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Cover of Click.ology - Works in Online Shopping and How Your Business Can Use Consumer Psychology to Succeed

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Categories: Online Business, Retail

Why your web business might not need a charismatic leader

Leadership concept. We are sucked in by charisma, yet it can be a problem for long-term survival

The supermarket giant, Tesco, has announced today that its CEO is to leave – after only three years in the job. Philip Clarke took over from Sir Terry Leahy who was the company’s Chief Executive from 1997 having started work at Tesco in 1979. During his time at the business, Tesco went from an “also-ran” in the UK supermarket sector to becoming the second largest retailer in the world after Walmart.

Meanwhile, the football season is about to get underway where Manchester United is to get a new manager, following the departure of David Moyes after only 10 months in the job. He followed Sir Alex Ferguson who had been the team’s manager for almost 27 years taking the club to even greater success than in its history.

In both of these instances the new leaders took over from charismatic leaders and the organisations somehow didn’t quite make it to the dizzy heights previously achieved. Tesco, for instance, has issued profits warnings to the City, whereas Manchester United failed to achieve anything substantial in the year following the departure of Sir Alex. Even though great hopes were held out for the new leaders of Tesco and Manchester United, those hopes were never realised.

It is a familiar story. An organisation reaches dizzy heights thanks to the strong and determined leadership of the person at the top, only for that organisation never to be quite the same once that charismatic individual departs. Even though Apple remains a strong brand and a leading technology business, people still question its survival following the death of Steve Jobs. It doesn’t seem to be quite the same business.

Charisma is easy to achieve

Research shows that even though some people appear to be naturally charismatic, you can be taught charisma. It seems that what we describe as a “charismatic leader” is someone who merely makes significant emotional connections to us as individuals. They show empathy and emotional intelligence. They focus more on winning over our hearts than converting our minds.

That is why charismatic leaders achieve success. They get us emotionally connected to their vision and they create strong ties between us as followers and themselves as leaders. Martin Luther King did it. Gandhi did it. Jesus of Nazareth did it.

They may well have been naturally emotionally intelligent people. But there are other charismatic leaders who gained emotional connection between themselves and their followers who are not so nice. Hitler did it, for a start. And in modern times vast swathes of Russia have fallen into the emotional trap laid before them by Putin. Charismatic leaders do not always achieve positive success.

The problem with charismatic leadership

Whether you consider Putin as a negative example or Sir Terry Leahy as a positive example, the problem with charismatic leaders is what happens after they depart. The emotional connection between the followers and their leader is torn apart. The new leader does not have the same emotional tie and so the followers do not follow with the same degree of empathy and desire.

So if your business has a charismatic leader you run the risk of the company getting into trouble when that leader moves on. The followers no longer have someone to follow who creates the degree of emotional connection they are used to.

Following in footsteps

The new leaders often start their term of leadership by explaining that they are not the person everyone loved, that they cannot replace him or her and that they are different. Indeed, boards of directors often search for a replacement who is different and who “cannot possibly replace” the former leader.

And therein lies the problem. What people need as a new leader is someone EXACTLY like the departing leader – someone with massive emotional intelligence, someone who has deep empathy, someone who concentrates on hearts not minds.

In other words, your business might not need a charismatic leader if you cannot guarantee to concentrate on emotional intelligence and empathy. If your web business wants to concentrate on hard facts, don’t get a charismatic leader because you will limit your future potential when you replace them. Alternatively, you can set in train a process to ensure your business always has charismatic leaders because you focus on emotion and empathy, rather than logic. Sometimes organisations don’t do so well because they swing from charisma to logic and then back again when someone emerges with charisma to lead them again.

Either concentrate on always being a charismatically led company, or concentrate on being a logical company.

Which leaves us with one unresolved issue – how we find someone with charisma who is a positive example to take over from President Putin.

Categories: Online Business

5 Psychological Reasons for Not Blogging

Successful websites are the ones with the most frequent updates – so why do people fail to update regularly?

47398f088ac19b2ff01a53aa_640_bloggingThere is consistent evidence from across a wide range of studies conducted by a variety of different organisations which show that the frequency of adding content to your website is related to the number of visitors you get, the ranking you get in Google and the amount of money you can make from it. Wherever you look for data, it points to the same conclusion – the more you blog, the more successful your website becomes.

Yet, consistently, you find that many bloggers or businesses adding content do so only on a sporadic basis. Their argument is usually that content is only “part of their strategy”. They are providing what seems like a logical argument for only blogging occasionally. But at the same time as giving this apparent logic, they ask “how do we get more visitors, how can we get higher up the search rankings and how can we make more money from our website?”

You can show them the data which shows quite conclusively that their online problems are down to lack of content and they just go back to their “logical” argument that they already do blog, but it is “only part of their strategy”.

When people do not wish to accept the obvious, there is usually something deeper happening inside their minds, so we need to explore the psychological reasons for refusing to do what’s necessary when it is so clear.

1. Fear of failure

One of the main reasons we don’t do all sorts of things is because we fear failing. We fear failing because have previous associations with failure which have led to emotional reactions such as disappointment, guilt, regret and impacts on our self-esteem due to the way other people have related to us following failure. Because we have a mental model of failure within our brain that links it to negative emotions we have an in-built defence against doing anything which could lead to failure. Only a relatively small number people have a natural tendency to block out the mental model and perceive failure as something positive. Psychologically that can be related back to the way we were brought up as children and our personality type. Some personality types appear to be better protected against the fear of failure than others. Ultimately, though, most of us dislike failing and so we avoid doing things which might not work. When people are considering writing new blog posts their subconscious brain is filling their mind with warning signals about failure, so people tend to blog less than they might, waiting until they are more certain that their post will attract interest.

2. Lack of empathy

Empathy is the emotion where you can see things from the other person’s perspective more than from your own point of view.  Most content producers and bloggers are busy writing material from their own perspective. Indeed, blogging attracts people who want to express themselves. But expressing yourself and writing about your own world means you do not so easily see things from the visitor’s perspective. That means a blog can become completely self-indulgent, but it can also mean people put the brakes on their blogging and writing because they cannot see why anyone else would be interested. These people see things so much from their own viewpoint they are unable to tap into the thoughts and feelings of others and see how they might be interested in something. As a result, such bloggers write less because they are constantly waiting for the “right idea” to pop into their head which they are sure other people will be interested in.

3. External locus of control

The locus of control is a psychological concept which considers how people view their ability to self-determine what they do. People with an internal locus of control are those individuals who think they are responsible for everything that happens to them. However, people with an external locus of control believe they have little, if any, control over their lives and that everything that happens to them is determined by someone else. People with external locus of control fail to blog regularly because they blame other people for preventing them from doing so. “I couldn’t blog today because my boss asked me to do something else,” or “I couldn’t blog at all this week because my children were off school with a virus.” In other words, their ability to blog was hampered because of other people. It was nothing to do with themselves, at least as far as they see it.

4. Attachment problems

Attachment is an important concept in child development, yet it continues into our adult lives. Children can form a secure attachment to their parents or other care givers and develop in what you might call a well-balanced way. But they can also develop attachments which are problematic, leading to avoiding contact with adults, for instance. In adult life our childhood attachments can cause issues for our behaviour and a variety of styles of adult behaviour can be related to our childhood attachment patterns. So, adults who might avoid blogging could have a “dismissive personality”, which tends to distance themselves from issues and problems as a result of an “avoidant attachment” style in childhood.  Such individuals might well logically accept they need to blog more, but avoid the issue because regular blogging could lead to some kind of conflict with others which they wish to prevent from happening. For instance, they are worried their boss will pop in and say “goodness me, you’re not blogging again are you?”

5. Grandiose delusions

Although delusional behaviour is strictly speaking a psychological disorder, you do see elements of this in many business people. They think they are more powerful and more important than is really the case. Online, this translates itself into a sense of identity which means blogging is “beneath them”. They think they should only blog when they have something really important to say and which the world needs to sit up and take notice of. In fact, the world is interested in much less important and grand “stuff”. People who think that their business blog should only be used for grand announcements are not only misunderstanding what web content is all about, they are also exhibiting grandiose tendencies which lay behind why they only want to blog “when it is important”.

If you can understand that blogging is merely about adding content to the web which other people find interesting and that you have the ability to be in charge of your own blogging schedule, then you will be able to gain the benefits of regular blogging. It really is simple – the more you blog, the more successful you are online. If anything is preventing you from blogging regularly it might not be those other business activities that get in the way – it might be your brain.

Categories: Blogging, Internet Psychology

Once upon a time, a website grabbed a man by the throat

John sat in front of his computer unable to move. His eyes were fixed on the erotic image in front of him and his hand wobbled on his mouse as he thought he ought to click away from the page, yet he could not move. He moved gradually closer to the screen and was struggling to cope with his mixed emotions. “I shouldn’t be looking at this at work,” he thought, yet he could not stop himself gazing at the beautiful woman in front of him. He knew it was wrong, that he could be found out at any moment if someone walked by his desk, yet he was captivated by the picture.

OK – relax.

Now, if you are a man who works in an office and who has mistakenly hit upon a web page that contains something rather risqué you will have just experienced all those feelings all over again. Indeed, recent research shows us that when you read something that you can relate to personally your brain cannot tell the difference between reading it and actually experiencing it.  To your brain, they are one and the same thing.

And when we experience something we are truly and deeply engaged with it.

How to engage your web visitor

Throughout the web you can find a host of blog posts and articles all talking about “visitor engagement”. Much of it is pure tosh because many of these articles believe that engagement is measured by whether or not someone “likes” a page or how many comments are written. That’s not engagement – that’s activity, which is entirely a different thing.

Engagement is a brain process. Engagement happens when your visitor experiences something.

This research on reading shows that engagement happens when the brain cannot tell the difference between reading something and actually “being there”.

You will have been to movies or read novels where you have been transported “somewhere else”. Then you put the book down or leave the cinema only to realise you are back in the real world.

Yet how many times has that happened to you on the web…? Frankly, the vast majority of the web is boring and non-engaging.

But you can change that..

All you have to do is to write so that you give your readers an experience, something they can relate to, something that their brains think is real. It means your website needs to be written in real, everyday language, using story formats.

In other words, if you really want to engage your audience – stop producing web pages using boring, plain, business language and start having conversations with people. You know it makes sense.

Now…let’s get back to John and his picture……

Categories: Internet Psychology

It takes 10,000 hours to be a successful blogger – really?

Notepad with the word Blog written on itAre great bloggers naturally talented or can you become one?

Every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day there are 35 new blog posts published. That amounts to three million new blog posts every single day – more than a billion each year.

If each blog post were to be around the average of 400 words, that’s the equivalent of more than 17,000 novels worth of text being added to the web every day, just by bloggers. If you did nothing else, not sleep, eat or move from your computer it would take you at least 12 years to get through that lot. Is it any wonder that the vast majority of blogs get so little readership?

Indeed, there is a “long tail” of blogging readership, as is common for many other aspects of the internet. It means that only a tiny proportion of bloggers actually achieve any real degree of success, with plenty of readers.

But there could be more to their success than simply the sheer size of the competition. After all, there are millions of people in the world who play football every day, but only a relatively tiny proportion of them have made it to the World Cup (though there are some children playing footie outside today who do appear to be somewhat better than many members of the Brazil team…..!).

Could it be that those successful bloggers are just naturally talented?

Is it that they have some kind of gene that makes them good bloggers and therefore this helps them get their audience? Could you be born a blogger?

The whole debate about talent and whether it is nature or nurture has raged on and on for centuries. However, new research has suggested that there may be more to natural talent than we first imagined. Researchers from Princeton University have found that practice only makes a small contribution to success. Indeed, in some instances, the study found that practice only contributed 1% of success.

However, this study is not all it seems. The researchers themselves point out that there is a relationship with age – the earlier you start doing something, the better. Plus they say that there appears to be some role that our “working memory” plays. Working memory is that part of your memory system that holds things in place which are needed at that moment in time. So, for instance, to read this blog post your working memory needs to keep in it the words and phrases you are looking at, as well as the information from your brain’s “lexicon” which holds the meaning of these words. Otherwise you couldn’t read. Your working memory also probably has in it the physical memories required to move the mouse and scroll down the screen. Later on, all these things will be dumped from your working memory to make way for the next required elements, such as recalling the tastes of food as you peruse the menu at lunch time. In other words, your working memory provides a central repository of memories extracted from other parts of your brain to enable you to cope with the here and now.

But the mere fact that working memory is involved with the success of so-called talented people suggests that even if practice is not necessary, there is a cognitive element to their apparent brilliance, rather than a mere inborn natural ability. Research suggests that the speed of your working memory is also playing a part. And it seems that your working memory gets quicker at doing things the more times it does them. Goodness me – that’s practice….!

In other words, practice alone does not make you more able to do something, but practice which quickens your working memory does have that impact. And guess when you can speed up your working memory more easily – when you are younger. This all combines to point to one thing – practice may not make perfect, but doing something repeatedly for a long time improves your working memory and it is this more rapid working memory that is responsible for your increased ability.

The Colarado psychologist, Anders Ericsson suggested back in 1993 that if you practised something for 10,000 hours you would become good at it. His theory was popularised – incorrectly according to Ericsson – by Malcom Gladwell in his book “Outliers”.  Ericsson claims that the 10,000 hours is an average, whereas Gladwell counters that this fails to allow for “raw talent”.

But the row about 10,000 hours misses out something. It misses out the impact on your working memory’s capability of doing something repeatedly. Even if you have raw talent as a blogger, doing more blogging will make you a better blogger because your working memory has to work less hard, enabling you to think more and blog more quickly. If you are a beginning blogger with no talent, you will become a better blogger the more you post things because your working memory will cope better.

In other words, the argument about talent being nature or nurture is the wrong argument. The argument about 10,000 hours is the wrong argument.

The real argument is about how you can maximise the effect of your working memory. And the research on that shows us two things:

  1. Working memory improves the more you do something regularly
  2. Working memory improves when you start doing something younger

So what does this mean for bloggers? It means the sooner you start, the better and the more frequently you blog, the better.

You will become a better blogger the sooner you start and the more often you do it. Which reminds me….take a look at those highly successful bloggers who get the readers in spite of the online competition of those millions of words. Goodness me, just look at what similarities these “talented” bloggers share – they started a long time ago and they do it every day, sometimes more than once a day. Their cognitive abilities to blog well are finely tuned because their working memory when blogging is not clogged up with the basics of putting things together.

Practice will not make you a perfect blogger. But regular blogging will make your working memory more able to cope with blogging.

If you want to be a great blogger start today and then do it every day – your working memory will love it.

Categories: Blogging

Five psychological reasons why the M&S new website has problems

Marks and Spencer has reported falling sales – again – and the website has underperformed too

For decades M&S was THE place to go shopping in Britain. It was the darling of the High Street, until it started falling behind a decade ago amidst competition from the growing supermarkets and a new bunch of clothing retailers who were able to respond more quickly to customer requirements. The company brought in a new Chief Executive, Stuart Rose who had a formidable record in High Street retailing and he made several changes to M&S helping to re-establish it at the top of the tree, before he left in 2011.

But in the past three years the M&S star has not shone brightly. Quarter after quarter it has reported more disappointing sales and the latest results show that even its hope for rescue, a new website, was also failing to deliver.

Marks and Spencer Website Screen Shot

So what is wrong with the M&S website? It has had a fall in sales of 8% whereas the online retail sector as a whole has been celebrating sales increases of 20% or more this year. So what has M&S done wrong in spite of having spent £150m on it – yes £150m – already…!

1. It is not “me”

Online, people take fractions of seconds to decide whether or not they are “in the right place”. If the web page they land on does not match their perceptions of what they are like and what they want, then the visitors head off somewhere else. Traditional retailers are used to people taking minutes to make decisions in a bricks and mortar store. Online the decisions are made within a second – two or three if you are lucky.  So when an M&S shopper lands on their new website they expect to see that they are in the right place with imagery that says “hello you M&S shopper”. Nowadays, the average age of an M&S retail store shopper is 49 years old. So landing on a website they expect to see people like them. But what do they see when they land on the new M&S site? Yes, young lovelies — people 20 years younger than the average age of an M&S shopper. In less than a blink of an eye those M&S shoppers have clicked away, assuming they are on the wrong site.

2. It’s not M&S

One of the things that people instantly recognise in a brand is its use of colour and font. Indeed, some companies are so hung up on this essential component of branding that they have internal “brand police” preventing anyone from using an incorrect font or even just an approximation of colours. Go into an M&S High Street store and you are faced with greens, yellows and striking sans serif fonts. Visit their website and what do you see? No greens and yellows and a completely different font to what you are used to in their High Street stores or on their packaging. Even if a website visitor thinks that they could be on the right site because they want to think they are younger than they really are, there will be cognitive dissonance because the online branding does not seem to match the offline branding. Visitors could think again they are not in the right place and will click away as a result.

3. It’s the wrong country

In spite of the global nature of the web, people are still more interested in shopping locally. They want to shop from a UK site if they are in the UK. They want to shop from an Australian site if they are down under. But land on and what do you see as a bold message on the top? It clearly explains that you can get free shipping in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada. The heartland of Marks and Spencer is the UK and so British visitors will immediately think they are on the wrong site.  Confusing people with bold messages is a significant reason for lost traffic on the web.

4. It’s complicated

Online, people are used to seeing details in an instant. Take Amazon’s shop, for instance. You click on a product and you see all the details, the price, the size options, whether or not it is in stock and the review status all in one place. On the new M&S site you have to make several clicks (I counted seven clicks for one pair of jeans) in order to find out the information you need. Indeed, it is several clicks on each product before you know whether or not it is in stock. As a result the site is cumbersome and time consuming to use. One of the key psychological requirements of a good e-commerce site is subconsciously appealing to a survival instinct of doing things with the least amount of effort – convenience. This new site does not seem to achieve that.

5. It’s not Internet

Just like many other traditional retailers, M&S is frantically trying to recreate a High Street store online. Internet shoppers do it differently. The world’s leading fashion retailer online – vastly outstripping M&S – is Asos. And even though their front pages takes you to the two key departments – men or women’s fashion – the rest of the front page emphasises content. It takes you to the Asos magazine, for instance, where visitors can read about fashion. It takes you to shared images from fellow shoppers, sharing content socially using hashtags. You cannot mistake the Asos site for being web-focused, knowing that online people want to do more than shop – they want to consume content and share content. The shopping is almost a by-product of this. But go to the new M&S website and the content isn’t obvious at all, and often just an excuse to take you to a product image. Click on the “news” and there is no news to read, just a page full of products. You have to scroll through to find an article about Ben Miller. Several more clicks and a bit of hunting around menus and you can kind some recipes. But where is the interaction? The one thing that shoppers expect online is interactivity. You can add a review – which take several clicks to get to anyway – but that’s about all. It is as though M&S hasn’t realised the Internet has moved on in the past few years. Visitor expectation is now very different to what it was just two years ago.

So, five important reasons which have a subconscious impact on people that are to do with basic instincts and our need for instant recognition and understanding. Combine them with what appears to be a website trying to be a real world shop and is it any wonder that M&S is in trouble?

What do they need to put it right? Actually it probably isn’t the website that’s the issue. It could well be attitude. It is about realising that the way the web works, the way web visitors shop and the things they focus on are vastly different to what M&S is used to in its real world existence. If M&S wants its website to truly succeed, they need to set aside almost everything they know about retailing and focus instead on understanding online customers; they behave very differently. M&S needs to stop thinking like retailers. Do that and their website will succeed.

Categories: Online Business