Ready, Set, Research
Let’s do a little mental exercise. Let’s imagine you have a new baby on the way and you need to buy a car seat. You’re a first-time parent, so this is new territory for you. What will you do?
Well, obviously, a car seat is a purchase that is very important to you. Being a protective, conscientious parent-to-be, hardwired through millions of years of evolutionary development to protect your young, this is not a decision you make lightly. You’re going to spend some significant time researching your purchase.
In addition, you have never bought a car seat before. You probably have no idea what brands are available or which ones are recommended. So you, like almost everyone else in the world, will turn to a search engine. And in doing so, you will come to a purchase decision in a way that is radically different from any previous path you have ever taken. Today, I’d like to explore the nature of this difference, and why it is so fundamentally important to search marketers.
So Many Seats, So Little Time…
Keeping to the car seat example, which car seat is the right one for you? There are dozens of car seats on the market. While we would like to be able to say that we carefully considered each one and optimized our decision, we just don’t have that much time to invest. This is the concept of bounded rationality, pioneered by cognitive psychologist Herbert Simon.
Before Simon, we commonly believed that humans came to optimal decisions in a rational manner, based on the information provided. Under this model, individuals take all the data that is accessible, weigh pros and cons, and use their cortexes to come to the best possible outcome.