The online world offers consumers an endless array of products and services from an even higher number of providers. How can you as a provider make a positive impression, despite the flood of information that consumers are confronted with? Why not learn some lessons from a famous psychological experiment?
The Milgram Experiment
The Milgram experiment (1961) is one of the most controversial psychological experiments ever. Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University, showed that 65 percent of perfectly normal test subjects were apparently willing to administer deadly electric shocks to a (supposed) fellow test subject. Why, you ask? Because an authority figure in the form of a researcher wearing a white lab coat told them to do it. And they did as they were told.
To be fair, there’s been a lot of criticism over this bizarre experiment, and the conclusions may be somewhat questionable. This story by Rutger Bregman gives a little food for thought, at least, and it’s also very fun to read. But the principle behind the experiment is visible everywhere we look. It’s called the “authority bias.”
What the authority bias means is that we are all more easily influenced in our decision-making by people or groups who we see as experts. This authority bias can be used for the wrong purposes, but in the digital world it can also be the key to making complex decisions. Let’s take the world of investment banking as an example. This is an ever-changing market with a wide range of complex options for consumers to choose from, with relatively high amounts of money at stake.
Carrying out your role as an expert is extremely important in markets like this if you want to get consumers across the finish line and convince them to entrust you with their savings. This article shows you some inspiring examples of practices used in the world of investment experts that you can apply to your own industry and customer journeys.
Online customer experience survey of nine leading investment banks
In June 2020, WUA conducted an online customer experience study among nine leading investment banks in the Netherlands: Centraal Beheer, ING, ABNAMRO, DEGIRO, Rabobank, SNSBank, Robeco, ASNBank and Binck.nl. Four hundred consumers were asked to view a random selection of four of these sites on both desktop and smartphone, and to search for an investment account. One of the results? Centraal Beheer led the pack when it came to expertise-related questions, while Robeco scores high on brand and was the top-scorer overall in the study.
What lessons can we learn from the high scores of both Centraal Beheer and Robeco if we look at how they perform their all-important expert role?
1. Emphasize your extensive experience in the industry
Your organization’s long history is a convincing way to show your experience. For consumers, the logic is: “If this company has managed to stay afloat all these years, it’s probably a sign that they are successful at investing.” In an online webinar, the Dutch authors of the book Online Influence (Online Invloed) Joris Groen and Bas Wouters refer to the successful A/B test case of Kookwinkel.nl: by simply showing the year in which the company was founded on their homepage (“Since 1821”), Kookwinkel.nl already raised its conversion by 9 percent! In other words, showing your company’s founding year or the number of years your investment bank has been in business in the industry is a simple, but extremely powerful message about your expertise.
Robeco managed to tie for first place in the WUA survey of investment banks when it came to evoking a positive feeling among consumers (score: 68/100). Any consumer can see from looking at the Robeco website that this is a company that has “earned its stripes.” That’s because Robeco broadcasts its “90 years” of investing experience consistently throughout its website. It is one of the first USPs that the consumers see and it directly sets a tone of experience and expertise. Robeco backs up their experience even more by prominently displaying its founding year (“Anno 1929”).
2. Use visuals to show that you are an expert
Humans are visual-focused. So, it’s no surprise that we can process visual content 60,000 times faster than text. This makes images and videos the most effective way to clearly showcase your expertise. It’s important to use plenty of visual content and to ensure that this content visualizes your expertise so that this is clear to the consumer from their first experience with your website on.
Centraal Beheer scored highest of all nine providers when it came to trust (74). They use visual content effectively by focusing on two in-house experts: Aart and Jeroen. They are shown at the top of the investment page wearing business clothes and a smile. This clearly signals their position of authority, without losing the human touch. Just like the white lab coat was enough to turn the researcher into an all-knowing authority figure, a nice shirt and a tidy look can also show the consumer that you are an expert.
The video also picks back up on the theme of the expertise of Aart and Jeroen (and, thus, Centraal Beheer). In a series of short fragments, they speak to the consumer about how Centraal Beheer takes care of everything: “You don’t have to watch the markets every day. We do that for you.” This turns Aart and Jeroen into a symbol for the expertise that Centraal Beheer has to offer.
3. Provide valuable information from your expert point of view
Uncertainty plays an important role in choosing a provider. That’s because it’s often a difficult and time-consuming process for consumers to thoroughly research a complex market like the investment banking industry. This is time and energy that consumers don’t always have to spend. By showing your expertise and knowledge of the market, you can take away this uncertainty and increase your success as a provider.
In addition to the high degree of trust that Centraal Beheer instills, it also scores highest on expertise among all the providers (76). They do this by successfully casting any uncertainty out of the consumer’s mind. Centraal Beheer gives consumers the option of receiving valuable information in the form of monthly reports on their investment fund (see the image below). These updates give investment fund experts (Aart and Jeroen, we’re looking at you) a compact analysis of market developments, so that the consumer can easily understand all this information at a glance. That gives the consumer a lot of information about their investment fund and the market, all in just a few clicks, which makes them feel less uncertain and raises the expert profile of Centraal Beheer.
Conclusion: Show that you are the expert the consumer is looking for.
In uncertain times, people need an authority figure to show them the way. This is essential for consumers in the complex investment banking market, but it also applies for other (online) markets with a broad product range. How does the customer know that they are making the right choice? By convincing the customer that you are an expert in your field, you can effectively help them feel less uncertain.
Major investment banks like Centraal Beheer and Robeco do this by showing their expertise. The emphasize they long-time experience in the field, show images and videos of experts and provide valuable information in easy-to-digest portions. Assuming an expert position in ways like these are crucial methods for casting off doubt and winning customers over to your company. It’s a winning strategy for raising your conversion rate.