BERLIN: Behavioural economics suggests that small changes can have major effects, but these may not necessarily be in the ways a brand expects, as the experience of online language-learning business Babbel demonstrates.

Scott Weiss, vice president of production design at Babbel, offered several examples from his experience to the recent Qual360 Europe conference in Berlin.

An attempted rebranding exercise in 2016 explored the use of different colours and fonts on the website, but in tests people preferred the older version by a large margin.

In the end, the changes were very limited: “we updated the logo with the new colour form and we changed the flags from a rectangle to a circle,” he said. (For more read WARC’s report: ‘Stick a leaf on it’: how small visual changes drive big results.)

Alongside the freshened up appearance “we also gave people more of an opportunity to know what else was on offer from Babbel in promotional ways. And it enables us to cross-promote the newer features that we're offering.”

And in a cautionary tale about the need to look beyond the numbers, he related how when refactoring some code, Babbel had noticed that only 3,000 people out of more than one million subscribing customers were using a particular feature so it was removed.

“The problem with that, these customers were our most loyal customers. And they were really burned by it. They were the people who were telling other people about how great Babbel was and they were calling us and telling us what a big mistake that we made.”

Set alongside these examples of changes not working as hoped, Weiss outlined the unexpected benefits from the simple process of putting an FAQs section into Babbel’s Android product rather than just leaving it on the desktop site.

“People started using the frequently asked questions immediately,” he reported, with knock-on effects on the call centre. “We had 10,000 fewer requests per month but we had 80,000 frequently-asked-question requests” — which he interpreted as meaning the brand was driving better customer satisfaction from giving people more independence when using the product.

“The user experience changes that can be made can create really big and interesting benefits and we can end up with different outcomes than are expected,” Weiss said.

Sourced from WARC