Focusing Illusion: Real-Time vs Post-Experience Retention

Focusing Illusion: Real-Time vs Post-Experience Retention

In my post 10 smart ways to prevent customer churn I reviewed retention tactics that work.

In this post I want to examine retention from the audience mindset perspective and explore the ‘focusing illusion’, a behavioral bias that affects customer decision making and should influence the way you define not just what retention tactics to use, but also when to do it.

Here we go…

Topics covered in this post:

  1. The focusing illusion
  2. Audience mindset
  3. Implications for retention:
    3.1 Real-time retention
    3.2 Post-experience retention
  4. Related content [Video]

The focusing illusion

When making a decision or a judgement, people tend to over-weigh the importance of certain aspects and under-weigh others, resulting in inaccurate predictions or seemingly illogical decision-making. That is, in a nutshell, the focusing illusion.

A specific example of a focusing illusion is Daniel Kahneman’s peak-end rule:

  • Peak-end rule

Peak end rule shows that when trying to judge whether we enjoyed/hated a past experience we tend to use a simple heuristic. Specifically, our entire perception of a past experience is influenced by the most intense moment in that experience and the way it ended.

For instance, a rather boring and uneventful 1 week vacation that ended with a flight bump up to first class might be remembered much more fondly than an excitement-filled 1 week vacation that did not end with a first class flight.

  • The experiencing self and the remembering self

When the focusing illusion and the peak-end rule are taken together, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that our perception of an experience while we are experiencing it (our experiencing self) vs when we look back at it after we have experienced it (our remembering self) could be vastly different.

Our memories aren’t perfect and they are imperfect in predictable ways.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s think what the above could mean for marketing:

Audience mindset

If you read my post on how to build an audience targeting plan you likely know that I believe the audience mindset is crucial for effective marketing.

In that post I examined audience mindset from two perspectives – 1. consideration stage with regard to your offering (don’t know they need it / know they have a need but it’s not a priority / ready to buy) 2. Specific time of day in which they engage with your promotions (work hours, weekend, lunchtime, etc.).

For both cases I showed how you need to take your audience’s mindset into account because it affects both the channels you use to communicate with said audience (search, GDN, social, etc.), the type of content you share (long-from posts, videos, ads, etc.) and the messaging you choose to use (direct response CTAs or engagement CTAs for example).

Now I want to discuss a third aspect of audience mindset, this time analyzing it from the focus illusion perspective.

As has been established by Kahneman et. al (for more on this, please check out Kahneman’s Ted talk, linked below), consumers experiencing selves and remembering selves differ in how they judge your offering and what they value.

For instance, it may very well be that while customers are using your platform/ product/ service, what they care about is that it works smoothly, intuitively and that it’s multitude of available features lead to a highly engaging experience, but after they finished using it and reminisce about their experience (when they’re considering whether to use it again), they might mainly remember how quickly they achieved their goal (time lapsed until they got the value your product/service promised them) or how good/terrible the customer support was when they needed assistance.

Practically speaking, what does this difference in judgement within the same user mean for your retention efforts?

Let’s break it down:

Implications for retention

Given that the same user’s experiencing self and remembering self may differ in what they value, retention efforts should be divided into real-time retention for active customers (those in experiencing self mode) and post-experience retention for existing customers who aren’t currently using your product (in remembering self mode).

  • Real-time retention

In order to improve the experience of a user while that person is currently engaged with your offering (through emails, notifications, in-product chat, etc.), you’ll want to first test to find out what the most important values you provide to audiences in the experiencing self mode are (do they really put higher value on intuitive UI vs fast execution for example) and tailor your real-time messaging (as well as your product flow, if relevant), to emphasize those things.

  • Post-experience retention

In order to improve retention of users who aren’t engaged with your product right now you need to test and find out what the most important aspect of your offering for customers in the remembering self mode are.

For example, if you find that speed is extremely important when remembering the experience with your product, consider either simplifying and shortening the process until users complete a usage/purchase cycle or influencing their perception of time (for a SAS product, adding progress bars makes the process seem faster for example).

In essence, the focusing illusion perspective on marketing to the audience mindset deals with optimizing the retention interactions (channel, targeting, content type and messaging) as well as the product/service user experience to the ‘self’ mode of your audience.

To sum up, retention is hard, there are many factors that could cause your customers to churn and their are many tactics you could use to prevent said churn and elongate the time customers engage with your offering. Taking into account the audience mindset, and specifically the aspects they deem valuable in real time vs those that matter most to them post-experience, will make it much easier to understand what retention initiatives to deploy in order to achieve maximum impact and, just as important, when to do it.

The riddle of experience vs. memory / Daniel Kahneman

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