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How to Utilize The Psychology of Persuasion to Increase Conversion Rates

Why do customers buy your product and not your competitor’s?

Well-known consultant and author Jack Trout once said:

“Marketing isn’t a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions”.

This is probably my favorite quote because it truly explains the essence of marketing (and conversion optimization): what matters to customers isn’t your pricing or features, it’s not even how good your product is. What matters to customers is how you make them feel and what’s in it for them. This is what determines whether customers choose you or your competitor.

One of our most studied and applied subjects at my company (Conversioner) is the psychology of persuasion. To increase revenue we have to get to know our customers better, understand their emotional triggers, and most importantly their decision making process. Once we understand our customers better we can run meaningful AB tests, build better user journeys and increase revenues across the board.

One of the most influential books on this topic is called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Published In 1984 by Dr. Cialdini, it is a massively important book for every marketer. After three decades its value and lessons are considered fundamental to any marketing strategy. The main focus of the book is Cialdini’s six principles of how to influence people and address their emotional needs. In this article we’ll take look at these principles and how we can leverage them to turn visitors into customers.

The Six Principles of Persuasion

1. Reciprocity

Our natural human behavior dictates that if someone gives something to us, we feel obligated to repay that debt. This principle highlights the fact that if someone does something nice for us we generally feel the need to repay the favor or the debt.

The mutually beneficial exchange between humans comes natural to us and has become even more common online. Examples of this include signing up for a newsletter to get a free eBook, spending X amount of money and receiving a gift, or simply getting a discount on a product in exchange for sharing, commenting or reviewing it.

How to use this principle:
First you must determine what action you would like your customer to perform. This can be something like registering or downloading a product, sharing the product with their friends, or simply signing up to a newsletter. Once you’ve identified what you need, identify what you can give your customer in return (reciprocate) for this action (an e-book, a discount, cash back).

The emotional targeting methodology also emphasizes that reciprocity doesn’t have to be an actual commodity, a simple promise of a better life, feeling safe or accepted by our peers will convince us to give something in return.

For instance, at Conversioner we use an exit pop up that offers people exclusive content on emotional targeting in exchange for signing up.

exit-pop-up-conversioner

CopyHackers uses an exit intent pop up to offer a free personal guide in exchange for signing up for their newsletter.

copyhackers-exit-intent-pop-up

In both cases, customers are willing to reciprocate by signing up and leaving their details for exclusive content we’re willing to give away.

2. Commitment and Consistency

As humans we like to maintain a consistent self-image about who we are and what we believe. As consistent beings, when we make an internal or public commitment about something we tend to follow through with it to preserve our self image.

One of most popular methods of using this principle is while buying a home. Once you’ve viewed a house and seen it, you’re asked by the estate agent to write down details of the house and propose a figure. Even though this number isn’t a real commitment, having it written down has made it more realistic and you’re now more prone to buy that house (not necessarily for that price). Getting a customer’s commitment early on increases the chances and makes it more likely that the customer will follow through with it.

An online example would be getting customers to commit for a one month trial or asking your customers which plan they prefer on a pricing page before sending them to a payment page. Once they’ve chosen a plan they feel compelled to take you up on the bigger action.

The example below is from a B2B company that asks people to first leave their details for a demo and then fill in more information about their business. Once they had already agreed to getting a call back from our client’s representative, they felt more committed and compelled to answer our follow up questions.

Step 1:

consistent-funnel-step-1

Step 2:

consistent-funnel-step-2

3. Social Proof

People like to do things they see other people doing. For instance, if a restaurant looks busy you’re more likely to eat there than if it were empty. There’s also more chance you’ll put money in a tip jar if there’s already money in there. In the online world, social proof is extremely important.

People want to feel they are not the only ones to use a product or service, that others have taken the risk before you and they are satisfied customers. This is why you see testimonials on landing pages, reviews for E-commerce stores and well-known logos on landing pages, these logos inflict trust and show people that the best of the best are using a certain product and it can be trusted.

Piktochart is one of many companies using social proof on their homepage:

piktochart-social-proof-screenshot

This principle is also called Wisdom of the Crowd. It’s why people read reviews, buy bestsellers or browse most popular items before buying. We want security in numbers and most of us want to fit in and be a part of a community, not trend setters. Other ways to increase social proof include social media sharing and publishing case studies on your website to prove that other people are using your service and finding it successful.

In this landing page shows the amount of people using the service as social proof:

social-proof-number-of-people-landing-page

Amazon uses reviews, showing visitors the satisfaction rate of customers from a specific product rather than the entire site:

amazon-social-proof-reviews

4. Liking

People are more likely to buy products or services from people they like and trust which is why likeability is a huge influencing factor. A common example of this principle is known as the “pyramid” business. This is when people are invited by their friends to an event and feel obligated to purchase tupperware/protein shakes and other products regardless to their actual feelings towards the product. This happens because of their personal relationship with the salesperson and the commitment principle. They’ve already taken one step in the process of coming over and now feel obligated to buy.

How to use this principle:
The best way to utilize this principle is by building trust and a good relationship with your visitors. This takes time – trust and likeability isn’t built overnight. To get there, you can increase likeability in a few ways:

  1. Similarity – We like people who are similar to us. Based on your product and your customers you know what type of persona your customers will like and feel close to. Mirroring your customer in your strategy (using images, content and the right social proof) will increase likability and trust.
  2. People – Using pictures of people on your website and adding a personal voice increases likability.
  3. Association – Many brands associate themselves with current trends and celebrities. By associating your product and brand to something people like and can identify with, you increase your likability.

Wix does an incredible job of mirroring their customers in their landing page by using photos of people in their work space and adding their name and occupation. Though these are clearly professional photos, by giving them names they’ve made them accessible and real, thus increase likability.

wix-dot-com-homepage-customer

Another one:

wix-dot-com-homepage-customer-tom

5. Scarcity

People like the idea of buying things that are rare or hard to come by. If something is marketed as a “limited time offer” people will rush to buy it as they will feel a sense of urgency and fear of loss. Scarcity all boils down to- “get something before you lose it forever”.

This is happens because of a well known cognitive bias called “Loss Aversion” which states that people would prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Losing something hurts us more than the pleasure of gaining something. Which is why scarcity works.

modern-family-loss-aversion

Another part of scarcity is status. This is very important to a lot of people – they want to be admired by their peers. Labeling your product or offering as a one-of-a kind and giving it a time cap (“only 5 spots left”) will increase its desirability and as a result increase conversions tremendously. If will value a product much more if it’s a once in a lifetime type of product than if it’s a commodity.

Popular examples include 24 hour sales, a countdown clock and limited time offers. AliExpress uses all these techniques plus makes it exclusive by applying the sale to app users only:

aliexpress-loss-aversion

6. Authority

People trust and respect those in authority. Authority can be instilled through uniforms, titles like Dr. or Professor, or an endorsement from someone in a position of authority like a CEO or celebrity.

One of the most famous studies on this subject was held in 1974 when researchers were studying the influence of negative reinforcement. Participants were told they could give electric shocks to other participants (sitting in a different room) if they answered questions incorrectly. At first participants didn’t feel comfortable administering these electric shocks, but once a person came in with a white cloak and told them it was ok, researchers saw participants increase the voltage and commit. Though the people (actors) in the other room screamed everytime they got an “electric shock”, while the men in cloak stood and noded to the participants, they continued.

How to use this principle:
To increase authority for your brand, you can translate this principle to the web by having testimonials from experts, referencing important research and studies conducted to backup your product or service and using an authority figure.

Note how Tanning Truth uses an image of an unrelated doctor wearing an “official” cloak and a quote to increase authority and trust.

authority-trust-doctor

This also works by getting awards and/or recommendations from respected organizations

Over to You

Cialdini’s principles have been used for many years by marketers to reach out to their customers and appeal to them on an emotional level. Though not all principles may be achieved with every campaign you run, you should review each landing page you create and see what you can add or remove in order to tap into those psychological principles and translate Cialdini’s principles to increase conversions.

What is your favorite principle, and how do you use it?

About the Author: Talia Wolf is the CEO and Founder of Conversioner. Talia helps businesses build their conversion optimization strategies and execute them to increase their revenues, grow their sales, leads and engagement using quantitative data, consumer psychology & emotional conversion optimization. Talia specializes in Ecommerce optimization, landing page optimization, mobile optimization and consumer psychology. Tweet her at @taliagw.

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