“It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” John Wooden

I am a big fan of the micro-conversion vs. macro-conversion discussion (go team micro!). Coming from a behavioral science angle to take up conversion challenges I would like to start the micro persuasion vs. macro persuasion discussion as well.

Marketers often have too ambitious persuasion goals to really be effective. Behavioral scientists are trained to start with micro goals when they aim for macro goals.

When you want to motivate someone to exercise regularly, a first push up is a great start! The same goes when you want to sell products.

Nudging to add to basket

What are the micro persuasion strategies for your website’s micro conversions? Yes, how do you motivate people to sign up for your newsletter? Or what nudges do you use to make people add to their basket and wish list?

What should trigger people to create an account? If you can answer these questions you are well on track. But I want you to think even smaller than this.

Think smaller than small

Even smaller. Getting a couch potato to go running is tough. It requires a lot of intermediate micro behaviors. Putting on his trainers will make it almost impossible not to go running.

Finding his trainers will make it possible to put them on. He could go looking for his trainers if he gets out of his chair. Shutting of the TV would make the person more likely to get out of his lazy chair. Finding the remote control will increase the chance of shutting of the TV.

couch potato

Getting a couch potato to go running is tough. Behavioral scientists would say nearly impossible. It’s much easier to persuade someone to find a remote control next to him. And that’s the first step in getting him to run.

The same goes for ecommerce. Focusing on micro persuasion will make you better at persuading customers.

Micro persuasions by persuasion giants

I am a big fan of Booking.com, a hotel booking website already extensively discussed on this blog. I yet have to see a website that uses more advanced persuasion strategies than them. Next to that they really have experimenting in their DNA.

With over 300.000 bookings a day, Booking.com can be used as a reference guide when you aim to successfully implement persuasion strategies.

So let’s take it as example to see how micro persuasions work.

In a hypothetical path to book a hotel, which is surely the primary conversion goal, you have many tiny steps to take. First you have to choose a location. Then you pick a date. Next you compare hotels. You read reviews. Once you have chosen a hotel, you pick a room. After that, you enter your details and you’re done.

Let’s focus on choosing a hotel and deciding on a room type.

About this hotel you are going to choose (micro desired behavior). It’s got many good reviews (social proof). It’s apparently a Smart Deal and it’s also likely to sell out soon (scarcity). The entire hotel. The last booking was 19 minutes ago, which only emphasizes the scarcity. (all micro persuasion strategies)

Persuading people to pick a specific room type (micro desired behavior). But leaving a visible path of desired behavior, you can see the Superior Double Room in this hotel was just booked which seems to make it even scarce.

And there are only five rooms left. (again micro persuasion strategies) Although the Triple Room also has just five left, there isn’t much extra social proof to make you choose it. Although I don’t think the choice of room type is part of the business rules of Booking.com.

From a behavioral science point of view this is what is being pushed the hardest. And this will show in the data.

To nitpick some more

So the experts at Booking.com are going micro. I hope this inspires you to do so as well. But when I look more closely, I can even see some missed micro persuasions on their website. Here is one example.

When beginning to book a hotel, you will start filling out the search form. Going micro means considering the use of persuasion strategies for every field that needs to be filled in.

Should we persuade someone to chose a location? I don’t have access to their back end (I wish!). But I am guessing there are very few queries where people didn’t fill in a location. But persuading people to fill in a date seems to be very necessary.

A check-in date to be more precise, a check-out date will be automatically filled based on the check-in date if you don’t do it. Implemented as a business rule, so it seems, Booking.com very much prefers people to specify a check-in date. Very desired micro behavior, without appropriate micro persuasion.

booking.cm form

Why not include an extra call to action “You tell us when, we tell you what the best deals are.”? Or consider using data already known to you. “Don’t have a specific date yet? Most of our customers go to “Edinburgh” in August (for the Fringe Festival, come on people!).” Or you can always go cheesy; “We prefer to spend our spring break in Doha”.

You might be asking yourself if I am not being too picky here. Maybe, but for an e-commerce website that does over 300.000 hotel bookings per day it pays off to worry about every detail. And even when you don’t spend millions on online advertising I think micro is the way to go.

Shown in the above examples you can see how others approach micro persuasion.

Hope you join the Micro-wave

With these examples I hope to have made a case for micro persuasion. The goodness really starts when you take a look at all your customer journeys in detail. Of course start with the most critical ones, and when you got those right take a look at the rest.

Getting people to do something is our core business. Persuasion strategies are used for specific desired behavior. Choosing high-level customer behaviors to persuade won’t work well. As always the devil is in the details.

Foto credit: Besto 2012 (CC)

Arjan Haring

Published 23 July, 2013 by Arjan Haring

Arjan Haring is Co-founder at Science Rockstars and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (8)

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Mats Einarsen

That's a great job application, Arjan! I hope you know we're currently hiring for optimization experts! :)

Interesting perspective, though.


almost 5 years ago


Niki Z

Hi, thanks for the blog and research, very helpful :)

I'm a digital marketer and I feel micro persuasions are exactly what we need to work on. People now are too busy for anything that cost extra efforts. And actually I think you bring up an issue about how to target the audience and what kind of testing is needed. No matter using Test&Target or Promodity, I believe we still need some support before sending the micro persuasions to the right viewers.

almost 5 years ago

Arjan Haring

Arjan Haring, Cofounder at Science Rockstars

@Mats. Let's talk next time I visit you guys. ;) You know I love your business culture and the fact that you are ahead of the crowd.

@Niki. Great point. I would even say we need to personalize micro persuasion. The way I mentioned in my last article. http://econsultancy.com/ee/blog/62932-why-marketers-should-focus-on-persuadables

almost 5 years ago



Great article Arjan.

I think this level of detail is really important if you are focused on online results! Would just be great if more SME's (my market) were looking at conversion at all! Its a difficult sell!

almost 5 years ago


Zarro Dichev

Great analysis Arjan !

It sounds like booking.com needs a hadoop cluster to crunch all that 300.000 bookings data per day or maybe a couple of them :)

I love their Not sure where to go? module. IMHO the suggestions could be nudged even further. I hope they are basing them on something at the moment. If not then better start doing it. Even these days we believe so much signs from supernatural powers that a gentle nudge in a direction that we aspire but doubt in doubt at moment could do behavioral wonders :)

In my personal opinion they should work more with the needs of their visitors and honestly if i have a dutch IP why do I need to see 703 properties in Amterdam? I am already here and definitely not a italian teenager looking forward to weekend that I am going to waste myself so badly that I will hardly remember anything :)

One more time great article !

almost 5 years ago

Arjan Haring

Arjan Haring, Cofounder at Science Rockstars

@Liam: To me conversion is much like what salesmen do offline. Or it should be treated like that. Good market vendors do pay attention to details in the same way. But I also do understand where you are coming from, some SME's seem to have other priorities...

@Zarro: Thanks! And I think you should reconsider getting wasted in Amsterdam. It's not all bad ;)

almost 5 years ago


Vasant Moharir, Dr

Advertising and Communication is not my field but I was amused to read your blog and comments on it by some others.Yes, small is beautiful and micro has its advantages. The examples of small but telling slogans on T Shirts is one way of propagating the concept but it will be interesting to know of how Nano concept can be applied to other areas. Vasant Moharir

almost 5 years ago



I're welcome !
and ... in AMS i've been wasted more times than i can count to :P

almost 5 years ago

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