Interview with Persuasion Architecture inventor Bryan Eisenberg

September 5th, 2007


Bryan Eisenberg is an inventor of “Persuasion Architecture,” a process that helps persuade customers to make a decision on your website when traditional marketing methods fail.

Bryan is also a high profile speaker, author, consultant, blogger, co-founder of the Web Analytics Association and author of a string of best-selling books. A new one is in the works: Trim the Fat will draw analogies between what’s needed to improve website conversion and the author’s recent shedding of 50 (!) pounds.

Stephan Spencer, Netconceptsâ?? founder and president, interviewed Bryan about personas and Persuasion Architecture. Read more about how this unique insight into designing customer-specific content will help you understand how to convert views into sales.

What is the basic premise behind personas?

The basic premise, is that everybody does things for their own reasons. You do things for your reasons, I do things for my reasons. Sometimes they are similar, but they are not–usually–the same. However, humans have an operating system, an operating system that we can track back to the time of Aristotle and Socrates, as well as Jung and Meyers-Brigg, that basically segment people into four, different preferences. Typically, those preferences are: emotional, logical, fast-paced, and disciplined or deliberately-paced. Personas are the deepest, richest part most researched part of understanding your customer, but before we can even get to that point, we start with these four, basic personality types called “perspectives.”

Can you give us an example of how these perspectives can be applied to an online retail purchasing experience?

Letâ??s say weâ??re on a page that sells DVD movies and there are four, basic personality types shopping on your site. Youâ??ve got the spontaneous personality type, the fun-loving person who is real hip, real stylish. What do you think theyâ??re looking for when they’re buying movies? They’re going to look for latest releases, what’s coming soon–again, “What’s in style?” You then have your more humanistic personality type, who cares more about relationships, families and romance. What are some of the types of things that you think they might be looking for on a DVD category page? Some of the genres, but also the “top-sellers” or the movies with the best reviews because they care about the social aspect of things. Your methodical purchasers, they’re usually the ones who say, “You know what? I want to drill down and I want to navigate by genre.” They really want to get more detail-oriented than either the spontaneous or the humanistic. Finally, you have your competitives who come in and know exactly what they’re looking for–they just want to come in and get it.

With multiple perspectives eventually leading to different types of personas, should retailers offer one type of content to customers?

You can’t expect, especially in the web — which is such a self-service environment — to design and prepare content that only satisfies one of those types. Fundamentally, the web is a way for people to gather research and then make decisions. By understanding these preferences, for how the different types of people prefer to do that (make decisions), you can use these perspectives to figure out what needs to be on the page or throughout the whole experience to get them to take that next action.

From there, we can go ahead to build up a little bit to understand where these perspectives are in the buying cycle. Are they earlier in the buying cycle; are they later in the buying cycle? How does it relate to what your products are? And we can actually create what we call “profiles,” which is basically a little paragraph, a little picture to give us a little better understand of who that grouping or that mode of behavior is going to beâ??and then ultimately two personas.

It helps you from everything to “how to develop content” to “What type of content should I offer?” Other questions you might ask are: “Should the content be developed as a blog post? Should the content be developed as a video or a podcast?”

Once you understand who your different personas are, you can get a much richer understanding of “how to deliver to the ultimate visitor” of what they need and how they need to buy it.

What challenges does the typical online retailer face when trying to reach different personas?

The average online conversion rate for a typical retailer today is 2.4% percent. That’s pretty sad when you consider that there are plenty of retailers who are in the high teen-to-twenty percent conversion rate. The biggest challenge is two-fold. They are not necessarily meeting the needs of the customer, in terms of the information gathering that the customer needs. Part of the biggest challenge is also that a lot of retailers are depending upon a lot of the wrong technologies to solve marketing problems. Technologies can certainly assist with marketing problems–but they don’t solve them.

How can persuasion architecture help abandon rates?

Persuasion architecture is based on three, simple questions: Who is it that we’re speaking to? What action do we want them to take? And then ultimately, why should they take that action? Or, what is the information that they need to feel confident to take that action?

If you look at web analytics and look through some of the reports, take a close look at “abandonment rates” (where people exited the sites). Let’s revisit the DVD page example. Say, you go ahead and you get to the category page, where you click on a couple of places and eventually you abandon. Now, most times this action will get attributed to the fact that you were on a product page when, in fact, the cause of the abandonment actually happened at the category page level–although they went searching around afterward to see if they could find something.

The job of a category page is to answer those three questions I asked earlier. For each of the different types of perspectives, profiles or personas on your website, what is the job or responsibility of the category page? The responsibility of the category page is to help you find that right product for you. The challenge is, “What information do they need in order to find that right product?”