Have you ever seen a soft drink or car commercial that appealed to reason and intellect?
We’re all primarily emotional creatures who think. When we need to make a choice, usually the emotional mind will act first and the rational mind just steps in to justify the decision. This is proven again and again in marketing. Although many digital marketers see visitors as mere statistics or as abstract, logical beings searching methodically for the most beneficial option, customer behavior is determined by psychological factors far more than cost/benefit analyses. Unless you sell a highly technical product to professional engineers, feelings are the most important factor in most buying choices.
As a marketer, if you understand a few aspects of human psychology, you’ll have the upper hand in designing a page that converts better than any other. I’m giving you here the best methods I know for online emotional influence. I chose to focus mostly on pricing pages since they are usually the critical decision junction where these psychological factors have the highest impact when looking to increase conversion rate. However, these are principles which you can and should apply across your whole online marketing strategy.
Part I: Design
Colors – emotional triggers you can’t ignore.
In Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a methodology for subliminal influence, there’s a term called submodality. Submodalities are the specific features of how our mind represents information and emotions – for example, the colors, shape, and texture of an object. If you know what submodalities trigger which emotions, you can use them to evoke the emotions you need to promote sales.
Color is the biggest one for our interests. It has a huge psychological impact, with applications ranging from art therapy to branding. Many neural processes are linked to color. It influences cognitive performance, creativity, intuition, perception of temperature, emotions and (yes) consumer behavior. In fact, one study found that for certain products, 90% of snap judgments about the products could be based on color alone! Every individual reacts differently to colors – do you know anyone with the exact same taste in color as you do? It’s made even more complicated by the mass of glib overgeneralizations and unresearched claims about the color psychology that pop up all over the web. But broadly speaking, there are definitely patterns. Most successful brands, whether their designers had this research in mind or not, take advantage of them.
Color is a critical element of your branding, and it has to be used wisely. Research shows that customers react more to how appropriate the color is for the product than the color itself. You need a color that fits the “personality” of your brand. And don’t get hung up on stereotypes of what your type of brand is supposed to look like. If everyone else in your field has a blue logo and you make your red, suddenly you’ve become more recognizable.
Money is not the issue: how to make money worth less
Many sales approaches devalue money. No, not by messing with the Federal Reserve. They just encourage customers to view the dollar value on their product as less of a big deal. These make it easy for you to spend. Most of us have an emotional alarm that’s triggered when our hand reaches for the wallet. As children, we all heard our parents say something like “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Most of us are still extra careful when we get to the critical stages of making a purchase.
The term “buying temperature” is used in sales to describe a certain emotional high which the client needs to feel in order to become frivolous with their money. Casinos, shopping malls, and sales parlors often try to take you into a fantasy world where you feel the normal limitations of reality don’t apply. In this fantasy world, money matters less. This is why casinos use tokens instead of money. Throwing down five chips is much easier than gambling on $5,000 in bills. Research shows that customers spend more at restaurants where the dollar sign wasn’t attached to the price on the menu. Going online, you can see that that pricing pages often show only small dollar signs.
This creates a detachment from the actual significance of money. It’s just a statistical number, not something you had to sweat for.
Part II: The Pitch
FOMO – or why your client can’t miss out the opportunity to buy your product
Unless you’ve been off the grid for the past five years or so, you’ve heard of FOMO. It’s like when you’ve decided to enjoy a quiet night in, but then you glance at Facebook and see that all of your friends are at some awesome party. Now, unless you throw on your best outfit and join them, you’ll be stuck wondering what you’re missing out on.
Classic #FOMO: fear of missing out.
Turns out, this feeling plays a big role in how people buy. Time restraint or quantity restraint are the primary ways marketers trigger FOMO. They are great tools for those looking to increase conversion rates. It’s somewhat equivalent to Daniel Kahneman’s “fear of loss” principle. His research shows we usually fear loss twice as much as we crave success. That’s why it’s so hard to take a risk. Buying something is also a risk – what if you don’t like it? What if you need the cash tomorrow in an emergency? – but a clever marketer can make not buying a bigger risk.
Presenting clients with an “act now or miss out forever” opportunity makes them more willing to go through their fear of spending, just so they won’t lose a golden opportunity that will not come again. Supply and demand is the name of the game. If your client perceives your product as rare and hard to get, they might act fast to avoid the risk of losing it forever. This is the time restraint used by many e-commerce sites, including eBay and Amazon.
eBay’s time restraints make it seem that if you don’t swoop in right away, another user is going to make off with the prize.
Meanwhile, Amazon (and many airline ticket sites) give quantity restraint, warning viewers that only a handful of this exact product is left. So framing your product as a special offer, no matter how special it actually is, can have a big effect on your conversion rate.
Tier pricing: give your clients options
When I was a child, my mother often gave me a choice between Lego and Playmobile. I always chose the Lego, perhaps feeling I could do much more stuff with simple cubes than with those weirdly formed figures, but I still loved getting to point at the box I wanted. Many customers prefer to have the option to choose something that is tailor-made for them. Tier pricing means providing your product or service at different price points. It’s a great way to widen your reach. Allowing clients to spend at the limit of their price points opens you to new customers, some of whom might be intimidated by your full price option.
Plus, it will keep the customer choosing between your different options rather than between you and your competition. When using tiers, ease the choice by emphasizing the most popular option. You don’t want your client, having already passed through several stages of the funnel, to get confused by too many equally measured options. That’s why it’s best to limit their options to five at maximum and emphasize the most popular one. Clearly distinguish the top option with enlarged text, central position, and better value.
A very sneaky trick sometimes used in tier pricing is to put two options, one next to the other, where one of them is clearly much better than the other. Since the customer can’t determine the product’s absolute value, putting an inferior option near your preferred one gives the better option a higher relative value. This takes away the visitor’s doubt and makes them feel they got a deal.
Part III: You and your client
Get your customers in the habit of agreeing with you
Do you know how they get a circus dog to jump through a flaming hoop? It usually starts by simply asking the dog to run forward with the handler. Then they run forward and jump over something, run forward and jump through something… before you know it, you’ve got your show. Getting clients to do what you want is a little bit like this.
Research shows that it’s much easier for prospective customers to commit to an offer if they’ve agreed to some other small requests first. It’s like in one classic study where participants approach random people on the street and ask for a dollar. They all had better success if they asked first for the time, and only asked for the dollar when people had already replied. When your prospect agrees to small things, like signing up for a free download or a newsletter, the chance you will get a yes for the purchase too becomes much higher.
Make your client belong
We all want to be part of some exclusive club. The need to belong to something greater than yourself is a basic aspect of human nature, and you can bet it has marketing applications. If people perceive buying your product as joining a club, having VIP status or being part of a team, or just being part of some hot new trend, most customers will have a hard time resisting. Apple is a great example. They’ve perfected the art of using the need to belong.
As branding expert Susan Gunelius explains:
Whether you’re watching an old Mac Guy vs. PC Guy commercial or you stumble on [an] iTunes ad, you know you’re part of a larger group of like-minded people when you choose an Apple product. At least that’s the perception that Apple wants to create in consumers’ minds, and so far, it’s working”
Apple’s case shows that when the focus is on belonging, price becomes secondary. Everyone knows that most Apple products are more expensive than their counterparts from other brands, but Apple still leads in sales. In part, this comes from the feeling that by buying Apple you’re joining an elite of high technology and good taste. Many products, from the Platinum Visa Card to BMW to Levi’s Jeans, entitle you to belong to a club. Giving special status to members, with access to discounts, promos, and benefits, is a sure way to make your clients buy from you again and again. That’s the secret behind the success of Sam’s club, AAA and Costco.
You can also use it as leverage in your pricing page. Just make sure your website is optimized. Offering special memberships will broadcast that your brand is exclusive and in high demand. Let your clients join your club and you’ll have loyal customers who are willing to pay more for your brand.
Your clients are looking for something when they’re on your page. They have some need or problem, and if you can touch them on the emotional level, they’re much more likely to decide that your product can solve it. Don’t be afraid to appeal to your customers’ emotions in subtle ways as I’ve demonstrated above. Every choice you make in your marketing will be perceived by their emotional mind in one way or another: this is how to make sure the emotional impact of your site translates into great conversion.