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How To Identify And Stop Emotion Based Conversion Killers

Are your conversion rate optimization efforts bringing only small incremental improvements?

Are you at a stage where you’ve removed all the obvious barriers to conversion and you don’t know where to look next?

Are your once sparkling hypotheses no longer bringing in double-digit leaps?

Would you like to learn a new approach to Conversion Rate Optimization that could get you cooking again?

Of course you do! I warn you though. It’s going to be emotional.

Close your eyes for a second, forget that you’re a marketer, and engage with your inner consumer.

Most of the reasons we consumers arrive on a website in a buying frame of mind tend to be rational (and sometimes political if, like me, you’re sometimes pushed to buy something over the net).

Maybe you need to own something or you want to do something or you have an urge to go somewhere or maybe even learn something. Your reaction (looking for it on the internet) is a response to a rational need or desire.

Whether we end up buying or not is almost entirely dominated by our emotions.

In this video, Antonio Damasio, professor of neuroscience at USC, describes how our emotions are key to the decision-making process. Without them, it’s almost impossible for us to make even the simplest of decisions.

Understand your customers’ emotions and find ways to counter them before they take hold. Especially anger and fear.

If, as customers, we experience only positive feelings when we’re on a website, the chances are good that we’ll progress down the conversion funnel and maybe even buy.

However, if something happens along the way that makes us feel angry, or fearful, or nervous, or apprehensive, or anxious, or uneasy, or agitated, then there’s a very good chance we’ll leave.

So if that’s the case, then shouldn’t we online marketers zero in on the emotions our customers are experiencing?

Let’s have a look at some examples from across the web at the key conversion killers – anger and fear.

Promotional codes increase conversions, right? Not always.

On e-commerce sites, it’s popular to allow a customer to drop in a coupon code while going through the checkout process. promotional code form

Drop a promotional code in here and I save x% off my total order.

Score! Rewarding customers for loyalty or as part of cross-promotions is a win-win.

Hold on. That’s great for those with a code, but what about the others who don’t have a code? How do they feel when they see one of those boxes?

Annoyed that someone somewhere is getting a better deal? Frustrated that they’re not “in the know”? Worried that they’re overspending?

The negative emotion might be enough for them to stop what they’re doing and go look for a code. Bang. There’s an increased chance of a lost conversion.

What can you as an online marketer do about that?

Giving everyone a coupon right up front is a nice surprise and then some.

You could take coupon codes off your site completely and thereby remove the problem, but that’s a touch drastic and would mean you haven’t got that promotional tool in your armory.

Another route you could choose to take is what Schwan’s does – gift everyone an automatic discount on its home page.

schwans home page

Caption for schwans.png: Note the horizontal banner below the nav that reads “Save 10% on one order. Enter coupon code ‘FC’ at checkout.”

What reaction does that bring?

All right! I’ve got myself a bargain. I’m delighted about that. Thrilled even. Excited that I’m getting some money off. I also trust Schwan’s a lot more because it isn’t sneakily giving discounts to some customers and excluding me.

The clever thing about this is that it leaves Schwan’s free to run targeted coupon code promotions elsewhere because the presence of the coupon code redemption box during the checkout process is expected (i.e., everyone’s got one).

Tracking how your customers feel allows you to do what Schwan’s is doing here, and flip the negatives into positives. Emotions matter.

Shipping charges create anger in customers. Every time.

Another anger inducing “feature” of shopping on the web is shipping. All consumers know shipping costs are necessary, but we sure-as-anything don’t want to be the ones footing the bill. Aren’t we spending enough for pity’s sake!

One of the biggest conversion killers going is the poorly timed late addition of a shipping charge. Here comes alarm, shock, annoyance, and contempt. Hold onto your hats. Your customer is off.

But what could you do to counter that?

Give free shipping over a certain order value AND use it as a mechanism to harvest email addresses.

Do what Woman Within does and work out a minimum order size for free shipping, and make sure everyone knows by slapping it all over your home page.

woman within home page

Woman Within knows that shipping is VERY important to its customers.

The big blue banner states that I can get free shipping as long as I’m willing to spend over $50 (with a personalized promo code and the clever addition of scarcity to encourage buying today).

What’s the likely customer reaction?

Fantastic news! I’m very happy about that. I can now merrily add products to my cart knowing that I’m not going to get hit by a surprising extra charge at the end (as long as I find at least $50 worth of goods).

The clever extra here is that the Average Order Value metric will go up, too. People must have that free shipping.

But Woman Within doesn’t stop there. Its calculations say that if it can get me on their mailing list, it’s worth one free shipping coupon (see the box on the right half of the screen above the blue banner).

If they’re not going to get me to buy now, they’ll get me eventually.

Again they’ve dealt with a big negative conversion killer and flipped it into several positives. Emotions matter.

The fear of a terrible holiday is enough for most people to not book.

Let’s have a look at one more example from a different industry that is well recognized as one that draws uncontrollably strong emotions from us consumers – buying a holiday.

What draws out fear and anger when it comes to booking a holiday? has found its customers especially care about a few key things, such as: there are no hidden charges; they are getting the lowest price; if any suppliers get into financial difficulty, it’s not the customer that foots the bill; and if they book online, they’re going to get an immediate confirmation.

Prime real estate in the center of the screen, above-the-fold, is used to counter customers’ fears BEFORE they feel them.

Instead of hiding these points away in the Terms & Conditions, displays them on its landing page on prime real estate, again on each product page, and again during the booking process, so we’re constantly reminded, which earns more of our trust.

When it comes to buying a holiday, you can bet your life on the fact that emotions matter. They’re critical.

Zero in on your customers’ emotions, and you can counter the negative ones. Here’s how.

Focus on the emotional journey of your customers. Put some time into finding out how customers “feel” about your offer, and identify at what points of the funnel they experience those feelings.

Use a tool like Olark or Snap Engage to chat with visitors during their trip, under the guise of customer support. Not only will you likely start increasing your conversion rate immediately, you’ll also bring out their emotional reactions, both positive and negative, at the precise points they have them.

You’ll also intuitively learn how to counter their negative emotions on the fly.

Record your customers’ emotions on The Emotion Ladder.

I’ve created a tool called “The Emotion Ladder” that you’re welcome to use.

You can stick it on your wall near the people in your company who have customer contact. Every time the report of a strong customer emotion comes in, get them to write it down on a post-it and stick it up on the chart in the appropriate row.

The Emotion Ladder

The Emotion Ladder (a tool created by Conversion Team).

Intelligence like this is gold for working out where you go next in search of uplifts in your conversions.

For extra points, make a new copy of the Emotion Ladder for each month and put them up side-by-side. Compare the months with each other as you go.

This is you running cohort analysis on your customers’ emotions, and it’s a great indicator of whether your product is getting better over time.

It’ll be visually obvious (to you and everyone who sees it) whether the changes you’re making to your product are causing your customers to feel more positive about you. If you have more in the green and less in the red, your conversions will likely be moving in the right direction.

For a short video on how to use this tool visit here.

Once you’re tuned in to your customers’ emotions, brainstorm ways to counter the negative ones and TEST your ideas.

I’ve got some great brainstorming and prioritization tools that I’m happy to share if you get in touch, but please, please, please remember to split test your ideas against your original before you fully release.

We’re blessed these days with some excellent split testing tools to help you, including Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, Google Content Experiments (formerly Google Website Optimizer), and of course, KISSmetrics to measure impact. Don’t be tempted to skip the fun part.

Focus on your emotional (rather than rational) barriers to conversion, and your visitors will LOVE you for it.

The web is littered with landing pages that convert, perfect buttons, and copy that clinches sales, but you’re skirting around the major issues if that’s where you devote all your time and energy.

Focus on your customers’ emotions, and you’ll gain much deeper insights into who they are, what they think about you, and crucially, why they aren’t buying from you as much as you’d like.

About the Author: Nick Martin is quietly obsessed with conversion rate optimization and blogs about the tips, tricks, and tools he finds in his travels over at Conversion Team.

  1. This is a great post. I totally agree you have to keep in mind emotions and flip them from negative to positive. Great points and lots of examples to review. Thanks.

  2. Thanks Kim. Glad you like.

  3. Iris Holidays Oct 31, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    What a Great Post. I would also say that is another website that uses the emotional strategies to convince customers putting FREE Shipping Both ways, 365 Day Return Policy in the header and simple to understand Zappos values in the footer which tries showcase the brand as honest and transparent

    • Absolutely right about Zappos. There is a lot to learn from the way they take risk completely out of the equation from their customers’ perspective (which is how it should be right?)

      Another company that has an outstanding guarantee in my opinion is If you buy through them you can have a full refund, no questions asked, anytime before you die!

  4. So true about the promotional box in checkout.

    The amount of times I have got to the checkout, seen the promotional box and left the website to try and find one! A second negative is I have actually used a voucher code website to try and find one for the company I wanted to purchase from, they didn’t have one but their competitor did so I purchased there instead.

    • That’s a brilliant story! Those promo codes seem like such a good idea on first impressions but you definitely have to be careful.

  5. Hi,
    I have seen that most of the people are now using emotion based methods to stop conversion and on the other hand, we want to keep talking !
    Thank you

  6. Hi,

    That’s a brilliant story!keep on writing.awesome work.


  7. Great post! Once again stresses the importance of looking at the emotional experience. Did you know there are scientifically validated tools to measure emotions like LEMtool ( and PrEmo (

  8. This is what i want!
    I like the idea of Everyone want free shipping for their products. Thank you so much for such a nice post.

  9. Hey Nick!
    very great idea about emotions you have shared with us. and yeah free shipping attracts customers. i really like and because they offer free shipping.


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