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Nudg..ify: applying theory to practice.

One of the best-known theories in Behavioral Science is the nudging theory, explained by R. Thaler and C. Sunstein in their book 'Nudge'. What does it mean? How important is it for marketing? In this article, we are going to give an answer (with a case study) to these questions 👍

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If you look up the word ‘nudge’ on Google, it is likely that you will find several definitions, examples, and references of the book ‘Nudge’. However, when I looked up searching this word on the internet a few years ago, I only obtained results associated with its literal definition. Nudge means “seeking someone's attention by a push of the elbow. To prod lightly: urge into action" [1].

Reading this definition, I was wondering if I had heard the name of the theory correctly since I could not find a connection between behavioral science and this word. In fact, learning about nudging theory requires a deeper understanding than just its literal meaning, and the authors of the book give a very clear explanation of what this term means in behavioral science.

“A nudge is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way, without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives.”

Let's have a look at the definition together 🤝

Choice architecture | A fundamental topic of the theory is the importance of contextual factors, not just individual ones, that can influence people's behaviors. For this reason, the definition mentions choice architecture, the practice of influencing choices by modifying the context in which people make decisions.

For example, if you work at a university and want more students to eat healthy in the canteen, you don't necessarily have to convince them; you can change their environment to facilitate healthy eating (e.g., putting apples in a more visible and achievable position than candies).

Alters people's behavior in a predictable way | A branch of the discipline called Behavioral Economics gathers insights from psychology and economics to provide a (more) realistic and scientific look at how human beings make decisions.

It is argued that people are irrational beings generally driven by emotion, intuition, and other factors (internal or external), which influence decision-making. However, in decision-making, we can also identify some patterns that show some coherence. These provide new opportunities for subtle interventions that can produce predictable results by anticipating what the decisions or behaviors may be.

Without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives | By understanding these patterns, subtle nudges can be designed and behavior steered in the desired direction. However, it is not a mandate, as people must make the decision themselves; they still have different options to choose from, but changes in the choice architecture could drive people toward the expected decision.

Do you want to learn more about the ethics of nudging?

I suggest reading this article by Leonhard K. Lades y Liam Delaney.


If well understood, and used ethically, this theory can be of great help to marketers.

The term Nudge Marketing refers to the application of nudging theory to marketing. It is a strategy that applies the nudging theory to marketing to indirectly influence the decisions of consumers and/or users. It is about modifying the choice architecture in which consumers make decisions, taking into account heuristics and cognitive biases.

Why is this important? For 2 main reasons (among others):

  • A nudge provides a cost-effective and non-intrusive way to change habits and encourage certain choices.

  • Nudge marketing is a subtle way to help consumers make better decisions.

An example is: modifying the text of the notifications of a delivery app using behavioral principles to encourage the purchase of healthy food. This does not generate a higher cost for the company and tries to change the behavior of users in a subtle way.


So, how can you use this theory? Let's see an example 🙌

A few months ago, I found out about a company that applies behavioral principles, as they recognize the impact they have on people's decisions and behaviors. The importance they give to this theory is also reflected in the name of the company: ‘Nudgify’.

What does Nudgify do? It helps businesses achieve their goals (e.g., increase sales or leads) by converting real-time data from website traffic into notifications, using behavioral insights.

For example, some notifications on the website use the principle of Social Proof, that is, a psychological phenomenon by which showing what others value, do or think influences people's decisions and behaviors [2].

Let's consider the sentence in the image: "18 people have viewed this product in the last 3 hours."

This notification as a nudge shows how much traffic there is on a web page or how many visits it generates.

This influences the consumer's purchase decision, generating confidence to finally purchase the product. All this, by simply showing what others value, do, or think.

💡 Displaying reviews and ratings is another way to create confidence and reduce customer doubts.

This Behavioral Science principle is not the only one mentioned on the website. Depending on the goal you want to achieve, there is an associated principle. For example, they use the 'scarcity effect' to define deadlines or to increase the desire for a product or service.

See ⬇️ more principles on Nudgify.

Nudgify is one of the practical examples of how behavioral principles can be implemented to influence the decisions or behaviors of consumers and/or users.

If you need support in the application of behavioral insights on your website or app, do not hesitate to contact me 😃

And if you liked the article, share on LinkedIn what you just learned!

Silvia Cottone

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