Visible Demand



Imagine you are walking down a street and you realise everyone is looking upwards. What do you do? It would take a particularly resistant, willful person not to also look up because we find it instinctive to follow the gaze of other people.

Humans have very large and distinctive sclera, the white areas in our eyes that surround our pupils, a feature that allows us to establish from quite a distance where the gaze of another person is directed. It’s a nod to our social and collaborative nature and a factor in our excellent ability to judge other people’s intentions from their body language. If many other people are looking up in the street, there must be something there worth looking at. 

Human behaviour leads us to hunt for clues that the things we are choosing to invest our time, resources and effort in are the right things. As complex, social beings, we take a lot of our cues from the actions of others. The rule of thumb goes... “if other people like it, it can’t be bad. If lots of other people like it, it must be good.”

Therefore anything that proves to a potential customer that many other people are choosing to use your products and services, will raise its appeal.

Brits are excellent at queuing. If you are British, you will probably at some time have been in a queue without knowing what it was even for - and you know you daren’t leave your spot or you’ll get bumped to the back of the line... so you lunge out sideways, leaving your tip toes where you were standing, to try to see down the line without losing your place. We melt into a puddle of anxiety if we think for a second we might be in the wrong queue, prompting one of those rare occasions where it’s considered perfectly acceptable to talk to a total stranger, just to make sure you’re in the right place.

With queuing, the rule of thumb goes... “if other people are doing it, then it must be a good thing to do.”

Studies of queuing behaviour show that people are prepared to stay longer in a slow-moving queue as the number of people behind them also grows. If we are the last in a line and no one else stands behind us, we are more likely to abandon a slow-moving queue. The more people who are ‘down’ the line behind us, the more we see it as a reinforcement of our decision to stay in line and the greater the penalty of abandoning our place and having to go back to the start again.

Review sites like TripAdvisor and Google maps lever the mechanism of social behaviour to give us an idea of what hotels, restaurants, attractions, and destinations other people are enjoying. Some ecommerce sites go a step further and make suggestions based on the preferences and behaviour of people like you. They say: ” People who liked this thing (that you just placed in your basket), also like this thing...”

Hotel comparison sites tell you how many people just booked the hotel you are looking at and how full the town or city is for the dates you have given. Airlines frequently tell you when remaining places are scarce... “only 2 seats left on your chosen date” - a sign you need to hurry and book or be left behind!

These are all systems that make demand visible.

How can you use social cues to raise the desirability of what you offer?

• If you have a large customer base, find a way to let other potential customers know how many other people choose you. (Within data protection law of course!)

• If you use waiting lists, keep people informed of their place on it and how long it will take to get to the front. - Consider how you can let customers know how many people are also behind them in the list.

• Share more customer testimonials so that people know others enjoyed your products and service too. (See a past blog on collecting these.)

• Embrace sites that allow public customer reviews and comments and can you encourage your customers to leave reviews.

• Tell customers when demand is high and your products and services are close to selling-out or at capacity.

Note 1 - Did you notice the picture of the queue above is made up of several images of the same people stitched together. If you didn’t don’t worry. I used this image for 4 years before someone pointed it out. Our minds fill the gaps in what we expect to see - more on that another day!

>Note 2 - You really want to look at the picture again now, don’t you.