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  • 🧠 Behavioral Barriers: How to figure out what's stopping your customers from buying

🧠 Behavioral Barriers: How to figure out what's stopping your customers from buying

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Hi there - Jen here :)

As marketers and entrepreneurs, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out why people buy.

But why they don’t buy is just, if not more, important.

In behavioral science we call these blockers “behavioral barriers.”

They’re the psychological, emotional, or cognitive challenges that can stop customers from doing what we want them to do.

That might mean buying our product, opening our emails, engaging with our app, etc.

If we don’t identify and get rid of these behavioral barriers, it doesn’t matter how good our product or service is - no one will buy it.

Today we’ll cover:

  • 16 of the most common behavioral barriers in marketing and sales

  • A simple process for identifying and breaking down behavioral barriers

  • Bonus: Cup Noodle gives us a lesson in using “distinctive brand assets” in unique and surprising ways in advertising

👉 But before we get started:

LAST CALL: If you’re trying to figure out what makes your buyers tick, I recommend learning more about Customer Journey Mapping.

It’s an easy-to-use framework that can help you crack customers’ deepest desires, goals, and psychological pain points.

My popular course “How to Create Magnificent Journey Maps” version 3.0 will open for registration for only 48 hours on April 23, 2024.

There are only 25 seats available in this course and it will open just 1x this year (this is to both preserve my sanity and make sure that everyone who needs 1-2-1 support gets my focus, time and attention).

If you want an invitation to sign up for the course, you need to register your interest before then. It’s free but the invites will be sent out on a first come, first serve basis.

PS - I’m closing registration in 2 days (Friday) but I still wanted to send out a “last call” for interest so everyone who wants to get an invite gets a chance to enroll. 🙂


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16 of the most common behavioral barriers in marketing and sales

If you’re curious about what behavioral barriers might be popping up in your customer experience, check out this list of 16 of the most common barriers I’ve put together based on my research, consulting, and coaching work:

👉 If you want to download these principles as free digital cards to print out or use in Miro, Figma, etc., click here.

✅ 1. Hyperbolic Discounting: Our brains are hardwired to value immediate rewards over long-term rewards.

✅ 2. Choice Overload: Options are good - to a point. Too many options can slow down decisions, make customers feel anxious or uncertain, or completely stop them from buying or engaging.

✅ 3. Social Norms: A shared standard of acceptable behavior in a group, community, or culture. We want to adhere to social norms, so sharing that a behavior is 'normal' can help get more folks to adopt it.

✅ 4. Status Quo Bias: People don't like to change the way things are because they don't want to run the risk that a new way of doing things might fail.

✅ 5. Affect Heuristic: We tend to make decisions based on our emotional state.

✅ 6. Goal Gradient Effect: People are motivated by how far they have to go until they meet their goal - not how much they've accomplished so far.

✅ 7. Capability: People need to have the psychological or physical ability to do what we're asking them to do.

✅ 8. Friction: These are the barriers that stand between a customer and their goals. Friction can frustrate people, but it can also get them to slow down and pay attention at key moments.

✅ 9. Uncertainty: When we feel anxious and fearful because we don't know what's going to happen. Eliminating uncertainty can help people make better decisions faster.

✅ 10. Cognitive Overload: Our brains can only handle so much information or stimulus at one time.

✅ 11. Behavioral Scripts: Shortcuts that help us navigate everyday situations, like eating at a restaurant (we're 'supposed' to start with drinks and end with dessert).

✅ 12. Zero Risk Bias: We prefer options where risk has (seemingly) been eliminated.

✅ 13. Loss Aversion: People hate to lose. When something is framed as a loss, it can repel customers.

✅ 14. Value Exchange: Customers need to feel that requests for behavior change, data, or other info are being reciprocated with an offer of value from the business.

✅ 15. Opportunity: External elements that make it easy to perform a task. Can include tech like smartphones, high-speed internet, or wearables.

✅ 16. Motivation: How motivated are our customers to do what we're asking them to do? This could be internal motivation or external rewards & incentives.

A simple process for identifying behavioral barriers in your sales, product, marketing, and customer experience

Identifying your behavioral barriers might seem like an overwhelming task at first, but no matter the size of your company you can get this process started literally today.

Here’s a high-level overview of the process and a free template to help you get started:

  • Get familiar with common behavioral barriers. This edition of the newsletter is a great start, but as you observe customers in your unique context, culture, and industry you might notice some new ones.

  • Go through a barrier identification process: This is another spot where I find Customer Journey Maps to be an amazing tool to capture what’s stopping customers from accomplishing their goals. When you identify barriers, you’re usually going to conduct some kind of observational research to watch and record what customers are doing (not what they say they’re doing).

  • Brainstorm strategies to overcome these barriers: You can use the behavioral barriers cards I’ve shared above for some idea-inspiring questions.

Tip: Use a template like the one shown below to capture barriers and come up with some solutions to help customers overcome them. You can view and copy the template below by clicking here.

Image of the week:

Your brand’s unique attributes (like your logo, colors, packaging, jingle, or mascot) make you memorable. And memories drive sales.

These unique attributes are called “distinctive brand assets.”

Here’s a great example of Cup Noodle using a basketball sponsorship deal to do more than just throw a poster on the backboard.

Check out these amazing Cup Noodle mops:

👉 Ask yourself: How could my brand use its “distinctive assets” (like its packaging or logo) in new, creative ways?

Read, Watch, Listen

  • How Starbucks became the kings of coffee with some clever marketing psychology and applied behavioral science [Read]

  • Unpacking the psychology behind a clever Skims abandoned cart email [Watch]

  • Check out the latest episode of the top-rated Choice Hacking podcast [Listen]  

Until next time,

Jen Clinehens, MS/MBA
Founder & MD Choice Hacking

Want to use behavioral science, psychology, and AI to grow your business?

👉 When you’re ready, Choice Hacking can help:

  • Training: We can help your team level up their work with psychology, behavioral science, and AI training.

  • Courses: My popular course “How to Create Magnificent Journey Maps” version 3.0 will open for registration for only 48 hours on April 23, 2024. There are 25 seats available in this course and it will only open 1x this year. 

  • Consulting: Get your biggest marketing and business challenges off your plate and into the hands of a dedicated team of experts.

    • You can learn more about Choice Hacking’s consulting offerings here. 

    • Want 1-on-1 expert advice on how to grow your brand but don’t want to pay thousands to get it? Check out my Website Audit. For only $1200 USD, I’ll send you a 43-point Audit Report, a UX breakdown, and a 60 minute video breakdown of your website that gives you actionable ways to drive trust with users and increase your conversion rate.

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