Marketing Science experiment finds that online conversions increased by 573% & sharing of brand creative in social networks by 600% using behavioural science.

Abstract

StoryScience worked with The O2 to use Marketing Science to help them answer their biggest marketing question/challenge: “How to improve digital marketing effectiveness and increase online event ticket sales without increasing media spend?” We conducted a ‘behavioural audit’ which involved analysing the brands creative on social media and their ecommerce platform to understand what psychological, emotional and brand content factors positively affected shareability and conversions.

Behavioural principles (from the field of behavioural economics) were found to have the greatest positive impact on the effectiveness of the brands creative. In some cases delivering up to 600% above the average increase in social sharing and 573% above the average increase in online conversions.

Introduction

Working with The O2, the world’s most popular entertainment destination (including an arena, music club, cinema, exhibition space, bars, and restaurants), we were engaged to help them answer their biggest marketing question “How to improve digital marketing effectiveness and increase online event ticket sales without increasing media spend?”

Taking a scientific approach beyond industry best practice, we distilled the big question into testable hypotheses. We’ve listed those that fall outside the basic considerations (such as content length, format and subject matter) below for your reference.

Hypothesis 1 (H1) = Building online behavioural principles into creative will drive higher than average sharing.

Hypothesis 2 (H2) = Building online behavioural principles into creative will drive higher than average conversions.

Hypothesis 3 (H3) = the more online behavioural principles that are built into the creative the greater the sharing.

Hypothesis 4 (H4) = the more online behavioural principles that are built into the creative the greater the conversions.

Hypothesis 5 (H5) = Content stimulating positive emotions such as happy, excited and amused would drive higher than average sharing on social.

Hypothesis 6 (H6) = Content stimulating sentiment neutral emotions such as thoughtfulness and envious would drive higher than average online conversions.

To provide further clarity, we’ve included project specific definitions of key concepts below.

  • Content sharing- The behaviour of online social media users resulting in brand creative being shared to their personal networks.
  • Conversions- The online consumer behaviour resulting in the completion of marketing goals.
  • Social Media- Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.
  • Online Behavioural Principles- The application of psychological & behavioural economic insights to trigger behaviours leading to commercial outcomes.


Method

An experiment was designed to test the aforementioned six hypotheses. The audience profile of the experiment mirrored the clients target audience persona. 18 – 25 year old consumers of all gender identifications who resided in southern UK cities, towns and villages.

To carry out a behavioural audit we needed to first analyse the creative content and audience behaviour to determine the key factors that affected shareability and online conversions. We discovered these were:

Behavioural principles – The application of psychological insights from the field of behavioural economics. In basic terms behavioural principles are mental shortcuts (based on our preferences, beliefs and evolutionary programming) that the brain uses to save energy and/or make our thinking and decision-making faster and more efficient.

Some examples include:

  • Affect Heuristic – Consumers attention is drawn to content that comes attached with emotion.
  • Information Overload – Presenting the consumer with too much information can result in choice deferral and generally feeling overwhelmed.
  • Universal Values – Consumers give greater importance to content that reflects psychological values that they embrace e.g. hedonism or conformity.
  • Empathy – Consumers respond with emotions similar to those that are portrayed in the creative.


Emotional states
– The emotional state that the consumer was in during the discovery and consumption of the creative. This was self-reported through an analytics tool added to the clients website which gave users the opportunity to self-report their emotional state.

Personal preferences – Content preferences focused on the type of content and included things such as:

  • The media (text, image or video)
  • Length of the content
  • Subject matter e.g. artist (hedonic i.e. provides entertainment) or venue (utilitarian i.e. provides practical information about navigating the venue).


For the sake of keeping this report as interesting as possible we’ve omitted these factors.

Understanding the most important factors influencing shareability and online conversions, we developed the hypotheses listed above in the Introduction section.

The next phase saw us auditing a representative sample of the client’s social media creative. This included content living on their blog that was shared to social media and content that was designed for and lived on social media.

The content was analysed and tagged using the three factors mentioned above (personal preferences has been omitted for editorial purposes). Supporting datasets included post performance data from the social networks, website visitor and conversion data from Google analytics (including tracking codes), and self reported emotional data from a third party technology provider.

Results

H1 = Building online behavioural principles into creative will drive higher than average sharing.

This hypothesis was supported. The top three most shared content posts included three behavioural principles. These were Affect Heuristic, Information Overload, and Empathy. The most shared content achieved a rate 600% higher than the average. This was closely followed by the second most shared content, which achieved a rate of 516% above average. The third most shared content achieved a rate of 443% above average.

H2 = Building online behavioural principles into creative will drive higher than average conversions.

This hypothesis was supported. The top three most shared content posts included three behavioural principles. These were Affect Heuristic, Information Overload and Values. The content that drove the highest above average conversion reached a rate of 573%. This was closely followed by the second highest converting content post, which achieved a rate of 382%. Finally, the third highest converting content post achieved a rate of 268% above average.

H3 = The more online behavioural principles that are built into the creative the greater the sharing.

This hypothesis was supported. We observed a 185% increase in sharing between content posts expressing 3-4 principles compare to those expressing 1-2. We also observed a further 101% increase in sharing when the number of principles expressed rose to 5-6 (this was the highest number of principles expressed in this experiment).

H4 = The more online behavioural principles that are built into the creative the greater the conversions.

This hypothesis was not supported. We observed conversions plateauing on content posts that expressed 3-4 behavioural principles. Beyond this, there were no significant performance improvements. It is worth pointing out that the difference between content expressing 1-2 principles versus 3-4 (the plateau points) was significant with a further 150% increase.

H5 = Content stimulating positive emotions such as happy, excited and amused would drive higher than average sharing on social.

The hypothesis was not supported. Content that stimulated thoughtfulness drove a 19% above average increase in sharing.

H6 = Content stimulating sentiment neutral emotions such as thoughtfulness and envy would drive higher than average online conversions.

The hypothesis was not supported. Content stimulating excitement drove 19% higher than average conversions whilst content stimulating happiness converted 14% above average.

Conclusion

The results of H1 and H2 demonstrate significant increases in both key performance metrics of sharing and conversions. It is recommended that behavioural principles be applied to creative content. Content posts including behavioural principles reached a sharing rate of 600% above average and a conversion rate of 573% above average. It was also interesting to observe that certain principles played a role in both sharing and conversions. Specifically, Affect Heuristic and Information Overload. The addition of storytelling that activates the empathetic system (empathy) drove sharing behaviour. Whereas, when this was replaced with shared values (specifically hedonism and stimulation) it led to greater conversions.

The results of H3 (supported) and H4 (not supported) demonstrate a correlation between volume of behavioural principles per asset and an increase in sharing and conversion performance. However, it was observed that the number of principles driving conversion plateaued at 3-4 within any given asset. 

The results of H5 and H6 suggest that the audience share content that makes them think (thoughtfulness) which they use as social currency to make them appear knowledgeable on the subject matter. However, highly evocative content that stimulates strong positive emotions (excitement and happiness) drove above average conversion rates.

How can marketers apply these findings?

These findings demonstrate that individual behavioural principles (and combinations of two or more) can illicit different consumer behaviours at varying stages of the customer journey. For example some principles are more likely to nudge the consumer towards sharing content and others are more likely to drive purchase behaviour. The findings act as a business case for applying behavioural principles and evocative content to brand creative.

StoryScience is the UK’s first scientific strategic creative agency. Moving away from the traditional opinion-led approach, StoryScience’s guiding purpose is to pioneer scientific creative and deliver brand magic that audiences want and the results clients need. We deliver creative and strategic marketing solutions underpinned by scientific creative thinking. In short, we use science to create brand magic.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you improve your marketing effectiveness without increasing your media spend. https://www.storyscience.co.uk/contact-us/



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