3 cognitive triggers to improve customer conversion

4 min read

Understanding a few of the basics of the psychology of persuasion and how exactly to apply them, could make an enormous difference to your marketing efforts

We’ve previously discussed how psychological principles might help shape and optimize brand communications — not least, referral marketing campaigns.

In truth, there’s a complete universe of theories and heuristics owned by a wider field of behavioral economics.

Behavioral economics basically describes the consequences of psychological, social, cognitive, and emotional factors on human economic decision making.

This obviously includes the dynamics of deciding to get. And because of this, having an excellent grasp of some key ‘cognitive triggers’, rooted in behavioral economics theory, may be beneficial for just about any ecommerce marketer.

Let’s have a closer look at 3 of the very most well-known ‘cognitive triggers’, and how they may be put on your marketing efforts…

Anchoring and the decoy effect

What could it be?

Anchoring describes the energy of the opening offer, when presented within a number of options. I.e. The initial option presented to a recipient ‘anchors’ expectations so that it acts as a reference point for several subsequent offers. So if the best price is presented first to a person, that becomes the benchmark for ensuing negotiation.

For example, a person shopping for a fresh suit may wince at being first offered a £1,000 option — but if they’re then offered a £500 suit, they might be more amenable (even though they initially walked in to the store with a £300 budget at heart).

A variation on anchoring theory may be the decoy effect. When two distinct offers are up for grabs, the current presence of a third ‘decoy’ option escalates the attractiveness of the higher-value offer. We see this a whole lot in the wonderful world of publishing. For instance, let’s say you need to sign up to a magazine. You’re offered the next options:

Digital edition: £59

Digital and print: £125

If most of your interest is affordability, you might well conclude that, although a physical copy through the letterbox is really a nice-to-have, it’s not necessarily worth spending over twice the total amount, for the blissful luxury. A digital-only subscription can do.

Now, think about the same scenario… except this time around, a third option is roofed in the mix, the following:

Digital edition: £59

Print edition: £125

Digital and print: £125

This time, rather than our attention being attracted to just how much cheaper the digital-only subscription is, our brains light at the apparent deal to be enjoyed on the digital plus print subscription. The print-only version is really a decoy. It causes us to believe: Hang on… I could get both versions for exactly the same cost as though I simply subscribed to print? Good deal!

How to use it

These principles are specially important with regards to pricing tables and presenting multiple product options. Consider ‘anchoring’ your pricing structure so the option you most desire to convert is contrasted against a much pricier offering.

In addition, consider throwing a ‘decoy’ option into your product mix, to greatly help attract visitors to the value of one’s premium offerings, instead of opting for the least expensive automagically.

Paradox of preference, cognitive load and the “less is more” approach

What could it be?

Our brain, like any computer, includes a limited processing capacity. When we’re offered plenty of incoming information we think it is incredibly difficult to create sense of things. So when the incoming information is presenting us with a couple of options and guiding us to produce a decision, that’s a concern.

In other words, although in society we associate choice with freedom and autonomy, an excessive amount of it’s rather a bad thing.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz popularised this idea in his book, The Paradox of preference. He cites a report where two displays of jam were create in a shop. Customers were invited to sample the jams, and were offered a dollar discount coupon should they made a decision to buy one. In a single display there have been six jams, in another 24. What happened? 30% of these presented with the tiny jam selection, purchased a jar. Compared, just 3% of these exposed to the bigger selection bought anything.

The lesson for marketers is pretty self-explanatory: an excessive amount of choice increases cognitive load, which increases anxiety — and results in ‘analysis paralysis’. In the digital age, it’s more critical than ever before to have a ‘less is more’ method of communicating our offerings to allow them to stand the opportunity of resonating with potential customers.

How to use it

Adopt a ‘less is more’ method of your articles and design, keeping landing and sales pages clean, clutter-free, and succinct.

Multiple messages and calls to action will bamboozle prospects. Adhere to one, clear and actionable next thing. Limit the amount of product and pricing options to an easily scannable and digestible amount — three is really a typical limit and lends itself well to applying the prior anchoring and decoy principles.

Familiarity principle

What could it be?

Another subconscious yet self-evident cognitive bias is that people tend to obtain brands and through individuals who we’re acquainted with. Familiarity instills a feeling of comfort and safety.

This is excatly why we have a tendency to prefer to choose the same branded products we’ve bought before, from exactly the same shops, offline and online — and vice versa, suddenly switching to a fresh, untested brand, or buying from an up to now unfrequented shop, is something we need to stop and consider, before committing. This is actually the essence of brand loyalty.

It’s imperative to instill a feeling of familiarity and owned by both prospective along with existing customers. By regularly communicating with this audiences within an authentic and approachable way, we’re adopting the familiarity principle.

The familiarity principle can be in the centre of referral marketing campaigns. When someone we realize and like recommends a fresh product to us, we’re a lot more likely to rely upon that product, than if we received a cold approach from the brand, which we might not otherwise be at all acquainted with.

How to use it

Developing a frequent and distinctive brand tone and voice, and regularly communicating together with your audiences across multiple digital touch points with techniques that build-up a healthy conversation, really helps to create and keep maintaining a feeling of brand familiarity (and for that reason, loyalty) amongst your visitors.

Also, in the digital age, developing a strong community around your brand is really a sure-fire method of leveraging the familiarity principle in your favor. Having brand champions and fans that are ready to recommend your products — either informally, or even more formally through referral programs — is among the best means of obtaining the familiarity principle to work in your favour.

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