It’s comforting to think that you’re in control of your actions at all times: we’d like to think that our thoughts are our own, that every decision we make is objective, and that our smart brains are impermeable to advertising. However this isn’t always the case. The rise of popular hypnotists and illusionists such as Derren Brown shows that the public is very much interested in how external factors can affect our decision-making without us even knowing it.
Ecommerce marketers can use certain psychological triggers to their advantage, giving their conversion rates a boost. Page design, messaging and brand reputation can all have a huge influence on our buying behaviour. By making some small tweaks to their websites, ecommerce marketers and website owners can make a big difference to their bottom line. Here are five of the best psychological hacks for better ecommerce engagement:
Put your costs into context
Perspective can do a lot to consumers’ perception of your prices. As a marketer the challenge is to communicate the value of your product, and this is heavily dictated by price. As consumers, we don’t have any inherent internal measuring system that tells us what things are worth: the only thing we have to create an impression of something’s value is to compare it to other things, and this is what marketers can control.
Marketers can draw their customers into a cognitive bias - a mental state where a person is not acting in a strictly rational way. In ecommerce, this can be encouraged by emphasising product features other than the final price: things like additional features in premium versions, discounts or freebies.
This kind of framing is particularly valuable for high price items or subscriptions, where the buyer has to make a bigger upfront commitment.
Choice: too much of a good thing?
Providing your customers with lots of choice is desirable - that’s part of why people shop online in the first place. However, as with most things, there is a fine balance that needs to be found.
Throwing too much choice at your customers will overwhelm them - this is especially true for new customers. Everyone wants to find the right decision for themselves, but if there’s a bigger selection, making the right choice becomes much harder. This will create doubt in the mind of your customers, and it’s doubt that kills conversions.
Always think carefully about the number of products and offers displayed on each page in order to minimise this risk of customers doubting their own choice. If your business requires you to display lots of information on one page, implement a filtering system to reduce clutter, and group similar items together.
On the flipside, some choice and complexity in your shopping experience is a good thing. Today’s consumers wear the label “bargain hunter” with pride: they want to feel like they’re intelligent shoppers, and are able to spot a good deal. This makes a shopper feel good, and marketers should think about how to structure their products and site experience to appeal to this need while at the same time not overwhelming visitors with choice.
Urgency and scarcity
This is a tactic that anyone who’s recently booked a holiday will be familiar with. Airlines, hotels and online travel agents are particularly adept at reminding the prospect that there are other people looking at the same thing, so they’d better hurry up if they’re going to book anything.
Reminding customers that there is a limited amount of stock (if this applies to your product) is a great way of speeding up the buying process and reducing chances of funnel drop-out by leveraging prospects’ fear of missing out. However this technique is the most dangerous on this list, as if overused it can lead to customer annoyance and resentment. Use sparingly.
“I’ll have what she’s having”
Social recommendations form a key part of how we make decisions in everyday life. From job interviews to different brands of cheese, our options and opinions are significantly influenced by the input of others.
Your site can take advantage of this in a number of ways. Displaying customer reviews prominently can increase a buyer’s sense of security. Including information about how well certain products sell can have a similar effect. Implementing a feature allowing customers to view what customers also bought has worked very well for Amazon, and invites impulse purchases.
You’ve just completed a successful sale and the customer has left your site - time to declare victory right? Not so - there’s still more to do.
When building up a relationship with someone it pays to reciprocate - if someone does something good for you, offer something in return. This principle of ‘pay it forward’ is just as true when it comes to ecommerce: when a customer purchases something, get in touch with them to thank them for their purchase. Offer something they’ll find useful, such as a video, an ebook tutorial or piece of research, or simply a discount on their next purchase.
This will begin changing the customer’s perception of your site from a passive ‘utility’ to an active brand that they have a positive emotional connection with. The more effective you are at this, the more likely you are to gain personal referrals from your customers, which are among the most effective forms of referral around.
Tom Weeks is UK sales director at Ve.