SalienceOpen Access

Salience

Our choices are determined by the information we're shown

Salience means awareness, and when designing anything, what we reveal, how prominently, when, or whether we instead choose to keep it hidden all affect decisions greatly.

Blake, T., Moshary, S., Sweeney, K., & Tadelis, S. (2021). Price salience and product choice. Marketing Science.

The study

Setup

Over 10 days, millions of people using online ticket marketplace Stubhub were put into two groups, where 15% ticket fees were either made salient up front during ticket browsing, or hidden until checkout.

Results

Results found that for those with delayed salience of the fee, revenue increased by 21%, with a quarter of this due to higher priced tickets being bought.

Study graph

Key Takeaways

What is seen is what is done

Surfacing key information in a timely fashion can prompt us to do more of what we aspire to. For instance, Amazon have redesigned their Kindle so that when it's not in use, the screensaver becomes the cover of the book you're currently reading. This acts as a salient reminder to read as one notices the Kindle throughout the day. We can use the same approach to boost healthy eating, having a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table over one filled with salty cashews. What do you want users to do more of? How do you want them to feel? What unique or delightful features can you surface that will help inspire action and make Tiny Habits that much more likely to form?

Takeaway image

More knowledge isn't necessarily better

There's a trade-off between what's presented to us now and making good decisions for our future. For instance, cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase choose to omit the % gained or lost from one's investments. Research shows that if they instead showed this, people may incorrectly sell coins that have increased in value, while keeping coins that have dropped in value, known as the Disposition Effect.

Takeaway image

Differentiate by removing information

Whereas knowledge can be power, it can also demotivate. For example, weight loss scales Shapa does away with the number telling you how much you weigh, instead providing 5 colour bands denoting averaged performance. Omitting the number shifts us away from short term fluctuations in weight that can lead to feelings of failure causing us to give up. What information or options could you hide that could otherwise lead users to short term or harmful outcomes? What can you remove that could confuse or overwhelm?

Takeaway image

Delayed salience can trigger shock

Also consider the ethical implications of hiding key information, as in the study above. In this case, any reactance felt will be relative to the proportion of the extra fees incurred, customer expectations, industry norms and how frequent the transaction is. Hidden fees on more regular transactions like grocery shopping will be subject to higher levels of reactance than one-offs like a car purchase. There is an art to surfacing such painful information at the correct time in order to generate a sale. Try adding an explanation of why the fee exists to reduce drop-off, like Airbnb do.

Takeaway image
Salience

Salience

Our choices are determined by the information we're shown

Salience means awareness, and when designing anything, what we reveal, how prominently, when, or whether we instead choose to keep it hidden all affect decisions greatly.

The study

Setup

Over 10 days, millions of people using online ticket marketplace Stubhub were put into two groups, where 15% ticket fees were either made salient up front during ticket browsing, or hidden until checkout.

Results

Results found that for those with delayed salience of the fee, revenue increased by 21%, with a quarter of this due to higher priced tickets being bought.

study graph
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Our choices are determined by the information we're shown

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