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Barriers to purchase

Key Research Questions: What stops your customers completing their buying journey?

Barriers and drivers: How behavioural science can help answer your research questions

If you ask consumers “do you always recycle hard plastics?” in a traditional survey, you'll most likely record around 60% stating they do. The reality, however, is that only 15% of us will always recycle hard plastics. The reasons for this overclaim are myriad but fundamentally we are terrible at self-recording our own past actions, let alone our motivations for doing or not doing something.

This is why one of the most frequent briefs we get from our partners is to find the barriers for the uptake of a product or service. It may be your new product performed well in concept testing but when it comes to a live marketplace, it fails. Or you have an existing loyal segment but for some reason can’t take the next step and increase that segment.

It’s a business question that can take different forms, but in understanding barriers there is always one key fundamental challenge. Customers often aren’t able to tell you the reason why. It’s very hard to say why you didn’t do something (much more difficult than why you did do it). It’s even harder to tell an interviewer what would have made you behave differently.

Take for example some of our recent work with UKTV on their channel, Alibi. The channel had a solid viewing base, but UKTV consistently found their marketing efforts were not moving the needle as much as they needed. Viewing figures had stagnated and traditional survey research wasn’t giving the insight the team needed to overcome the barriers to increased engagement.

Or our work with a pharmaceutical company who had launched a new product and couldn’t work out why doctors weren’t prescribing it. In the brand’s initial testing doctors raved about the potential of the product and all signals pointed to a successful product launch. But when it hit the market take up didn’t come close to predicted sales.

At the heart of these challenges is that both companies had tried conventional research and got only the most basic, repetitive answers. So when they approached Irrational Agency, we designed a barrier detection tool based on tapping into the part of the brain called System 3.

For our pharmaceutical client this involved getting viewers, doctors, or other customers, to tell us stories about their experiences in the category.

Tell us about the last time you were flicking through the channels and looking for something to watch? What caught your eye? What did you skip over? Where would you go if you had to pick a channel right now?


Last time you had a Type 2 diabetes patient in your office, how did the conversation go? What kind of issues did you discuss? How were they feeling? When did you last offer new treatment options and to whom?

We developed these stories into a series of narratives using word associations and machine learning, getting unique insights into what motivates people and why they do and don’t make certain choices.

The insights

For UKTV, we discovered the emotional offer that they could make to viewers, unlocking a 13% increase in audience share, and their best viewing figures for a decade. For the pharmaceutical company, we found what was holding doctors back, and designed 4 new marketing tactics that resulted in a 200% increase in new prescriptions and revenue when rolled out across their sales team.

If you are wondering what stops people progressing faster through your sales funnel, or why they don’t pick up your products or choose your brand – would you like to find out what behavioural science and narrative research can reveal?

Get in touch at hello@irrationalagency.com and we can see if this new kind of research is a fit for you too.

And if you’re interested in the details of our work with UKTV, you can watch our webinar presentation with them below.



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