Tom Weeks, UK Sales Director at Ve, shares some of the smartest ways brands can influence consumer behaviour through psychological triggers.
We’re all unique: it’s a common and comfortable human belief. We’d like to think that each thought and action we have or do is completely individual, completely our own, that the decisions we make are logical and that our brains are impervious to external influences. However, luckily for marketers, this isn’t the case. Sometimes the simplest of triggers can spur us to action in ways that we wouldn’t expect.
Ecommerce marketers can take advantage of psychological triggers to boost their conversion rates: things like brand design and user experience during the purchasing process can have a huge influence on our browsing behaviour.
So what parts of our websites can we tweak to make use of these human weaknesses?
Choice: Getting it Right
Everyone appreciates a breadth of choice when it comes to retail – it’s part of the reason people like shopping online in the first place. However, as usual, you can have too much of a good thing.
For the customer who is less informed about your product offering, too much choice can simply be oppressive. If you offer a wide selection of goods, the customer will naturally take longer to reach a final decision about what item is best for them. The longer someone spends in the purchasing process, the more likely they are to abandon it.
Naturally an effective site user journey requires a lot of information to be conveyed to the customer in order to encourage purchase; one key example being travel websites. In these cases, to minimise customer doubt, it’s often helpful to implement filters and grouping to reduce on-screen clutter. The simpler the process appears, the more likely your prospects will be to make impulsive purchases.
However, offering some choice and complexity is good too. As popular shows like Bargain Hunt attest, people love to think of themselves as ‘smart shoppers’; adept at spotting a good deal. Retailers can play this to their advantage by structuring their site experience to contain enough complexity to give shoppers some variables to play with, without overwhelming them.
Consumer Context is Important
Your absolute prices are almost less important than the context you put them in. As a marketer your focus should not be on communicating the price of your product, but on the value that the product will bring to your prospect. As consumers, we don’t have any internal way of measuring what something should or should not cost, so it’s up to the marketer to set our expectations.
This gives marketers enormous control over the internal dialogue within the mind of the buyer. The marketer can introduce a cognitive bias; a mental state where someone is not acting in a strictly rational way. For ecommerce marketers, enticing the reader with special offers, new features and freebies is a simple yet effective way to encourage this.
This kind of technique works especially well for high priced items, where the customer has to make a big upfront commitment and will thus need a little more persuasion to get on board.
“Limited time offer!”
This is probably the most familiar marketing tactic to the average customer. Airlines, hotels and online travel agents do a good job of communicating a sense of urgency and scarcity to their audience, all of which is intended to speed up the buying process.
Reminding prospects that there is a limited amount of stock or time in which to purchase can spur on consumers, reducing the chance of checkout funnel abandonment. However, this is the most risky technique available on this list – customers can get annoyed by warnings of scarcity very easily, and it can quickly appear disingenuous if not done carefully.
“I’ll have what she’s having”
People often treat recommendations from friends as the strongest factor in everyday decisions. From holiday destinations to brands of stationery, our purchasing decisions are significantly influenced by what others tell us.
There are many ways that retailers can take advantage of this. Customer reviews are a key component of a product’s online credibility, and prominently displaying them will make your customers feel more secure about their purchase considerations.
As popularised by Amazon, implementing a “people also purchased…” or “frequently bought together” feature can also be a great way to spur impulsive purchases: telling your customer that someone else has done something is a surprisingly strong proof point of an item’s intrinsic value.
A common online mistake made by retailers is thinking that a purchase ends the buying process – whereas, in reality, the opposite is the case. When a prospect has just become a paying customer, it’s worthwhile reciprocating the benefit and offering something in return. Also known as the principle of ‘pay it forward’, it’s beneficial to thank a customer for their purchase as you never know how useful this might be in future.
This doesn’t have to be a simple thank you email – you can offer videos, ebooks, complimentary tutorials or vouchers as a way of thanking people. Simple actions like this will begin to change your customer’s perceptions: you’ll go from being a passive website to a valuable brand run by fellow humans. You’ll start building up the rudiments of an emotional impression in your customers’ minds, and the more you take advantage of this, the more referrals you will get.
By Tom Weeks
UK Sales Director