Have you ever wondered how your web design can most optimally capture and hold your online visitors' attention? How capable is your website of persuading your customers to make a decisions? To what extent does the first impression and visuals of your digital channels affect the emotions of your users?
Through digital psychology, we explore (digital) marketing principles that drive human behavior and attempt to answer these questions.
People and psychology
It is hard to completely figure out people and their behaviour, when people seem to be irrational, cute, bad, good and all kinds of things.
Science has spent years studying human behaviour. This blog post about digital psychology is not even going to attempt to describe the full spectrum of users' behaviour online, but will show you some of the more important concepts you might want to be aware of for your online assets.
The good news for applying psychology to your digital initiatives is that even though technology is evolving at a rapid pace, the human brain has stayed the same for thousands of years.
Applying psychology in Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Applying persuasion techniques, like social proof and urgency, can be very effective and should form your design and copywriting decisions.
A word of caution: don't apply all of the techniques described in this article all at once. Because they probably won't work very well all mixed up. What I would advise you is to choose principles that are a good fit for your digital assets for full effect. Also, don't fake it. Obvious manipulations will backfire, such as "only 20 copies of this whitepaper left-download now" is not your best example of urgency.
Cialdini's 7 principles of persuasion
When we talk about persuasion marketing, Robert Cialdini is the first name that comes to mind.
The 7 principles of persuasion:
2. Commitment/ Consistency
3. Social Proof
I have recently finished reading "Influence", a book on persuasive marketing by Robert Cialdini, the most well-known psychologist in this field. In his book, he identified 6 principles of persuasion that work like buttons that trigger an automatic pilot reaction in our mind. In later works, Cialidini added the 7th principle of unity.
There are many other psychologists doing more research and applying other techniques, so Cialdini is not the end-all of the game. Nevertheless his 7 persuasion principles are a good place to start when working on conversion optimization.
This basically means that if you are nice to me, I will be nice to you in return. An instance where reciprocity might work is to offer free goods: free advice, free reports, free tools. By adding value to your users, they will be much more likely to buy from you later on when you or when request them to take a certain action.
2. Commitment & consistency
Your users are more likely to comply with a small request you make first. And if they did so, they will be more likely to make a bigger commitment later on. Or if people made a public announcement that they would do something, then they are more likely to actually do it.
For instance, if you asked people to take an online survey and you have defined them as being charitable, then they will be more likely to make a donation afterwards if you ask them to do so.
Or another more practical example is to ask your users small questions one at a time. So first you ask which product they would like, then their name, and so on. And this way you gradually take them down the conversion funnel. Because they have started something, they are much more likely to proceed with it. Given of course that the funnel is smooth and frictionless.
3. Social proof
Social proof is the evidence that your user is not the only one buying your products. Other users have bought your products and think it was a good purchase. On your digital channels you can say, "We have serviced 10.000 customers since 2003".
Your users are more likely to take action if a person of authority tells them to do so. Just like people follow the herd in social proof, people also take orders from authority figures like teachers, road workers in orange jackets, doctors and so on.
In conversion optimization you can use celebrities or authorities in the field to say: "Yes you should do this. This is good".
For instance, if I am a cat person and I know that you are a cat person too, we have something in common and you will like me more, and if you like me, you are more likely to buy from me.
6. Scarcity & urgency
Scarcity is when you are on Booking.com and you read "There are only two hotel rooms left at this price". We have all fallen victim to this. We think were being dooped but we're not sure. Maybe it's true so we're going to go.
Urgency is when you see the message "You have just one hour to buy this" or "The promo ends next Friday". This type of sales message works really well.
The danger here is if you use fake scarcity. If you are selling a PDF e-book and you state "only 20 copies left". It is a PDF e-books, there are infinite copies. So you are obviously lying, and that will backfire and hurt your sales.
The 7th principle of unity can be observed in football. People want to be part of a winning team and will talk about "we" and "us" if the team won, and about "they" and "them" if the team lost.
The same goes for delivering good news vs. bad news. People will add on the good news and will be liked more for bringing good news, whilst the bearer of bad news will be disliked for it. Don't shoot the messenger is a very appropriate saying in this example.
Knowing about these persuasion principles gives you a head start in optimizing for your digital channels. Each principle needs clear and careful thought of how you could apply it and how to make it work for your specific product or service. If you would like to brainstorm on some of these principles, I would be delighted to help you out.
And if you are interested in learning about digital psychology and persuasion marketing, I recommend you take the mini-degree offered by the CXL Institute.
Fiona De Brabanter is a self-employed digital analytics consultant and online marketer. She develops digital analytics strategies and improves the efficiency of online activities for companies. Fiona also provides training and writes for blogs. In her free time she practices yoga and travels around the world with her three children.