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First up a great big caveat emptor: in conversion rate optimisation there’s no such things as rules, there’s only findings. What may prove emphatically effective in one test, might be a waste of time in another similar situation.

Having said all that, there are a number of hardwired human traits and behavioral patterns understood by psychologists, behavioral economists and other social scientists that we can use to increase our conversions.

I have identified 12 brands that understand some of these common behaviors and have reflected it within their web designs. Examples like this can give you some ideas of potential things to try and test on your users.

Social Proof

One of the most effective things you can bring to your site to increase the confidence of buyers is 'social proof'. Social proof is the phenomena where people tend to believe that the decision and actions of others reflect the correct behavior in a specific situation.

So, we have to create an experience which convinces our visitors they’re not the only person making this decision.

Basecamp

basecamp

In this design we see a subtle mention of the sheer number of other people who have made the same purchasing decision that the visitor is considering. 

Raven SEO Tools

raven

One of the most common ways to integrate social proof into your site is by including testimonials into your site, especially if you can include a picture of the person providing the social proof. Software as a Service (SaaS) companies are the kings of this. But it’s a sensible addition to most B2B sites and can also work well in B2C environments to.

Wish.co.uk

wish

I think far and away Wish.co.uk is one of the best put together websites I’ve had the pleasure to come across, but that’s no surprise as, it’s the work of CRO legend Stephen Pavlovich.

There’s a huge number of clever CRO techniques in place on this page but I want to highlight one of the easiest ways to implement social proof into your site, using the off-the-shelf Facebook Like button/widget. It really simply shows you the profile pictures of other people who’ve liked that page on Facebook, also prioritizing those who are connected the to the visitor of the site.

Not just social proof, personalised social proof. Actually it’s even better than that, it’s automated personalised social proof.

Groupon

groupon

Poor old Groupon. It might have been getting a lot of stick recently but it, more than nearly every other major internet business, has a deep understanding of human behavior. Here it illustrates how they’ve built social proof into the very DNA of its business.

By showing how many other people have bought the same offer Groupon hopes to persuade the visitor to do the same, and place an order.

Loss Aversion

The disutility of giving up an object is greater than the utility associated with acquiring it is known an Loss Aversion. I hate the word ‘disutility’ but put simply means we hate to loss something more than we love to gain something. Sometimes this is about a subtle re-framing of your copy to concentrate on loss rather than gain. We need to ask ourselves 'How can we make visitors think they’d be losing something if they don’t buy?'. 

LateRooms

laterooms

Many travel website are particularly good at communicating loss aversion, with this example from LateRooms being a great execution, which It makes it clear what you would lose if you don’t book now. This serves to instantly increase urgency.

Qwertee

qwertee

Qwertee has built an understanding of human behavior right into its business model. Its t-shirts are only available for 48 hours and after the first 24 the price increases. Every time you visit the site there’s a huge ticking clock showing exactly what you’re going to miss out on if you don’t purchase soon.

Amazon

amazon

Amazon is the king of using cognitive biases to increase conversion rates. One particular example where it uses loss aversion is for its 'Prime' customers. Prime users are a subset of their most frequent customers who have paid upfront to have access to next day delivery by default. If you’re a signed-in Prime customer, every product you visit that has next day delivery reminds you how long you’ve got before that day’s cut-off point. 

Argos

argos

It’s not just online behemoths like Amazon making use of our innate loss aversion to increase purchases. High street retailer Argos taps into our aversion to loss to drive footfall to its shops using this clever lightbox.

Anchoring

One of my favourite cognitive biases that influences the way behave, is known as anchoring. It is the tendency to rely too heavily - or 'anchor' - on a past reference or on one trait or piece of information when making decisions. These anchors can often be numerical. Our challenge is to ask 'How can I reference an ‘anchor’ that influences visitors to my site?'. 

Hotels.com

hotels

One of the oldest anchoring tricks in the book is what the price was reduced from. Cross-hatched higher prices showing the available discount is a simple way to anchor the price of an item and make it seem better value.

Mailchimp

mailchimp

SaaS companies like MailChimp often make use of a clever anchoring technique that I think more business would be wise to try and use. You’ll notice they have one high price that’s much higher than all the other price points. This maybe be because it’s a popular option, however many anchoring experiments have found introducing one higher price point can lead to people spending more in total even if nobody chooses that option. 

I’ll repeat that point because it is a bit counter-intuitive: adding an extra expensive option to your page can increase the average order value of the page even if nobody selects that option, this is because it makes your other expensive options seem less expensive. One that’s well worth testing.

Broadband.co.uk

broadband

There’s also a case of possible anchoring taking place on the homepage of Broadband.co.uk, where the BT offer is significantly more expensive than the other options. That's because the package is very different to the others. If we believe the principle of anchoring this may be increasing the value of the traffic to this page by encouraging them to asses the relative value of the other options differently.

Wiggle

wiggle

Adding related products to a page can be a great way to increase the number of items people add to a basket. There’s also a possibility that the selection of these products might also have an anchoring influence. I don’t expect too many retailers bear price anchoring in mind with their related product algorithm, but it’s something you would expect some retailers to have tested.

As I said at the beginning of the piece we don’t always know in every case that these changes have been implemented to increase conversion rates, but if we understand human behavior and some of our cognitive biases it would certainly seem a fertile area to explore.

Kelvin Newman

Published 6 August, 2012 by Kelvin Newman

Kelvin Newman is SiteVisibility's Creative Director and is the editor of the UK's most listened to Marketing Podcast. He also spends his time at conferences, tweeting too much and working on top secret research and development projects. He's also on Google+

21 more posts from this author

Comments (25)

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Albie Attias

Albie Attias, Ecommerce Director at King of Servers Ltd

Fascinating insights Kelvin, thanks for sharing. I'd also add cognitive fluency to this list. Cognitive fluency is the human tendency to prefer things that are familiar and easy to understand.

So, as a marketer the easier to understand your offer is, the more likely people are to buy it.

Unlimited mobile phone talk plans are a good example of this. Understanding and comparing different cell phone plans is often tricky and time consuming so many people go for the unlimited plan. It frequently doesn't offer the best value, but it’s easy to understand.

about 4 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Good examples of what is out there already. I know I'm guilty of panic buying items in case they run out.

However on recently looking for hotels on the big name sites I had a bright box fade in next to the price: "2 people are looking at this hotel now and 5 have booked in the last 24 hours". Fair enough I thought (coming from an understanding of these messages). But when I returned the next day, same hotel, exactly the same messaging. So I thought I'd come back on the following few days and guess what exactly the same messaging.

So, my question to others is: are these messages accurate in your experience (i.e not false)? If they are, there is significant ethical argument here! Is it fair to provide false information to encourage conversions? Is this technically mis-selling?

about 4 years ago

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Tw

Dean raises a good point. I think a lot people are/will become suspicious of this technique. It becomes a trust issue. After all, this type of pressure is one of the oldest "tricks" in the book.

about 4 years ago

Marc Simony

Marc Simony, VP of Marketing at TraceGains, Inc.

Social proof has always been an important concept. What's different now is that it's becoming enumerated.

In my world--B2B marketing--only two things matter to potential buyers: what is on offer (features and benefits), and who else is using it (social proof); cost is a much later consideration. This is the exact concept covered in "Crossing The Chasm," which will allow you to get to the other side.

Combining social proof with granular segmentation based on personas seems to be the holy grail in B2C.

about 4 years ago

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Ashley

These are all really great examples. I especially like Qwertee's approach (as well as their name!). It's interesting because most retailers lower the price of their merchandise over time, but Qwertee's "backward" strategy creates demand to push consumers toward a purchase. If it works, that's pretty genius.

I work for MaassMedia, LLC, where we specialize in analytics, so I always think about ideas from a data perspective. We're actually building a model that tracks specific metrics and key website actions taken by each visitor, groups visitors into "buckets," then serves targeted content depending on where a visitor stands in his or her consideration journey. It's a great way to understand individual consumers and offer each one customized promotions and recommended products.

about 4 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

Good examples - psychology on the unconscious mind is a massively untapped area - combined with some AB testing there are a wide range of things that can be trialled for your business right now. As Kelvin mentions in the first paragraph don't simply cut and paste these techniques, have some fun and see what works for you...

about 4 years ago

Tom Summerfield

Tom Summerfield, MD at Togs + Clogs

Good article - a few points that everyone is probably aware of and currently implement, but useful to have them described.

about 4 years ago

Dan Brotzel

Dan Brotzel, managing editor at Sticky Content

Great post. Can you recommend further reading to find out more about these nudges and triggers?

about 4 years ago

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Sandra Pickering, Founding Partner at opentoSmall Business

Kelvin - thank you for this article.
It's a very good application of well-proven psychological models to practical problems.
As Depesh Mandalia suggests, combining these guidelines with some AB-style experimentation would add a lot of value.
@Dan Fielder - there's a wealth of research in behavioural economics but one of my favourites, because of its pragmatism, is "Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart" by Gerd Gigerenzer.
I've used this type of material in positioning brands and planning retail effectiveness. Triggers at point of sale are extremely powerful.

More articles like this please!

about 4 years ago

Kelvin Newman

Kelvin Newman, Creative Director at SiteVisibility

My two go-to books on these sort of areas is Predictably Irrational http://amzn.to/OMyXkH and Herd http://amzn.to/PCDa8H though this wiki page is a pretty good place to start http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

about 4 years ago

Kelvin Newman

Kelvin Newman, Creative Director at SiteVisibility

Also thanks for the comments, the consistency and quality of comments on econsultancy is so high, makes it a pleasure to contribute to!

about 4 years ago

Dan Brotzel

Dan Brotzel, managing editor at Sticky Content

Thanks for the recommendations, Kelvin and Sandra

about 4 years ago

Marc Simony

Marc Simony, VP of Marketing at TraceGains, Inc.

buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy (http://amzn.com/0385523890) has good insights too, although its 230+ pages should have been compressed into 25. Buy it used and scan it for its nuggets.

about 4 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

Here's another site I like: http://www.spring.org.uk/ - broader than just online but really useful and interesting - there are a tonne more out there, you just need to find one or two that resonate with you

about 4 years ago

Peter Wilson

Peter Wilson, Digital Strategy Manager at Sage UK

Excellent article, thank you.

A lot for me to consider and so time very well spent.

about 4 years ago

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Sandra Pickering, Founding Partner at opentoSmall Business

Thanks, Depesh, spring.org.uk is a really useful site.

about 4 years ago

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James Hart

Good article Kelvin

about 4 years ago

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Kent

Great thing, first time heard of it - social proof.

about 4 years ago

Heledd Jones

Heledd Jones, Head of Search Marketing at Confused.com

Hi Kelvin, really enjoyed this blog: great summary of some good case studies, thank you!

about 4 years ago

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Chris Reynolds, Online Marketing Engagement Manager at Adecco management & consulting

Great article. Seconding @Kelvin Newman on Predictably Irrational, wonderful book.

In fairness offine has been doing this forever;
Time pressure: "50% sale, ends Tuesday!",
Scarcity: "While stocks last, when it's gone it's gone!"
Social Proof: "My name is Carol Vorderman and I love this product"
etc etc

about 4 years ago

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Paul Nickerson

Very thought provoking a good intro to a fascinating subject - thanks.

about 4 years ago

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Tony Edey, .

Another great example is bundled pricing and what the cost would be if bought individually. Then throw in an end date, show the percentage discount and add a countdown.

This can be well combined with a 'daily/weekly offers' page for repeat visits.

One of the best etailers I've seen for many of these techniques is Steam, the computer games download service. Strikethrough pricing, countdowns, limited time offers, bundles, friend recommendations, what other friends bought recently, regularly changing sale items, all simply presented and easily understandable. Very much a best practice example to follow.

I think the technique of adding a extra expensive price is a fascinating one that really does work. Everyone loves a bargain and this helps you feel like you're getting one. I've worked on two brands where one always led with the lowest price, but the more premium brand always showed the highest price first, then let people work back from that so what might have seemed like a costly price instead felt like a bargain because it was less than the starting price.

almost 4 years ago

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Parnell

Greetings! I've been reading your website for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the excellent job!

almost 4 years ago

Mike Wheadon

Mike Wheadon, Digital Sales Trainer at Trinity Mirror Plc

Having worked for businesses that employ these tools, I know they can have a significant effect on conversion, sometimes in the +50% space, the science and art is knowing what works in what market. Again from experience, what worked in the UK was interpreted completely differently by our European customers.

almost 4 years ago

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Lauren Bennett

Some well explained concepts here, however, loss aversion can often have a negative effect by making customers feel rushed into making a decision. Perhaps this would work better with items of a smaller value.

over 3 years ago

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