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Feature Experimentation With Brain Chemicals In Mind


Split - Experimenting-with-Brain-Chemicals

Have you ever been enticed by a “no risk, free trial” website offer, only to find out on the final step of the form that you are required to provide your credit card details? You probably hesitated — or even abandoned — right? Whether you’re consciously aware of it or not, the organ between your ears has chemical messengers that influence the way you process and engage with digital experiences. And, when thinking of consumers, these chemicals can determine how they approach making purchasing decisions. With that “in mind”, let’s take a closer look at two important chemicals to keep on your radar when experimenting with websites, apps, and software features.


Dopamine drives people toward rewards. It elevates the benefits of performing a demanding task, such as making a big decision or giving up money. It can be released in the brain when you have a pleasurable digital experience — questions answered, easy-to-use design, emphasis on product value, etc. When building and releasing digital features, you want to help generate dopamine. That’s the goal.


Alternately, cortisol is known as the stress hormone; it’s the superpower of the stress response system. When elevated, it will increase the heart rate and cause a state of anxiousness. It can be triggered through ambiguity, too many options, unexpected results, or too much pressure. Features that activate cortisol are the variety that product development teams want to avoid. And where they are unavoidable, they should be balanced with something to re-trigger dopamine.

Brain Chemicals and Better Customer Conversions

When experimenting with new features to drive stronger conversions on digital applications, thinking about the brain chemicals can be a valuable practice.

Here are some experimentation tactics to trigger the right brain chemistry:

Personalize Recommendations

Test ways to reach customers through offers, imagery, links, and CTAs that speak to them personally. Try connecting past purchases to today’s related offerings, so they know you’re thinking about them uniquely. When you discover personalized recommendations that connect, you’ll surely silence the cortisol in their brains. Just ensure you have their consent to know who they are!

Appeal to Emotions

Emotions aren’t so easy to pinpoint. This is a great opportunity to pull in qualitative research (surveys, focus groups, usability testing) to inform your hypothesis. If you don’t have time or resources for that, experimenting at the feature-level can be a window into your customers’ emotions. Always test different copy, imagery, and page flow. With the right feature management platform, you can set up a multi-variant test for every mood in the universe—especially those that tickle their dopamine receptors.

Reduce Friction

What’s causing your customers to flee? Are there too many choices that create anxiousness? Experiment with features that improve navigation and filter customers on the intended journey. Nobody wants to get lost or an elevated heart rate in the process. Feature flags, or feature toggles, are crucial when experimenting, because if a feature increases friction, you can just turn it off.

Simplify Products

If your product explanation is too complex, it’s probably not generating the dopamine you need for conversion. Simplify your product for a quicker path to the cortex. Get to the heat of the matter through clear offers, quick explanations, short videos, and more. To know what works the best, experiment with features.

Upsell Relevant Add-Ons

If you’re buying a cheeseburger, you can’t have it without fries. If you’re looking for a house, then you’re probably in the market for a mortgage, too. Introducing relevant add-ons to your digital experience will improve theirs. Test a variety of relevant products with interruptions, links, and more features that ensure they’re triggering conversions, not cortisol.

Create Urgency

What creates the most urgency without raising red flags in the brain? Small tweaks to pricing and content can go a long way, encouraging those to act before it’s too late. Experiment and track to see what gets the most clicks and conversions by attaching every A/B test to feature flags.

Stimulate Dopamine Fast with Feature Management

To create optimal experiences that agree with the right chemicals in your brain, you need the freedom to experiment with software features. Feature management tools can help you do just that—all without slowing down your delivery.

Set up A/B tests and multi-variant experiments with feature flags and data to help you safely expose new ideas to just a percentage of customers. Then, track to see what leads to conversion. If you’re worried about an experiment being too risky, there’s no such thing. Features that have performance issues or don’t excite customers can simply be turned off with a toggle switch. Meanwhile, your product team can endlessly iterate without disturbing core infrastructure code.

Data is key to this strategy, and Split feature management truly shines with its patented data attribution engine. By providing teams with data at the feature level, they’ll have the specific, granular info they need to experiment, while keeping the brain chemicals in mind. No need to have a PHD in data science to understand the insights you receive. Everything is clear and easy to follow.

Thanks for joining us for this lesson on experimentation and neuroscience.

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