Boost Online Conversions With The Power of Persuasion

Posted on 17/06/2015 by Team Hallam

Why do your consumers buy online? What triggers them to click the “buy now” button?

Understanding the psychology behind your customers’ thought processes can enable you to boost your online conversions in an entirely ethical and sustainable manner.

One reason Amazon and eBay have been so successful is because both sites have mastered the power of persuasion. Robert Cialdini wrote The Psychology of Persuasion in 1984, and since then, his book has influenced marketers with his famous six principles of persuasion.

Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion can be applied to your website’s landing pages and calls-to-action (CTA). Whether you’re a large multination, or an SME with a limited budget, applying these small changes could make a huge difference.

Build Trust Through Creating an Excellent First Impression

Before we look at how Cialdini’s principles might be applied to an ecommerce site, it’s first important to ensure that you’re creating the right impression.

Your customers’ first impression of your website could make all the difference in affecting their decision to make a purchase.

You can provide strong trust signals while improving customer experience with these three aspects:

Simplicity – If you overwhelm your customers with a cluttered design, they won’t know where to look. Landing pages need prominent CTAs and clear, concise copy.

Research shows that when users have too many CTAs to choose from, they can’t choose one. By leading consumers down one clear path, you will see a higher response. Below, it’s obvious that Waitrose want you to sign in or register:
waitrose call-to-actionDesignStudies show that 75% of users judge a company’s credibility on their web design. Great web design inspires trust.

Language – Our brains love products and services that promise to problem solve quickly. Words such as “instantly” and “quickly” in your CTAs indicate a quick reward, which may drive consumers to convert. Similarly, research from Carnegie Mellon University showed that adding one word – “small” – to the description of a $5 delivery charge increased conversions by 20%.

Carnegie Mellon University conversion Research
Source: Carnegie Mellon University

Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion in a Digital Context

Reciprocity – We have a natural instinct to return a favour. Consumers have been proven to re-pay small acts of kindness. Consumers are more likely to share, tweet, or link to a product they received for free. It’s their way of reciprocating a favour. You might not like the idea of giving away stock for free, but the publicity you receive in exchange will be extremely valuable.

Commitment and Consistency –  Asking your customers for a small commitment before they fully convert to your main goal breaks the goal down into manageable segments. These small commitments, or “Mini-commitments”, allow the user to be invested into buying process without fully committing. The smaller the steps, the fewer the clicks, the higher chance for conversions.

A similar theory is true for price models. When products are expensive, users are more apprehensive to part with a large sum. But if the amount was broken down into smaller monthly instalments, consumers are more likely to be persuaded.

Littlewoods do this with all of their products. Spending £1,199 on a TV is a big expense, but at £12.92 a week – why not? Littlewoods knows their target audience are sensitive to price. By softening the blow with weekly instalments, Littlewoods has been able to increase online conversions.
littlewoods call-to-action

Social Proof – In moments of uncertainty, humans follow the pack. We simply feel more secure if “Everyone else is doing it.”

Adding social media share buttons at the end of a conversion can spread the social proof of your product. Facebook users may see that their friends have purchased your products, which may inspire that elusive fear of missing out.

Testimonials on your website will help to further support social proof and confidence. They have to be real, though. Fake testimonials don’t work, and are more likely to work against you.

Authority – We tend to respect authority figures. By sharing your credentials and experience with consumers, over time you can prove yourself as the expert in your field. Accredited logos, awards, and testimonials deliver trust signs to the consumer which helps the sales process.

Reputation – Your target audience will be far more likely to engage with you online if they agree with your values. Take some time to listen to your target audience, and try to understand their values. If you can convince them that you’re on the same page, you may bridge the gap between brand and consumer and boost your likeability.

Lush Cosmetics has a strong set of values which they effectively communicate on their Twitter page. This inspires brand loyalty among consumers that share their values.
lush's twitter feedScarcity – Consumers are more likely to make impulse purchases if they feel that supplies or offers are limited. We often see these tactics overly used by sofa companies that seem to have a sale every weekend which “must end Monday.”

Overuse of this technique, though, would not only be irritating for your customers, it may also serve to permanently damage their trust.

The Masters of Conversion Psychology

Amazon’s sole purpose is to sell. Let’s take a closer look at some of the persuasive techniques deployed on their product pages.

Displaying the current level of stock to promotes scarcity, while customer reviews provide social proof. A countdown for next day delivery enforces the fear of missing out. Some customers may feel compelled to buy the product today, so they can have it in their hands tomorrow.
Amazon's call-to-actions

Clear CTAs are used, such as “Buy now” and “Add to wish list”. There’s even a one-click ordering option, cutting out all the tedious legwork and saving consumers’ that most precious of all resources – time.

Behaviour Theory

Behaviourist economists study the psychology of consumers’ decision making. They believe that people complete the sort of actions that they feel will make them happy.

By clearly highlighting the benefits of a product or a process, customers are able to effectively assess whether completing an action will increase their happiness.

There must be a strong incentive for consumers to convert, and the benefits you’re offering must be made as clear as possible.

Optimization of the Obama campaign
Research for the Obama Campaign

The length of the registration form has shown to affect the conversion rate. Famously, through reducing the number of steps required to donate, Barack Obama was able to increase conversions to his campaign by 5%.

Persuading consumers to part with their cash is harder than ever. Offering a price promise on your products allows your consumers to feel confident that they are getting the best deal.

Your Turn

Wherever you have copy, images, and CTAs, you have the opportunity to be persuasive.

Testing different language, colours, and CTAs will help you to better understand what drives your target audience. Minor changes can have huge effects on consumer behaviour.

Take a fresh look at your website. What can you see that can be easily tweaked to make your site more persuasive?

If you want a second opinion, conduct a short survey on your website. Ask your customers what made them convert. Or, more importantly, what made them turn away.

The better you can understand what makes your customers tick, the better you can convince them that your products or services are exactly what they need.

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Boost Online Conversions With The Power of Persuasion

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