Persuasive Web: Where Psychology Meets Conversion

DAY 28: 30 Ways To Persuade (Part 1 of 2)

Posted in 30 Days of Persuasion by persuasiveweb on June 28, 2009

It’s been an incredibly intense and rewarding 30-day journey into exploring and applying the power of persuasion on the Web. Of course, we’re not quite done yet (2 more sleeps!), so on Days 28 & 29, Joanna and I will summarize 30 of the 55 ‘persuasion opportunities’ we’ve discussed during the month. Why 30 of 55? It seems only fitting since this is the 30 Days of Persuasion! And following our final post on June 30th, we’ll be happy to give you the remaining 25 opportunities as part of our free e-book (100% free, no registration required, no sales calls or annoying follow-up, and in limited quantities!). 🙂

And with that tongue-in-cheek sales plug, here are 5 principles of persuasion and 15 ways for you to apply them to your own site:

I. Authority: We look to experts to show us the way.

time magazine1. Endorsements – Publications: Showcase endorsements from trusted publications to build credibility.
Example: Product review quote and logo from significant published authority (e.g., Time Magazine).

2. Endorsements – Experts: Showcase endorsements from trusted experts in a field to build credibility.
Example: Video testimonial from a well-known user (e.g., Seth Godin).

3. Endorsements – Influencers: Showcase endorsements from trusted influencers to build credibility.
Example: Preferred product selection or recommendation from authority figure (e.g., Rachel Zoe for PiperLime).

II. Commitment & Consistency: We want to act consistently with our commitments and values.

tell-a-friend4. Say-Do: You say you’re going to do something, and you do it.
Example: Specific call-to-action buttons that match exactly what you want the user to do (e.g., “Order the Swiffer Sweeper Now”).

5. Make “Free” Great: Give away items that are as high-quality as your paid items.
Example: Free webinars packed with useful content – not fluff.

6. Share with Friends: Visitors who would recommend a product to a friend are more likely to purchase that product.
Example: “Tell a friend” calls to action.

III. Contrast: We notice and decide by the differences between two things, not absolute measures.

comparisonchart7. Bang > Buck: Simplify product selection by telling users which product/service will give them the most for the least.
Example: A “best value” icon positioned on/near the product.

8. Line ‘Em Up: Position similar information across various products in a standard layout to help users easily scan and contrast features, pricing, etc. and, in turn, narrow their options.
Example: Price for products positioned in same proximity to each product and formatted identically.

9. Proximity in Lists: The items you place at the top of the list are the items that will create context for shopping (on your catalog page in particular).
Example: List the items your want users to choose from at the top of a list, with lesser items lower in the list.

IV. Engagement & Emotion: We want to interact with things that make us feel.

FamCarnival1510. Play: Make your site or the tasks on it feel more like a game to activate an emotional response in users and limit the amount of executive thinking (the bane of persuasion efforts) required.
Example: Car-builder tools on auto sites.

11. Interaction: Use interactive tools to help people find the information they’re looking for (rather than sorting through lines of text).
Example: Product recommendation quizzes.

12. Affect Recruitment Heuristic: Use images & messages that help your users picture themselves doing something with a purchased item, feeling a certain way (i.e., experiencing affect) about that image, and using that feeling to make a purchasing decision.
Example: Imagery of a melting slushy drink on a cabana (on a travel site).

V. Likeability: The more we like people (and companies), the more we want to say yes to them.

shaving-man13. Be Transparent. No, Really.: Be completely honest about your company’s motivations.
Example: Tell users that you’re giving them your product for free in the hopes that they’ll love it, share it and be willing to pay for it later.

14. Cause Marketing: Support a relevant-to-your-brand cause to help users relate better to your brand.
Example: Tide’s Loads of Hope campaign.

15. Win Healthy Debates: Encourage users to find flaws in your product – flaws you know you do not have. In seeking out a flaw but not finding it, users will be more likely to believe in you than had they been indifferent to flaws.
Example: Money-back guarantee if your product doesn’t save users at least 5 hours each month.


Part 2 to follow…

We look to experts to show us the way.

DAY 8: How Likeable Is Your Online Experience? (And How Does That Impact Conversion?)

Posted in 30 Days of Persuasion by persuasiveweb on June 9, 2009


Behavioural researchers consistently find that we are inclined to respond positively to people whom we like. That means we buy from those we like, we accept their proposals, we comply with their requests, and we refer business to them.

This is the likeability principle of persuasion: People are more likely to say ‘yes’ to people they like.

This principle is very simple, and it’s good news to people who are naturally charismatic. But what about the rest of us? 🙂 What can we do to use the principle of likeability to achieve positive results?

Sorry, but you won’t find the answer to that question in this post – since we’re focusing here on selling products or services on the Web. Charismatic is not really a term I’ve yet heard applied to a Web site. Anyway…

There are various elements of likeability, some of which you may have already heard. For example, we like people who are similar or have similar interests to us. Or the even more widely-known concept that people like genuine compliments. These two elements of likeability may be highly effective in face-to-face situations – such as sales calls or negotiations – but it’s difficult to translate them to a one-way medium such as the Web.

glassHowever, another element of likeability is transparency – or in the case of the companies I’m about to discuss – being completely open and honest with your customers about what your product won’t do, as well as what it will do. How many companies do you see marketing where their product falls short, or where their competition may offer more? The list is likely very short. But it is the potential risks of being completely transparent that end up endearing customers to the businesses that are courageous enough to use this approach.

First, let me give you a few examples of how this has worked offline over the years. These are all examples of companies who have embraced their weaknesses and turned them into brand- and business-building strengths.

The Volkswagen Beetle has arguably become one of the world’s most beloved automobiles. But the North American advertising campaign that vaulted the ‘quirky’, relatively fuel efficient novelty vehicle (back the late 1950s) into a popular status symbol did not focus on the Beetle’s strengths. No, the firm Doyle, Dane, and Bernbach touted the German car’s weaknesses. Surprisingly, “Ugly is only skin deep” and “It will stay uglier longer” were some of the slogans used in the campaign.

It turns out that arguing against your own self-interest, which can include a drawback of your product, creates the perception that you and your organization are honest and trustworthy. And this in turn puts you in a position to be more persuasive when promoting your product’s genuine strengths.

vw_beetleIn Volkswagen’s case, the Beetle wouldn’t win any beauty contests – at least not relative to the more mainstream designs of the time by the Big Three US automakers – but its strengths were durability, fuel economy, and price, which are ultimately what helped sell the Beetle to Americans.

Avis took advantage of this same principle in its memorable motto: “Avis. We’re #2, but we try harder (When you’re not #1 you have to.)” Other examples include “Listerine: The taste you hate three times a day,”  “L’Oreal: We’re more expensive, but you’re worth it,” and “Buckley’s: It tastes awful. And it works.” This approach has worked for more than just a few companies.

Applications of Transparency on the Web

progressiveProgressive was the first major insurance company in the world to launch a Web site in 1995. One year later, car owners could use the Progressive Web site not only to learn about Progressive’s rates, but also to learn about the rates offered by Progressive’s major competitors. And while Progressive may beat the competition in most cases, it is not always the case.

Has it worked? The company’s enormous growth since it implemented this innovation – an average of 17 percent a year, with annual premiums growing from $3.4 to more than $12 billion – suggest that it’s quite effective at turning potential customers from Web browsers into Web buyers.

A little more than a year ago, [very] shortly after the original launch of Kindle, Amazon sold out of product. Instead of letting site visitors spend time moving from home page to product page and through the cart and checkout before discovering what would surely be a frustrating out-of-stock notification, Jeff Bezos posted an explanation and apology on Amazon’s home page:

kindle letter

How many other online retailers post out-of-stock notifications for their most popular products on their most popular (i.e., home) pages? It’s uncommon because it’s likely viewed as a risky decision. After all, you may be able to get a visitor to ‘invest’ in filling out your checkout forms before notifying them of the fulfillment delay and still have them complete their order – despite the delay. On the flip side, however, how do you think the abandoners would feel about your organization after spending that time unnecessarily completing forms only to experience the let down of an unavailable product?

For something a little closer to home (for me)… here is an example of transparency that we (Intuit Global Business Division, my employer) experienced during the busy Canadian tax season.

The home design that was live between January and March attempted to channel site visitors into our online tax preparation products by providing multiple ‘Try it free’ buttons that led to QuickTax Online. We didn’t make it easy enough for visitors to locate our CD and downloadable tax products, and as a result, many visitors ended up in our online application (when what they really wanted was our desktop software):

quicktax old home

While the business would love Web site visitors to adopt our online tax applications, this lack of transparency and clarity around the products we offer manifested itself as a lower-than-expected conversion rate for our desktop software customers. The solution involved a redesign that clearly laid out our two types of consumer tax software – giving equal weight and prominence to both CDs/downloads and the online application:

quicktax new home

The revised home page enables visitors to make a well-informed decision instead of pushing them toward an online product that may or may not actually meet their needs. If anything, we should have used persuasion principles to compel people to try the online tax product – instead of ‘hiding’ the desktop option from site visitors.

So in your next series of A/B or multivariate tests, consider using the likeability principle and mention a weakness (or two) of your product – right up front – to help earn your site visitors’ trust. We believe it’ll be that much easier to convince them that the truly superior features of your product really do surpass the competition in those areas. Or at a minimum, be sure to reveal pertinent details such as dropped products, out-of-stock items, and price changes to your prospective and existing customers to show them that you have their best interests at heart. It’ll pay off in the long run.