Follow the breadcrumbs: Leveraging Behavioural Science to create unique CX in e-commerce

This article was written by Richard Bordenave, CEO of BVA Nudge Consulting Singapore and Divya Radhakrishnan, an Applied Behavioural Scientist who works at the intersection of design, user research and behavioural science to build products that leverage behavioural biases, encourage behaviour change and deliver measurable impact.

The application of Behavioural Science beyond academic pursuit is critical to its success and relevance over time. Gaining a community of behavioural science fans contributes significantly to establishing the domain and ensuring that future users see its benefits. The NOW Fest, which took place over 10th and 11th December 2021, brought together many fans and practitioners of the field. We were fortunate enough to interview two e-commerce experts from Big Basket India and Sastodeal Nepal, who have kindly shared their fascinating insights and stories of how they ventured into practicing some of the commonly known and applied principles of behaviour science.

Sastodeal Nepal

Nepal, a country that lives primarily in its beautifully rolling rural hillsides, had a tough challenge getting basic necessities out to its population when the pandemic struck. This is when Sastodeal was tasked with the job of delivering essentials to the rural areas. While Sastodeal exponentially grew their rural user base during the pandemic, they also faced the tough job of persuading a mobile- and feature-driven digital migrant population to purchase groceries online. 

The contextual effect could not have posed a more important challenge to Sastodeal CEO Amun Thapa. As a former student of consumer psychology, he knew that he had to remove the friction around Sastodeal for his rural customers. He used two methods to drive adoption:

1. Co-opting a location that rural customers were familiar with (e.g. money exchange centres) to help his customers review product catalogues and place orders.

2. Harnessing the power of women entrepreneurs by digitising them and using them as a channel to get to his rural customer.

These were ingenious and frictionless methods that leveraged trust and credibility of existing ecosystems in the rural user base. In doing so, he reminded the audience that data not only digital, but also involves observing physical locations and human interactions. In spotting these opportunities, Amun has explored the real world of users delivering value along an existing journey.

BigBasket India

Another interesting idea around the application of Behavioural Science came from Varadharajan Raghunandan (Varadha)Head of Acquisition at Big Basket – one of the largest e-commerce players in India. “Behavioural science follows the breadcrumbs”, says Varadha. The evidence that users leave behind during their interactions with an organisation’s product or service essentially helps them make sense of the emerging observational data.

According to Varadha, a behavioural science angle also helps build a uniting and engaging narrative, which in turn facilitates a shared customer-centric view as well as internal alignment of stakeholders. “An example outcome of following the breadcrumbs could be an increase in the purchase of life insurance policies combined with the purchase of car seats for children”, he commented. “Only when you understand the life of the customers, can you search for meaningful connections, make sense of correlations and push relevant cross-sells”. 

In an e-commerce grocery app like Big Basket, engagement with a Gen Z mother of a 12 year old child requires an understanding that mothers may not necessarily look for a category titled ‘Healthy Snacks’ (which is how manufacturers generally tend to categorise their products). Instead, what the mother seeks is better nutrition for their child – and this encompasses an important ethical consideration: In a world where a ‘healthy snack’ is sold as the smarter and better option, e-commerce retailers retain the power to help mothers focus on acquiring better nutrition for their child by offering the right assortment of products, cooking tips and simple ingredients.  By doing so, some goal-driven categories can then become a destination, motivating the choice for a particular e-commerce site over another.

Personalisation using data to offer the right choices and/or being able to envision the choice architecture is a critical role that a behavioural scientist could perform for an e-commerce app. This requires teams to start thinking from the customers’ point of view rather than a product category or trade point of view. An example would be deciding whether a user who wants to bake a cake could be forced into purchasing a choice of different brands of cake mix, or provide the user a choice of key ingredients to make a cake (flour, eggs, oil, baking powder, flavouring etc). The knowledge of what the architecture should entail resides in how much product teams are on the ball when it comes to customer trends and data from previous purchases , as well as other observational and real world data. 

Varadha left us with simple yet important advice targeted at large and small organisations attempting to understand its users and thus, harness human behaviour: Spend a day experiencing what your customer experiences. Large organisations like Unilever and many others already have existing programmes such as user immersions and the like. One could take it a step further like the Grab CEO does and it could raise the bar tremendously. 

Keen to discover more Voice of the Client insights? Get in touch with Richard Bordenave to access our selection of resources from our 2021 Roundtable on CX in the APAC region.

Connect with Divya Radhakrishnan on Twitter (@Divkris) and LinkedIn to learn more about her work.