Hacking into your customer’s minds and subtly nudging them to perform a certain behavior might sound...not so right, but once you start paying attention- I mean, really paying attention, you will start to notice the little things that push you to purchase the products you do.
Let’s travel to your local supermarket and test this out. The ambient music in the background? The impact on your speed, mood and amount you spend has been inscribed in psychology handbooks with much certainty. The store layout and placement of products? All to egg on sales using various psychological triggers.
As you can see, these tiny stimulants do not you force you to hand cash over to the stores: what you’re thinking of is called robbery. These tricks and maneuvers simply switch a spotlight on the most valuable emotion or object that the store wants to plead to.
All successful salespeople use psychological biases up to a certain extent. And the truth? It works.
The psychology of selling is a delicate one, but quite an interesting endeavor in influencing buying decisions- and a very effective one. With small techniques, you can enhance your store’s sales by no small percentage, so let’s get the ball rolling, shall we?
Presenting the most common psychological tricks for ecommerce in brief: ones that you might find employed in your own and competitor stores at large. These are tricks that have been used since time immemorial to create an itch in the customers’ minds. Let’s run through them quickly, and then to proceed to fry the lesser known bigger fish!
‘Only 6 left in stock’, ‘5 people are looking at this product right now’, ‘Out of stock currently’
Amazon nailing it:
However, there are usually more factors coupled in with this desire to be liked in society: one of the most prominent ones being the fear of missing out, which we will cover in our next point:
For example, this listing by booking.com really makes you hurry:
These reviews for a product by Death Wish Coffee make us want to buy a truckload of the stuff:
To get on this train, check out our complete guide to Influencer Marketing!
For example, the Advanced Shopify Plan looks far too expensive and the basic one too rudimentary. This makes the second option: the $79 one quite appealing.
For example, Hubspot offers free webinars for any visitor, which are filled with relevant information for anyone in the target market:
Now, we will grab a peek at all the other biases and quirks people have and how you can plug the right things to maximise your online sales!
1. The von Restorff effect:
This one is a run of the mill idea, but we often come across sites that do not use this trick effectively. The isolation effect, as it is also called, points out that people pay greater attention to objects that are starkly different from the rest of the collection. For example, in the image below, which tree catches your eye?
If you’re like the rest of us, the yellow immediately grabs attention. That is exactly how your focal points should jump out.
This would be plain disaster, because there is no direction for you to follow- your attention is pulled to a thousand different points on the page:
Instead, you’d want to go for something like this:
The site is clean and attractive, and draws your attention to the beautiful flatlay of ingredients: the lovely concoction that induces smell and taste and a sensory reaction. And then, we clearly know which step to take if the product is engaging enough- the one single button on the page.
2. Colour Psychology:
Have you ever wondered why Apple relies so heavily on silver, white and black? Doesn’t a sense of innovation and modernity precede the name ‘Apple’?
This is an interesting angle to look at your own store. Colours have an unconscious impact on the sales ecommerce websites make, and while colours would not magically transform your store into Adidas, but small drops make an ocean, eh?
It has been proven quite repeatedly proven that green or red are the colours to use for check-out buttons: the conversion rate did have significant differences when A/B tested. However, one must wary of external variables that interfere with the findings.
But one can definitely delve into research about colour psychology as colours undeniably affect your brand personality: just be careful when jumping to conclusions!
3. Human connect:
Abstract images might be visually pleasing, but humans intrinsically seek out other humans- as pointers for what is right, what is desirable and what action to take. Use photos of humans in your store imagery, preferably interacting with your product. This allows your customers to visualise and feel the product, albeit vicariously.
Additionally, if you want to associate a positive emotion to your brand, you might want to add images of women. Following the Women are wonderful effect, which says that both males and females attach positive traits to women, it makes sense to utilise this finding in your branding.
Lastly, draw the viewer’s attention to your CTA or an essential element on the page by using an image of a person whose gaze is directed towards the CTA.
Plus, 92% of your brand is made by the visuals and images you use.
This store uses imagery quite effectively- through a video, which enhances our visualization of the product: we can see it in action-
1. Ingroup Bias: The tendency to favour members from one’s own group.
Be like them! Opposites might attract when it comes to love, but with ecommerce stores, you would benefit by understanding your customers as well as you understand yourself. As a cycling enthusiast, I would much rather trust the recommendations of another cycler than suggestions from someone who has never ridden a cycle.
The first step would definitely be choosing a niche that you are invested in, but that is not sufficient: you have to deliver your passion via your branding, through your site and marketing.
Instead of appearing pushy, just prove your passion, and sales will be easy.
One way to do that is by having an ‘About’ page and a ‘Our Mission’ page.
Have product descriptions that are more than bullet points.
Know your audience by looking into
Ele and Phant go into great depth about their love for elephants and how their store is a means to live their dream of saving elephants. Any animal lover would recognize the shop owner as one of their own, and view the store favourably.
2. Rhyme your words: The Rhyme as reason effect says that sentences are judged to be more true when they rhymed.
This could be due to people evaluating truthfulness based on the ease with which they can understand it, or because is simply sounds nicer.
Language has its quirks, for your store, these are perks!
3. Product Descriptions: This is your chance to speak to your audience directly, but rather than exalt your product’s qualities, call upon an emotional response. No one buys a product solely because it is incredibly inexpensive- people buy because a product appeals to their emotional values.
What do your customers value? What are the basic human needs that motivate them to take action? What would the product add to their life?
Brian Tracy outlines the following human needs that need to be tackled by your brand while convincing a customer:
Make sure to drive your product with respect to these points. We will speak about how to address these needs in depth later in the article.
1. The Barnum Effect: Also called Forer effect, it is when individuals give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically to them, that are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people.
Basically, those newspaper horoscopes that sound so personal? That is the Barnum effect in play. But you can use it in your ecommerce business by speaking to an individual person rather than your entire audience in general.
2. The IKEA effect: When a customer invests effort into a product, such as IKEA products, which customers construct themselves, he or she places higher value on it. Now, this does not mean you have to make all products on your store Build-your-own sets: but you can definitely have a few customizable products.
This will mean that customers themselves are involved in the process of creation, and hence will have a soft spot for the product!
3. Pseudocertainty effect: The Pseudocertainty effect essentially says that people will make risk-averse choices if they perceive an outcome to be positive, but take risks to avoid negative outcomes.
This means, if you market your product highlighting what the customer could potentially face in absence of your product, they are more likely to jump on the opportunity to buy your product, even if it involves a bit of a risk.
This correlates to another psychological phenomenon: The Framing Effect. People tend to avoid risk when a positive frame is presented but seek risks when a negative frame is presented.
Loss aversion; ie. the tendency to prefer avoiding losses than acquiring equivalent gains is a well-documented ecommerce behavior. This means people would rather not lose a $10 than find an extra $10 on the ground.
For example, which product description would drive you to action?
Answer: The one that gives off hints that your dog might not be safe after dark.
Conclusively, if you use words such as Save 50%, it would have more effect than offering an extra product or service. Sales professionals often club these two tactics, however, with surprisingly great outcomes.
2 for the price of 1, or 40% discount on a bundle might push for a bigger, fleshier sale.
Now, if you’re using positive emotion to close a sale, make sure no shadow of risk crosses it, as that might entirely put off the customer from making a sale or revisiting your store.
4. Foot in the Door/Door in the Face:
Make a heavily bold claim: such as a huge bundle or a higher cost for a product- a large request that is most likely to be turned down. Then, make a smaller request- a lower price.
This price or offer will seem reasonable in context of the big request, and there is your conversion.
This technique is called the Door in the Face technique.
The second technique is the Foot in the Door technique, wherein you insert a small request such as an email ID for the newsletter and then gradually move forward to capture a sale. The foot, for example, the email, establishes the relationship- and the customer then feels obliged to honour the relationship formed by agreeing to a purchase.
This is because small favours lead to a self-perception that we are charitable to the store/requester, and we then want to remain consistent with that perception!
1. Post-Purchase Rationalization
Your job is not done when a sale has been closed and purchase made. Buyer’s remorse is out for you: which means people are going to wonder if they made the right choice by purchasing the product.
This is the time for you to crash in, Superman-style, and allay their fears. Congratulate them for choosing the product, and assure them of the excellent services your company provides. Soothe the remorse and raise the anticipation for your product!
1. Maslow’s Pyramid:
This pyramid may be a general introduction to what motivates humans, but it can be applied to ecommerce as well. As Jelle Fastenau outlines in his article On the Origin of Shopping: Evolutionary Psychology for eCommerce, the same motivations afflict customers when shopping online.
Physiological Needs here, would transform into the basic necessities required for making a purchase-
Safety Needs would mean providing the customer assurance that you are a legitimate store and will provide products of value.
Belonging needs refer to providing a sense of community to your customers. You can do that by:
Esteem needs can be provided for by using the following tactics:
Self-actualization can be accounted for by showing viewers the emotional gain they will make/improve their lives by using your product!
2. The Funnel
Keep the funnel in mind.
First work on creating Brand Awareness, through ads and social media.
Then create Interest, by sending value their way.
Third, invoke Desire by showcasing products that are in sync with their interests.
And then, finally, the big Call to Action that pushes them to make the purchase.
Jumping straight from awareness to action might fudge up your chances!
Endowed Progress Effect: If people think they have already made progress towards an achievement, they will out more effort in completing the tasks and reaching the goals.
Have a progress bar for the checkout.
Send emails showing people that they are a certain percentage away from unlocking a discount coupon.
Have a look at what LinkedIn does:
Hyperbolic Discounting: Smaller rewards right now are better than bigger rewards later.
Give people discounts or free items on their current order: all your offers should pertain to their order at the moment.
Endowment Effect: Once people own something, they value it more than its actual value and are less likely to part with it.
Offer Cash on Delivery: Increases reliability plus allows for ownership tendencies to kick in.
Banner blindness: Banner-like information is often ignored.
Make important information available in two forms: banners on your store, and possibly as text on the checkout page.
These were our top 20 tips to optimise your store! Psychology and online marketing are more interconnected that you would believe: these tiny tricks gently elbow the customer towards a sale, and enhance the overall conversion rate of your ecommerce store. Try them out and let us know how they work!
Isha is a content creator at Spocket. She is passionate about helping entrepreneurs build and scale their businesses. She creates insightful content focussed on ecommerce, marketing and growth.