For nearly 20 years I’ve been studying consumer behavior. What started as a simple “retail experiment” led to an in-depth research project that as it turns out, will likely never end… And I’m ok with that. What I thought was simply an interest in buying behavior and the effects of genuine customer service on sales and revenue, turned into a fascination, an almost obsession as it were. Not only what pushes people to make a purchase, but what influences their decision making, thought process, and their choice between two competitors. Their choice to choose nothing at all.
This retail experiment transitioned to the study of online consumer behavior, and the drastic changes triggered by the explosion of e-commerce and social media. The recent pandemic has only amplified the use of the web and technology for not only purchases but basic human interaction. And what I find most fascinating, and at times, almost appalling, is how that online world is impacting the way we decide, the way we interact, and even the way we live in the “real” world.
We are plagued by indecision, fear, and polarized perspectives. We are overwhelmed and overworked, overstimulated, and burned out. We are exhausted and yet bored. We are “connected all the time” and yet… more disconnected than ever before. We are inundated with information and opinions and yet find it harder and harder to make decisions… even the simple ones. I find myself repeatedly thinking “ENOUGH”… But… enough of what? And yet, at the same time, something’s missing. There’s an emptiness… that we increasingly fill with alcohol, food, endless consumption of tv shows and movies. There’s a general anxiety that seems to be threatening to choke us all… And sometimes it feels like we’re powerless to enact any real change…
What I’ve learned in nearly two decades of marketing strategy and execution, e-commerce, analytics, and social media, is that simply watching what people do gives us no real insight. These are just data points that on the surface make no sense. In fact, at times these data points even seem irrational. But when we start to study the changes over time, comparing consumer behavior over different industries and changing environments, we start to see patterns. Patterns that begin to tell a different story.
A story about the why behind behavior. Answering this question of why has become my purpose in this world. My mission is to understand the intent that drives our thoughts, our emotions, our decisions, and ultimately, our behavior.
I believe when we fully understand intent — both our own and the intent of others — we can start to work towards solutions for so many important issues. Along the way, we’re also stumbling on what really makes customers happy, what they really want vs. what they tell you they want.
What makes a donor give each year, and give more. What makes another stop giving. What makes seemingly great employees quit, and what makes it incredibly difficult to find the right ones you want to hire. What makes teams work well together and what causes more issues. What makes one startup explode out of the gate, while 20 others die a quiet death. What makes us draw lines and take sides. What causes huge breakdowns in communication and how to fix them. And why change is so incredibly difficult to enact — both personally and in organizations.
And most importantly, we’re gaining huge insights into decision making. Why it’s becoming so difficult, and why we end up so dissatisfied with the decisions we make.
Our goal is to start to share what we’re learning about the science of intent, in hopes that it will help with some of the problems you’re facing. At home, at work, in life. We hope it will give you new ideas and new perspectives. We hope it will help you understand yourself — and others — a little better.
In recent years, emotional intelligence and empathy have become hot topics. Companies seek out people with high emotional intelligence. The ability to empathize with the emotions of another can be a critical workplace skill. But I believe it’s only scratched the surface.
I also believe empathy can be exhausting. A world filled with increasing emotions is a lot to handle, but if we can learn how to recognize the why behind those emotions, the reasons behind our feelings and actions and those of others, we make it far easier to have empathy. We make it easier to lead our teams. We make it easier to get more customers. We make it easier to be better parents. We make it easier to make decisions. We make it easier to build real connections. And hopefully, we make this experience of life… better.