This just in: Integrating human behavioral psychology into eCommerce sales tactics is not a new ball game.
Successful marketing is psychological persuasion: the art of persuading a customer to purchase a product even when they haven’t been actively considering it.American psychologist, John B Watson, who was famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) for his studies on behaviorism, orchestrated a number of successful ad campaigns - notably for Ponds Cold Cream and Maxwell House Coffee - based on his understanding of the buyer’s psyche.
He engineered tactics that will sound familiar:
- His ads evoked an emotional response
- They had a clear visual demonstration of the product in action
- They had real testimonials
And this was all back in the early 1900s!
Seasoned marketers will be easily able to see why Watson’s campaigns clicked with their audience.
How to Catch the Eye of eCommerce Customers in Today’s Age
When it comes to catching the eye of eCommerce customers, rational rarely comes into play.
Purchasing decisions are largely driven by impulse, emotion, and instinct; which means online businesses have an extremely short timeframe to:
- Grab the attention
- Develop an interest
- Spark desire to buy
- Trigger a buying action and close the sale.
The above sequence of events describes the AIDA model of marketing, aka, the SALES FUNNEL.
The 3-Item Recipe for “Clicks”
Motivation: The customer needs a reason or validation for their behavior.
- Sensation: The need to feel pleasure or avoid pain
- Anticipation: Expecting good things or fearing bad things to come
- Social cohesion: An innate need to feel socially accepted
Ability: The customer needs to be given the means or ability to perform that action.
Trigger: Factors that induce the customer to actually take the action.
Yes, Human Psychology is Tied to your eCommerce Site
Here’s how customer psychology is tied with website user experience, and its impact on the bottom line:
According to a survey conducted by Bargain Fox, 93% of their respondents felt that the visual aesthetics and appearance of the site were key factors in their decisions to make a purchase. 52% of them abandoned their shopping experience due to poor visual experience.
Navigation, information flow and ease of use on a website can result in a high ROI - up to 83%.
Website Load Time
65% of customers gave up if website load times took more than 3 seconds.
Customer Trust Signals
Websites that carried customer trust seals, VeriSign and Symantec SSL, and Money Back Guarantees can boost a customer’s perception of their trustworthiness, and boost conversions and sales.
Customer Reviews and Testimonials
77% of customers read customer reviews before making a purchase decision, and 44% of those respondents considered customer reviews made within one month relevant.
You can read Bargain Fox’s full report here.
Once you’ve implemented your behavioral models, you can begin to delve even further into psychology with these 10 eCommerce selling tips:
1. “You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours”
eCommerce success can be achieved using the simplest of principles in human psychology, which comes down to quid pro quo. This means when someone offers something to us or does a favor for us, we feel obligated to return the favor in kind.
So, when customers are offered something as a reward or incentive for making a purchase, they’ll be more inclined to purchase more from you.
You can use this tendency to boost sales by offering:
- Free gifts with purchases
- Free content downloads or offers that complement the purchase.
- Special discounts and promotions
- Free shipping
2. Capitalize on Positivity
Ben Franklin once coined...
If a person has once done a favor for you, there is an increased likelihood that they’ll be inclined to do more favors for you. This means when a customer has had a positive engagement with your brand, they are more likely to come back to you for more business.
Now, while this seems similar to reciprocity, it isn’t quite the same.
Here there is no “obvious incentive” being offered, but rather there is a sense of brand satisfaction and brand commitment.
By increasing interactions and engagement with a customer before they make a purchase, you can trigger their sense of commitment and inclination to buy from you.
This includes providing means to perform actions like:
- Email newsletter signups
- Answering questionnaires
- Social network interactions
- Commenting and sharing content on your website
- Returning to your site periodically for updates
3. Grip Customers with Urgency and Scarcity
The fear of missing out is a deep-seated human tendency.
We don’t like feeling left out, and therefore, our immediate reaction is to do anything to stay involved and active.
Applying this to eCommerce strategy, you need to convey a message that tells your customers that if they don’t take immediate action, they could lose out on a potential reward.
The way to do that is to put a limitation on:
- How long the reward/offer is available: urgency
- The number of rewards that are available: scarcity
Some tactics under this include:
- Countdown timers to indicate the time limit on special offers
- Reduced price is shown against the original price
- Impending out-of-stock announcements, “Only x items available; buy now!”
- Messaging and language that conveys this sense in landing pages.
4. Play on our Biological Disposition of Social Proof
Admit it, us humans can be lazy.
We have a tendency to follow the “herd” or “community” if it results in getting what we want faster.
If one can see visible proof of a product/brand being trusted universally by other users, then it increases the perception of that brand’s trustworthiness.
This means, people trust people over a faceless entity like a brand. In fact, according to a study, user reviews are trusted 12 times more than product descriptions crafted by the brand.
You can capitalize on this tendency by:
- Prominently displaying star ratings immediately after the title.
- Displaying reviews - both positive and negative - on the product pages.
- Display the dates when the reviews were posted; the more recent the reviews, the better
- Display the number of social media likes/shares to indicate the popularity of the content/product
5. Use Authority, Strategically
Just as humans respond to social proof, they also respond favorably when they perceive authority in something.
When a user perceives that a brand has been trusted by other well-known brands or experts, they will be favorably inclined towards that brand. eCommerce websites can leverage this tendency by:
- Displaying prominent collaborations
- Displaying prominent media or journals in which your brand has been featured
- Posting endorsements from experts
- Product spotlights from trusted people within your own brand
6. Eliminate (or Reduce) Choice Paralysis
Also known as “Hick’s Law”, choice paralysis refers to the fact that the more choices a human being is presented with, the harder will it be for them to come to a decision.
The trick, therefore, is to show your customers the various options you offer without overwhelming them.
Bombarding them with an overloaded product catalog, for example, can turn them off from making a purchase. Some tactics to avoid choice paralysis are:
- Product recommendations personalized to the customer’s individual tastes, previous purchase history and, product views.
- Highlighted features in product description pages, using eye-catching typography and imagery to make it easier for customers to make quick decisions.
- Intuitive product navigation and filter system that allows customers to find exactly what they are looking for.
7. Use Realistic and Effective Imagery
There was a time when “perfection” was used to lure prospective customers into buying product. However, today it has become more apparent that people respond favorably when they can relate to the product. The trick here is allowing your customers to be able to picture themselves using the product.
Show regular people using your product. For example, clothing brands today capitalize on this by using realistic models of all sizes to convey the universal appeal to their customers.
Professional quality product images
Use images that convey the quality of your product - especially for high-end products.
- High-resolution photography for all your product images
- Multiple angles and variants of the product, for your customers to get a full picture of what the product looks like
- Zoom feature for customers to get a closer look at the product
Telling a story
Another way to effectively use imagery is in telling your brand story: instead of writing a huge wall of text describing how your brand came into being, use images and photography to do it.
8. Encourage “Liking” and Visual Testimonials
“Liking” refers to the tendency to say yes to a request when we can sense a connection to the person making it.
While text reviews and testimonials can definitely do wonders for your sales, customers respond more favorably to visual cues. Therefore, including visual or video testimonials from genuine customers using your products - as we’ve seen above - can boost your sales. You can do this by:
- Asking long-term customers to submit short video bytes in exchange for incentives like special discounts and offers.
- Encouraging users to tag you in social media posts where they use your merchandise, which you can use in your website.
9. Eradicate the Feeling of "Risk"
One of the key motivators behind the human decision-making process is the possibility of backtracking or changing their mind down the line.
Forcing commitment during purchase decisions can negatively impact your customer’s experience.
For instance, forcing a registration before the final checkout step can result in an abandoned cart. Instead, show your customers that they have a means for a way out from a purchase decision. This includes:
- Clear return and money-back guarantees: Display these policies prominently on your home page and product pages
- Hassle-free return process, with free return shipping
- Allowing guest checkouts: At the same time, you can highlight incentives and offers on pertinent pages.
10. Add the Human Element
Identity labeling centers on the idea that humans like to own things that reflect their identity or personality.
This means marketers and ecommerce business owners need to understand their audience at a very personal level in order to make their products appeal to them.
By using audience segmentation and developing buyer personas, you can create the right messaging in your copy and product images.
Behind every customer interaction or behavior on an eCommerce site is a psychological context that resulted in said action.
These include a motivation to take said action, the means to perform that action and the trigger that brings the action into fruition. Therefore, marketers and ecommerce businesses can leverage consumer psychology and behaviors to organically guide customers down the sales funnel.
Ready to concentrate more on eCommerce sales tactics and less on taxing manual processes?