Content Nudging

With intelligent content marketing, companies reach their customers on their customer journey on the Internet. At appropriate touchpoints, they provide information about their products and related topics. They offer answers and solutions to the questions and problems of Internet users. Those who also work with the strategy of content nudging gently nudge their customers and potential customers and motivate them to make a decision. Through clever content nudging, companies increase conversion rates and turn customers into buyers.

The term “content nudging” is composed of content and nudging. Nudging comes from “to nudge” and can be translated in German as “anstupsen” or “carefully nudge”. The term became popular through the textbook “Nudge: How to Nudge Smart Decisions,” written by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Thaler, a professor of behavioral economics, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2017. Initially, the method of nudging was mainly used to motivate citizens to behave in the “right” way – without using punishment or coercion. Well-known examples of the application of the method are a healthy diet or environmentally conscious behavior. For example, if people suffer from obesity, the size of their plate can determine how much they eat. The same portion of food appears larger on a smaller plate. Due to this visual influence, many people tend to eat less of the meal on a small plate. With playful elements of gamification, people can be enticed to use the stairs instead of the elevator. In doing so, they promote their health and protect the environment. However, as soon as politicians start using such strategies, things get tricky. People are quick to voice criticism: They speak of paternalism in the form of manipulative strategies that patronize people.

Has nudging in marketing only existed since the Internet?

In marketing, the principle of nudging has been around for a long time, even if it is not called that. Supermarkets strategically arrange their expensive products at eye level, while shoppers have to bend over hard for the cheaper alternatives. Online, this is not much different, as can be seen from the algorithms of online stores. They often prioritize expensive products, displaying them in a prominent position and suggesting that they are in particularly high demand. If you want to book a flight or a hotel room online, the comparison portals often put you under pressure. For example, they display the following in conspicuous type: “There is only one room available for your desired date – decide quickly!” By using cookies, the returning visitor can be put under pressure particularly well. However, this form of influence is not very subtle and is easily seen through by many users. They deliberately delete their browser history as well as cookies so that the website does not recognize them on their next visit.

The method of content nudging

Consequently, the definition of content nudging is that it is a method to gently and positively influence customers in their behavior. As is well known, the Internet, with its online offerings, serves as a “pull medium” as opposed to the traditional media as a “push medium.” This distinction expresses the fact that Internet users actively seek out information and advertising, whereas it is offered directly to the classic reader or imposed in negative terms. Someone leafing through a magazine, for example, sees an advertisement or an editorial article marked as an advertisement. On the Internet, on the other hand, people initially only see the home page of their web browser. Then they selectively navigate to websites they are familiar with or enter keywords in the search engine. The design of a website supports nudging if it subtly influences visitors to click on a link or perform some other action.

Content nudging goes a step further and attempts to create needs in consumers. Those who have read an enticing travel report on the travel provider’s blog are more interested in cheap trips to the country described afterwards. The texts should be easy to understand and well structured in order to prepare the reader step by step for the call-to-action.

Content nudging on the customer journey

As users make their way through the Internet, companies try to offer them relevant and high-quality information. They provide this on their website or blog, on social media channels, and via offers such as a newsletter. If the content cleverly animates the customer to buy, they are also called nudges. These nudges should not appear at the very beginning of the customer journey, as this might not seem serious enough. Step by step, people ideally gain trust and get to know the company as a source of reliable, informative or even entertaining content. The content must be strictly geared to the target group, and their questions and wishes must always be kept in mind. In the course of the customer journey, the content can successively contain more promotional elements.

In the long run, the company subtly influences the decision of its customers in this way. In doing so, they do not persuade, but convince with their transparent offer. They gently influence the potential customer, but neither mislead him nor disenfranchise him. Ideally, they create needs through their content that the customer did not have before. Even if the consumer was already planning to buy something, the manufacturer can still encourage him in his desire to buy through clever nudges. The strategy only works if content marketing provides high-quality content that is relevant to the customer. It is therefore essential for the company to take the user’s point of view. Only those who have sufficient knowledge about the needs, questions and problems of their customers can respond to them appropriately.

Instead of classic advertising, content marketing promises more sustainable success on the Internet. If companies offer their relevant and high-quality content with the right strategy, they also gently influence their customers with the method of content nudging. They try to influence consumer behavior – not obtrusively, but transparently and subtly. Conversion rates can be increased if companies skillfully guide their customers with the appropriate content. Due to the abundance of offers on the Internet, which are known to be only a click away, content nudging will gain importance in online marketing.


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