The last time you bought a product online, you probably went through a logical analysis of alternative products, prices, features, and so on. And perhaps you really did. Research shows, however, that we are actually far from rational when we buy stuff online – a fact that no doubt that comes as little suprise to Neuromarketing readers. In fact, the order of presentation can be a huge factor in our final decision.
Research by Alexander Felfernig et al (Persuasive Recommendation: Serial Position Effects in Knowledge-Based Recommender Systems) tested web buying behavior of outdoor tents by presenting buyers with four choices arranged in a horizontal row. Each tent had unique characteristics. The researchers varied the order of presentation for each buyer so that they could evaluate the effect of the order of presentation. (A mention in Neuro Web Design led me to this research.)
In a truly startling result, the first choice presented was chosen 2.5 times more often than any other. Despite the fact that the tents varied in their shape, their degree of waterproofing, and other presumably important characteristics, the order of presentation was by far the most critical variable in the selection process. How’s that for logical decision-making?
Naturally, the subjects were all able to rationalize their irrational decision – they chose the best value, the most waterproof, and so on. As is typical when our conscious brains try to explain why we do things, the reasons are seemingly convincing even if mostly bogus.
What does this mean from a practical web site design standpoint? Well, for one, you could put the product you’d most like to sell in front of the others. Perhaps it’s your most profitable product, or the one in which you hold the most inventory.
From a more customer-oriented standpoint, I’d recommend putting your most attractive product up front – the one which offers the best combination of value and performance, for example. This should maximize the chance of an order actually being placed, and should also be the most likely to create a good customer experience (and repeat orders).