Utilising Consumer Psychology To Maximise Your Online Offering


Utilising Consumer Psychology To Maximise Your Online Offering

When you walk into a “Main Street” store your brain is being manipulated from the moment you walk in. Store owners can control the colours, the lighting, the temperature and a host of other factors to make you want to buy. Indeed, even the kind of floor covering that you are walking on has an influence on whether or not you will open your wallet. There is a vast amount of academic research on the whole arena of “retail psychology”, investigating just what makes us want to buy something. And brands use that psychology to make sure we spend as much as possible with them.

Online, though, it is much more difficult for website owners to influence us. All that can be done is to make a flat, two-dimensional design appealing. Website owners cannot control the temperature or the lighting levels when we look at their pages – both factors which are known to influence shoppers. Neither can they control the floor covering, the sound or any other factors that make us more or less likely to buy. Indeed, research suggests that a considerable number of people shop online whilst using their mobiles, sitting on the toilet…!

Indeed, there is plenty that can be done to influence shoppers to buy more from websites
However, this doesn’t mean that brands should give up trying to use consumer psychology to boost their online sales. Indeed, there is plenty that can be done to influence shoppers to buy more from websites; the sad fact is that many website owners are not even using techniques that are known to work.

Instead, the whole arena of website production is focused on design – does it look good? Yet looking good is not the entire answer. Psychological research shows that the design of a website is not the most important factor in influencing sales. After all, major online retailers such as Ebay or Amazon do not have websites that would win design awards – yet both are selling multi-billion dollars’ worth of goods each month. Focusing on design alone is taking website owners down an avenue that might not help them sell as much online as they would wish.

Consumer psychology shows several other factors which can influence the likelihood of people buying from your online offering. They broadly fall into five different categories which together form The CLICK System.

C For Convenient

One of the main reasons people prefer buying things online compared with the “real world” is convenience. But convenience does not just mean being able to “get it now” or avoiding a trip to the local shops. Convenience is about tapping into the psychological need to do things in the easiest way possible. One of the features of the human brain is that it is always seeking to do things with the least amount of effort. It is a natural part of our survival instincts; your brain uses up around a quarter of your calorie intake every day, so to keep you going it needs to ensure it minimises energy usage. As a result, our brains unconsciously are constantly looking for ways to reduce effort.

Online this translates into the functionality of websites.

Are the functions obvious and quick to use?
 For example, the most common experience that people have when shopping online is on the big brand shopping sites. They all have search boxes top centre of the page and the shopping cart top right. If your website puts those items in different positions it means the page is slightly more cumbersome to use because it takes more effort – that translates into lower convenience. Subconsciously, website visitors are checking out things like this to see how much effort it is going to take to use the website. If it looks like increased effort is needed, they click away – within a couple of seconds. Hence all kinds of signals of convenience should be obvious, from the position of search boxes and shopping carts, through to clear signs about delivery and so on.

L For Likeable

You can hardly move online for “like” buttons. But, frankly, they don’t mean much. People may click one of these buttons to “like” your brand, but that doesn’t mean they really like you. It means all sorts of things – from people showing their friends what they like to boost relationships, to expressing self individuality. Indeed, most of those “like” button presses appear to be for selfish reasons, rather than a true demonstration that people actually like the brand. From a psychological perspective, likeability is when true liking happens. And true liking occurs when it is two-way. You like your partner because your partner likes you. Once the liking is one-way you are in relationship difficulty. And so it is online.

People feel they are being liked when the website is about them and their personal needs
When a brand demonstrates it likes its customers then they like the brand. In other words, it means that websites need to demonstrate clearly that they like their customers. People feel they are being liked when the website is about them and their personal needs; it is not written from the brand perspective, but is focused precisely on the specific requirements of customers. Online that can be translated into different websites and different web experiences for each kind of customer; one site fits all does not work online.

I For Informative

One of our psychological instincts is to minimize risk; we do all sorts of things to make sure that we are not risking harm to ourselves as part of our survival instinct. When shopping this is translated into minimizing the risk of spending money unnecessarily and avoiding the risk of spending our cash on the wrong things. In real world shops this appears as “browsing” – people wander around the store having seen something they might buy, then wandering off to look at something else, before walking back to the original item. All the time they are thinking “should I buy it?” If they are still not sure, they maybe nip out for a coffee to rest and think. Or they visit a competing store, just to make sure. Sometimes, of course, shoppers seek advice from the assistants in the store. It is all part of our desire to “make sure”. Online retail brands have a problem, though; it is just one click to depart from their website to go to another. In the real world people only visit competing stores if they are close by – part of our convenience instinct kicks in. Indeed, research shows that people only price compare if shops selling the same items are within a walking distance of less than 1km. Online this desire for making sure that we are about to buy the right thing can be helped when a website is informative.

The more informative your product pages become, the more you increase the chances of sales
People are seeking as much information as possible to help them be certain, so an online store that only has scant details of a product on sale does not help that psychological desire. Hence, a website that provides detailed information, several pictures, videos of items in use and so on, is much more likely to gain sales. The more informative your product pages become, the more you increase the chances of sales as people can find the support they need to help them minimise the risk, without having to visit an alternative website.

C For Customised

You might not realise it, but when you walk into a real world store the experience is going to be customized for you in some way. The shop assistant you speak with will pick up on your body language, the words you use, your age, your gender and so on to talk to you in a way that is meaningful to you as an individual. Many stores use loyalty cards to provide you with coupons and offers tailor-made to your particular kind of shopping. Real world stores do a great deal to customize things so you feel that they are concerned with you as an individual. Online, though, many websites are the same for everyone; they do not provide you with an experience that is individualised making you feel ignored. However, some websites do provide customized experiences so that we feel the site is just for us – that we are treated as “special”, which makes us warm to that site. Far too many websites only get people to register so that they can manage an online account, but that is largely for transactions and to avoid entering a delivery address repeatedly. What they don’t do is use the data they have on their customers to personalize their experience of the website. People like being treated as individuals, not as a “customer” or “shopper”. Websites that customize their offering for each individual shopper begin to demonstrate they care for their customers. Humans who feel cared for trust the “carer”. Hence customization of websites also increases the sense of trust between customers and the brand. 

K For Knowledgeable

Another aspect of building trust is demonstrating knowledge. We trust brands that seem to know a lot about their particular subject area. Fashion stores, for instance, that are often involved in commenting about fashion, that are always in fashion magazines and that have well-known figureheads are the ones people trust more and like more. Websites that also show they are knowledgeable on their subject area gain more shoppers. You can demonstrate your knowledge of your topic by having a blog, updated regularly or by having a magazine or newsletter. Websites that have plenty of “content” that is not simply sales material tend to do much better than those online stores which focus solely on a catalogue based approach. Why? Because those multiple pages of content demonstrate knowledge of their sector, which increases trust in the brand.

So, there you have it, The CLICK System which will help you tap into the psychology of your online visitors providing them with a range of triggers to make it more likely they will buy from you, rather than clicking away to another website. You can keep your web visitors for longer and make them more likely to buy when you demonstrate that your website is convenient to use, that you like them, that you are full of information, that you customize it to their specific requirements and that you really know what you are talking about. Do this things and you will really CLICK with your customers.