39 psychological tricks to boost ecommerce sales

Improving ecommerce conversion
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Matt Sawyer
Head Of Digital Marketing And Social Media
Datadial
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Are you running an ecommerce website? Want to boost your conversion rate? We've compiled a list of the powerful psychological tactics used by successful online retailers. Implement them to boost your sales!

Social proof

Human nature means we are easily influenced by peer groups. This is why successful online retailers use these techniques to demonstrate social proof.

  1. Well-placed reviews: Strategically place reviews and testimonials around your website. This will show prospects that other people like you.
  2. Endorsements from friends: Show your customers what their connections have recently purchased.
  3. Ego identification: Appeal to visitors’ sense of identity and by placing them in certain social categories.
  4. Allow a small number of negative reviews: This can actually increase trust. Especially if you respond to the review, which shows you go out of your way to satisfy customers.
  5. Social sharing: Get your existing customers to share your content with their network. Display these shares in a counter, which helps add weight to your claims.

Pricing tactics

There are certain pricing triggers that either put people off or cause them to click. However, not all target audiences are the same, so it’s also about finding what does and doesn’t work for your different customer segments.

  1. Use .97 instead of .99: This is an improvement on the left digit effect. Most retailers will use £9.99 to make the customer think it’s cheaper. But as customers get savvier and shop around, you can get ahead by making it £9.97.
  2. Show the price-saving next to the product: Put the old price next to the new price, and include the percentile saving.
  3. Use numerical digits instead of words: It takes less time for the brain to process.
  4. Offer incentives to buy more: For example, free shipping on orders over £25. They’ll be tempted to add more items to their basket.
  5. Test customer psychology: Try different pricing tables to figure out what works best.
  6. Fewer syllables make the price appear smaller: The brain associates the number of syllables with quantity. The more syllables in a price, the more expensive it seems. So three hundred and ninety pounds becomes three-nine-nine.
  7. Mould people’s perception of value: You can do this by placing the ideal purchase in the middle ie. if you have three options, people will tend to go for the choice in the centre. Not too cheap, not too expensive.
  8. Use price anchoring technique: For example, have three product options. The cheapest acts as an anchor. The middle is what you’re trying to promote and is normally slightly more expensive. Then there’s a bigger jump to the most expensive version: you’re guiding people towards the middle because they appear to get a lot more for a smaller increase.

Scarcity and loss aversion

We are hardwired to fear scarcity. As an online retailer, you can take advantage of this psychological factor.

  1. Change price on re-visit: Use cookies and put the price up when potential customers next visit the site. You won’t have made a sale, but at least they know next time not to dither. This is a form of psychological engineering.
  2. Only a few left in stock: This adds urgency to a purchase. It makes potential customers think that if they don’t act now they’ll miss their chance.
  3. Be careful: By law you can’t lie to people about scarcity, but you can get around this by saying things like ‘only five left at this price’. Then periodically adjust the prices by a small amount.
  4. Limited time remaining: This can be a good way to urge people into a buying decision. Use a real time countdown to hammer home the point. Good for special offers.
  5. Develop seasonal product ranges: Develop seasonal product ranges and have seasonal limitations. This creates a continued sense of urgency that can increase your overall sales throughout the year.

Site layout and colours

The way the site is laid out can have a dramatic effect on a person’s psychology. These tips will help you get it right.

  1. Don’t be quirky with the layout: People don’t want to waste time learning how to use your website. Use established template standards to win visitors’ trust and loyalty. You can still imbue it with your unique brand identity.
  2. Upsell: Offer additional, relevant products that they might need at the checkout page. This is a great way to upsell.
  3. Action buttons: If your target market is male, use red CTA buttons, for a mixed audience use a neutral colour like orange. If you're targeting a specific country, research their cultural attitudes to colours. Find out what is positive and vice-versa, and tailor the site to the findings.
  4. The less-is-more technique: Don’t overload the prospect with too many options. This can actually have a paralysing effect on potential customers. Help them narrow their choice.
  5. Place related items close together: It might tempt them to buy a cheese knife to go with their cheese board. It’s about connecting things in the mind of the shopper.
  6. Display the ‘Buy now’ button on the right: We read from left to right, psychologically associating the left with the past, and the right with the future. Put it on the right, so visitors see it as part of their destination.

Photography and video

The problem with online shopping is that you can’t touch and smell the product. You can, however, artfully recreate that sense of ‘real-world shopping’.

  1. Use hi-definition photography: Use photography that’s full of texture. It helps reassure visitors they’re buying something tangible.
  2. Take plenty of ‘detail shots’: Online shoppers like to zoom in and see all the little details to reassure themselves that what they’re buying is worth it.
  3. Video: Boost sales and reduce return rates by featuring videos of products. People need the onscreen product to match up with their perception and the best way to do this is to show a video of someone using the product.

Closing the sale at the checkout

Okay, you’ve laid out your website perfectly and hopefully compelled customers to place more items in their basket. Now for the final hurdle: closing the sale.

  1. Divide the checkout experience into small chunks: People are put off by long forms. Dividing it up makes it seem like less hassle and as they move onto each stage they have a sense of getting somewhere.
  2. ‘Quick checkout’ option for existing customers: This saves them a lot of time. They’ll return to you simply because it’s easier. In some cases, they may be willing to spend extra rather than go through the onboarding process all over again elsewhere.
  3. Use a progress bar: Updating customers on their process during the checkout process creates a sense of achievement and this makes a purchase more likely.
  4. Abandoned carts: If you captured their email address, send them a ‘where d’ya go?’ email. This makes them feel wanted and they may wish to return to finish the deal.
  5. Avoid presenting unexpected costs at the checkout: This is a surefire way to abandonment. Just don’t do it – ever!
  6. Create a personal feel: Create a personal feel to the checkout experience. People like to buy from people. Employ a professional copywriter to craft something with personality.

Reciprocation and commitment

Reciprocation is the idea that if you give something to a prospect they’ll give you something in return ie. a sale. Similarly, if you give away something for free with ‘no-strings-attached’ they’ll tend to feel committed and will actually stay with you. These techniques predate ecommerce. But are still relevant. Make use of them and give your conversation rates a boost.

  1. Free trials: By giving a free trial, you tap into their innate sense of wanting to commit to something.
  2. Offer a free gift before or with purchase: Most people will feel inclined to give something back.
  3. Content marketing: Provide great value content that provides useful information to people searching for solutions. From a psychological point of view, this is a form of bonding. They’ll be more likely to reward you with a sale.

Demonstrating authority

People are conditioned to seek authority for guidance. By getting experts to endorse your product, you craft a positive perception in the minds of the audience.

  1. Expert Endorsements: Include a quote from a well-known expert or authority figure.
  2. Accreditations: If you have accreditations from regulatory bodies and the like, display the badges. This adds weight to the authority.
  3. Partner logos: If you work with partner’s that have a high level reputation, display their logos. For instance, if you use a highly-trusted payment portal that everyone loves and respects, display their logo for instant trust.

Now, we hope you’re ready to succeed! Take these mind-tricks and turn casual visitors into loyal buyers.

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