Search engine optimization is a commonly used term that every Internet marketer is familiar with and has used to attract web visitors. However, many fail to realize that there are several other forms of optimization that can be used to boost site performance. Among these is persuasion optimization – a highly important tactic for achieving conversion success. Persuasion optimization refers to the process of optimizing the way in which you draw in and convert new customers. It involves improving your existing implementation of the six principles of persuasion to enhance sales and revenue.
What are the Principles of Persuasion?
Persuasion optimization requires you to have a clear understanding of Robert Cialdini’s six persuasion principles. Using them correctly in your business strategy involves determining how these principles have been used by other business and how you can adapt them for your own website. Let’s take a closer look at the six principles of persuasion. I've included some helpful examples of how they’ve been applied in business...
- Reciprocity – The principle of reciprocity is all about giving something to get something else in return. It's based on the idea that people naturally feel an obligation to return a favor. A small gesture, such as a discount or free gift, could lead to improved customer conversions later with the help of this principle.
- Commitment (and Consistency) – The principle of commitment is based on the idea that people want to be seen as consistent. If we’ve made a public commitment, we feel compelled to deliver. Marketers apply the principle by getting their site visitors to make a commitment in something. It could be something relatively small and free of charge. There’s a high chance of converting those visitors into actual customers in the long run.
- Social Proof – Cialdini’s principle of social proof is based on the saying “safety in numbers." We tend to follow what the majority is doing. It’s popularly used in Internet marketing as consumers consider the popularity and quality of reviews of a product before making their purchasing decision.
- Authority – People tend to have greater respect for authority figures, resulting in obedience. The principle of authority is based on this exact idea and has been implemented successfully in the persuasion optimization. Consumers are more likely to take note of the recommendations of someone they perceive as an industry expert or an icon.
Shopify has nailed this principle by introducing a team of Shopify Experts, designed to assist businesses in building their own eCommerce website. Their experts are classified into different fields: designing, photography, marketing, development, and setup. This allows them to establish an air of authority and persuade clients to trust them.
- Liking – Cialdini’s persuasion principle of liking, or likeability, is based on the fact that people have the tendency to be influenced by those they like. It may be because they can identify with those people or simply because they like their appearance. This principle can be applied in persuasion optimization in several ways. You could feature good-looking people that the target audience can identify with. Also, you can try to tell your story in a way that your audience can relate with and grow to like you.
- Scarcity – The scarcity principle relies on the perception that products seem more attractive and offers more enticing when there’s limited availability. Just think about how much more likely you would purchase something if it’s the last one in stock. Customers make quicker purchase choices in comparison to products with plenty of supply.
Five Ways to Use Persuasion Optimization
Optimizing how you implement the six persuasion principles can benefit your business growth in countless ways. The following are the top five persuasion optimization strategies I recommend:
- A better persuasion technique, especially in social proof and authority, can help you gain visibility, increase your site traffic, and build followers. Amazon does an excellent job of applying the principle of social proof to their website by displaying ratings and reviews of each product. They also provide expert reviews for authority as shown in the image below.
Takeaway: For persuasion optimization, eCommerce businesses should provide genuine user reviews and expert reviews on products to trigger purchase decisions.
- The commitment principle builds brand loyalty. So using this technique can help you gain more loyal customers. The Copyblogger website has applied this principle effectively by inviting visitors to sign up for a free online marketing course. Entering your email address to sign up can be seen as a public commitment. This increases your potential of becoming an actual buyer. You might eventually go on to purchase other services like Synthesis or Scribe too.
Takeaway: Be consistent and honest. Make big commitments with subscriptions and other actions, but always fulfil them or it'll counterattack your brand reputation.
- The U.K. denim brand Hiut Denim tries to trigger a liking in the minds of their website visitors by telling their company's story. Their blogs feature various posts telling stories like the history of the brand and the town in which it’s based. This is a great way to get your audience to relate to you and feel compelled to become actual customers.
Takeaway: Tell stories and show how people your love for your work.
- Using reciprocity in your persuasion optimization strategy gives you a chance to get people feeling indebted towards you. This makes them more likely to return the favor – whether it’s making a purchase or offering their contact information. An excellent real-world example of this principle can be seen in how Spotify offers a free 30-day trial of their premium service.
The premium service allows users to stream music without annoying ads. It also provides off-line mobile access, which is available for all premium members. The trial membership can be cancelled free of cost at any time. After Spotify users have already gotten a taste of what the premium service offers, it’s difficult for them to resist paying for the membership after the trial period.
Takeaway: Give free trials to users and provide support for any issue.
- Optimizing your persuasion technique of implementing scarcity could get you closer to meeting your conversion goals. The Monetate website has successfully implemented this principle by displaying a deadline for a certain deal. In the following image, you can see how they’ve added a countdown timer to the product details.
Takeaway: Show users what they are going to miss from your deal. Keep a deadline clear and visible to foster urgency.
Persuasion Optimization Case Studies
All of these persuasion optimization examples can help you in making more conversions and boosting overall performance of your business. Each principle can help with conversions in some way or the other. For instance, the example of scarcity principle I’d shown earlier depicted how Monetate added a countdown timer to the product description. In this case, their average order value increased by 0.07%. Although this margin may seem small, the impact is huge for such a large online retailer. In fact, it turned out to be a “million-dollar campaign” for Monetate.
The principles of authority, social proof, and likeability enable you to bond with your target audience and increase your chances of making a sale. The impact of social proof on conversions can be clearly seen in the case of Express Watches. Although their site made claims of their watches being authentic and coming with a warranty, this wasn’t enough to convince potential customers. After adding a widget displaying various reviews by existing customers, the business experienced a 58.29% increase in sales.
In another Express Watches case, we can witness how the authority principle can improve conversions significantly. By simply replacing an image saying “Never Beaten on Price” with “Seiko Authorized Dealer Site," there was a 107% increase in conversions within just 30 days. This proof of authority lets target customers know that the website is trustworthy as an “authorized dealer site."
Medalia Art, a site selling Caribbean and Brazilian art, replaced pictures of paintings with the artists’ photos. This is an example of how they’ve implemented the likeability principle for persuasion optimization. The result was an increase in visitor engagement. After the small change, the retailer's conversion rate increased by over 95%.
In May 2013, Copyblogger launched a campaign in which visitors were encouraged to register with their email address. Registered users had free access to 15 premium eBooks and an email course on the online market. In seven weeks, the free subscription page had an average conversion rate of 67%. Additionally, they found that only 6% and 16% of the traffic for the free membership page and opt-in page respectively were new to the site. The rest was returning visitors. Copyblogger effectively used persuasion optimization with reciprocity and commitment. Visitors reciprocated to the free subscription offer by signing up with their email address, which also committed them to making future purchases.
Overall, it's clear that the principles of persuasion should be implemented into your marketing strategy to drive better sales. They can be adapted to any type of business for gaining customer conversions and long-term loyalty. If you haven’t paid attention to persuasion optimization before, now's the time to do so.
Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or suggestions!
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant, named the #1 social media consultant in the US by PROskore Power Rankings. He has expertise in business development, online marketing and is an SEO specialist who has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and a number of A-list celebrities.