Digital foragers: CRO and the primal brain

What is a digital forager? Well, the answer is you or, in fact, anybody who has ever journeyed through the internet to seek out something they want or need. If you’ve ever surfed the web before, your primal brain would have had a big say in your subconscious decision-making process by determining whether the benefit you are seeking is worth the energy, time, or financial cost of getting it.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) aims to resolve any points of friction along a website user’s journey. With a curious mind, in-depth research and strategic testing, we are able to make websites more appealing to customers – and to their primal brains!

Are you really saying I have a primal brain?

Yes! At least, in part. We may be living in the modern age, but humans’ primal brains are still catching up. You see, humans evolve slowly. Really slowly. So slowly that, although our worlds have changed dramatically since about 70,000 years ago when modern humans first appeared, one of our brain’s key roles is still to facilitate the primitive practice of foraging. This includes searching for food to improve our chances of survival.

Moreover, our primal brains influence up to 95% of our purchasing choices, and are therefore the true decision makers when it comes to our buying habits. Our experiences and behaviours of foraging in the modern consumer environment are influenced by a number of evolved subconscious factors which take place beyond our awareness or control.

So that explains why I don’t feel the need to chase down a woolly mammoth?

It’s exciting to imagine our primitive ancestors wielding spears and chasing down megafauna but less excitingly, it’s more likely that ancient diets were largely made up of foods that had been gathered, like mushrooms, nuts and berries. It’s much easier to consume enough calories to survive now (hello, convenience foods!), but we still devote a good portion of our time and effort to foraging. 

In modern times, our foraging needs are mostly fulfilled on high streets, supermarkets and through online shopping. It’s easy to imagine how we might modern-day-forage on a high street or in a supermarket. Zig zagging from shop to shop or aisle to aisle, gathering products as we go, similar to how primitive humans would have meandered around the landscape searching for tasty morsels. But how does this apply to online shopping and, more specifically, CRO?

How does this relate to CRO?

Any type of foraging requires a journey, whether that be through a forest, high street, or – in terms of digital foraging – online!

In the world of CRO, we focus on the journey, which tends to begin on a landing page and end with (hopefully) a conversion. To relate this back to humans’ primal brains, we could say that this is equivalent to the journey of gathering food for the day – from arriving on the edge of a forest to picking the ripest, juiciest berries.

Consumers will take several different paths through a website – just as primitive humans would have through a forest – and may abandon their journey along the way for various reasons, often because they deem the benefit to not be worth the cost.

Low hanging fruit

Many species weigh up the cost of seeking a benefit before they attempt to get it, including us humans. It makes evolutionary sense! The greater the perceived benefit, the higher the cost we are willing to pay – be that the cost of more time, energy, or financial costs.

Animals (including humans) take the easiest path to get to where they want to go and will always opt for the low hanging fruit, as long as its benefits are as good as that which is more difficult to reach.

Meet, Grunt…

For instance, our ancestor – let’s call them Grunt – knows where to find the best hazelnuts. They make their way there knowing that they always get a good harvest from this one particular tree. The journey there is easy – it’s a simple route with no thorns to contend with and the nuts are low on the tree so they’re easy to pick. But there’s a problem. A sabre-toothed tiger is blocking the path! Grunt can’t think of another way around the tiger and searching for another route seems like it’s too much effort, especially if there are more sabre-toothed tigers lurking in the forest. Sensibly, they decide it’s not worth continuing their journey and instead, go to look for hazelnuts in a different forest. The benefit is not worth the cost.

How does that translate into CRO?

Let’s look at an example with our modern day human, Alex, who is visiting a website that sells a pair of shoes they want to get their hands on. The website is simple, and finding their way through the menu options is easy. Having used the website before, Alex also knows that they can effortlessly use Apple Pay to make a purchase, which is also appealing. Who wants to waste energy walking upstairs to find their bank card? But there’s a problem! It’s not a sabre-toothed tiger. It’s an error message! Alex can’t seem to find another way to the page that contains the shoes they want. It’s too much effort, so they decide to look on another website because the benefit is not worth the cost.

How does this look in practice?

We see this subconscious decision being made frequently. A low conversion rate might mean that a website’s users have decided that the cost of using the website is not worth the benefit that they’re attempting to seek. Maybe their journey has been made too difficult by conflicting calls-to-action, confusing navigations or their cart items being lost right before they were ready to purchase. Unfortunately, website issues are often not always easy to identify.

How can CRO help make customer journeys more appealing?

CRO aims to research and discover anything that might be limiting conversions, keeping in mind the conscious and subconscious needs of website users along their journey. By maintaining an open mind, being well-informed and asking the right questions, CRO teams can help improve a website’s effectiveness, efficiency and customer satisfaction. This ultimately translates to a more successful foraging journey for the customer and increased conversion rates for clients!

If you’re interested in learning more about CRO and ways Croud can help you optimise your website, please get in touch with our team.

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