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AiThority Interview Series With Dr. Liraz Margalit, Head, Behavioral Research, Clicktale

Interview with Dr. Liraz Margalit, Head of Behavioral Research at Clicktale

Customization has become increasingly significant to brands because it’s now part of a broader trend that shifts from viewing customers as recipients of value to co-creators of value. 

Know My Company

Tell us about your role at Clicktale and the team and technology you handle

I am the head of digital behavioral research at Clicktale. Essentially, my job is to help brands understand the psychology of their customers and, therefore, what cognitive process drives customer behavior online. The premise of doing this work is that if you as a brand can understand the psychology of your customers online — and understand them beyond knowing their age, gender, location and job title — you’ll be in a better position to improve their experiences and increase the likelihood of a sale.

Traditionally, understanding the psychology of consumers online was an incredibly difficult thing to do. In face-to-face interactions, you can analyze someone’s body language to give you an insight into that person’s psychology.

But, the online world removes body language entirely from the equation and so brands have been designing digital experiences that so often don’t resonate with their customers. Then they wonder why their customers don’t engage with their brand in the way they wanted.

We at Clicktale, though, have devised a technology that we call ‘experience analytics’, which delves into a customer’s ‘digital body language’. When a customer interacts with a digital touchpoint, for example, a website, they leave behind a trail of clues that together add up to give the brand an insight into that person’s current mindset and psychology. These clues include mouse movements, hovers, scrolls, app taps, link taps, pinches, zooms and much more.

Our experience analytics technology collates that information, analyzes it, and enables teams to understand exactly how consumers have interacted with their brand, helping to improve the experience in future.

Once brands have that information, they can uncover the different mindsets of those visiting their websites and apps. Mindful customers will take their time navigating and scanning each page logically through calm mouse movements and scrolls. By contrast, disoriented customers will scroll frantically, move back and forth between pages illogically and repeatedly click or tap out of frustration.

By collecting this information, brands can start to answer some basic marketing questions.

  • What parts of our Digital Experience are customers engaging with the most?
  • Which parts are they ignoring?
  • Why aren’t they clicking on the ‘download’ button on our latest research report?
  • Why aren’t they engaging with the latest interactive tool we’ve launched on our website?

Once they can answer those questions, they can start to make small, iterative changes to their digital touchpoints that incrementally improve the whole customer experience.

As a specialist in behavioral science and research, how do you distinguish human attitude towards physical shopping versus online shopping?

Traditionally, consumers who shop in-store were motivated by the need to see, touch and handle products as part of the buying experience, as well as the need for on-the-spot sales and not having to wait for delivery.

In the digital sphere, there is an obvious limit to the sensory experiences that brands can deploy. The challenge is to apply these insights and create as much cognitive involvement as possible with the senses available to us: sight and sound.

Experience is more than just what meets the eyes. The decision to buy a product is mediated by a number of unconscious factors that shape the customer’s final decision.

We have to think of ways to create pathways to the consumer’s emotions by involving the maximum possible subconscious pathways in the online interaction. We must consider not only the attractiveness of the product but also its spatial orientation, its interactivity, the specific words involved, the colors used to describe it and the specific emotion we want to trigger.

We have found that we can apply this to customers’ senses in the online arena as well if we are equipped with the relevant knowledge on the human brain. The ability to influence the design of an object generates emotional attachment that leads to psychological ownership, the feeling that something is ‘mine.’

In the physical world, the opportunity to touch an object creates stimulation by activating the buyer’s touch receptors. With online purchasing, obviously, the customer cannot feasibly touch the products. However, digital interaction with the product brings those same pathways to life. The selection of the product’s features, colors, and shape generates feelings of control and ownership.

According to research by Ann Schlosser of the University of Washington, interactivity in the context of virtual objects produces far more vivid mental images than text or static pictures. These mental images lead to greater customer engagement and a higher likelihood of purchasing.

The use of humor is also extra helpful online, particularly when it comes to facilitating the acceptance of error messages. Delivering that message in a comical way encourages a greater investment of resources in a customer’s attempts to succeed in an action.

A multi-sensory experience is one of the most effective ways to create an unforgettable customer experience.

Emotion is the basis of our experience of a brand, determining how we feel about the time spent on the site, how much money we would spend on the product and how often we will visit the site. Therefore, sensory stimulation is the key to enticing our customer and building a long-term relationship that will differentiate our brand from the competitors.”

What do you think about technologies like AI/machine learning and voice search completely transforming the shopping experience across channels? 

Once we have intelligent chatbots operating organically on major retail, travel or finance sites, the picture changes fundamentally. Here’s the breakthrough, and it’s not science fiction even though it sounds like it. Just as we infer nonverbal signals in the offline world, today we can use cutting-edge customer experience technology to effectively infer a customer’s mindset in real time.

Using advanced customer experience solutions, we can now monitor in real-time digital activities such as browsing behavior, click-through rates, hesitation, scrolling and more. This enables forward-thinking retailers to abandon behavioral models based on past actions, in favor of tracking, analyzing and responding to current behavior. Now, they can quickly identify each shopper’s psychological needs and more effectively assist them in the decision-making process.

With machine learning, it is possible to develop models that can interpret and classify the mindset of each customer coming to the site. Leveraging data gathered in real-time, per shopper session, such algorithms could integrate actions, attributes and contexts to generate a real-time classification of an individual visitor’s intent. Then, based on such knowledge, brands can automatically adapt their offerings. And here’s where chatbots come into the picture. Because, if we can quantify mindset and respond to it with page personalization or offer customization, we can teach chatbots to do the same.

Thus, the chatbot would parse my on-site actions — what page I landed on, where I clicked or moved my mouse, how quickly I scrolled through which pages, how exactly I interacted with the site navigation — and subsequently infer my mindset. It could know, in a micro-second, that I was just checking the options on the site and respond by offering to help narrow down the wealth of choices. It could tell if I was focused and ready to buy and guide me as quickly as possible through the process. And, it could tell whether I was open to suggestions for wreaths vs. traditional floral arrangements, and suggest popular options.

In short, it could do exactly what a salesperson does with his customers. It could grasp and react to my mindset — gaining, strictly speaking, the ability to empathize.

What are the key takeaways from your recently published report on ‘top shopping stressors’?

If there’s one key message that brands should take away from our latest stress shopping report, it’s that many retailers are designing experiences that are causing more stress than good. The research found that 12% of consumers become stressed when shopping online and 15% have even lost their temper with an app or an e-commerce site.


The experience, especially at the point of checkout, often leaves a lot to be desired. 86% of shoppers have felt stressed when a voucher code doesn’t work, 75% have felt stressed when a mobile app freezes at the point of payment, and 81% have found slow loading times stressful.

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Brands, therefore, need to work on ironing out the problems customers have at the checkout stage. But to do that, they need to know exactly what the cause is of the stress, which is where experience analytics can help through anonymous session replays that show in real time how consumers attempt to check out.”

Do shoppers actually indulge in binge shopping to beat stress? What does Clicktale’s report say about this phenomenon?

The research from Clicktale’s stress report found that 40% of shoppers use ‘retail therapy’ as a way to calm down, while 74% have stress-shopped in the past. Young people (those aged 16 to 24) are especially prone to stress shopping, with 62% admitting they turn to retail therapy on or offline to make them feel better. Women are also 12% more likely to stress shop than men and are 16% more likely to believe that shopping has a calming influence.

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Are all these stressors signs of worry for both customers and businesses?

These stress factors are very worrying for businesses. In the age of experience, where brands are trying to exceed customer expectations, no-one wants to be the cause of stress. While most brands are in the same boat at the moment, those that don’t begin to analyze stress factors soon will get left behind while the competition moves ahead. The technology is there — brands just need to reach out and use it before anyone else does.

Could you elaborate on “the old man effect”?

The ‘old man effect’ is the idea that as you get older, the more you believe you are a ‘rational’ shopper.

You believe that you pick out the best deals and only ever buy things you absolutely need. 78% of consumers of all ages believe they are rational when they shop.

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For older consumers, that percentage stands at 88% — men are also more likely to see themselves as rational shoppers. Interestingly, these findings contrast hugely with what data professionals believe about consumers. 78% of data professionals think consumers are fundamentally irrational when they shop.

What are your predictions on changing buying behavior on mobile over the next five years? 

I believe that in the years to come, we will see a turning point from the field of UX as we know it to the field of PX — personalized experience. More and more businesses are discovering the value of customization, the opportunity to deliver a customized experience, and the additional revenue potential that can be generated from it. In fact, it’s become so strong that today, many popular brands rest their entire business strategy on their ability to customize their products.

Customization has become increasingly significant to brands because it’s now part of a broader trend that shifts from viewing customers as recipients of value to co-creators of value. Rather than being passive, the customer is now becoming a crucial part of the experience.

The same shift that was witnessed in business strategy will be witnessed in the field of customer experience. It will shift from designing an experience for the customer to providing the customer the opportunity to become an integral part of the experience. The key to success here is adjusting the experience to meet the customer’s personal needs and state of mind at any given moment. Our research has found that the ability to influence the experience automatically generates emotional involvement.

One immediate implication can be found in the field of A/B test.

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Up until now, A/B testing was regarded as an intuitive tool for testing the effectiveness of a certain change to the page (different color, design, framing, etc.) However, in my work as a web psychologist, I’m exposed to many different types of customer behavior, as well as different types of online decision-making processes. Different groups of visitors interact with websites in different ways and derive pleasure from different experiences. Instead of testing different versions on all website visitors, we should be testing how different groups react to the same version and provide them with the opportunity to customize their own experience.

Thank you, Liraz! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

Liraz Margalit, PhD, is a Web psychologist and Head of Behavioral Research at Clicktale, where she analyzes online consumer behavior from a cognitive behavioral psychological perspective. Her analyses incorporate theory and academic research into a conceptual framework that creates insights into online consumer behavior. Liraz is the author of a Psychology Today blog called “Behind Online Behavior”. She is a lecturer at the Political Psychology and Decision Making program of the Lauder School of Government – IDC (Herzliya), where she did her post-doctoral research.

Clicktale taps into the wisdom and behavior of millions of visitors so that businesses can deliver the best digital experiences to drive amazing business results. By synthesizing complex behavioral patterns based on millisecond-level actions such as hovers and scrolls, we enable businesses to interpret their customers’ digital body language and understand intent. The pioneer in Experience Analytics, Clicktale marries cognitive computing, machine learning and psychological research to automatically surface issues and answer questions that keep executives up at night.

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