This isn’t your normal post about forecasting trends. Because, well, it doesn’t focus on the forecast. The future is unpredictable. Trends are never guaranteed. So to mitigate our susceptibility to market volatility, we need to plan our marketing strategies around transience. What’s the best way to plan for something we don’t know? Plan for something we know.
The cognitive composition of consumers is hard-wired. Our psychological heuristics have held for millions of years. So it’s safe to assume that how our brains interpret stimulus, and therefore brand marketing is relatively constant.
Planning marketing around what is fixed gives startups a determinant advantage.
Here are three psychological principles that will help your startup stand out in 2017.
Note: Three related tech trends have also been included, for the sake of clairvoyance. The psychology principles are effective regardless.
1. Instantly Gratify Your Customers.
The psychology: Instant gratification is the desire to receive what we want, when we want it. We don’t like waiting. At a biological level, we seek pleasure through satisfying needs. These needs could be physiological, social or material. When brands don’t satisfy these needs instantly, it makes consumers anxious. The faster a startup is able to meet these needs, the more favorably consumers will evaluate the brand.
The marketing application: Startups will benefit from delivering value to their customers as fast as possible. It is important to distinguish, however, that value isn’t only an end product. Information is also valuable. When customers receive instant feedback from a brand, this improves their trust with the buying process. Startups can appeal to instant gratification by including transparent product information, downloadable resources and instant communication channels.
A related trend: On-demand startups have been big since 2015. These are startups trying to disrupt verticals by delivering products and services as soon as consumers want them. Think Uber, Airbnb and Deliveroo. But these types of startups are still entering the market, which is indicative that there is still a desire for instant gratification. The latest examples in Australia include Trov (on-demand insurance), AirTasker (on-demand everyday tasks) and Vaniday (on-demand beauty).
2. Allow Your Customers To Customize.
The psychology: We pay attention to things that are directly relevant to us. Personalization increases our emotional bond with a brand because it appeals to our sense of self-identity. The act of customizing a product increases the emotional and time investment from customers. Coupled with their self-expression, this increases how much they value the product.
The marketing application: Let customers choose. Whether the startups is in retail, software or social networking, the psychology is the same. Startups should include products with a selection of add-ons, optional features and designable aesthetics. This gives consumers the experience of creating a product that is unique to themselves. The appeal to self-identity will increase their investment with your brand.
A related trend: Customization is gaining traction. Retail startups have identified the market’s appetite for creating their own products. The increasing number of brands in this space legitimizes the commercial value of giving customers creative autonomy. Australian startups now allow customers to design their own shoes at Shoes of Prey and print their own surfboards at Disrupt Surfing.
3. Promote Improved Efficiency.
The psychology: We have a tendency to “travel the road of least cognitive effort.” This suggests we are inclined to prefer decisions that are less mentally strenuous. In psychology, this relates to our automation bias and impacts what products we have a penchant for using. Brands that promote an improved efficiency for their customers, position themselves as easing this cognitive load. This will be viewed favorably by a customer’s subconscious.
The marketing application: This relates to communicating how a startup solves a pain point. Show customers that your product will make their lives easier. Startups should be explicit in their messaging and position improved efficiency as a core competitive advantage. Saving time and cognitive bandwidth are what customers value.
A related trend: AI and machine learning have been identified as leading tech trends in 2017. This technology allows companies to automate more intelligently than ever before, thus, improving the efficiency of operations. Salesforce predicts that startups will experience the cascading benefits of large companies investing in this trend. Evidence of this is Sydney-based startup Flamingo, who are preparing to list on the ASX.
Companies need to stay relevant, but there’s no prescription to achieve this. And increasingly difficult, methods that have worked in the past are often supplanted by new and more inventive strategies. This is market transience. And it is the reality of the industry. Rather than trying to fight the unpredictability of the market, startups should focus on areas that are consistent.
In 2017, build a marketing strategy around what will remain constant — consumer psychology.
Originally published on Forbes.