Web Morphing Holds Promise for Influencing Purchase Behavior

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AMS Voices Summer 2009 newsletter features an article by Bob Klein, President of AMS, on web morphing, or customizing a web page to a viewer's cognitive style. The article expands on recent research published in the Summer 2009 MIT Sloan Management Review by Professors Glen Urban, John Hauser, Gui Liberali, Michael Braun and Fareena Sultan, which demonstrated that web-originated purchases of telecommunications equipment increased by as much as 20% after morphing the site to match an individual's cognitive style -- whether it be analytical, holistic, or somewhere in-between.

AMS Voices Summer 2009 newsletter features an article by Bob Klein, President of AMS, on web morphing, or customizing a web page to a viewer's cognitive style. The article discusses recent research published in the Summer 2009 MIT Sloan Management Review by Professors Glen Urban, John Hauser, Gui Liberali, Michael Braun and Fareena Sultan, which demonstrated that web-originated purchases of telecommunications equipment increased by as much as 20% after morphing the site to match an individual's cognitive style.

For example, analytical or deliberative thinkers typically dissect messages into component pieces, while more holistic or impulsive thinkers tend to review information more quickly and react instinctively. These differences may be reflected in pages ranging from complex and text-heavy approaches for more analytical thinkers, who need to absorb large quantities of information before taking action, to very visual sites with large open spaces and simple directives for more holistic thinkers. Based on a user's first few clicks through the site, the website can instantly "morph" into the format that best fits the user's cognitive style.

AMS is now working with a team from MIT on a study that implements a simple form of web morphing to increase sales of loan cards for a large Japanese bank. Since research has shown that Japanese consumers can vary from being very hierarchical to very egalitarian in their social beliefs, the website morphs to reflect these differences in the terminology presented to each user- for example, some bank personnel were deemed "advisors;" others were "peers." Other variables included in the study were color choice, word choice, page complexity, and level of personalization.

According to the MIT research, there are a number of simple steps companies can take to start to apply these principles to their own websites, including:

  • Developing website navigation paths that coincide with the web team's own styles
  • Designing home pages with options that help identify the cognitive style of each visitor
  • Undertaking a priming study to identify click patterns among different types of users
  • Programming the site to reflect these cognitive styles and determine the best morph for each
  • Measuring results of your changes and making further modifications as indicated

About Applied Marketing Science:
Applied Marketing Science, co-founded with MIT Professor John Hauser, is one of the leading Voice of the Customer consulting companies in the world, with proven methodologies for gathering the Voice of the Customer, training and coaching clients in VOC methods, and brainstorming using state-of-the-art, web-based tools. Over the past twenty years, we have helped hundreds of clients in a broad range of industries incorporate "best practices" into their product development processes. Founded in 1989 with roots in the MIT Sloan School, AMS offers an array of services to meet client needs, and specializes in developing customized solutions for each situation.

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Michelle Harris
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