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How to increase conversions by understanding human psychology

Although figuring out how your customers think and how they will react to your digital marketing efforts can seem like a daunting task, many human behaviours are reasonably consistent and can often be reliably predicted. Understanding a little about the following psychological principles can help catch your customers’ attention, draw them to your website, and convince them to purchase or otherwise interact with your brand.

  1. Social Proof

    People often look to the behaviours of others to decide on the best response in a situation, particularly when they are unsure of what they should do.

    Assure customers that downloading, or purchasing from you is the right decision by showing them proof that others have done the same, with good results:

    • Provide testimonials and case studies on your website.
    • Add social media plugins to show visitors which of their friends follow you on Twitter or like your products on Facebook.
    • Encourage satisfied customers to rate and review you on referral sites like Yelp and Google Places.
  2. Authority

    People inherently trust figures of authority, which is why celebrity and expert endorsements are often used to promote products.

    If your small business can’t afford to hire a celebrity spokesperson, here are some other ways you can use the power of authority to help customers trust your brand:

    • Publicize favourable reviews you’ve earned from authoritative magazines or blogs in your field. Post a link to the article on your website and promote it over social media.
    • Experts are considered more authoritative than celebrities for many products, especially if they are technical or scientific in nature. Consider having a product expert or well-respected professional in your target market endorse your brand.
    • If a client of yours is a big player in their field, see if they’re willing to refer you to others and even provide a testimonial for your website.
  3. Reciprocity

    Call it karma, or scratching each other’s backs, but people are more likely to do something nice for you if you do something nice for them first, especially if there are no strings attached.

    Provide potential customers with some of the following freebies, asking only that they sign up for your mailing list in return:

    • Write blog posts, articles, and guides that they can read without obligation.
    • Offer ebooks, whitepapers, and case studies for download on your website.
    • Host webinars, and post them online for anyone who’s missed them.
    • Provide free samples or trials of your product so customers can test it out.
  4. Commitment

    If a customer publicly endorses your company or product, they feel a sense of commitment to your brand. They are then more likely to stay involved with your company via your website and over social media, and to purchase from you in the future.

    Here are some ways to help your customers commit to you:

    • Encourage them to like and follow you over social media, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, Pinterest, and Instagram.
    • Ask them to provide testimonials on your website.
    • Request that they review your company and products on referral sites or on sales sites where your products are available, such as
  5. Loss Aversion

    Studies have shown that the desire to avoid loss is up to twice as strong as the urge to acquire gain. Frame non-conversion as a loss to persuade people to follow through:

    • Limit your offer to a certain time period (“limited time only”), number of transactions (“while supplies last”), or customer group (“exclusive offer”) to make consumers aware that they could miss out.
    • Highlight the losses of non-conversion, such as lost money, lost time, lost opportunity, or lost knowledge that customers would have saved by buying your product, reading your whitepaper, or attending your event.
  6. Anchoring

    During decision making, people make subsequent judgments based on the first piece of information they receive. Once the ‘anchor’ is set, they will reference it when evaluating each following piece of information. Some ways to use anchoring to encourage conversion include:

    • When running a sale, post the original prices next to the sale prices, so that people know how much they’ll save on the purchase.
    • Include a high-end, VIP option in your pricing structure. Even if no customers ever purchase it, your less expensive options will look more affordable by comparison.
    • Point out the high costs (in money, time, effort, or commitment) of alternative options to highlight the value of your offerings.

Implement these psychological strategies on your website to improve downloads, registrations, and sales. These principles are fairly universal, and can take some of the guesswork out of figuring out how your customers think. By better understanding the way your customers behave, you can tailor your website and offerings to appeal to them and convince them to convert.