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The eCommerce Marketing Blueprint

5 Psychology Backed Principles that Influence eCommerce Visitors to Becoming Customers

Posted on 9th December 2014 , by Kunle Campbell in CRO

The pace of technological change in digital marketing can run the risk of blinding us to a central fact about what we do: while the methods of asking have changed, the questions we’re asking and the people we’re asking, haven’t really changed for centuries.

As eCommerce marketers, our job is to ask people who might already want to say yes i.e. site visitors, whether they’d like to buy something. Ways to get people to answer your questions with ‘yes’ deserves investigating.

In 1984, professor of psychology and marketing Robert Cialdini published ‘Influence,’ in which he laid out principles for achieving this. They are:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Commitment and consistency
  3. Liking
  4. Authority
  5. Scarcity

All these ideas can be built into the sales funnel in the context of online retail to make sure you trigger more sales and convert more visitors to customers.

1: Reciprocity

Reciprocity means tit-for-tat. People naturally want to scratch your back if you scratch theirs.

Start off with an Offer…

Trouble is, it’s hard to offer something in advance in online sales. You can offer something alongside, though – and get people to focus on the offer, so their subjective experience of the process is that of reciprocation.

Boots 3 for 2 Mix and Match
Boots 3 for 2 Mix and Match

Surprise with free gifts…

This can work for you post-purchase, too. Adding free gifts into a customer’s shipped product can help generate that feeling of reciprocity and earn you a follow-up sale.

youavon

Give, Give, Give Content…

Content can also be a great way to generate a feeling of reciprocity. After all, great content (like this!) can be a form of freebie all by itself, and valuable advice can help make people see their purchase as part of a relationship of exchanges.

Mountain Bike Guide - Halfords

Whether your content takes the form of how-to videos, blog posts, interviews or other useful material, it helps viewers and readers feel a sense of gratitude toward your business that will pay off down the line.

2: Commitment and consistency

Commitment and consistency is a psychological principle that says people will go a long way to avoid a strong dissonance between their words and their actions. If they have said they’ll do a thing, they feel they must, even if following through on their words is actually irrational.

If you’re trying to make a change in your life, like lose weight or quit smoking, one effective tactic is t state your goal publicly. By committing to a goal publicly, you engage that machinery of commitment and consistency in your own mind and help you keep up your end of the deal – when your willpower fails, your desire not to look bad or inconsistent steps into the breach.

How does this work for retail?

Getting customers to make a small commitment to your brand – like you on Facebook, sign up for a newsletter, and so on-  they’re actually more likely to purchase from you.

subscribers__list_building

 

And if you can get them to hold your products the likelihood rises even more, which is why so many companies offer ‘no quibble 30 day guarantees’ – consistency and commitment ensure they’ll almost never get called out on them.

3: Liking

Liking is as simple as a rock. We’re more likely to say yes to someone we like. That’s why salespeople smile and why brands hire people we already like and look up to to be ambassadors for their products.

We’re more likely to buy a product if it’s associated in our minds with someone we already look up to, admire, or just like.

ciroc-diddy

Of course, brand is a personality that people can like or dislike too. Every element of your site or store is contributing to your brand identity, so you want to create a personality for your brand that your customers can relate to and want to spend time with. It needs to be a personality that your target audience ‘clicks’ with – and it needs to start with your landing page.

@elisoul01 showing us some imbalanced beardsman symmetry. #beards #beardbrand #beardon Photo by @najwareham.

A photo posted by Beardbrand (@beardbrand) on

You can get a similar effect by using models that people can relate to, especially if your business is directly related to the person; if you sell clothes, shoes, jewellery or accessories, you’ll want someone who is both relatable and aspirational – like your target customers on a good day.

Lenny Henry Travelodge
Lenny Henry Travelodge

People are more likely to purchase something that’s recommended to them by someone they know and trust. The more linked in you are to social media channels (except, arguably, LinkedIn), the more likely you are to gain the social cachet that tells customers that their friends like you – and that’s the best recommendation you could have. It’s social proof.

Zoella's Favourites - Endorsing Elegant Touch Nails
Zoella’s Favourites – Endorsing Elegant Touch Nails

Social proof is about showing how a wider social group agrees with your sales message and approves of your brand. Rather than looking to expert opinion to derive authority, social proof goes to the person next to you for their view. Weight loss groups are very fond of showing how much progress ordinary people can make, enlisting someone holding out the waistband of their old trousers to demonstrate for their flyers just how successful the program has been for them. Again, it’s not a doctor explaining with authority how the program is supposed to work: It’s social proof.

How do you use social proof?

If you’ve got good press, mention it, loud and clear. If you have emails from customers that talk about how happy they are with your product or service, quote them. ‘Best Sellers’ or ‘Most Popular’ lists are effective too.

Ratings and reviews are a powerful tool in your social proof arsenal  – don’t neglect them.

AO.com customer review and ratings
AO.com customer review and ratings

 

Heart Internet - Twitter powered customer feedback widget
Heart Internet – Twitter powered customer feedback widget

People trust reviews far more than adverts and plenty of customer feedback, prominently displayed, shows that you have nothing to hide and plenty to boast about – but you’re letting others do your boasting for you.

4: Authority

Authority is really two things: it’s authority in relation to your customers, and being an authority in your field. Ideally, you want both.

The easiest way to get both is to call attention to your brand’s PR brand ambassador’s credentials in a field where success earns automatic respect. If you have a dentist to explain why a dental product is good, that’s great: people are used to taking what a dentist recommends, so that’s one ‘authority base’ covered – and they know that dentists know what they’re talking about. In the field of dental health, a dentist is an authority, so the other ‘authority base’ is covered too.

Sensodyne Dentist
Sensodyne Dentist

If you or your client is in a space where that kind of mandated, professional authority isn’t available, try users who are known to be successful – look how well Nike did advertising Air Max with famous basketball players, people who are an authority on their sport thanks to games won and balls dunked.

Air Jordan ad
Air Jordan ad

Many brands now engage in curation as well as creation of content, and online stores often find it useful to curate lists of products. Some stores ask staff to curate – Waterstones have been using ‘Staff Picks’ since pre-digital days, for instance – while others use celebrity curators, asking guest authors to pick out their favourites of a given genre or year.

Food52.com Experts Guide
Food52.com Experts Guide

 

That model is transferable, with hip-hop sites asking rappers and DJs to curate lists of records, fashion items and more. It’s an extension of the idea of authority – if, out of everything that’s out there, your favourite singer thinks these 10 records are worth hearing, well, they know what they’re talking about by definition.

5: Scarcity

Scarcity is as simple as liking – if something’s scarce, it’s not going to be here next time you look, and there may even be competition for it now – so grab it quick. Scarcity implies both value and urgency.

John Lewis Display Number of Items in Stock
John Lewis Display Number of Items in Stock

Marketers trigger this effect in a variety of ways, some more subtle than others.  The crassest is the pop-ups you’ve seen that claim ‘dermatologists or doctors, or dieticians or whoever] hate this product.’ They’re implying that those professions are trying to protect their incomes by keeping you from a cheap and effective alternative – in other words, that someone is artificially imposing scarcity. When Crazy Bob’s Carpet Warehouse urges you to ‘Hurry – When They’re Gone, They’re Gone!’ the same psychological prompt is at work. Get there quick before someone else buys it – in other words, decide fast; it’s scarce.

Deadlines for sales are a great way to imply scarcity.  Since most sales are seasonal – Black Friday in the US, Christmas, Back to School, and so on – a time limit suggests itself anyway. Emphasize it and build scarcity into your marketing. Some products are naturally seasonal, and while in some cases that’s for a reason – the market for reindeer antler hairbands falls fast after December 26 – in other cases, seasonal products come with time-sensitive scarcity built in. Witness the success of the chai pumpkin latté.

Starbucks_Fall_2013_Promo_400x518_F-0x700

Impending out-of-stock announcements are a popular online way of triggering scarcity. If you can show people that there are a limited number of a certain product remaining in stock you can make them see those products’ values as influenced by their time-sensitive scarcity. You also build a reward into purchasing – that’s why Ebay tells you you ‘won’ an item. Who doesn’t want to win something?

20th anniversary PlayStation 4 - limited to only 12,300 units worldwide
20th anniversary PlayStation 4 – limited to only 12,300 units worldwide

These methods, taken together, point to a way to make sales easier. While some remove the perceived risks attached to saying ‘yes,’ others increase the perceived risks attached to saying ‘no.’ Using these psychological precepts, it’s possible to drive sales by giving customers more reasons to say ‘yes.’

About the author:

Kunle Campbell

An ecommerce advisor to ambitious, agile online retailers and funded ecommerce startups seeking exponentially sales growth through scalable customer acquisition, retention, conversion optimisation, product/market fit optimisation and customer referrals.

Did You Enjoy Reading this Article?

Get Free Email Updates by Signing Up Below:

Podcasts you might like

5 Psychology Backed Principles that Influence eCommerce Visitors to Becoming Customers

Posted on 9th December 2014 , by Kunle Campbell in CRO

The pace of technological change in digital marketing can run the risk of blinding us to a central fact about what we do: while the methods of asking have changed, the questions we’re asking and the people we’re asking, haven’t really changed for centuries.

As eCommerce marketers, our job is to ask people who might already want to say yes i.e. site visitors, whether they’d like to buy something. Ways to get people to answer your questions with ‘yes’ deserves investigating.

In 1984, professor of psychology and marketing Robert Cialdini published ‘Influence,’ in which he laid out principles for achieving this. They are:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Commitment and consistency
  3. Liking
  4. Authority
  5. Scarcity

All these ideas can be built into the sales funnel in the context of online retail to make sure you trigger more sales and convert more visitors to customers.

1: Reciprocity

Reciprocity means tit-for-tat. People naturally want to scratch your back if you scratch theirs.

Start off with an Offer…

Trouble is, it’s hard to offer something in advance in online sales. You can offer something alongside, though – and get people to focus on the offer, so their subjective experience of the process is that of reciprocation.

Boots 3 for 2 Mix and Match
Boots 3 for 2 Mix and Match

Surprise with free gifts…

This can work for you post-purchase, too. Adding free gifts into a customer’s shipped product can help generate that feeling of reciprocity and earn you a follow-up sale.

youavon

Give, Give, Give Content…

Content can also be a great way to generate a feeling of reciprocity. After all, great content (like this!) can be a form of freebie all by itself, and valuable advice can help make people see their purchase as part of a relationship of exchanges.

Mountain Bike Guide - Halfords

Whether your content takes the form of how-to videos, blog posts, interviews or other useful material, it helps viewers and readers feel a sense of gratitude toward your business that will pay off down the line.

2: Commitment and consistency

Commitment and consistency is a psychological principle that says people will go a long way to avoid a strong dissonance between their words and their actions. If they have said they’ll do a thing, they feel they must, even if following through on their words is actually irrational.

If you’re trying to make a change in your life, like lose weight or quit smoking, one effective tactic is t state your goal publicly. By committing to a goal publicly, you engage that machinery of commitment and consistency in your own mind and help you keep up your end of the deal – when your willpower fails, your desire not to look bad or inconsistent steps into the breach.

How does this work for retail?

Getting customers to make a small commitment to your brand – like you on Facebook, sign up for a newsletter, and so on-  they’re actually more likely to purchase from you.

subscribers__list_building

 

And if you can get them to hold your products the likelihood rises even more, which is why so many companies offer ‘no quibble 30 day guarantees’ – consistency and commitment ensure they’ll almost never get called out on them.

3: Liking

Liking is as simple as a rock. We’re more likely to say yes to someone we like. That’s why salespeople smile and why brands hire people we already like and look up to to be ambassadors for their products.

We’re more likely to buy a product if it’s associated in our minds with someone we already look up to, admire, or just like.

ciroc-diddy

Of course, brand is a personality that people can like or dislike too. Every element of your site or store is contributing to your brand identity, so you want to create a personality for your brand that your customers can relate to and want to spend time with. It needs to be a personality that your target audience ‘clicks’ with – and it needs to start with your landing page.

@elisoul01 showing us some imbalanced beardsman symmetry. #beards #beardbrand #beardon Photo by @najwareham.

A photo posted by Beardbrand (@beardbrand) on

You can get a similar effect by using models that people can relate to, especially if your business is directly related to the person; if you sell clothes, shoes, jewellery or accessories, you’ll want someone who is both relatable and aspirational – like your target customers on a good day.

Lenny Henry Travelodge
Lenny Henry Travelodge

People are more likely to purchase something that’s recommended to them by someone they know and trust. The more linked in you are to social media channels (except, arguably, LinkedIn), the more likely you are to gain the social cachet that tells customers that their friends like you – and that’s the best recommendation you could have. It’s social proof.

Zoella's Favourites - Endorsing Elegant Touch Nails
Zoella’s Favourites – Endorsing Elegant Touch Nails

Social proof is about showing how a wider social group agrees with your sales message and approves of your brand. Rather than looking to expert opinion to derive authority, social proof goes to the person next to you for their view. Weight loss groups are very fond of showing how much progress ordinary people can make, enlisting someone holding out the waistband of their old trousers to demonstrate for their flyers just how successful the program has been for them. Again, it’s not a doctor explaining with authority how the program is supposed to work: It’s social proof.

How do you use social proof?

If you’ve got good press, mention it, loud and clear. If you have emails from customers that talk about how happy they are with your product or service, quote them. ‘Best Sellers’ or ‘Most Popular’ lists are effective too.

Ratings and reviews are a powerful tool in your social proof arsenal  – don’t neglect them.

AO.com customer review and ratings
AO.com customer review and ratings

 

Heart Internet - Twitter powered customer feedback widget
Heart Internet – Twitter powered customer feedback widget

People trust reviews far more than adverts and plenty of customer feedback, prominently displayed, shows that you have nothing to hide and plenty to boast about – but you’re letting others do your boasting for you.

4: Authority

Authority is really two things: it’s authority in relation to your customers, and being an authority in your field. Ideally, you want both.

The easiest way to get both is to call attention to your brand’s PR brand ambassador’s credentials in a field where success earns automatic respect. If you have a dentist to explain why a dental product is good, that’s great: people are used to taking what a dentist recommends, so that’s one ‘authority base’ covered – and they know that dentists know what they’re talking about. In the field of dental health, a dentist is an authority, so the other ‘authority base’ is covered too.

Sensodyne Dentist
Sensodyne Dentist

If you or your client is in a space where that kind of mandated, professional authority isn’t available, try users who are known to be successful – look how well Nike did advertising Air Max with famous basketball players, people who are an authority on their sport thanks to games won and balls dunked.

Air Jordan ad
Air Jordan ad

Many brands now engage in curation as well as creation of content, and online stores often find it useful to curate lists of products. Some stores ask staff to curate – Waterstones have been using ‘Staff Picks’ since pre-digital days, for instance – while others use celebrity curators, asking guest authors to pick out their favourites of a given genre or year.

Food52.com Experts Guide
Food52.com Experts Guide

 

That model is transferable, with hip-hop sites asking rappers and DJs to curate lists of records, fashion items and more. It’s an extension of the idea of authority – if, out of everything that’s out there, your favourite singer thinks these 10 records are worth hearing, well, they know what they’re talking about by definition.

5: Scarcity

Scarcity is as simple as liking – if something’s scarce, it’s not going to be here next time you look, and there may even be competition for it now – so grab it quick. Scarcity implies both value and urgency.

John Lewis Display Number of Items in Stock
John Lewis Display Number of Items in Stock

Marketers trigger this effect in a variety of ways, some more subtle than others.  The crassest is the pop-ups you’ve seen that claim ‘dermatologists or doctors, or dieticians or whoever] hate this product.’ They’re implying that those professions are trying to protect their incomes by keeping you from a cheap and effective alternative – in other words, that someone is artificially imposing scarcity. When Crazy Bob’s Carpet Warehouse urges you to ‘Hurry – When They’re Gone, They’re Gone!’ the same psychological prompt is at work. Get there quick before someone else buys it – in other words, decide fast; it’s scarce.

Deadlines for sales are a great way to imply scarcity.  Since most sales are seasonal – Black Friday in the US, Christmas, Back to School, and so on – a time limit suggests itself anyway. Emphasize it and build scarcity into your marketing. Some products are naturally seasonal, and while in some cases that’s for a reason – the market for reindeer antler hairbands falls fast after December 26 – in other cases, seasonal products come with time-sensitive scarcity built in. Witness the success of the chai pumpkin latté.

Starbucks_Fall_2013_Promo_400x518_F-0x700

Impending out-of-stock announcements are a popular online way of triggering scarcity. If you can show people that there are a limited number of a certain product remaining in stock you can make them see those products’ values as influenced by their time-sensitive scarcity. You also build a reward into purchasing – that’s why Ebay tells you you ‘won’ an item. Who doesn’t want to win something?

20th anniversary PlayStation 4 - limited to only 12,300 units worldwide
20th anniversary PlayStation 4 – limited to only 12,300 units worldwide

These methods, taken together, point to a way to make sales easier. While some remove the perceived risks attached to saying ‘yes,’ others increase the perceived risks attached to saying ‘no.’ Using these psychological precepts, it’s possible to drive sales by giving customers more reasons to say ‘yes.’

About the author:

Kunle Campbell

An ecommerce advisor to ambitious, agile online retailers and funded ecommerce startups seeking exponentially sales growth through scalable customer acquisition, retention, conversion optimisation, product/market fit optimisation and customer referrals.

Did You Enjoy Reading this Article?

Get Free Email Updates by Signing Up Below:

eCommerce Marketing Growth Hacks 

UPCOMING WEBINAR:
November 21st 4:30pm GMT / 11:30am EST
with Kunle
Campbell

Facebook Funnels for Ecommerce that CONVERT

Register now

2X eCommerce Podcast

Kunle interviews Founders of Fast Growing 7-8 Figure Online Retail Business & E-commerce Marketing Experts

View podcasts

Download your free ebook

More

The eCommerce Marketing Blueprint