Procrastination Bias: When it comes to making decisions, your brain places higher value on reaping immediate rewards than it does on those that might be earned in the future. Scientists refer to this dilemma as a battle between your Present Self and your Future Self.

The key difference between the two is that the Future Self is able to set targets and have goals, but the Present Self is the one that makes things happen.

What this means is that when it’s time to make a decision, people aren’t making a choice for their Future Self, they are in the present.  The analogy is this: while the Future Self wants to be fit and healthy,  the Present Self wants a Greggs pasty.  

To get round the fact we procrastinate, marketers need to understand this behaviour and offer compelling reasons to buy, or make it super easy for customers to make a decision. Examples of how this can be done include:

  • Free delivery and 50% off your first order – does this really well.
  • Risk free, 100 day free trial  – Eve mattresses get this right
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back – Premier Inn’s good night’s sleep guarantee
  • Free, no-hassle returns – ASOS continue to deliver this
  • ‘One click’ to buy – Amazon pioneered this

Likewise, it’s possible to take advantage of the fact customer default behaviour is to procrastinate and marketers need to take the decision-making away from them. Examples of this are:

  • Auto renewing annual subscriptions –  all car insurance companies do this to great effect.
  • A free trial period, that rolls into a  full subscription with “no need to do anything” – Amazon Prime has  used this approach since its inception
  • Put up barriers to exit (eg call the helpline to cancel, opt-out after a certain date) – Again, does this really well.

Find out more about about behavioural marketing in our new report – Applying behavioural economics to marketing – 7 cognitive biases you can leverage today.