Norm, behavior control, and attitude — reactions are the difficult elements of product development

How a person behaves depends on various factors and is therefore difficult to predict. However, with innovative product ideas, this is precisely the art: to be able to say how the user will react to the finished product even before complex product development.

User centricity, validation, and prototyping — these elements are part of digital product development and are central to our work at Horizon. To ensure that innovative ideas turn into even more successful products, we share our insights in the blog series “The Psychology of User-Centered Innovation”. In this second blog post, we illustrate the various psychological factors that determine human behavior. Moreover, we explain how it is possible to test not only one of these factors but to test user behavior holistically in the form of real reactions. No easy undertaking — which is why we start with a practical example.

Anna and Ben: The example with data protection

Let’s take a look at Anna, a young product manager, and Ben, a successful CEO. The focus is initially on their respective attitudes towards the topic of data protection. Anna holds the opinion that companies should know as little as possible about the user. Ben, on the other hand, considers the topic of data protection to be completely secondary and is not shy about disclosing as much as possible about his private life on the internet.

However, as an employee of a digital company, Anna also knows that the use of personal data can be of great benefit to the end-user, especially when it is used in a personalized manner. As a product manager, this kind of data preparation is expected of her, and since she feels that she has no influence on her company’s decisions anyway, she is developing an extensive module to be able to evaluate even more personal information.

Ben, in turn, realizes that many people are extremely concerned about protecting their data. In addition, he is expected to handle user-related data in a responsible manner. In order not to take any unnecessary economic risks, Ben complies with these expectations, although in his private life he is not really interested in what happens to his data.

Attitude, norm, control: The psychology of human action

What is behind the stories of Ben and Anna? In their respective roles, both personas provide us with insights into the factors that influence human actions. The theoretical basis for this is the “Theory of Planned Behavior” by Icek Ajzen, who proved almost 30 years ago that our actions are influenced by Subjective Norms, Perceived Behavioral Control, and Attitudes to Behavior.

Perceived behavioral control, for example, has a direct influence on human behavior because it reflects what we believe we can do or influence. This factor often corresponds to a perceived or actual obligation, such as one’s own job: Anna would like to act in the spirit of privacy, but her job does not allow her to do so. Ben would also like to take a more relaxed approach to the issue professionally — but he can’t, because his corporate responsibility outweighs his own.

The Subjective Norm, on the other hand, describes the behavior that we believe is appropriate in a situation and thus corresponds to the (subjectively perceived) expectations of others. Our example shows how different this impression can be: While Anna perceives the public view towards data protection as positive, for Ben it represents a disruptive factor that he has to comply with.

The last influencing factor is the attitude to behavior, i.e. the individual’s own opinion, about whose influence on which we discussed in great detail in our last blog post.

This triad of factors clearly explains how human behavior is created. However, none of them is suitable as a basis for decisions on product innovations. After all, why should you rely on individual erroneous factors when you can test the real effect, the user reaction, right away? So the crucial question is: How can we test the “real” behavior instead of just checking individual factors?

Authentic products for real reactions

Back to our digital guinea pigs. Suppose we want to validate a new product idea where data protection plays a crucial role. Ben and Anna have been identified as potentially interested users for the new product. So instead of asking them for their opinion on the processing of personal data in general, we want to know how they handle sensitive data in reality.

What data do they disclose? Would they be willing to pay a surcharge to use the service without clearance for data processing? And do they even read the privacy agreement? These are the critical questions that we have to answer before we start to develop the actual product so that they reflect a picture as authentic as possible of our potential customers. The solution is to present the future product as realistically and concretely as possible in order to extract real reactions and thus valid results.

Products that can be sold digitally have a great advantage here, as data on user reactions can be collected quickly, effectively, and accurately via the Internet. At Horizon, we have developed our landing page demand testing method for such cases — a process that has been matured over several years and through which we have already successfully tested digital products in over 60 projects. A combination of highly optimized landing pages, digital advertisements, tracking, and analytics enables us to collect performance data and thus analyze user reactions down to the smallest detail.

Ideation and Validation: Two sounds with impact

There are two questions that must be answered when dealing with innovation: Which problem do I want to solve? And can my idea solve the user’s problem?

In order to answer the first question, which represents the ideation process in product development, qualitative methods like interviews or user surveys can be very helpful. They are suitable for capturing opinions and generating ideas for further product development. As far as validation is concerned, i.e. the question of value-add, more is needed than a spectrum of opinions. And this is where landing page demand testing comes into play.

The hurdle for companies to implement and use landing page demand testing is relatively low. One prerequisite is to be courageous and simply do it. It will be worth it. Those who test products at an early stage in the innovation process and focus on the user create real value. Because landing page demand testing also ensures that the performance promise of a product is formulated very specifically as early as possible. This creates products that customers really want.

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Written by
Nikara is experienced in digital business development, she used to work for Vodafone in New Zealand and is now crushing Business Development & Marketing efforts at Horizon on our mission to redefine how to build products that customers really want. Niki has won the People’s Choice Award with one of her ideas in the past. She has always been passionate about launching successful digital products herself, by understanding very early what the target market and consumer needs are. Now she wants to leverage this experience at Horizon.
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