Dr. BJ Fogg is a persuasive genius. He’s spent his entire academic life studying it. He founded Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, as well as authored several books on the topic. He’s even created his own behavioral change model called the “The Fogg Behavioral Model.” Big name companies pay him thousands of dollars to help them make their products more persuasive. When he talks about persuasion, we should listen.
Most importantly though, he may just hold the answer to our “main street” problem. According to his Fogg Behavioral Model, 3 elements must converge at the same time for a behavior to happen (in our case, it’s shopping locally): motivation, ability, and a trigger. If all 3 of those elements happen at the very same time, our odds at changing a behavior improve exponentially.
Thus, our goal as economic architects is to motivate community members to shop, while at the same time giving them the ability to shop and triggering the “shopping switch.” So are we currently doing that?
Everyone loves to shop. It triggers one of our most addictive emotions: pleasure. Even in this economy, the malls are filled with seas of shoppers on the weekends. And it’s just not the 1% that’s doing the purchasing. The rest of us are doing our fair share of shopping. We’re definitely motivated to shop.
Our triggers could be improved, but they’re not the weakest link. Right now, our best trigger is our brick and mortar stores along main street. Customers drive down main street, see an open sign or something in the window that perks their interest, they pull the car over, and before you know it, they’re making a purchase. That’s an ideal immediate trigger-behavioral scenario.
Our other triggers are somewhat weaker. Ads in the newspaper do an excellent job at perking someone’s interest. However, customers can’t make an immediate purchase. They may be reading the paper at night after the stores are closed, and won’t be able to make a purchase until the next morning. Worse yet, they may be reading the paper on the weekend, and not be able to make a purchase for 2-3 days. Facebook fan pages and stand alone websites face the same flaw. Inertia and procrastination are deadly when it comes to making a sale.
Bingo! This may not be the sole cause of our problems, but it’s definitely the weakest link. Not only is our sales process inconvenient for our customers, but it’s also complex. According to Dr. Fogg’s research, simplicity is the key to ability. The easier a behavior is, the more likely it will happen. Let’s see how easy it is to purchase an item from a brick and mortar store on the BenGil main street.
When are most of our stores open? 9am -5pm Monday – Friday. When do most of our customers work? 9am-5pm Monday-Friday. Who has the most disposable income? Those customers who have a job. When can they shop? After 5pm throughout the week and on the weekends. When are we closed? After 5pm throughout the week and on the weekends. See the problem?
We’re committing a huge error. Our 3 elements to behavioral change aren’t converging at the same, critical point. There’s too big of a delay, and it’s costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. If you think I’m exaggerating, stop and think about how many cars, washers, dryers, toys, and computers are being purchased by community member from outside of our community. Just a little math will make your jaw drop. The internet, Wal-Mart, and other big box retailers who offer our customers better convenience are stealing them right out from under us.
We can’t continue to blame the customer. Do you honestly think people don’t want to shop local? No. If given the opportunity, I’d be willing to be 95% of our community members would shop locally (provided the price is reasonable). The problem lies in the complexity and inconvenience shopping locally requires.
So how do we fix it, and make sure all 3 elements converge at the same point? There are probably a hundred different solutions. We’re only limited by our imagination. Carlinville has done an excellent job at converging all three elements at the same point with their “3rd Thursday of the month” initiative.
- Motivation: Like I said above, it doesn’t take much motivation to make people want to shop. Their marketing does more than enough to motivate customers to shop locally.
- Triggers: They do an excellent job at triggering, in this case reminding, customers it’s the 3rd Thursday of the month. Most of the participating businesses post on their facebook pages starting the night before and continue the day of about the 3rd Thursday. The local newspaper does an excellent job promoting it in that week’s paper. I would also assume they have signs posted throughout the square reminding people about the initiative.
- Ability: This is the element they’ve really excelled at. Instead of focusing on shopping locally, which is too generic and overwhelming, they’ve selected a SIMPLE behavior: shopping locally on 1 day out of the month. And better yet, they’ve also made it more convenient for customers. Local businesses stay open later that night so they can reach the “working moms and dads”, which just happens to be the demographic that should care the most about shopping locally because they’re raising a family in that community.
It may not have been a hit right from the beginning, but as the initiative moves forward, the 3rd Thursday of the month and shopping locally will become synonymous with community residents. Hopefully, it will eventually become a habit.
I don’t know the exact figures, but I’d be willing to bet that the majority of participating businesses have one of their most profitable days on the 3rd Thursday of the month.
So how can we use Dr. Fogg’s work to our advantage in BenGil?