3 Psychological Factors That Directly Impact Online Sales

January 13, 2016

If you're like most business owners, you spend a lot of time focused on sales. Regardless of how successful you are and how much growth you experience, you may feel as if you never seem to bring in. More is always better.

If you want to increase sales in 2016, then you need to focus on three psychological factors that have a direct impact on customers today.

1. Using Free Offers to Generate Leads

People love the word "free." It doesn't matter where you post or place it, people are going to stop, study, and likely partake. The item or offer you're giving out may not even interest the individual initially, but a few visitors are going to respond, simply because it's free.

It almost feels unnatural to say no to something that's being promoted as free. What discriminating customer would reject it? It doesn't cost them anything. Or does it?

When you're a marketer or advertiser, you understand the value of "free." Though consumers may not have to purchase anything in order to get the item, many will follow up with a revenue-producing decision.

Think about it from the perspective of the customer. When you're shopping online and realize you only have to spend another $10 to qualify for free shipping, your instinct is to add another item to your cart in order to avoid the $5 or $6 shipping charge.

However, by spending another $10 or more, you're increasing the size of your transaction. It's for this reason that 60 percent of e-commerce companies feel like "free shipping with conditions" is their most successful marketing tool.

But it's not just free shipping. When it comes to e-commerce, free trials and offers are often enough to transform a curious customer into a paying one. Doc's Sports Service offers free trials in an effort to encourage users to pay for the premium service. It frequently works, as a significant percentage of trial customers upgrade to premium accounts.

According to Duke professor Dan Ariely
, free "gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it really is." As an advertiser or marketer, it's imperative for you to use this psychological factor to your advantage.

2. Leveraging Social Proof to Increase Purchases

People love to feel they are a part of something bigger. Even more than that, people love to feel like their peers approve of everything they're doing.

While children and teenagers often succumb to peer pressure in terms of what to wear and what music to listen to, adults are fairly prone to feel pressure when it comes to purchase decisions, as well. We want others to think highly of the things we spend our money on.

From a business perspective, you can leverage this desire for acceptance by utilizing social proof. Studies suggest that 70 percent of consumers look at product reviews before making an online purchase. Furthermore, product reviews are 12 times more trusted than product descriptions published by a manufacturer or vendor.

But product reviews aren't the only form of social proof. Brands can also utilize social proof in the following ways if they seek to increase purchases.

  • Follower counts. Whenever you see a little ticker on a page that includes social media icons and numbers, you're looking at a form of social proof. Users see that a certain number of people have shared or used a resource, and they're more likely to share or use it themselves.


  • Celebrity or expert approval. Big brands often pursue influencer marketing as a strategy for boosting sales. Influencer marketing works by aligning your product or service with an industry expert or popular celebrity. When people see this individual tout your product offering, they instantly perceive it as being high quality.


  • Surveys and polls. Finally, surveys and polls can be used as a form of social proof. Brands use this technique when they make statements like "93 percent of customers are satisfied with their purchase."


There are many different social proof strategies, but the point here is that consumers like to know their peers approve of a product before they make their own decision. By using such tactics as customer reviews, follower counts, celebrity or expert approval, and surveys and polls, you can increase the perceived value of your product offering.

3. Showing Subject Matter Authority to Enhance Recognition

"Obedience to authority is deeply ingrained in us since birth. It starts with your mom and dad and expands to the rest of polite society..." writes Adam Honig, a serial entrepreneur. "The authority principle is so powerful that it can cause people to do things that would normally conflict with their most deeply held values," he continues.

When they're looking to enhance brand recognition and expand sales, businesses often find it helpful to leverage obedience to authority. You can also do this by strategically positioning your brand as an authority figure for a certain niche, topic, or subject matter.

Perhaps the best example of how being perceived as an expert in your field has a direct impact on sales is the Nate Silver example. Silver is the successful statistician and writer who gained recognition for successfully predicting the outcomes of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

He also regularly evaluates baseball statistics and trends. Because of his expertise in using data to make accurate predictions, Silver has been able to launch a very successful website and publish multiple books.

One in particular, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't, jumped to the number two spot on Amazon just two days after the author correctly predicted the outcome of the 2012 election. Was this coincidence, or did his subject matter authority influence sales? You be the judge.

The Psychology of Online Sales

There are plenty of additional psychological triggers that influence online sales, including reciprocity, scarcity, and consistency, but the three referenced in this article have stood out in recent months as the most successful in online marketing.

Whether you employ free offers, social proof, or subject matter authority, it's clear that marketers and advertisers can leverage psychological impulses and innate human tendencies to drive sales and increase revenues. If you're a savvy professional, you'll surely learn how to utilize these techniques in the coming months.

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