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How Internet Users Prefer and Process Information

By Rick Sloboda |

More than 63% of Internet users indicated in a recent Webcopyplus poll the written word is their choice of communications on the Web.

However, according to psychologist, educator and neurolinguistics expert Dr. Genie Z. Laborde, only 20% of people are primarily auditory, meaning they gather and process information most effectively via written text and the spoken word.

Dr. Laborde notes 40% of people are strongly visual, and 40% are kinesthetically dominant when it comes to learning.

So while the majority of people indicated they prefer accessing information on the Web through web writing, it's in website owners' best interest to support and augment web copy with other communication forms to connect with a higher percentage of people.

Neuromarketing, authored by Patrick Renvoise and Christophe Morin, outlines the three different channels people use to gather and process information:

  • The visual channel depends on seeing to learn.
  • The auditory channel relies on hearing to learn.
  • The kinesthetic channel uses touch to learn.

The book, which digs into customers' "buy buttons," explains how the different learning channels are used to interpret different types of information.

The visual channel can be used to interpret:

  • Pictures or graphics
  • Images and icons
  • The visual component of an ad

The auditory channel is used to interpret elements such as:

  • Written text
  • Spoken words
  • The auditory section of a video

The kinesthetic channel is used:

  • When people are asked to perform tasks or exercises
  • With props

Channel of choice – satisfy all

To tap into and influence a higher percentage of your target audiences' minds, it's best to communicate your message through various means to accommodate different learning styles.

You can arm your web content with:

  • Web writing
  • Photos
  • Illustrations
  • Charts
  • Video clips
  • Audio feeds

Visual support can, for instance, enhance the effectiveness of presentations – on or off the Web. In fact, Renvoise and Morin cited data published by 3M Meeting Management Institute, which revealed the time required to communicate a concept is reduced by 40% with the use of "effective visuals."

Write and design for each group

Additionally, how you communicate through a channel can help you connect with people who tend to gather and process information in other modes.

Web copy, for instance, naturally connects to predominantly auditory people. But your web writing can also engage online visitors who tend to process information visually or kinesthetically.

The text, "I saw the surfer ride the huge blue wave," for example, caters to visual people because it prompts people to "see" what's being described. Meanwhile, the text, "The ice-chilled beverage was so refreshing," induces the kinesthetic channel because temperatures, Neuromarketing points out, can be experienced through touch.

This influence isn't exclusive to web copywriters, as web designers too can tap into each of the channels. A close-cropped image of a crying baby can stimulate the auditory channel. And a vivid photo of lava can trigger the kinesthetic channel as heat can be experienced through touch.

A designer once told me he incorporates images of analog items – natural, concrete elements, such as wood – into his web content to "warm up" the cold digital format and build trust.

The power of stories

Well delivered stories, which can be presented in a variety of formats, move people -- and successful marketers take full advantage of this.

Movies often produce laughter and tears, certain songs give you goose bumps, and select poems can inspire you to take on the world.

In the same manner, a good story can prompt consumers to become fond of a company and invest in its offerings. That's because people make decisions emotionally (and then rationalize them logically).

To demonstrate how stories can impact humans physically, Dr. Laborde demonstrates a technique called: "A story inside a story inside a story." Here's an example she used:

When I was a young boy in Serbia (or Honduras or Tokyo), I used to visit my grandfather during the summer. (Story 1) Now, he was the fifth son of a fifth son and as a result, he could cure sick cattle or so his neighbors thought. So they would bring their cattle to the front door of his thatched hut. (Story 2) One day, on my fourth visit, he put one of his hands on my shoulder, pointed to a trembling calf, and said, "You look quite sick, little calf." This word, "sick," is emphasized in tone). The story continues…(story 3)

At this point, she noted, you may actually begin to feel sick. To be sure, stories can be influential communication tools in all forms.

Thoughtful information drives action

Deliver distinct, consistent and memorable web content via various forms to connect with online visitors emotionally, and ultimately drive desired actions, i.e. generate a lead or sale.

Covering the full spectrum of learning styles in your web content will help you engage, inform and influence a higher percentage of your target audience. 

Reference: The online poll conducted by Webcopyplus asked 303 participants "What form of communication do you prefer online?" The responses were: written 63.4% (192); visual 35.6% (107); and oral 1% (3). The poll was conducted during a three-month period ended in July, 2008. 

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