17 Psychological Conversion Optimisation Tips

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Conversion rate optimisation is about persuading visitors to convert. Persuasive content that utilises psychological triggers can help you significantly improve your conversion rate. Outlined below are 17 conversion optimisation tips and techniques to effectively engage your visitors and increase your conversions.

1. Ownership focuses our attention on what we might lose!

Image of Amazon Prime 30-day free trial offer
Source: Amazon Prime 30-day free trial offer

Even partial ownership (e.g. a trial subscription) tends to make people more attached to what they have and make them focus on what they may lose rather than what they may gain (see endowment effect). Ownership changes our perception of things and loss aversion makes it difficult for us to give it up.

A great example of this is Amazon Prime which offers a 30-day free for unlimited streaming of moves and TV shows. This combines the power of FREE, that we cover later, with a limited trial that makes customers focus on what they will lose if they cancel their subscription. Try testing different trial promotions, or give more prominence to money-back guarantees, cooling-off periods (for financial services) and ease of returns for large or expensive items. Ownership is a powerful weapon in conversion optimisation.

2. We are motivated by meaningful tasks and acknowledgement of our effort!

Image pop-up for when Buffer is full for free plan - conversion optimisation tips
Source: buffer

None of us like to think our effort is meaningless and we all appreciate positive feedback (see purpose). Visitors want to know that any information you request from them is essential and not just for your benefit. People also like feedback to confirm they have successfully completed tasks (e.g. registration or add to basket). This reassures and motivates them to continue.

Buffer congratulates you when you you’ve completely filled your free plan with posts. But it also uses it as an opportunity to promote upgrading to Awesome subscription plan.

For registration and sign-up forms remove any fields that are not absolutely necessary. Try different words or phrases to explain why each piece of information is required. Also test different ways or congratulating customers when they have completed a task as this can help conversion optimisation. journey.

3. Everything is relative!

Image of Hotjar.com pricing options
Source: Hotjar.com pricing options

People find it difficult to make new decisions and like to compare things that are simple to compare (e.g. one LED TV against another LED TV). Until a person has made such a comparison they often don’t understand there own preferences or know what they want. Giving just two very different options will make it difficult for people to choose. They have nothing to compare either option with and they may not select your preferred option.

This is why sales people will often show you a premium option, a medium option and a value option that appears inferior. They know most people will choose the middle option. So by testing different alternatives on a given page may allow you to nudge visitors towards your preferred option. This could be different subscription options or alternative targeted content (e.g. recently viewed/wish list items etc).

4. The first time we go to purchase is critical for the price we are willing to pay! 

Image of Survata's plans with prices
Image of Survata’s plans with prices

Once a price has been established in our minds it will largely determine our perception of current and future prices (see anchor price). Sensitivity to price changes is heavily influenced by our memory of the prices we have previously paid or seen.

When launching a new product if you can associate it with a premium category you are more likely to be able to charge a premium price. You should always show your most expensive plan first as this helps create the highest possible anchor price. Test different ways of presenting prices, change the location of the price, and see if by offering a premium alternative you can boost sales without having to make large price reductions.

5. The power of FREE!

Image of Neflix free for a month offer
Source: Netflix – “Join free for a month” offer

The impact of offering something for FREE is often underestimated in conversion optimisation. People are afraid of loss and because of this FREE is a powerful motivator. As a result consumers will often perceive a FREE offer as substantially more valuable than it really is.

This can result in the cost of offering something for FREE being easily outweighed by the benefit from an uplift in conversion. Alternatively, if you offer a free benefit as part of your proposition that perhaps your competitors don’t, then try testing the impact of promoting this as a FREE benefit of your service. Whatever you do don’t mention how much it actually costs.

6. Scarcity makes us value things more!

Image of Booking.com with scarcity indicators
Source: Booking.com scarcity indicators include “Booked x times today” and “Only x rooms left”.

People value things that are scarce partly because they are loss averse. We are particularly motivated if we believe that we are in competition with other people to purchase a scarce item. This is why eBay auctions can get out of hand and we end up paying far more than we originally planned for an item.

Stock level indicators (e.g. number of rooms left, low stock, number of items remaining, bids etc) are a powerful tactic for conversion optimisation. Scarcity is used everywhere online. Including hotel and flight booking sites, flash sales, exclusive pre-sale registration, offer ending soon, and limited edition item.

Booking.com is especially good at using scarcity. As well as showing the number of rooms left, the site also shows the number of times a room has been booked today and for locations with high demand a further message is displayed (see below). The key to conversion optimisation is to test, test and test!

Image from Booking.com showing location has high demand
Source: Booking.com

7. We are more motivated by a cause than by money! 

Image of Tesco.com communities - conversion optimisation tips
Source: Tesco.com Communities including Cancer Research UK Race for Life food partner

People are much more willing to spend time and effort for a cause than for money. This is because social norms are much more powerful motivators than cash. Research has shown that focusing on money can result in more independent and selfish behaviour and a reluctance to be help others. People who believe in cause are much more passionate and more willing to offer to help others.

It can be advantageous to align your brand or site with relevant good causes as it helps to build loyalty. However, taking such an approach often needs to be part of a long-term commitment to a cause as people can react negatively if you chop and change according to short-term business needs. If you do go down this route focus on the material benefits to the good cause (e.g. Computers for Schools vouchers) rather than the actual value. Test different methods of giving to good causes to understand which most engage with your customers and help with conversion optimisation.

8. The power reciprocation!

image of Copyblogger.com site and free resources
Source: Copyblogger.com

We feel obliged to the future repayment of favours, gifts, good deeds and the like. Organisations can use the social norm of reciprocation to their advantage for conversion optimisation. Try offering help, free resources (e.g. White papers), advice or samples without obligation.

Online video guides are becoming the norm, but other ways to benefit from this rule include online tools and planners, free smartphone Apps, money off coupons and how to guides. The skill here is to find something that really catches the imagination of your customers so that they value it so much that they almost feel obliged to maintain their relationship with you.

9. Sex sells?

Image of beautiful woman on Beaverbrooks.co.uk
Source: Beaverbrooks.co.uk

Great images of beautiful people grab attention and can help to sell product. Sex can sell because we respond to material differently when we are in a state of arousal. Neuroscience indicates that this is because it engages the pleasurable reward centre of our brain. Research has found that men are more willing to take risks when they are aroused by beautiful women. People also automatically assign positive traits to attractive looking people.

Try testing models of different age, gender or family groups on high converting pages to see if aligning the images more closely with your target audience improves conversion. People are naturally drawn to looking at eyes so this could also be incorporated in your tests.

10. Customers will procrastinate if you give them a chance!

Image of incentive to open a Very,co.uk account
Source: very.co.uk

People like to put decisions off until the last minute and avoid doing things that they don’t enjoy. To avoid visitors procrastinating use different strategies to motivate them to convert now!

Online only discount can be used to encourage visitors to sign up. Also have you considered using gamification techniques to make a recruitment email or registration process more interesting and enjoyable. You can also test different incentives (e.g. money off vouchers or prize draw entry) to see what attracts new customers the most.

11. If uncertainty exists people look to the actions of others to guide them!

Image of social proof on Dropbox.com
Source: Dropbox.com

People naturally follow a crowd (see Herd instinct) as it provides us with reassurance about our decisions, especially when we are in a new or uncertain situation. Sometimes we also consciously copy others we want to associate with or admire to project a certain image to the outside world.

If your site has built up a sizable number of subscribers ensure this is clear on your landing pages. Inform visitors about what is most popular on your site and include testimonials from existing customers.

12 People respond more positively to someone they know and like!

Image of testimonial on Google Analytics homepage
Source: google analytics

People want to like organizations that they buy from and they respond positively to indications that you have similar values and attitudes to them. Companies that have a clear vision and strong customer centric culture can project this through their online presence to their advantage.

Market research can help you understand your prospects life style, values, interests and motivations. This can help you avoid having policies or promoting causes that conflict with your visitors’ vales and interests. Having photographs of real people who work for an organisation in relevant posts can improve how visitors relate to a website and have been known to significantly improve conversion rates. Further, the perceived age of a model on a page can also affect the conversion rate if they are too young or old compared to your visitor profile.

Sites that are perceived to use deception or trick customers into decisions (see dark UX) may benefit from short-term gains in conversion but this is likely to be more than off-set by a loss from life-time customer value. Experiments have found that even a low level of irritation can make people irritated and act vengeful towards companies that annoy them.

13. People don’t like closing doors!

Image of a closed door - conversion optimisation tips
Source: Freeimages.com

People like to keep their options open as it gives them a sense of control over their own destiny. Autonomy is an important human motivation. Even when people are at the last stage of a transaction having a get out option (e.g. back to shopping) may be more motivating than than if you make it difficult to abandon or change items in the basket. Otherwise customers can feel trapped and out of control.

Test different sign-posting at each stage of checkout as it is important to communicate to customers where they are in the process and give them clear options. Try testing more prominent ‘Return to shopping’ or ‘Back’ buttons in checkout to see if it actually improves rather than decreases conversion.

14. The power of the written word!

Image of a pen lying on paper which has writing on it
Source: Freeimages.com

People like to be perceived to be consistent and it is an important motivator of our behaviour. Inconsistency is perceived to be an undesirable personal trait. Commitment is the key to consistency and is the reason why Amway Corporation ask their members to record sales goals on paper. Similarly, just writing something positive about a subject can cause a shift in a person’s attitude and behaviour towards the views they express.

Commitment and consistency is one of the most powerful methods of social influence to help conversion optimisation

Reviews and testimonials are great for conversion optimisation as they provide evidence that other people trust you. But they also help reinforce attitudes and behaviour of those who write them. Have you analysed the value of customers after they have written a review? Test different ways of promoting testimonials and reviews and see if you can obtain permission to use them on landing pages.

15. Obedience to authority!

Image of meaning of Never Knowingly Undersold means from John Lewis
Source: John Lewis

People often have a compulsion to comply with the commands of someone in authority. Even the appearance of authority can be enough to influence our behaviour. Some brands also are so well respected in their market that they have a certain authority that their competitors lack. This can be a powerful technique for conversion optimisation.

For many years in the US an actor who played a doctor in a popular TV series successfully promoted caffeine-free coffee. It’s success was partly explained by his association with being an MD on TV. Personalities associated with your category or service can be powerful symbols of authority.

Other sources of authority include independent surveys that benchmark your service. John Lewis (above) is well known for high service standards and a “Never knowingly Undersold” strapline. Awards, and testimonials from recognized experts can also add to your credibility. Try testing different ways of indicating your authority to see what works best on your site.

16. Don’t underestimate the importance of presentation!

Image of Haikudeck.com homepage
Source: Haikudeck.com

Expectations affect every aspect of our life and how you present your value proposition will influence how visitors respond to your site now and in the future. The same goes for conversion optimisation – visitors respond better if you serve up what they are expecting.

Research can help you identify your potential customers’ expectations. If you understand new visitor expectations you can test aligning your key messages and presentation accordingly. For landing pages test different benefits for signing up and see if aligning content and imagery to reflect new visitor search activity help with conversion optimisation.

17. We put greater value on things that we have helped create!

Image of Customize option on Converse trainers website - conversion optimisation tips
Source: Converse

The ability to customise a product by investing our own time and effort often leads us to value it more than something we buy off the shelf (see IKEA effect). Converse allows visitors to customise casual shoes and Moonpig.com enables customers to create their own greetings cards.

Where people value the ability to personalise a product this can be a great way of improving the perceived value of your product or service. Try testing in different categories or the level of personalisation to see what catches your customer’s imagination.

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