Summary: Decoding Decisions - Making Sense Of The Messy Middle

Just read the full report named Decoding Decisions created by folks at Google’s consumer insights team.

A friend of mine, João Otero asked for a summary then I will provide it through a blog post, my first since circa 2014.

What is the ‘messy middle’?

A space of abundant information and unlimited choice that shoppers have learned to manage using a range of cognitive shortcuts.

Much of its analysis uses Google Trends data. For example: Trends for UK searches containing “cheap” and “best” have been in opposite directions:

Trends for UK searches containing “cheap” and “best” have been in opposite directions

As the internet has grown, it has transformed from a tool for comparing prices to a tool for comparing everything.

It is interesting to see shopping touchpoints:

The Messy Middle

However, there’s an interesting distinction between searches containing “best” and “reviews”, with searches containing “best” rarely containing the name of a brand, while searches containing “reviews” often do.

The proportion of worldwide searches containing “free” or “cheap” has been in decline, but the proportion containing “best” has been increasing.

The demise of “free” is partly a story about our changing search behaviour but, of course, we can’t forget that it’s also a reflection of how new platforms and streaming services have changed the entertainment industry. In 2004 there was no YouTube (founded 2005), no Spotify (founded 2006), Netflix was still a DVD sales and rentals business (it didn’t offer streaming until 2007), and there was no App Store (launched 2008).

Modifying the messy middle

The Messy Middle

Category heuristics, Authority bias, Social proof, Power of now, Scarcity bias and Power of free.

In nearly every case, social proof (expressed as three-star versus five-star reviews) proved to be the most powerful behavioural bias.

Across our 31 categories, when second-favourite brands were supercharged with all six cognitive biases, the result was a profound shift away from the favourite.

There is good news for new brands:

Challengers should see the messy middle as a window of opportunity: consumers are willing to explore and evaluate alternatives, and even entirely new brands have the chance to change mindsets, disrupt established preferences, and win new customers.

dirs!? Coder, Biker, Statistics Student, Avid Reader