The Sciences Behind Whichit

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Jonathan Gan
Founder & CEO

 

If the Whichit Interactive Commercial Content (ICC) is so effective, it is only due to the fact that the psychology behind it is very powerful. Understanding why the technology that Whichit utilizes has so much potential comes from looking at what happens behind the scenes and the very foundation of the concept. From the first year when we started to define and build the product, and even those days with the next generation of the Whichit for Advertisers, we used those eight science principles as a core guideline in order to achieve a powerful and useful tool for our users’ clients and their customers, while also building the technology around it.

 
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Let us take a look at the aspects that make the Whichit Interactive Commercial Content so powerful, by analysing what is happening in a user’s head when he/she is engaging with this type of content.

1. The Power of Choice

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Learning how to make your own decisions is probably the first responsibility you earn as a child. For instance, you learn to decide what color tee-shirt you prefer, what flavour of ice cream you ask your parents to buy you, or what you want for your birthday.

Choosing is in our mind forever, and our everyday life is comprised of a number of choices that we make with each passing minute. The result is that people love having choices and love making choices. As a marketer, offering choices to a customer helps to transfer the power to the customer, putting his/her personal choice first, thus creating a more democratic relationship.

Let’s take a look at an example: have you ever walked down the street and felt really annoyed by people trying to give you a flyer? This annoys you because the person is trying to impose something on you, that you did not ask for. More specifically, something that you did not choose. Now think about this situation in a different way; what if that person had offered you the choice between two different elements? Fundamentally, it would have been different, right?

Indeed, it has been proven that in a situation relative to choices, humans often turn to take an action and choose one of the options rather than be passive, even if they don’t fully know or understand all of the information related to their potential choices.

In Sheena Lyengar’s speech at TED Global 2010 about the art of choosing, she explains that our choices are often quite similar: The value of choice is created based off of the ability of someone to perceive differences between the options.

This power of choice is the first principle that Whichit applies: instead of imposing one single element to a potential buyer, Whichit is offering multiple choices to customers through polls, surveys, trivia, and other types of interactive content. In this way, the end-user can do what he or she feels is most easy to complete. Users can express their preferences by choosing from default options. In addition, users tend to feel better understood and listened to.

2. Crowd Mentality

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The crowd mentality (also called the Herd mentality) describes how people can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis. When faced with a decision, humans often turn to the people they trust for guidance, resulting in a choice that is likely influenced by their peers or society as a whole. In simple words, the herd mentality describes a behavior in which people act the same way or adopt similar behaviors as the people around them — often ignoring their own feelings throughout the process.

The Whichit Interactive Commercial Content can be described as a psychological funnel delivered as a game. Even though the topic of the content is not necessarily in the user’s core interest, they will be attracted to engage with it in the first place for two key reasons that can be categorized under the crowd mentality:

  • Joining the crowd: “Many people are already engaged, I’d like to try it as well”

  • Comparison: “I want to know how I perform compared to the others.”

 
  The Whichit Funnel [Whichit for Advertiser Dashboard Screenshot]

The Whichit Funnel [Whichit for Advertiser Dashboard Screenshot]

 

Based on those principles, Whichit decided to present users with the first message in a clear and appealing manner, and after their first engagement, Whichit would continue with a smooth and clean user-experience and interface to ensure high performance and conversion throughout the series of questions attached to the interactive content. Users will eventually earn the Whichit Commercial Engage Card.

3. The Wisdom of The Crowd

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The collective opinion of a group of individuals is more accurate than the opinion of a single expert. This notion was most compellingly justified in James Surowiecki’s book, “The Wisdom of the crowd,” but its origin comes from Francis Galton’s observation in 1907: He observed that the average of answers to a “guess the weight of the ox” contest was extraordinarily accurate, even more accurate than the expert guesses. Lior Zoref repeated this experiment on the TED stage in 2012.

When it comes to Whichit, we gave the marketers direct access to all the answers. The preferences of the audience to the interactive content such as the polls, surveys, or quizzes provide valuable information on the accurate preferences of the users. The Whichit dashboard delivers a lot of information throughout a campaign and the corresponding creative levels, providing actionable insights and mini market research with the tip of a finger. Through this analytics, the marketers in the agencies, and the brands themselves can synthesize micro-audiences in seconds and discover their preferences. Learning, for example, that 40% of people that like the black boots also love the yellow backpack, and 78% of them are going on Ski holidays at least once a year. By analysis, there is no better way to determine the various profiles of potential customers within the audience.

 
  Votes Breakdown and statistic Correlation [Whichit for Advertiser Dashboard]

Votes Breakdown and statistic Correlation [Whichit for Advertiser Dashboard]

 

4. Four is the Magic Number

Choosing is a basic instinct, inherent in our homo-sapiens brain. It is magical to see the reflex of the Human brain when asked a “Which” question rather than an “open” question. The differences are shocking every single time.

By its definition, choosing is picking the best or most appropriate of two or more alternatives. So, at the minimum, there must be 2 options. While the maximum number of options could be as much as we want, even dozens or millions, according to Sheena Liyengar’s talk, when you give people 10 or more options, they make poorer decisions.

So, what will be the optimal number for multiple-choice items?

Three options are optimal for multiple-choice items. Michael C. Rodriquez, University of Minnesota, carried out a meta-analysis of 80 years of research to synthesize these results to estimate the effect that the number of options in multiple-choice items has on test score reliability and validity.

In addition, the human brain can most effectively process up to four things at a time: When more than 4 options are given, the ability to focus is diminished. This can be explained by the “Working Memory.” Working memory relates to the information we can pay attention to and manipulate, or in other words, the temporary storage of information.

 

A Whichit Post contains a textual question, along with 2, 3, or 4 visual options in the form of multiple-choice questions. The images are with or without overlay text. The structure of the Whichit Post is rectangular and symmetrical, with subtle design lines. We limit the options to 4 and the images are squared.

Those design guidelines and restrictions achieved higher engagement from users in answering a Whichit Post with multiple questions consisting of polls, trivia, or quizzes. In addition, the guidelines provide a smooth user experience and interface, with added fun for the experience of the user.

5. Social Proof

Social proof is the idea that consumers will adapt their behaviour according to what other people are doing. There are 5 main types of social proof:

  1. Expert

  2. Celebrity

  3. User

  4. “Wisdom of the Crowds”

  5. “Wisdom of your Friends”

Different types of social proof lead to different influences and needs to be used wisely according to the specific situation and the user’s experience.

 
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In Whichit, we are using several types of social proof simultaneously:

  • The Wisdom of The Crowds Social Proof — As an integral part of the Whichit questionnaire; includes showing the results as feedback on the user’s preferences for each post and in the end of the Whichit questionnaire as a summary of all feedback.

  • The Expert / Celebrity / Wisdom of Your Friends Social Proofs — As the distribution channels; includes validation of the content when sharing and distributing the Whichit content, in addition to supporting the viral wave and the organic reach.

 Example:  Birchbox quiz

Example: Birchbox quiz

The Whichit content is defined as interactive from its nature and people want to engage with and inquire about their results — “How do I compare to the others?” Their instinct to tap into their digital ego by understanding the social proof is natural, and it leads to the following Whichit USPs:

  • High engagement

  • High completion

  • Sharing the content

  • High conversion on the Whichit commercial Engage Card

6. The Effectiveness of Personalization

Personalization is key for driving high performance and conversion. The more tailored the content and experience become to the individual and his/her personal preferences, the more likely they will continue to engage with the content and ultimately convert.

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In Whichit, we took personalization to the next level! We appeal to the audience with attractive and interactive content, reaching to the “rainbow of people,” and leading them via a personal path. We are getting to users in the decision-making point with a bespoke commercial offer that they will likely engage with. Everyone likes to feel that they receive special treatment tailored to their needs, even when it comes to content consumption. But, by delivering personalized interactive content to our customers, Whichit makes them feel like the brand understands their unique needs and their interests.

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Moreover, through the Whichit Interactive Commercial Content, while users engaging with the content, they are creating personal paths with each stage. The number of possible paths for each Whichit Post is exponential and being raised by the fourth power (n4, n=number of Whichit Posts). Those paths are translated into micro-segments, effectively colouring micro-audiences from the same traffic flow in just a few steps.

There is an even deeper level reached within Whichit — we invented an algorithm, a machine learning algorithm that profiles users in real time based on their preferences. By using the Whichit Posts as sensors to recognize user’s preferences, we changed the way marketers engage with their audience.

 
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By recognizing and analysing user’s preferences, the Whichit Machine Learning algorithm, winner of the Innovate UK Smart TSB, allows marketers to:

  • Categorise users into preference groups

  • Segment users based on demographics

  • Identify future trends

  • Identify anomalies in trends

  • Getting to users in the decision-making point

  • Tailor content and commercial offers to users in real time

  • Position options based on the wisdom of the crowd

7. The Principles of Consistency and Consensus

In his book “Influence”, Dr. Robert Cialdini exposed 6 famous principles of persuasion: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Liking, and Consensus (Social Proof). In the case of Whichit, two principles are playing an important role:

  • The principle of consistency

  • The principle of consensus

  The Principles of Persuasion; “Influence”, Dr.Robert Cialdini

The Principles of Persuasion; “Influence”, Dr.Robert Cialdini

The principle of consistency refers to the fact that people like to be consistent with the things they have previously experienced or expressed. That consistency can be activated by encouraging people to engage in small initial commitments, such as answering a survey. A study in a health centre showed that if people were asked to write the hour of their appointment down themselves, missed appointments would be reduced by 18%.

Engaging with Whichit Interactive Content requires a very small commitment by users. In addition, the interval of the engagement is quick and instant, which drives consistency within the user’s responses on their preferences. This is one of the fundamental principles that the Whichit Machine Learning algorithm is based on, in order to profile the users based on their preferences, rather than through traditional marketing methods.

The principle of consensus, similar to the “Crowd Mentality” and “Social Proof” (see previous chapters), means that people will look to the actions and behaviours of others to determine their own, especially when they are uncertain. Most likely, you have noticed the small notice in your hotel bathroom encouraging you to reuse your towel to save water. It is said that about 75% of people who check into a hotel for four nights or longer will reuse their towels at some point during their stay. A study on the principle of consensus looked at what would happen if it was included on the cards that 75% of guests reuse their towels at some time during their stay. It turns out that towel reuse rises by 26%, which had confirmed the principle of consensus.

8. The Psychology of Gamification

“People can be made to be more intrinsically motivated simply by presenting an activity as a game,” Andreas Lieberoth explains.

The Whichit Interactive Content can be compared to a game: it enables users to transform a traditionally one-sided, non-engaging experience into an exciting, personalized, and enjoyable experience. Interactive content will always seem more appealing to the brain as opposed to standard text.

Since 2011, gamification becomes a trend, and these days it’s almost a basic function in user-experience and interface development. Gamification is the process of using game-like elements when designing business and marketing strategies. The reason for this being that gamification works. It triggers real powerful human emotions such as happiness, intrigue, and excitement; these are positive user-experiences, and positive a user-experience leads to better engagement, loyalty, and higher sales.

We are using the Whichit Interactive Commercial Content to deliver information and to interact with the audience in a playful manner. This approach delivers higher results on nearly every level: engagement, completion of polls and surveys, commercial conversion, and data collection.


Whichit is an interactive commercial content platform that enables marketers and advertisers to increase user engagement, open new revenue streams, and gain user-related insight. The company utilizes innovative technology that profiles users based on their preferences and uses machine learning to provide bespoke commercial incentives in real time.

The company is working with top agencies and brands and is based in central London.