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You’ve invested a significant amount of time refining your message, creating a product or presentation, but did you know your audience is often swayed by the order in which you present your information?
Find out how you can use this neuro-marketing technique called the ‘Serial Position Effect‘.
Ever noticed when you have to memorize a set of numbers that you mostly recall the first and last numbers?
In psychology, this tendency is called the Serial Position Effect. It was coined by psychologist Herman Ebbinghaus and explains how items in the beginning and the end of a sequence are recalled better than those in the middle.
The Serial Position Effect is broken into two effects:
The Primacy Effect or Primacy Bias is the tendency to better recall information at the start of a list of items compared to the middle and end items of a list. Here, recall is more accurate due to the smaller amount of effort needed to process and rehearse the item.
In comparison to items in the middle of a sequence where prior information has to be rehearsed, leading to more cognitive burden and poorer recall.
In contrast to primacy bias, the recency effect means a person can easily recall and gives greater weight towards more recent information than earlier presented facts.
The recency effect depends upon short-term memory (Active or Primary Memory). Although short-term memory is limited in terms of capacity and duration, the amount a memory normally lasts is between 20 and 30 seconds, allowing us to hold approximately 4 concepts at one time.
Another study found that if there is a distraction between the list presentation phase and when respondents were asked to recall, the Recency Effect is reduced.
When presenting your product, service or idea to prospects:
As a marketer you could place your most popular/high revenue-generating products either at the start or end of a product carousel.
Previously Australian researchers studied recommendation systems and found that the subjects preferred one tent over the others by 250%. This was the starting tent was greatly preferred because it was the first product that users saw.
Customers tend to consume a lot of content as they make their way through the buying process. It’s crucial to order your information well to encourage the process. Not only is it important to get the main message across, it also matters where you guide your customers and how you craft your final message.
You can take full advantage of the serial position effect by carefully selecting the content flow of your web pages. This is particularly true on the home page, where you’re trying to communicate with first-time visitors about what value your product or service can provide for them.
You can add extra products whose primary mission is simply to act as a decoy. These alternative products are introduced in an attempt to greatly enhance the sales of your other products.
In online search engines, it was found that the Primacy Effect might be stronger, as it was the top two advertisement positions that were the best in search engine marketing.
According to research presented at the 2011 American Society for Information Science and Technology meeting, the top ad ranking was found to be important for conversion and click-through rates.
If you’re a well known company, you could include your brand name at the start or end of the <title> tag.
Alternatively you could place a clear call to action at the end or start of your meta-description/<title> tag which would then activate either the primacy or recency effect.
As stated by campaign monitor, “8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 out of 10 people will read the rest”. Therefore an easy way to use the primacy effect within your email Marketing campaigns is to modify either:
Often, restaurant menus use the Serial Position Effect to entice their customers into ordering the most highly-profitable menu items that may seem overpriced. When people see the first item’s price, they will recall this as they browse the rest of the menu, and this will make it seem like the first item is more reasonably-priced.
In real estate, the Primacy Effect will not play a role in the decision when buyers look for a home. Keeping this in mind, real estate agents often show the best properties last. After viewing several options, the last option will seem the most desirable to the buyer and will be preserved in the buyer’s short-term memory as a result of the Recency Effect.
In television, it was found that the Recency Effect might be stronger than the Primacy Effect, according to research published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. The authors noted that television viewers may recall advertisements better at the end of a commercial break rather than at the beginning.
Customers generally gravitate towards the option with the least friction which is often the most recognizable or memorable choice. This is where the Serial Position Effect can come into play, especially when it comes to sales.
There are two ways of presenting information:
Product primacy is when the customer sees the product first, and then the price later. Whereas pricing primacy is the opposite, where the customer sees the price first.
The effects of both product and pricing primacy must be taken into consideration when creating the design of an experience.
Basically whatever the user sees first will influence the rest of their experience. By placing the black-friday deal at the start of the pricing page it is triggering the primacy effect, whilst also making the photography and single app look option cheaper.
However the above example might introduce friction for comparison shoppers, who are used to seeing the options from lowest price to highest price.
The Serial Position Effect helps you to carefully plan your information flow better. Also it provides value in any communications media and gives you an effective method for gently nudging customers towards specific products.