First up a great big caveat emptor: in conversion rate optimisation there’s no such things as rules, there’s only findings. What may prove emphatically effective in one test, might be a waste of time in another similar situation.
Having said all that, there are a number of hardwired human traits and behavioral patterns understood by psychologists, behavioral economists and other social scientists that we can use to increase our conversions.
I have identified 12 brands that understand some of these common behaviors and have reflected it within their web designs. Examples like this can give you some ideas of potential things to try and test on your users.
One of the most effective things you can bring to your site to increase the confidence of buyers is ‘social proof’. Social proof is the phenomena where people tend to believe that the decision and actions of others reflect the correct behavior in a specific situation.
So, we have to create an experience which convinces our visitors they’re not the only person making this decision.
In this design we see a subtle mention of the sheer number of other people who have made the same purchasing decision that the visitor is considering.
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One of the most common ways to integrate social proof into your site is by including testimonials into your site, especially if you can include a picture of the person providing the social proof. Software as a Service (SaaS) companies are the kings of this. But it’s a sensible addition to most B2B sites and can also work well in B2C environments to.
I think far and away Wish.co.uk is one of the best put together websites I’ve had the pleasure to come across, but that’s no surprise as, it’s the work of CRO legend Stephen Pavlovich.
There’s a huge number of clever CRO techniques in place on this page but I want to highlight one of the easiest ways to implement social proof into your site, using the off-the-shelf Facebook Like button/widget. It really simply shows you the profile pictures of other people who’ve liked that page on Facebook, also prioritizing those who are connected the to the visitor of the site.
Not just social proof, personalised social proof. Actually it’s even better than that, it’s automated personalised social proof.
Poor old Groupon. It might have been getting a lot of stick recently but it, more than nearly every other major internet business, has a deep understanding of human behavior. Here it illustrates how they’ve built social proof into the very DNA of its business.
By showing how many other people have bought the same offer Groupon hopes to persuade the visitor to do the same, and place an order.
The disutility of giving up an object is greater than the utility associated with acquiring it is known an Loss Aversion. I hate the word ‘disutility’ but put simply means we hate to loss something more than we love to gain something. Sometimes this is about a subtle re-framing of your copy to concentrate on loss rather than gain. We need to ask ourselves ‘How can we make visitors think they’d be losing something if they don’t buy?’.
Many travel website are particularly good at communicating loss aversion, with this example from LateRooms being a great execution, which It makes it clear what you would lose if you don’t book now. This serves to instantly increase urgency.
Qwertee has built an understanding of human behavior right into its business model. Its t-shirts are only available for 48 hours and after the first 24 the price increases. Every time you visit the site there’s a huge ticking clock showing exactly what you’re going to miss out on if you don’t purchase soon.
Amazon is the king of using cognitive biases to increase conversion rates. One particular example where it uses loss aversion is for its ‘Prime’ customers. Prime users are a subset of their most frequent customers who have paid upfront to have access to next day delivery by default. If you’re a signed-in Prime customer, every product you visit that has next day delivery reminds you how long you’ve got before that day’s cut-off point.
It’s not just online behemoths like Amazon making use of our innate loss aversion to increase purchases. High street retailer Argos taps into our aversion to loss to drive footfall to its shops using this clever lightbox.
One of my favourite cognitive biases that influences the way behave, is known as anchoring. It is the tendency to rely too heavily – or ‘anchor’ – on a past reference or on one trait or piece of information when making decisions. These anchors can often be numerical. Our challenge is to ask ‘How can I reference an ‘anchor’ that influences visitors to my site?’.
One of the oldest anchoring tricks in the book is what the price was reduced from. Cross-hatched higher prices showing the available discount is a simple way to anchor the price of an item and make it seem better value.
SaaS companies like MailChimp often make use of a clever anchoring technique that I think more business would be wise to try and use. You’ll notice they have one high price that’s much higher than all the other price points. This maybe be because it’s a popular option, however many anchoring experiments have found introducing one higher price point can lead to people spending more in total even if nobody chooses that option.
I’ll repeat that point because it is a bit counter-intuitive: adding an extra expensive option to your page can increase the average order value of the page even if nobody selects that option, this is because it makes your other expensive options seem less expensive. One that’s well worth testing.
There’s also a case of possible anchoring taking place on the homepage of Broadband.co.uk, where the BT offer is significantly more expensive than the other options. That’s because the package is very different to the others. If we believe the principle of anchoring this may be increasing the value of the traffic to this page by encouraging them to asses the relative value of the other options differently.
Adding related products to a page can be a great way to increase the number of items people add to a basket. There’s also a possibility that the selection of these products might also have an anchoring influence. I don’t expect too many retailers bear price anchoring in mind with their related product algorithm, but it’s something you would expect some retailers to have tested.
As I said at the beginning of the piece we don’t always know in every case that these changes have been implemented to increase conversion rates, but if we understand human behavior and some of our cognitive biases it would certainly seem a fertile area to explore.