OnTrack Digital Conversion Rate Optimization

How to use psychology to increase conversions and sales

Understanding the psychology behind every decision people make is a powerful tool to have. Not only in sales, but in day to day life as well. I think most of us agree that you need to understand your customers in order to create a relationship with them. If people you want to target like technical descriptions and you give them a story with no specifications about the product, they might not respond that well. 

It’s important to know them, to know how they actually talk, what their needs are what they believe in. A powerful marketing campaign makes people feel something, whether it’s happiness or compassion, they have strong feelings and that’s what leads them towards a specific brand.

Let’s take the most obvious example: Apple, their customers are loyal and believe so much in this brand that they would pay considerable  amounts of money for something they could get for half the price elsewhere. And I think they know this, that the prices are high, yet they still prefer to buy from Apple.

That’s what the biggest brands do, they inspire emotion to create connection. They are focused on making the customer feel like they’re a part of something bigger and that they matter.

Amazon puts customers first (that’s what they say) and best believe they do so and they go to a large extent to satisfy them. They offer great service even if they lose an absolute ton of money as they did for years, yet they are still growing. That’s because they know it’s more important to make people feel good and connect with them than just make a profit at the cost of bad customer service.

Sure, these are fun stories, but most of us won’t get to that level. So, what a usual entrepreneur can do to grow their business? There are in fact enough things you can do, even if your business is small. And speaking of small businesses, don’t get fooled by big numbers. Lots of clients and big audiences are not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing for that matter. What’s important is how loyal they are and how willing to buy from you.

The point is to focus on quality customers, not quantity, but it depends on what you sell as well because this doesn’t apply in a market with low margins like retail.

Something else you should keep in mind: you need to first try these principles and only then you can see what works for you and what gives you results. You can’t just read a bunch of articles, do nothing and hope for a change.

Basic requirements 

Before we get into the psychology stuff, know that you first need to meet some basic requirements. The relevance, meaning how relevant is what you sell for the people you sell it to. You can’t sell anything to anyone, or at least you shouldn’t try to, it’s just not efficient. 

So, make sure you target the right audience for your product. They need to qualify to buy your product. Things like: are they able to pay for what you sell? Or do they have a need or an interest for that? Do you want them to buy? (This one sounds crazy, but Axe had a problem some years ago when they had that campaign telling people that if they use their spray, they’ll attract all the ladies. So, a lot of teenagers with acne started to use it and this led to people associating the smell with that image. Next thing you know, nobody wanted to buy their product because of that association.)

Besides targeting the right audience, you need to have a quality product or service. Because you can get a million people to try your product, but if that’s not good, they won’t come back and you can’t rely solely on new customers.

Now let’s get into this.There are lots of factors in the decision-making process when people buy and I’ll include here what I think are the most important, not only based on my opinion, but what other experts in the field think as well.

Trust elements

The foundation of every kind of relationship is trust. In what follows, we will focus on what is the mechanism behind trust and what we can do to inspire this in our visitors.

I think if we want to make people trust us or our website, we need to understand how trust works. So, this mechanism is like pretty much any other one, it’s based on hormones. When we trust someone, we have high levels of oxytocin. Trust can be influenced by attractiveness or familiarity, but that’s one way to look at it.

Another way is: we generally trust people because we have expectations. When you drive, you trust that others are paying attention to the road and won’t crash into you. We expect people to act a certain way and when we notice cues that suggest otherwise, we become more cautious.

Translating this in the context of a website, if people see something odd on your website, something that they’re not used to seeing, they get their guard up. Most of us can tell whether a site is a scam or not. Here are some elements that convey trust and some that don’t.

Avoid looking spammy

First of all, make sure you don’t look spammy. Those sites are cluttered, full of ads and weird color combinations. So, make sure when you design your website, make it clean and nice to look at, with organized menus and not too many distractions.

Be consistent

Be consistent with your design. If someone you know always changes their mind, you won’t hurry to trust them because of their inconsistency and you don’t know what to expect. This can translate into design as well.

Avoid stock photos

Don’t use stock images, that’s a major turn-off for visitors. Specifically, those that look something like this: 

If you don’t have the budget to make your own photos, at least search for some that look natural and relevant for what your offer is.

Avoid bad photo editing

Speaking of images, don’t photoshop your product in a stock photo. That’s a bad idea, unless you’re a photoshop master and you can make it look like it’s an original. But you’d better stay away from this because it won’t help you convey trust.

Besides some design elements, you can work on these elements as well.

About Us page

Having an About Us page that is genuine can help people relate to you and your business. Tell your story and perhaps include images with you so people see you’re a real human. This is a great way to connect with your audience on an emotional level, especially if you have an impressive story to tell about what motivated you to start a business. People like to see struggle followed by triumph because it’s relatable and admirable.

Contact page

Have an accessible Contact page. The reason this matters is because most of us are risk averse, so we don’t like to take risks. Buying from a website with no way to contact them is a huge risk, because if something goes wrong, who do you go to if there’s no phone number or email? So, make sure to give visitors a way to contact you. Ideally you would have a phone number, but live chat and email is ok as well, just make sure you answer as soon as you can.

Return Policy

Have a great return policy. If you give people this option, they’ll be more likely to buy from you because there’s no risk involved in case they don’t like the product or it’s not what they expected. And I know you might think everyone will just ask for a refund and it will hurt your business, but the reality is otherwise. Of course, some will, but that’s always the case, no matter how good your product is, there’s always someone to ask for a refund.

Payment methods

Have a trusted payment method. Something like PayPal or Apple Pay will make a website look trustworthy because these payment systems are safe and secure. It’s easy to get a refund paying with PayPal. That’s why people like this method, there’s no risk involved, and as we said before, we tend to avoid taking risks.

Write as you speak

In terms of how you construct your message throughout the website, make sure you express things in a natural manner and avoid complicated, technical terms. Most copywriters suggest to write like you speak. Also, make sure you are clear when explaining what you offer and tell people exactly what to expect. If they don’t understand your offer, they most likely won’t buy.

Now, think about what makes you trust certain websites and compare them to those you don’t trust. Try to come up with reasons explaining why. The point is to see things from a customer perspective. But the main take-away is this: just be nice. It’s cliché, but treat them how you would like to be treated. Treat your customers and visitors with respect and give them value. You’ll build strong customer relationships and they’ll keep coming back to you.

Let’s explore other elements that influence people’s decisions.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to have trust, you need to motivate visitors to buy as well. In this context, motivation is the totality of reasons you give visitors to buy from you. It can take lots of shapes and forms. Here we’re going to explore some things you can use to make or motivate people to buy from you.

Offer trials

If the type of business you have can let you offer trials, it’s worth at least trying it. This is tied to the endowment effect, meaning if we own something, we give it more value than it actually has. Also, we get used to that product or service and we’re less likely to want to give up on that. That’s why a lot of software companies offer trials. If you get used to a product in the trial period and it really adds value to your life, you’ll most likely want to continue using it.

Use authority

Use an authoritative figure to increase credibility. Endorsements from experts in the field of your business can really boost your sales. People tend to believe an authority figure because they come across as knowledgeable and trustworthy, which in turn will make people lean towards your product.

Limited-time discounts

Use limited discount offers. Offering people a discount hard to refuse, paired with a limited time availability, will motivate visitors to take action due to the fear of missing out. And if they’re already interested in what you have to offer, a lot of them will convert.

Use a decoy

Another way to use offers is, if you have a software for example, create three different plans at different price points. Use one basic, low priced version, one higher priced and a third one that includes all the benefits with a lower price that the second option. And most people will lean towards the third option, thinking it’s a great deal, which it is.

Social proof

Use social proof. If we see others around us do a thing, we’re likely to do it as well because we’re social creatures. So, use reviews or testimonials and make sure they are and look authentic. Something you can do is to use a third-party integration like TrustPilot, to give credibility to your reviews. When people see others talking about your product, they can identify themselves with one of those comments and can help them decide to buy. Also, if you have a physical location, make sure to put in on Google Maps. A lot of people now read the reviews there.

Create a sense of community

Make customers feel like they’re a part of something. This feeling of being part of a group is truly strong. If you can create this for your visitors, it can take you a long way. You could do this by having a social cause, like helping the environment or donating part of your profits to a charity your customers care about. When making a purchase, they will feel like they’re a part of this group that helps a certain cause and it makes them feel good for contributing.

Too many choices

Don’t overwhelm them with choices. When we are faced with countless options, our brains tend to give up on choosing. Think about that moment when you go to a big store with tons of products, but you only want one thing. How many times did you end up leaving buying nothing? Offer visitors enough options so they don’t get confused. In case you have tons of products, let them filter the results based on different features and specifications.

Solve objection

Have a FAQ page or something similar where you solve the most common objections people have. This will help them answer their questions with little effort and in a short amount of time.

Perceived value

Increase perceived value. Talk to the emotional side of visitors and tell them how great they will feel if they purchase your product. Or how this will make them look. Basically, boost their ego a little bit. This way they will be way more motivated to buy because most of us care about our social status.

Know their needs and pain points

Be aware of their needs and pain points. Know who your customer is, what are their problems and their needs. Nobody wants to head you talk about something they don’t care. Focus your message, and the way you talk to the customers, to match what they’re dealing with. If there’s only one thing you remember from this, let it be this one. I don’t know what’s more powerful than actually caring for your audience and truly helping them. It’s not the fastest route to success, but it’s definitely one of the most sustainable and durable ways.

Now let me give you my take on this whole psychology and conversions thing. There are basically two ways to go about it. There’s an easy road and a hard one. Depending on what your interest is, you can choose one over the other.

If you want something fast and somewhat easy, you can go down that road. You can use these principles and many other to influence people in a not-so-positive way. Things like pressuring them to buy or using their lack of knowledge for profit. You can ignore complaints and use misleading messaging. (I’m pretty much laying out a plan for the perfect scam right now.) Jokes aside, you might choose this road, many do so. But the truth is this won’t last. And let’s not even get into the reasons why it’s wrong to take the easy way.

If you want to build something to last and make a positive impact, you might want to go the long way. To be clear, just because you choose this, it doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. There’s always going to be complaints and unhappy clients. That’s just part of the business.

I know it’s not fun. It’s not fun to struggle and make sacrifices for no immediate reward. And it takes real discipline to go through all of this. But this will get you the farthest you can go. If you focus your efforts on having a great product or service that adds real value to your customers’ lives, you will create a strong connection. Having loyal customers can get you through those hard moments business-wise, when you don’t have a lot of new clients coming in.

The takeaways

The main things to remember from this are:

Trust. You need this. That’s the foundation for any kind of relationship and the most important thing for customers, right after relevancy of course. So, make sure you convey trust throughout your website.

Then, don’t forget to give people enough relevant reasons to buy. It’s not enough for visitors to trust you, they also need motivation to buy from you. To put this in other words, answer to this question: why should they choose you instead of your competitors?

And make sure you know their needs and pain points. This will help you be more relatable and it will be easier for customers to connect and identify with your brand. So, talk about what they actually care, not what you think they care.

Andrei Pavel
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