And marketers never want to see people from their target audiences leave with negative impressions of their brands.

Related Article: Great Customer Experience Starts With Operational Excellence

How to Alleviate Stress

While it may not be possible to, say, offer your digital visitors stress-relieving massages, there are steps you can take to alleviate any anxiety they may experience. The first thing you can do is identify the specific aspects of your digital experience that cause stress among your customers. According to our study, consumers’ stress levels appear to rise steadily as the shopping and checkout process proceeds, reaching a peak at the checkout stage, where shoppers may be concerned about accidentally paying twice or seeing their progress halted as the system loses track of their previous steps. You may find similar sticking points within your digital experience or identify something else that is causing anxiety.

Either way, experience analytics is fundamental when it comes to identifying consumer mindsets and emotions, such as stress. Within each customer journey and on each page, measuring people’s scrolls, taps, clicks and hovers can help you identify in-page patterns and critical junctures in customer behavior. By removing previously overlooked and seemingly minor stressors, a brand can make significant improvements to its digital experience.

After all, isn’t it true that the less stressed your audiences are, the less stress you’ll have as a marketer?