There are 20,000 Other People Reading this Article Right Now!

By Crawford Hollingworth, Founder, The Behavioural Architects

Travel companies have used, if not pioneered, the use of BE constructs in how they present information and, critically, how they encourage us to buy NOW.

Booking.com has an extremely well-designed website which utilises quite a few BE concepts overtly.  Let’s look at a few:

The most apparent is loss aversion with tags like:

Last chance! Only 1 room left.”

Most recent booking for this hotel was 14 minutes ago.”

This hotel is likely to sell out very soon!”

There are 11 people looking at this hotel!”

And the site also lists rooms that have sold out rather than not listing them at all. These messages and others all do their job of raising our anxiety levels as we search the site, making us fret that the hotels are so popular they could sell out before our very eyes – literally worrying us into making a booking faster than we had intended.

Another trick is to make use of social norms not only by including reviews of hotels by users, but crucially by telling us the users’ nationality. This appeals to in-group biases, as we are more likely to trust people who we feel to be ‘like us’. As Booking.com is a largely international site with users from over 40 countries, we find it reassuring to know where a particular reviewer is from, especially when they are from our own country or a country we know well.

Booking.com also always make us feel as if we are getting good deal by quoting the standard price – and anchoring us to that – and then offering us a cheaper quote, cementing the perception of the excellence of the deal by adding in many seemingly ‘free’ items such as breakfast, wifi and penalty free cancellation.

Lastly, they try to counteract our tendency for procrastination and inertia by impressing on us how speedy the booking process is with tags such as “Book now! It only takes 2 minutes.” From a personal perspective it really works – you can get yourself into quite a frenzy making that booking before the chance goes.  [I suggest you don’t check back on availability the next day though.]

Whilst I’m in a travel mindset … how often have we all looked at those amazing lists: ‘Top ten places to visit before you die!’,’Top 50 travel destinations’ etc etc in press articles or books?

Even if we just log them down and plan for the future they are rich in BE constructs:

  • First there’s the ‘top ten’ structure, which is designed to tackle choice paralysis.      There are so many places we could go to and so many things to do in the world that having someone say “These are the best in each category.” is very helpful; it narrows down our choice and could diminish our anxiety about making a potentially bad decision.
  • Second, these lists often come from authority figures in the travel industry swaying us further. I don’t know about you, but I find myself automatically checking through the list to see how many places I have already been to – an example of checking competitively/anxiously how ‘correctly’ you fit into the social norm.
  • Third is the ‘before you die’ compulsion, possibly a sort of loss aversion that your life will be less complete unless you have been to these places.
  • Lastly, they also use the power of now / “Life is short” (another BE idiom!) and      make use of photos (such as the one below) and firsthand experience reports to move us more compellingly towards a hot zone.

Most readers of this article have now either determined to make a list of ten places to visit before they die or they are desperately scrabbling through piles of saved articles to find the one they put aside earlier!  Quick before it is too late!

This blog piece was produced by Crawford Hollingworth is the Founder of The Behavioural Architects, for ADMA blog readers

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