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Robert Mening

4 Proven Principles of Psychology to Boost Your Conversions

Robert Mening
4 Proven Principles of Psychology to Boost Your Conversions

According to research by Econsultancy, only 22 percent of companies are satisfied with their conversion rates. They found the average business spends just $1 on conversions for every $92 spent on acquiring customers. This explains the abysmal conversion rates of most businesses.

If your online business is suffering from poor sales or struggling with increasing revenue, the solution isn’t to get more traffic. Instead, improve conversions from your existing traffic.

Often, what ensures a conversion boost isn’t more persuasive copy or a longer sales page. Understanding the following principles of psychology can make all the difference:

1. Classical Conditioning: The “Little Albert” Experiment

The “Little Albert” experiment is rated as one of the most controversial psychology experiments of all time, and for good reason: the experiment involved an 11 month old baby, and is perhaps the most renowned experiment observing the classical conditioning phenomenon in psychology.

In psychology, classical conditioning “is a learning process that occurs through associations between an environmental stimulus and a naturally occurring stimulus.”

Back in 1920, psychologists John Watson and Rosalie Rayner performed an experiment on an 11 month old child (later known as “Little Albert”) to study the classical conditioning effect. At the start of the experiment, Little Albert was neutral towards animals and furry things, but had a natural liking for a particular white rat. Over time, however, Watson and Rayner gradually introduced the white rat, and other furry animals, to Little Albert while banging on metal with an hammer. 

Naturally, the loud bang scared the 11-month-old Little Albert. As the process of introducing furry animals with a loud bang was repeated over time, Little Albert came to associate the banging with the animals, such that simply introducing the animals -- even without making any sound -- created nervousness in him, resulting in him moving away and crying. He became conditioned to associate animals and furry things with the loud scary banging, and eventually Little Albert came to fear the white rat he was once fond of.

How this applies to your business: While not as extreme as the Little Albert experiment, the reality is that some of the biggest brands today use classical conditioning in one way or the other. What’s the feeling you attribute to their brand and products? That’s classical conditioning in action. Take Apple for example: naturally, people associate their brand and products with luxury.

Apple products are luxurious and fashionable. Same goes with Nike: most people have come to associate their product with coolness. That’s because these brands have conditioned us to associate their products with these feelings. That’s classical conditioning in action.

You can use this same principle to give your business a sales boost; majority of consumers make the decision to transact with a brand based on emotion. You can use this to your advantage; identify a major emotion you want your brand and products to elicit and use the classical conditioning principle to establish your brand as a causer of this emotion.

2. Context Influences Perception: The Beer on the Beach Experiment

Why would people easily and readily pay $600 for an iPhone and complain that a phone with similar features that cost $300 is expensive? Research shows that this is due to context influenced perception; this is the same reason why you’re willing to haggle prices at the local market while you readily pay a premium for goods bought in a boutique, or why you readily buy the same wine for thrice the cost at a five star hotel than at the local bar.

An experiment that effectively demonstrates how context influences perception is the “Beer on the Beach Experiment.” In the experiment, conducted by Richard Thaler, two friends were sitting on a hot beach. One friend offers to buy the other friend his favorite beer and asks him how much he would be willing to pay for the beer. He had two choices: the beer could be bought from a local run-down grocery store or the bar of a fancy resort hotel. In either cases, though, the beer would be drunk on the beach. It was observed that most people agreed to pay more for the same beer if it came from a fancy hotel.

To them, it was simply unfair to pay the same for a beer that comes from a fancy hotel and the one that came from a local grocery store. This is context in action.

How this applies to your business: If you train people to expect cheap products and discount offers from you, they will never be able to justify making a big investment with you because they’ve come to associate your brand with cheapness. If, however, you position your brand as a premium brand, it becomes easy for people to justify paying a premium for your products and services. It’s all about context.

3. Break the Monotony: Understand The Sensory Adaptation Principle

Every once in awhile we read a case study that shows a boost in conversions by switching button color -- like this one. The conclusion is often that the red, or orange, or some other magical color converts better and results in an increase in sales. Really? Psychology shows that there is another underlying reason.

There isn’t really a magically better color for boosting conversions; if you use a red button on a sales page with a red background and lots of red elements, sales will be abysmal. Switch up the button color to blue on the same page and you’ll experience a sales uptick. This is explained by the “Sensory Adaptation” principle in psychology.

In psychology, sensory adaptation explains change in responsiveness after being exposed to the same stimulus for a long time. In short, when we get exposed to something for a long time we get used to it and eventually start to ignore it.

It explains why you no longer feel your clothes a few minutes after wearing it, or why you suddenly grow accustomed to a loud noise you found disturbing earlier. It also explains why a green button won’t work on a page with a mainly-green color scheme.

How this applies to your business: Monotony is the greatest conversion killer. Conversions will suffer if all elements of your sales/offer page are the same. Try to make key elements stand out by using bigger fonts, different colors as well as by highlighting them.

4. Delay Kills Conversions: Optimize Your Website to be Faster

A recent study by Jampp has found that we are suffering from constantly declining attention spans. In fact, according to the Jampp study, we’re experiencing an average of an 88 percent decline in attention span annually.

What implications does this have for your business? These:

  • A one second delay in site load times will reduce conversions by 7 percent.

  • 40 percent of people will abandon your website if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

  • 51 percent of people will abandon their purchase on your site if it is too slow.

  • Increasing your site speed from eight seconds to two seconds will boost conversions by 74 percent.

As you can see from the above statistics, speed plays more of a role in how well people convert on your site than you probably realize.

How this applies to your business: Optimize your website as well as key elements. Ensure your website loads much faster. Eliminate unnecessary form fields and extra checkout steps. Focus on ensuring a much faster experience for users of your website.

Robert Mening is a web developer, entrepreneur and founder of Website Setup. He has helped tens of thousands of people start their own website through guides like his most recent on making a blog.

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