How to apply Behavioral Economics to business

Olivia Heslinga

Our featured guest on the blog for this month is an expert in how behavioral economics can be applied to business. We are honored to have Melina Palmer: author, speaker, entrepreneur, consultant, and instructor at Texas A&M, share her insights on the future of Human Behavior Research.

Melina Palmer is an expert in using behavioral economics in business applications. She is the founder of The Brainy Business, where she consults with companies and entrepreneurs to understand the small changes that can make a big difference in product programs, pricing, change initiatives, branding, internal communication, and marketing messages to increase engagement and ROI.

Her podcast, The Brainy Business: Understanding the Psychology of Why People Buy, has a global audience with downloads in over 170 countries, and it is used as a resource for teaching applied behavioral economics for many universities and businesses.

A proud member of the Global Association of Applied Behavioral Scientists (GAABS), Melina has contributed research to the Association for Consumer Research and The Filene Research Institute, and she runs the Behavioral Economics & Business column for Inc magazine.

Her first book, What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You, is out now, so get your copy today!

She recently joined the team at the Texas A&M- Human Behavior Lab (HBL), which is the largest academic human behavior lab in the world, and which we are proud to say is powered by iMotions: Human Behavior Software. Palmer is part of the stellar team teaching in the Certificate in Applied Behavioral Economics program. We interviewed her about the program, which offers business professionals the extra edge and insight to understand their consumer’s behavior, as well as why she thinks behavioral economics can–and should–be applied to any human interaction.

What do you teach at Texas A&M?

I teach multiple courses for an online Certificate in Applied Behavioral Economics at Texas A&M. This unique program makes the latest research accessible, relatable, and understandable for any industry and role, from the C-suite to the entrepreneur.

Each course in the program is taught by an expert in their field, with co-teaching / collaboration with my colleagues Dr. Marco Palma, Director of HBL, Jeff Pool, also of HBL, and Will Leach, author of Marketing to Mindstates.

I teach the following courses at Texas A&M (and we are constantly adding more courses to the program to meet the growing needs of our students):

  • Foundations of Behavioral Economics
  • Internal Communication and Change Management
  • Creating Better Presentations (mini-mester, 3 weeks)
  • Setting Brainy Goals (mini-mester, 3 weeks)
  • Pricing Strategy and Product Development
  • Behavioral Economics for Business (co-taught)

What is the Applied Behavioral Economics certificate?

We take cutting-edge behavioral science and apply it to different domains in business with anything that has to do with human behavior. Getting an understanding of behavioral economics and how to apply it in business can help people influence their teams and shape their businesses to be more human-centric.

The ability to be online offers flexibility for anyone in the world—we have had students from every continent all learning together, which is awesome. This program was created to fill a gap we saw in the market. It is for people who love their careers and want to uplevel their skills without having to become an academic researcher or get a Ph.D.

If you are dealing with people in any capacity, there is behavioral economics and behavioral science involved and the relevance of the courses can be applied in many different ways. We make it accessible by condensing academic research into readable, applicable concepts and discussing business goals and uses throughout the courses. It is our goal to give every student the skills to immediately start using behavioral science responsibly within their jobs.

This program is intended to evolve with our learners. We plan to add more electives that are specific to certain industries and disciplines as we go. We envision a program where the students can build/add into the program to help shape it into something that gives them the laser-focused skills they need to achieve their business and personal goals.

Where do you see the future of Behavioral Economics?

To me, it has been clear for a long time that applied behavioral economics will be paramount moving forward. Businesses need teams that are trained in the behavioral sciences and that can responsibly test internally and with partners for larger projects.

The best thing is, properly applied behavioral economics is great for consumers as well. They become central to the conversation when they might have otherwise been an afterthought or obstacle. It’s not uncommon to hear people say things like, “Our job would be so easy if it wasn’t for the customers.” This joke is rooted in a real problem of not understanding what’s actually going on in the brain of the customer. With behavioral economics we can build better programs, products, services and brands that consumers love—and at companies where people love to work. In the next five years, I expect more and more businesses to have behavioral teams, Chief Behavioral Officers, and/or be working with behavioral consultancies like mine to ensure they are properly executing behavioral economics across their companies. It’s an exciting time to be in the field.

As an example of how this can be done, I’ve had the honor of partnering with iMotions to use eye tracking and facial recognition to test behavioral economics concepts on my website to see what resonates best with visitors. We used simple A/B testing in a virtual environment that allows for a diverse testing group (opening up opportunities for those whose customers are busy or don’t live close to a lab) and can be done quickly. We will be sharing the results in a case study soon so keep an eye out for that!

Where can we find you?

Check out her website: Brainy Business

Melina Palmer is active on all social media platforms as well as her own website and podcast. Follow her on:

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Check out her newest book: What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You: Unlocking Consumer Decisions with the Science of Behavioral Economics. Order it now and unlock your data for true business impact!

About the author

Olivia Heslinga

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