What Star Trek can teach us about buyer behavior

The voyages of the Star Trek Enterprise took viewers to distant galaxies, exposed them to alien species, and taught them countless life lessons (right?). But did you know there were also lots of lessons in there about buyer behavior? Allow me to explain…

Red shirt, no real purpose = death

Star Trek t-shirtGranted, in Star Trek, including an alien battle makes the episode more exciting. But the story line is developed by the main characters, not that ensign you see for 6 seconds before he gets killed. The aliens didn’t have time to deal with insignificant, pointless Away Team members.

Think about sinking resources and screen real estate into a part of your site that’s got no real purpose. Your visitors don’t need distractions like that flashy red button over there that doesn’t have any impact on the story you’re trying to tell.

Data and human emotions just do not mesh.

Star TrekData always struggled trying to understand human emotions. Even with an emotion chip, he still couldn’t quite grasp them properly.

Analytics are great – they tell you what visitors did on your site, how long they did it for, where they came from, where they went, how much money they spent… but they don’t tell you why visitors did something. There is no substitute (emotion chip, etc.) for true human emotions. You need to talk to real people to find out what they’re experiencing on your site.

I’m a doctor, Jim, not a…

Star Trek

Poor Bones. Kirk just kept throwing stuff at him that he wasn’t familiar with. You need to take the time to understand your visitors, so that you’re presenting them with information and tasks that they can understand and complete without getting frustrated with you.

Our neural pathways have become accustomed to your sensory input patterns

Star Trek

Ok, I’m taking this one out of context a bit (in case you’re wondering, this is Riker commenting on the crew’s friendship with Data), but the point here is that there are lots of tools out there now that let you monitor one specific visitor’s behaviors, and then present them with content that is uniquely applicable to them. By building up that database of their inputs, you can effectively target your message to them.

In that particular moment, I was reconfiguring the warp field parameters, analyzing the collected works of Charles Dickens, calculating the maximum pressure I could safely apply to your lips, considering a new food supplement for Spot…

Star Trek

Data was extremely good at multitasking, even when “romantically” engaged with Jenna. Understanding what else is going on while your visitors are engaged with you through ethnography or similar types of research can give you an idea of how much attention visitors are really giving to you.

Believing oneself to be perfect is often the sign of a delusional mind

No matter what you think, there is always room for improvement. Getting into A/B and multivariate testing is pretty easy these days, so I suggest you give it a try. Take all of the work you’ve now done to understand your visitors and use it to start tweaking your designs to optimize conversions. If you need some ideas on what to test or how to optimize parts of your site, check out user experience best practices, form best practices, landing page testing ideas, call to action best practices, and some of our other online experience articles.

Act, and you shall have dinner; wait, and you shall be dinner.

Star Trek

This Klingon proverb summarizes the current digital marketing landscape pretty well. It’s not enough to throw up any old website any more – you have to understand your customers and what their needs and pains are, and act on giving them what they need to solve their problems. And you have to be constantly monitoring this and adapting to their changing needs. Sit still, and you risk giving up business to your competitors who aren’t sitting still.

Make it so

So get out there, boldly go where none of your competitors have gone before, and start getting to know your buyer better. It’ll pay off.


Still not sure what you should to understand your buyers or to optimize your website? We can help.

Star Trek