Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

7 Psychological Tricks Proven to Boost eCommerce Conversions (Up to <18%!)

This guestpost was shared by our friends at Yieldify.

The earliest marketing campaigns in the world used the most powerful tool in the book: Human psychology.

We can go back to ancient Roman and Greek times when gladiators and Olympians were commissioned to endorse products or the Medieval period when street cries were used by merchants hawking their products in open-air markets.

After all, that’s what any growing business thrives on: Being able to create a sense of excitement, pleasure, or urgency can drive customer behavior and increase sales. You can use different psychological tricks and triggers to inspire decision-making in favor of your brand.

But to get an understanding of how we can use psychology in eCommerce it’s important to first understand consumer behavior. For that, we go back to where these tricks first made their appearance.

About sales psychology

Research shows that 95% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously. The offline world and retail stores have long been using this finding to their advantage. From how they layout their stores and aisles, to how they display pricing. It’s all done in a way to drive in-store purchases. The savviest will have plotted and planned every tiny detail to best use psychological sales triggers and cues.

Sales psychology, as defined by Business.com, is “a type of process that involves considering the psyche of your target market to sell your products and services.” In essence, you are appealing to the mind and the thoughts of your individual consumers in order to subconsciously influence them to purchase your products. That sounds a lot more sinister than it is!

Here are our top 7 psychological tricks that eCommerce stores can use to increase conversion rates and revenue.

Trick 1: Share the wisdom of the crowd (Social proof)

Imagine you are walking down the street and you see a group of people with fancy ice cream cones. You will probably start to wonder where they got it, and you’ll end up wanting one too. Seeing others with a certain item or service makes people want that item or service even more.

That’s how social proof works.

Social proof is one of the most powerful and successful psychological tricks that can help influence your conversion rates. The key is in the name itself: Social. Humans are very social creatures, and we are likely to be influenced by something if we see others doing it.

If you’ve got a busy website with multiple users viewing the same products, social proof can provide that final little push for them to make the transaction. By highlighting how many people are looking at the same product you reinforce that the user was right to consider this product, even better if you can highlight that this product was recently purchased.

To illustrate the impact of social proof, here’s an example from Kickers. When customers viewed product pages on the Kickers website, they were served with a discreet notification showing the number of other people who had viewed that same item in the past 24 hours.

Social proof example from Kickers

In three months, the social proof notification alone drove an 18% increase in conversions. According to Rob Burr, Kickers’ E-commerce Manager, “It’s an inventive way to give browsing shoppers just the nudge they need towards making their purchase without having to offer a discount, and it really enhances the customer journey.”

Reviews also play a big part in providing social proof. One of the first things a new visitor will do when browsing or researching products is look at reviews. In fact, 91% of online shoppers read reviews before committing to a purchase.

Humans are socially guided, so being able to influence the decisions of your potential customers based on other’s social behavior is likely to result in more transactions.

Trick 2: Utilize cross-selling (Commitment and consistency)

Once your customer has committed to a purchase, that doesn’t mean your psychological influencing tactics have to stop. You still have an opportunity to convince them to buy even more before they click on that “check out” button. This is where some clever cross-selling tactics can have a massive impact.

Amazon is a great example of this. Let’s say you are looking at a Playstation 4 on Amazon – in the recommendations section, you’ll be offered the opportunity to add the console and 2 other games to your basket with a single click.

But you don’t have to be Amazon to make use of cross-selling. You’ll find many eCommerce websites utilizing this strategy by including a “Customers also bought” or “You may like” section underneath the main product that the customer is looking at.

Take a look at SKYN Iceland. This niche beauty brand wanted to ensure that visitors are able to explore and increase their knowledge of their products with a smooth and relevant customer journey.

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Cross-selling example from SKYN Iceland

Without having to make significant changes to the website, we were able to create an effective cross-selling campaign that targeted visitors purchasing a specific eye gel and hit them with a complementary product recommendation. The overlay provided more information on why these products work well together, which resulted in a  23.1% conversion uplift in conversion rate and boosted order value by 14.94%.

Trick 3: Give them a deal (Anchor pricing)

Price will always be a key factor in influencing consumer purchase behavior, and one of the best ways to do this for eCommerce stores is with anchor pricing. If users can see a discount or a special offer this immediately piques their interest and reduces barriers to purchase. In some cases, it can encourage them to spend more than they normally would.

An anchor price is a price that looks like the “original” price of the item, with the sales price listed directly next to it. This offers customers a stable price point that they can use to influence their decision-making.

As an example, a clothing eCommerce store may have this price listed next to its jacket: “$150 $99”. The struck-out price is the anchor price, clearly showing the seller that the item was initially placed at a higher price than it is now. And if they act fast, they may be able to get it for $99 before it inevitably goes back to that $150 price. Amazon does this, pretty much on every item.

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Does this mean you are making your product cheaper or more expensive just to influence sales? Not necessarily! This is part of the psychological trick, customers feel like they are getting a good deal. An item will be perceived as cheaper because you placed a more expensive anchor price next to it.

Therefore, it will “trick” consumers into believing they are getting a better deal. You don’t actually have to change the value of your item in order to take advantage of this psychological trick and boost your sales.

Trick 4: Give something for free (Reciprocity)

The idea behind this psychology is that people don’t like to feel indebted to others, and if they do, they will try and make up for it. Brands can make the most of this by offering an item or service for free. By doing this you encourage customers to think of ways they can balance this out as they will feel indebted to you or like they owe you one.

For eCommerce websites, one of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is through free shipping. You can offer this outright or have a certain spend level required, for example, “Free delivery on orders over $100.” This can work in your favor in a number of positive ways.

Firstly, you reduce a well-known conversion blocker: Studies have shown that shipping and handling fees are the number one factor driving shopping cart abandonment. So if a customer qualifies for free shipping, they are instantly much more likely to convert. One study found that 93% of online shoppers said free shipping would encourage them to make more purchases online.

Secondly – and this is where a good cross-selling strategy will come in useful – if a customer is just shy of qualifying for free shipping, they may be more willing to make additional purchases in order to qualify.

Thirdly, you show thanks (reciprocity) by acknowledging the customer is deciding to spend a significant amount of money with you and giving them something for free.

Below is a campaign that we’ve created for Hayes Garden World. The “Free shipping” overlay is set to trigger on both desktop and mobile once a certain cart value threshold has been met. Based on the incrementality test results, this tactic drove an average of 8.4% conversion rate uplift.

Reciprocity example from Hayes Garden World

The other route you can go down is to give something away for free completely, without any purchase required. There are quite a few brands that do this well and do it consistently. It’s particularly popular with high street food chains: Ben & Jerry’s has Free Cone Day, Krispy Kreme celebrates National Doughnut Day, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and every other pizza chain imaginable offer major deals on National Pizza Day.

They both set aside a specific day each year in which anyone can enter their store and get a free donut or scoop of ice cream. Even if you don’t purchase from them regularly that would be an offer almost too good to turn down.

This gesture creates a combination of goodwill and gratitude amongst their customers. Of course, you need to consider the cost implications before you go ahead and try this yourself.

Although as seen above you do have the potential to get a lot of media attention and social shares. Not only does this further spread the message of goodwill, but it’s also a very good form of advertising.

Trick 5: Display stock levels (Scarcity)

You can use psychological tricks to create a sense of scarcity in your customer base. Consumers are more likely to commit to a purchase of an item that they think is going out of stock quickly, this sense of scarcity forces urgency into their purchase journey. If they were unsure of making a purchase before, the thought of missing out on it can spur them into action.

You can indicate that an item is going out of stock on the item’s product description page. Usually, it is a good idea to indicate this in red text or a color that is going to quickly grab the customer’s attention.

Scarcity example from Megabus

And if an item does go out of stock, here’s what you do: Invite them to pre-order. That way, they will be informed when the item is coming back in stock and as they won’t want to miss out again they will be far more likely to make a purchase.

And on your end, you’ll be able to gauge how high the demand is for that specific item, helping you drive sales in the future. Webkul experts suggest that allowing pre-orders on your website can help the item create its own buzz and hype without you having to spend a dollar on marketing.

Trick 6: Reflect your target market’s values and beliefs (Liking)

This one is fairly straightforward. The more consumers like your brand, the more they’ll be likely to make a purchase from you.

A brand can be defined as a perceptual entity rooted in reality reflecting the perceptions and even the idiosyncrasies of its target market. Essentially this means consumers are drawn to and like brands that reflect their own beliefs and values. You can use these values to your advantage and drive more conversions.

Here’s an example from SKYN Iceland to illustrate this psychological trick. The brand wanted to understand what works better in reducing cart abandonment: A promotional offer or highlighting their USPs.

To find out, we A/B tested two overlay creatives. The first one – pictured in the image below – emphasized SKYN Iceland’s usage of natural ingredients: “Our products soothe, stabilize fortify and nourish the skin using pure and potent natural skincare ingredients from Iceland.” The second offered $5 off their purchase.

Skyn Iceland Liking

Liking example from SKYN Iceland

While both had a positive impact on conversion, the creative that focused on the brand’s USPs ultimately performed better, driving a 28.87% increase in conversion rate, compared to the creative offering $5 off.

By reminding consumers that you share the same values as them, in this case, natural ingredients, you quickly remind them why they like and trust you, and why they are willing to make a purchase.

Trick 7: Create a sense of belonging (Unity)

As humans, we always crave to be part of something, having a close friendship group, being part of a team, or simply supporting a sports team. This sense of belonging makes you feel part of something bigger than yourself. Brands can tap into this as well.

One way in which eCommerce brands can create this sense of unity pretty easily is with loyalty clubs. Sharing exclusive offers or content each week to this segment of your customer base will create that sense of belonging.

A more innovative route is crowdsourcing. This has been adopted by the more savvy online-only brands seeking to get their customers truly invested in their brand and products. Cult online beauty brand Glossier crowdsourced a face cleanser back in 2015 and it’s now one of their brand’s bestsellers.

Founder Emily Weiss posted a blog post asking customers to lay out what their “dream cleanser” was. This led to Over 400 responses being collected from the website and Instagram, which were then handed off to Glossier’s chemist.

A year later, and after 40 plus iterations the product was approved and released to those who truly created it – their fans. The impact this has is two-fold. One, you get a bunch of great ideas for a product and learn what your customer base is actually looking for. Two, you create a tremendous amount of unity and belief from your customer base that you listen to them and seriously take their needs into consideration.

See these psychology tricks in action

More often than not, growth-oriented eCommerce websites use a combination of the aforementioned tactics to increase their conversion rates. To illustrate how they can work in unison, let’s take a look at Booking.com, an online booking engine with some of the highest conversion rates in the industry.

Booking.com employs a number of conversion optimization techniques and psychology tricks, including social proof, scarcity, reciprocity, anchor pricing, unity, and more.

Take a look at the yellow highlighted sections: Two key social proof signals are present showcasing recently booked and how many people are viewing. These two signals reinforce the need to quickly make a decision – the hotel must be good, after all, it was just booked by someone and there are 33 other people who are considering it!

Below the social proof signal, there’s another message: “In high demand – only 3 rooms left on our site!” This creates scarcity – you really must book now or else it’s going to sell out! Supporting this with the crossed-out anchor prices, Booking.com really makes you feel like it’s the deal of a lifetime.

In green, Booking.com highlights all the good things that come for free when booking through their engine (reciprocity), which may incline you to book a more expensive suite. Furthermore, you get reminded of the amazing savings you get from being part of their Genius membership (unity).

Are you using any of these triggers?

You now know some of the basis for using psychology tricks to improve your eCommerce website’s conversions. Most of these should be fairly straightforward to implement on your website. Depending on what platform you’re on some may be easier than others.

If you do decide to implement some of these ideas be sure you have a way to track performance so you know what impact they have. It may be worth testing one at a time to see their true impact. Eventually though, the more of these you can use, the more persuasive your website will be, and the more transactions you’ll get!

Now, will some of these tricks get you to share this article?

  1. Share this article and mention @Yieldify or @ReferralCandy and we will retweet you (reciprocity).
  2. Articles on ReferralCandy are read by over X readers just like you, so you know this article is worth a share! (social proof).
Justina Bakutyte

Justina Bakutyte

Justina Bakutyte is the Growth Marketing Manager at Yieldify, a Google-backed technology startup that helps eCommerce companies quickly and easily grow their leads, conversions, and revenue through personalized customer journeys.