Psychology influences our decisions every single day and over time it has become an indispensable tool for marketers to convert casual visitors to customers in the online world. Most CRO people would have heard or used the psychological strategies explained in this article but the main goal here is to explain the reasoning why it works. This will help you make better hypothesis for your future split tests.
Let’s explore why things work the way they do.
#1 – Repeating your main call to action
Most of the websites today will have call to actions repeated throughout their homepage. The call to actions could have the same or different copy but you would not just find them above the fold but repeated several times as you scroll down. This is because of multiple reasons –
- If the visitor misses your call to action at first you can grab their attention again by repeating them down the page.
- The timing matters for example if a visitor is not ready to take action after reading your main headline and sub headline at the top of the page, they would likely scroll down and by the time they reach the end they might be convinced to take an action but if they don’t find another call to action they would have to scroll back up which makes it harder for them and constitutes for bad user experience.
This is also the reason why you see floating menu on top of most websites which is to make it easier for users to take action when they are ready.
Let’s take a look at some of the popular companies’ homepage and how they repeat their primary call to action.
Why this works?
The study Attitudnal effects of mere exposure done by Robert B. Zajonc in 1968 came up with following conclusion –
“The balance of the experimental results reviewed and reported in this paper is in favor of the hypothesis that mere repeated exposure of an individual to a stimulus object enhances his attitude toward it.”
This means repeating your call to action would likely increase the chances of users clicking on it and it also forms part of a good UI.
#2 – Eye gaze and directional cues
Turns out humans have a natural ability to follow the eye gaze and directional cues.This makes for a very effective tactic by using images, arrows and other visual material to point towards the main message or call to action of your page.
An eye tracking study showed this effect with the help of heatmaps.
In the first image when baby was directly looking at the website visitor, it drew a lot of attention towards himself but as soon his face turned towards the message, visitors’ attention moved towards the messaging.
Another study done by thinkeyetracking.com also showed similar results.
A study done by Pubmed also showed that even though the test group was not informed of any directional cues to be present in the test, their eyes automatically followed the orientation of the gaze and arrows.
Not just this, directional cues and eye gaze increases the desire of the website visitor to convert which happens because of processing fluency.
“Processing Fluency – The ease and speed with which we process information (and how it influences our opinion of that information)”
Why this works?
The study done by Adam L. Alter and Daniel M. Oppenheimer in 2006 showed how processing fluency helps with better performance. But not just this, processing fluency is also affected by some other factors listed in this article.
Here are some examples of how to use it effectively
#3 – Use first person language
Multiple experiments have shown that using first person language in the copy of your call to action increases conversions. We’ve all been told not to use terms like ‘register’, ‘sign up’ on our call to actions because they are old fashioned when the real reason they don’t work as good is because they are obscure and generic. Making the reader feel connected is what inspires action and a simple trick to do that is to use words like I, me, my etc in your call to action copy.
Why this works?
It works because if a visitor can mentally visualize himself doing something, he is more likely to do it. This was shown by the results of the research done by Ryan S. Elder and Aradhna Krishn.
Michael Aagaard discovered that by changing one word in the call to action copy increased the conversion rates on his client’s website.
In another experiment done by Visual Website Optimizer, personalized copy increased conversions by ~9%.
#4 – Change Design of Your Button During a Visit
This is a sneaky but a very effective trick to draw attention to your call to action.
Subtly changing the design of your CTA in the midst of your visitor’s activity, not only brings attention to it but also increases the attitude and affinity towards it.
Why this works?
Research done by Stewart A. Shapiro and Jesper H. Nielsen concluded that a subtle change in the design across repeated exposure helps with the processing fluency.
Consider changing the color or height of of your main call to action button every 30 seconds but however you decide to use it, make sure it is a subtle change. This trick has already been abused by advertisers so try not to be obnoxious.
#5 – Force visitors to take an action by accepting or rejecting your offering
In one of her articles Joanna Wiebe (author of Copyhackers) rightly said
“Choice without consequence is no choice at all.”
Most of us are passive users and when confronted with an opt in box or a free offer on any website, we decide to remain on the fence and not take an action even though it doesn’t cost us anything. And our passive behavior continues because we are never actively shown the consequences of our actions.
I bet you must have seen more popup boxes like this
They seem obnoxious at first but check their performance and you’d be astonished at how well they convert. So why is it that people convert better even though the language seems a bit scuzzy and insulting?
… Loss aversion.
Loss aversion refers to people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Most studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.
When a person is asked to make a conscious decision he would consider the benefits of the offer before turning it down which would create loss aversion and would make him more likely to take up the offer.
Why this works?
This has also been shown to work by two different studies – A Tale of Two Pizzas and Consumer Choice Between Hedonic and Utilitarian Goods
Using this tactic Copyhackers increased their opt ins monumentally.
So the most obvious way to use this trick is by presenting the benefits and consequences to your visitors and ask them to choose explicitly. Don’t let them leave without making a decision.
#6 – Get users invested in product before asking for email address
This is yet another simple CRO tactic which is most often overlooked. Let’s assume you have a music app where people can listen to songs. The usual funnel for this app would look something like –
Visitor lands on the website → You ask for email address to register → They get in and start listening to songs.
Now how about an alternate funnel –
Visitor lands on the website → You ask them to choose a genre → They see list of songs and click one to play → You ask them to register by giving you their email id.
Why this works?
Here is why the alternate funnel would work better –
- User has already invested time in selecting the genre and found the song she wants to listen to. According to the Goal-Gradient effect, she will expend more efforts as she is close to her goal thus making her more likely to complete the registration process.
- Even if the user has not found the song she wants to listen to, she has already made some progress and doesn’t want to lose it. This loss aversion will make her more likely to complete the registration form.
- Asking users to choose a genre is a low commitment, non-invasive step and thus they are more likely to complete it.
#7 – Show users their progress throughout the funnel
Based on the Goal-Gradient effect mentioned in the last section, another way of getting users to complete all the steps is to make them aware how far they have come along in the process.
As humans we don’t want to lose the time and effort we have invested towards the completion of a goal and thus makes us more likely to complete the remaining steps.
You can use it in your app’s onboarding process by showing them a progress bar or mentioning steps completed out of total.
#8 – Highlight your popular plan on pricing page
Most companies offer different pricing options to cover customers with different budgets. And even though it is a totally logical step, you’re also giving rise to cognitive bias – paradox of choice.
Paradox of choice is a phenomenon which works contrary to the popular belief that giving more options would make people more likely to take the desired action. Various studies have shown that as the number of options go up, the likelihood of people taking the desired action goes down.
What to do?
There are multiple ways how you can avoid this, the simplest – offer less choices. But it wouldn’t work with most of you because you still want to cover all the customers with different budgets… nothing wrong with that.
So another solution would be to highlight one option you ideally want your customers to opt for and mark it with a helpful text like ‘most popular’ to attract attention of your users. Let’s see some examples…
Why this works?
It works mainly because as humans we have a tendency to follow the crowd which is also called groupthink.
Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.
Groupthink is nothing but the Bandwagon effect where people think if everyone is doing something a certain way, it must be right. It is also studied under Crowd Psychology.
#9 – Create urgency
As LIFT model explains ‘urgency’ is one of the six components that helps increasing conversions. It is widely used today by bigger websites but small businesses haven’t exploited it enough.
Creating urgency by introducing scarcity or making it time sensitive can help you increase conversions like never before. I tested this at Mailbird, where we added a time sensitive banner on top of homepage offering 25% discount and within first week our conversions and sales doubled. It was shocking to see such good results and that banner has been on the homepage ever since.
And we are not the only ones, go to any airline booking website or an eCommerce store and chances are you’ll probably see “only 3 seats left” or ‘Low on stock’ and other similar tags to psychologically push you towards the purchase by creating urgency.
Why this works?
As mentioned in the LIFT model and by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence, scarcity is one of the methods of persuasion and can be used in multiple ways, for example in headlines, call to action copy, by using a countdown timer etc.
#10 – Eliminate the pain of payment by using trust symbols
The most basic principle of the world is to pay for what you consume but we still feel a pain when we buy something. This pain emerges from two main factors –
- If we see money leaving our hand we feel the pain because we are parting with something that is valuable to us.
- The time at which we pay causes a pain as well. If you pay after consuming an item, it will pain you more.
This causes a cognitive dissonance where you want to buy the product but don’t want to pay for it. You justify your decision by either re-enforcing the benefits of the product to yourself or by convincing yourself that you’re actually saving money by buying the product at the current price. (Also, the reason why sellers will tell you how much are you about to save on a new deal).
Uber is a perfect example that took advantage of these psychological principles by cutting out the physical transference of money from customer to the driver. Traditionally, when you pay a taxi driver at the end of the trip, it will cause you more pain but Uber took that away by directly deducting the amount from your credit card. Moreover, during the ride it doesn’t constantly show you how much have you traveled and what’s the fare which can cause a lot more anxiety.
In the online world, the pain of payment is highest at the check out stage. Trust symbols helps reduce the cognitive dissonance in the mind of your customer by providing guarantees or showing security symbols or testimonials from previous customers which helps them move forward.
Pro Tip – Place the security symbol as close to the call to action button as possible (as shown in the image above) because this is the point of maximum anxiety for your customer and they need anything that would help them justify their actions.
Why this works?
In the research paper The Red and the Black: Mental Accounting of Savings and Debt, Drazen Prelec highlights that
The ideal payment arrangements, for rich and poor alike, will be those that facilitate rational spending while mitigating the pain of paying, that create the illusion of free benefits without sacrificing accountability.
#11 – Eliminate distraction from the checkout page – remove links, navigation etc
If you’ve been working in the field of conversion optimization, you’ll probably know that with the introduction of a new link, you risk reducing conversions of your page.
Hubspot did an A/B test on landing pages with one version containing the top navigation and other version without it, this is what the results looked like –
It simply confirms the logical theory that with more links you create more distractions on the landing page. You can’t afford to do that on the checkout page where you have a single goal of getting your customers to pay you. By eliminating distractions (links) it also helps in the following ways –
- Customers become more focused on completing the desired action.
- Any other important information like delivery details, customer support details etc become more prominent.
- Your security symbols and other credibility builders get more focus.
Why this works?
In the research paper titled The role of intention in self-regulation, the authors explain how reducing the distractions increases the intention of customer to complete the desired action which is based on self regulatory behavior.
#12 – Retargeting abandoned visitors
No matter what you do, there will always be people who would leave at the checkout stage and will not come back. They usually leave because of a genuine reason like cross-checking the prices at your competitors or thinking it over or consulting with someone before buying. And even though they have every intention to come back, they forget. Usually they need some sort of reminder to bring them back.
This is done by using retargeting.
Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a form of online advertising that can help you keep your brand in front of bounced traffic after they leave your website. For most websites, only 2% of web traffic converts on the first visit. Retargeting is a tool designed to help companies reach the 98% of users who don’t convert right away. – Retargeter
There are two main mediums of retargeting users –
- Advertising – Most ad platforms like Adwords, Facebook ads, Bing ads etc allow you to retarget users with advertising. Most companies see tremendous results using retargeting ads like Appsumo saw a 224% ROI –
- Email – Before the checkout step if you’ve collected the email address of your abandoned user, you can send them reminder emails to nudge them to complete the checkout process. You can use other psychological tactics in the reminder emails (take ideas from previous points) to get them to take action.
Salescycle did a study which showed that every cart abandonment email sent delivers over $8 in revenue.
Why this works?
Since most of us have bad memories, the authors from Louisiana State University studied the relationship between providing a cue to trigger the completion of a previously ongoing task in their research report. Providing a cue mostly helps in moving the customer towards the purchase.
#13 – What to use – 2 step opt in or a single step opt in?
Intuitively most of us would like to make it simple for our users to opt in and thus we would prefer to place the input field on the page itself but let’s explore what psychology says.
In the book A theory of cognitive dissonance, Leon Festinger explains how human mind is programmed to reduce Cognitive Dissonance in every situation.
When our actions conflict with our prior attitudes, we often change our attitudes to be more consistent with our actions. This phenomenon, known as cognitive dissonance, is considered to be one of the most influential theories in psychology.
In case of a 2 step opt-in when a user clicks on the button/link, they might not be fully aware that there is a second step to complete. Since they clicked on the button, it establishes a positive attitude towards completing the goal so when user reaches the second step, it causes cognitive dissonance. As humans we are programmed to reduce the cognitive dissonance and thus we are more likely to finish the opt-in process than abandoning it.
Now you may ask if cognitive dissonance is at play, why do people abandon their shopping cart at the checkout stage? Good question…
In my understanding there is a simple difference between the two – the difference in intent.
Usually when a user clicks on a button/link to opt-in they were probably not expecting to see a second step due to the wording of call to action like “Click on the button to get this report” or something similar. However, in case of an ecommerce store, the basic intent of the customer is to buy a product and they are well aware that they would need to pay money at the last stage to get those products.
These are just few strategies and tactics you can use to improve conversions but psychology has many more deeply embedded strategies that you can start implementing in your marketing campaigns to see instant results.
If you decide to use any of these, I would love to hear your results. Comment box is all yours. 🙂