What is the availability effect?

The availability effect, also known as the availability heuristic, describes the mind’s tendency to use information that comes quickly and easily. It’s one of the cognitive biases related by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, and it got them a Nobel prize. 

We wrote about discoveries of Kahneman and Tversky in numerous articles on our page, such as the Framing Effect and the Anchoring Effect.

It states the idea that by making a judgment about relative risk or danger, our mind relies on quick and easy ways to make decisions. Availability effect is a cognitive bias that helps you make fast, possibly incorrect, assessments.

The Decision-making process is affected by a number of related events or situations that might immediately come first to mind. As a result, you may think of such events as more likely to happen than others.

You believe more in this information and tend to overestimate the probability of similar situations emerging in the future. 

Here is a video explaining the availability effect:

What comes first to mind is believed to be far more common and more accurate than in reality. However, the availability effect can be helpful and essential in decision-making. 

When making a decision, we often lack the time or resources to investigate the issue deeply. 

After seeing a movie about a shark attack or hearing a report on the news, you start to think that such incidences are relatively common. 

When going on vacation, you may be afraid to swim in the ocean because you believe you can be attacked by a shark. In reality, in the United States, the likelihood of being attacked by a shark is one in almost 4 million. It’s less probable than being killed by fireworks.

Availability Effect in Marketing

The availability heuristic states that if it’s easy for me to memorize it is highly significant and more probable. Famous names are easy to recognize rather than sloppy names. It’s an example of recall availability. 

Recall availability is a heuristic for judging the frequency and probability of a given item in an attempt to make it easier to recall and act. If it is easy to remember and there are a lot of things, it will have a much more substantial probability to come first to your mind.

Creating a problem to your solution

Marketers try to identify a problem and sell it in the advertising campaign. The problem is more important to sell than the product itself. You need people to believe the solution you’re giving is crucial for them to be fulfilled. 

girls problem shopping

The problem you present should be easy to imagine but not too abstract. It may not concern your customer personally, but maybe it affects their friend or family member, so it is easier to imagine they too can have a similar problem in the future.

A great example can be cosmetic products reducing stretch marks. For many women, this is an existing, burning problem they want to remove. But the known fact is that it’s best to prevent stretch marks altogether.

So the customer can be a person with an already existing problem, but also someone who fears this problem may concern them in the future.

Repeating message

In marketing, repetition helps embed the brand and product into our subconsciousness. The more effective marketing ads will identify an existing problem and present their product as a solution. 

Because many advertisements are easy to forget, it is difficult for a product to stand out. This is why marketers will often show us the same advert over and over; to keep that image in our memory.

The advertiser brings the issue of availability effect to the customer’s attention. For instance, toothpaste adverts highlight the problem of sensitive teeth; however, this issue may not be significant enough to keep people up at night. 

pink message sign

However, by constantly reminding consumers of the issue, they will more greatly remember to buy a toothpaste tube each time they go grocery shopping.

Customer experience

If you’re designing products, think about how your customers will interact with your product. Create an intuitive experience that people remember, emphasizing the start and finish of that journey. That’s what sticks out the most in people’s minds. 

Create something memorable at the beginning, e.g., a landing page, and at the end, e.g., an order confirmation page.

How to use availability effect in marketing

Here are easy ways to use the availability effect in marketing:

  • Prime for product outcome – Present a problem that your product will solve and let people imagine what would happen if they didn’t use your product.
  • Prime for product success – Use your customers’ experiences to show what your product can do.
  • Show the result – Make it easy to imagine the effects of using your product. Show how your customers or celebrities, and influencers are getting the most out of your product.
  • Introduce the product – Prepare the premiere of your product long before launching it. Make it interesting and don’t let people forget about it.
  • Make a good pitch – Create a sentence that describes you best; it’s witty and easy to remember.

Conclusion

Availability heuristic can make marketing easy because all you need to do is find some problem that people are already experiencing and present your product as a solution.

This availability effect in marketing may sound like a simple way of reaching customers, but it isn’t always successful. If you’re a marketer, make sure you use the availability heuristic wisely. It is essential to be aware of the pitfalls that availability can bring when designing marketing campaigns.

Apart from competitor research, make your own informed decisions, think about your customers and what their needs are. Do split tests, customer feedback, and use other ways to collect data instead of relying on guesswork. Do not rely on memories alone, but use facts and figures to make reasoned decisions. 

Author

Experienced psychologist and T-shaped marketer with a deep love for content marketing and conversion copywriting. Privately a big fan of travel, coffee, and jazz!

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