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Beyond Preferences: How to Appeal to the Inherent Nature of Your Customers

by: David Pyrzenski (@pyrzenski)
25 September 2014

Which image should I place in this email to maximize the odds that the recipient will click through and complete the call to action? Ever since companies started placing product images in emails, this question has been on the forefront of marketers’ minds.

A new study from the Journal of Consumer Psychology, “Show me the product, show me the model: Effect of picture type on attitudes toward advertising,” may help marketers better answer this question. It offers fascinating insights on how the way people are wired impacts whether an action/lifestyle or studio image is more attractive. And the implications for marketers are significant.

The Importance of Implicit Preferences

In a previous blog, I discussed how you can use implicit preferences to drive content selection for customers by creating affinity-based microsegments. This strategy can be further extended when considering which version of the content to use per microsegment.

Consider the case of Burt’s Bees and its various lines of products that we discussed in a recent webinar. If your customer shows a high affinity for one product line over another, how do you know that the image you show them will actually appeal to them? 

For example, if you’re the purveyor of luxury fashion accessories (watches, sunglasses, etc.) and one of your customers has shown an obvious affinity toward your watch line, should you show them a close-up, detailed picture of the watch? Or, should you show them a picture of a model wearing the watch in a desirable location/situation? Getting the answer right could mean the difference between the customer deleting your email and making a purchase.

The Psychology of Ad Preferences

In Nilüfer Z. Aydınoğlu and Luca Cian’s Journal of Consumer Psychology study, they set out to prove that “consumers with high versus low levels of domain-specific self-esteem will respond differently to marketing communications” and that the self-referencing will have an effect on their attitude toward the ad.

Testing was conducted using a conceptualized beauty product. It was hypothesized that people who have a heightened view of their own appearance would prefer ads depicting an attractive persona. Conversely, customers with a lowered view of their own appearance would generally prefer pictures of the actual product.

Aydınoğlu and Cianran ran testing based on a conceptualized teeth whitening product and were able to prove their hypothesis with statistical significance.

The Implications for Marketing

This is an exciting study that can be immediately tested and potentially implemented in your marketing campaigns using email click behavior, web tracking, scoring and dynamic content. To start, you’ll want to run some tests and programs to see if you can interpret a customer’s inherent preference.

One approach would be to use a welcome email series to help determine customer image preferences. In this scenario, you’d include two identical call to action (CTA) images in each email, positioned side by side. On the first, you can use an image of a model using or wearing a product. In the second, you can use a detailed image of the product. Repeat this design for each email, and based on which image the customer has a tendency to click, you can establish which of the two inherent preferences they have.

With the knowledge of which type of image a customer will best relate and connect to, you could then use dynamic content to provide them with communications they appreciate and drive the best possible experience, leading to stronger engagement and increased revenue.

Related Resources:

1) Blog: “Implicit Preferences: Tracking Behaviors

2) Blog: “2 Ideas for Customizing Email Content: Weather and Language Personalization

3) Ebook: “15 Post-Purchase Emails That Build Loyalty and Drive Revenue


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