Talia is a frequent keynote speaker at marketing conferences, teaching conversion optimization and growth on stages such as Google, Unbounce, MozCon, GMIC, CXL live, Search Love, Learn Inbound and many more.
She is the Co-founder & CMO at Banana Splash and was recently listed as one of the most influential voices in conversion optimization.
Latest posts by Talia Wolf (see all)
- Optimize Your Website for Conversions with These Social Media Insights - May 15, 2019
- The Google Tag Manager Tips You Need in Your Life (Especially if You Want to Increase Conversions) - April 10, 2019
- Use This Technique to Increase Your Social Media Conversions (Both Paid and Organic!) - April 3, 2019
Visitors don’t just stumble on your site by accident.
They find you through the content marketing plan you painstakingly designed, the comprehensive SEO and linking strategy you built, the paid ads…
… And all the other marketing you put in place.
So while discovering you may feel like a stroke of fortune to your visitor, you know just how much work went into making that serendipitous encounter happen in the first place.
But getting found is just the first step. Now you need to grab that visitor’s attention and show them why they should stick around and buy.
To do that, you need to understand the different forces that influence the buying process. Because everything we do – from choosing where to go on holiday to what project management software to use or what kind of coffee to drink – is affected by a series of cognitive biases.
These subconscious triggers work away in the back of our brains and affect the way we make decisions a lot more than you’d think…
Three of these psychological triggers are particularly useful when it comes to turning visitors into customers. In this workshop, we looked at all three and examined the different ways you can use them to increase conversions. (With real-life examples and practical takeaways of course!)
Here’s what you don’t want to miss:
- How the bandwagon effect makes us pick the already popular choices (and how you can use social proof to make it work for you),
- The unusual power of loss aversion,
- The one trigger you must avoid at all costs,
And if you haven’t already, grab your copy of this free worksheet. In it, you’ll find over 30 psychological triggers and cognitive biases along with examples of exactly how to use them to increase conversions and keep your customers coming back for more. (Including the three we talk about here.)
Watch the recording below:
Transcript and slides
We’re gonna be talking about cognitive biases. We’re gonna really dive into the three … not the three, but top three cognitive biases that you can use in optimization. You can use them on landing pages, you can use them on emails, you can use them on your website.
In fact, we’re gonna be talking about two cognitive biases that you should be using and one cognitive bias that you should be aware of, that you should, when you’re looking at your stuff, make sure that you’re not kind of triggering it. I’ll explain everything about what this actually means, what are cognitive biases in just a moment, ’cause we’ll be starting in one minute. I’ll be sharing my screen, and I’ll just walk you through everything.
Today we’re talking about three psychological triggers that turn more visitors into customers.
What’s a cognitive bias?
Okay, so let’s start talking about cognitive biases. I guess in simple words, cognitive bias, or psychological triggers, depending on how you wanna call them, are a brain’s tendency to think in certain ways.
Our brain uses these biases to make decisions more easily. Essentially, our brain’s really lazy. If you haven’t watched the first workshop from February, I advise you to watch that one. I talk about how our brain makes decisions, the slow brain, the fast-thinking brain, and I kind of break it down into how the brain makes decisions. It’s very helpful.
But, essentially, these biases determine how we make decisions, what actions we take, who we become friends with, what we eat, how we feel in every given moment, who we believe, who we don’t. Essentially, as Wikipedia explains, cognitive biases are systematic patterns of deviations from norm or rationality and judgment.
This means that these biases, they tend to deviate us from rational and logical decision making. What this means is that they affect us in a way that we’re normally unaware of, and they affect our decision-making process. Normally, we’ll just make these decisions, we’ll think that they were completely rational, completely logical, but our decisions are affected by these biases, and we’re normally unaware of them.
Now, why does this matter to you other than know how your brain makes decisions? Because every single element on your page, from your headline to your chosen colors to the images that you choose, your fonts and the story that you tell, every element on your page has an impact and can trigger some sort of bias in your target audience.
Thousands of biases affect our decisions every single day. Some are more common than others, and it’s important to know what they are, how they work, and what the most common ones are so that you can either avoid them, as I mentioned at the beginning, or make use of them to increase conversions.
One thing is very clear, though, is that most of the time, we’re completely unaware of these biases and have no idea which one is at play. As you know, and if you don’t know, here’s an update, we have a very, very long list and guide for cognitive biases on our site. It’s one of our blog posts. You can either read it on our blog, or you can download the PDF, and it has a list of, I think, about 50 different cognitive biases. It gives you exact explanations on different cognitive biases, how you can use them, what they mean, and how to avoid them, or stuff like that, and examples, of course.
Today I’m going to dive further into three of these biases and give you some tips, tactics, and ideas on how you can leverage them starting right now.
1. The Bandwagon Effect: What it is and how it works
Without further ado, let’s get started with the first cognitive bias. That is the bandwagon effect. Let me know in chat, guys, if you have heard of this effect. I just love to hear it, ’cause as we go through these biases, they’re very common, and I’d love to know if you’ve heard of it, if you’ve used it before and stuff like that.
Here we have, the bandwagon effect, essentially, it’s a bias that focuses on our tendency to change our opinions, our decisions, our beliefs, and even our ideas, according to the amount of people who think in a certain way. So, think about it, it’s really interesting. In our most inner deep selves, I guess, most of us just want to be like everybody else. We want to conform, we want to feel like we’re apart of a larger group. So, the bandwagon effect states that there’s, essentially, power in numbers. The more amount of people think in a certain way, the more likely it is to grow in popularity and be trusted by others.
For example, let’s say that our political views may change according to the amount of people who we see on our Facebook feed support a certain candidate, or if we’re comparing between two products, we’ll tend to choose the more popular one, the one we’ve heard more about and see more people use. At the end of the day, what we want is to be like other people, it’s to adapt and think in the same way. As I mentioned, most of us aren’t aware, we don’t think that our opinions change according to the numbers, but they do. Even more interestingly is that when it’s people who are close to you, so family and friends, the more family and friends think the same way, the more, obviously, you’re prone to thinking the same way too, but it’s not just people you know.
How to leverage the bandwagon effect
Highlight numbers, amounts and groups of people who choose your solution. We’ve all seen these around, I guess, statements like “Thousands of customers are already enjoying their music like never before.” These are great ways to highlight the popularity of your solution. At the end of the day, your goal is to emphasize your popularity and show potential customers that you are a safe choice, the one everyone chooses. Here’s a few examples. There’s “Grow boldly. Join 45,000 businesses that trust Leadpages every day to grow their business online,” is a great way to leverage the bandwagon effect.
Another way, GetResponse uses “Over 350,000 happy customers and counting.” It says, “Don’t take our word for it. See what all the buzz is about.” Then, they have all the testimonials and stuff, but it comes together. Now, there’s other ways you can do it. For example, this is from Basecamp. Basecamp is a competitor to Trello and Asana. They do something really cool. They say, “3716 businesses signed up last week to get results like these,” and they kind of highlight the … “89% have had a better handle on their business. 84% report more self-sufficient teams. 59% have fewer weekly meetings.” All of this is about numbers, and it shows you kind of the emphasis on the amount of people, even in percentage, that agree to a certain thing, think in a certain way, that believe something.
Another thing you can do is feature reviews of your product and your solutions. Showing not the actual reviews but how many you’ve been given is a great way to show popularity. The more reviews you have, the more you succeed in showing yourself as a common chosen solution by customers. Over here on the right, this is from YotPo. You’ll see an e-commerce site featuring their reviews. That’s just kind of like, hey, you know, these are the people who have been reviewing this, and you can go in and see.
On the left we have G2 Crowd, which is a popular platform for rating SaaS products. I’ve chosen Zendesk as an example because they have 1400 reviews with a great score, 4.2. So, something as simple as this could be added to their site, and they could mention, “Hey, we’re rated 4.2 on G Crowd.” Thousands of customers. So, it’s just a cool way of using the bandwagon effect, not just by saying how many people use you, but even just say, you know, “These amount of people have reviewed us.” “These are the amount of people have bought our product.” “These are the mat of people who trust us,” and so on and so on. All that is just a quick way of leveraging the bandwagon effect.
By the way, another very popular way of using bandwagon effect, you’ve probably seen used countless times is on pricing pages, where you highlight one specific plan, and it just says, “most popular” or “plan of the month”, or stuff like that, and probably have seen examples like that. It’s a really cool way, and I’ll show you an example of that when we move on.
2. Loss Aversion: What it is (and how you can use it)
Let’s talk about the next cognitive bias and that is loss aversion. Loss aversion is … we actually spoke about this bias a little last week when we talked about Cialdini. We talked about Cialdini’s seven principles of persuasion to increase conversion, so if you haven’t seen that one, strongly recommend watching it.
Loss aversion is our tendency to avoid loss, or losing out at all costs. According to psychologists, the sense of losing our, or missing something, is so hard for us that we feel more towards it than when we gain something. What that means is that most people will consider the loss of $50 far more significant than the excitement of gaining $200. It’s really interesting because we just try to avoid feeling that loss at all costs. We would rather avoid a loss than gain something.
Loss aversion in action
Now, this is actually where scarcity comes into play. Let’s talk about it. We have the most common way of using loss aversion is by letting people know that something is running out. A sale is about to end or there are a limited amount of products to be purchased or services to be delivered. You’ll see these tactics in emails or on sales pages, in popups, on pricing pages and many other places on websites. Now, on the right you can see Melyssa Griffin. If you don’t know her, you should definitely follow her. She’s awesome. She’s a Pinterest influencer, and she teaches people how to use Pinterest to grow their business. Melyssa Griffin is using loss aversion in her email to sell her course. You’ll notice it says, “Early bird bonuses expiring in four hours. Detail inside.” Then, inside the email it says, “This is your last chance.” Then, they have this kind of countdown timer. It’s a really well known way of using loss aversion and just letting people know that something’s running out. On the left, I think this is Macy’s, when it says, “It’s in-store only. It’s from September 27th to 30. This is the only time you can do this.”
Social Media Examiner, I’ve worked with them now for a couple of months on helping them promote their conference. It’s in San Diego. It’s probably the biggest and most interesting and most actionable social media marketing conference you will ever attend, and I had a great time working with them. One of our goals was to increase the sales of the tickets to get more people to come. It was interesting because what you can see here is just their use of loss aversion in a popup. “Save on your Social Media Marketing World tickets.” There’s a countdown timer, and you can kind of just decide what you want to do. Notice how they’re using this call to action button here. I don’t know if you can see my mouse, but it says, “Yes, I want to save.” “I don’t want to save.” That’s just a cool way of using loss aversion in terms of, most people would have a hard time clicking on “I don’t want to save”, because that kind of symbolizes the fact that you’re going to lose out on something, right?
Let’s also look at another example of how companies use loss aversion. Hotjar, this is another great way to use it. You don’t have to be as direct and alarming as the first different options that I’ve showed you. In this kind of situation, you could say … Okay, so you could do it in to ways. You could either say, “Hey, stop throwing money down the drain,” which is what most people do, right? You can do that with copy, even with your subject line you could have in an email, like, “Stop throwing your money away,” or you could say that on a headline on a landing page. That would be a great way to leverage loss aversion. Or, you could say, “How many hours have you wasted searching for a solution?” Or, “The solution you’re using is holding you back from achieving X.” All of these sentences are just implying that someone is losing out by not taking action, by taking the wrong action. It’s enough to trigger that bias.
My favorite example, as I was saying before, is Hotjar. What they’re doing is, without using actual words, they’re implying that you’re wasting a ton of money. They’re saying, on the left-hand side, you’re probably using these five tools, similar five tools, ClickTale, Crazy Egg, Qualaroo, SurveyMonkey, Ethnio, which I don’t really know, and you’re spending a ton of money. Or, you could be using the new way and spend far less. It’s a cool way of doing this, of kind of leveraging that loss aversion and saying, “Hey, dudes, you are losing out by using all of these products here on the left. You could actually …” And it’s actually quite true, because Hotjar only costs $29 a month, and each of these products on the left gets you to a couple of hundred dollars a month, if not more. Hotjar’s simply saying, instead of saying, “Stop throwing your money away,” or instead of saying, “You’re losing out,” they just show you and make you feel like you’re losing, and if you want to avoid that pain of losing, then you would choose Hotjar.
How others use loss aversion
Let me know, guys, in the chat, if you have seen some cool ways of people using loss aversion on their website. We spoke about a few different ways you can do that, whether if it’s in your emails by just letting people know that something’s coming to an end, or there’s only a certain amount of product that you can purchase, or even if we’re talking about something’s coming to an end now, so it’s only three days left, and stuff like that. Or, we spoke about how you can use it in copy or in visuals. But yeah, you’re right, [Netta 00:19:00] says, “Every course ever has used loss aversion.” I think it’s a really cool way of doing it. Just one thing about loss aversion, though, is you don’t want it to be sleazy, you don’t want it to be incorrect, you don’t want it to be a blatant lie. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but many websites do have the, you know, when you have a countdown timer, and then you arrive on the website the following day, and it’s restarted or something. Just make sure that you are definitely, kind of following being authentic.
Craig says, “I signed up with ConvertBox this week, and they did it omni-brilliantly.” Oh, that’s cool. You should tell us how they did that. Stephanie says, “I really like this Hotjar one because it’s more subtle. The countdown timers are everywhere, and I hate them along with the ‘No, I don’t want to get this benefit’ button.” I definitely agree, and I think I showed one of these examples last week that was done by Social Media Examiner too. I think it’s all about how you place them on the website, where they are, where these countdown timers come in play, and how you do them. If you do them in an authentic way and you tell the customer’s story through it, and it’s not just a “Warning! Warning! Time’s running out! Something’s gonna blow up,” then it can work really well.[Montrel 00:20:22] says, “Unbounce did this with their partnership program.” That’s true. Nikki says, “I just got suckered into a flash sale that had 70% off the first hour, 60% off the second. That 10% was not appealing in comparison.” That’s a really interesting thing. By the way, Nikki, you’re sending your replies to all panelists. If you wanna get everyone to see your answers, you should see all panelists and attendees.
Yeah, so there’s all the … Maria Thompson, hi, Maria, says that, “The other buttons that say ‘I’m an idiot for not doing what you say’.” Agreed completely. Loss aversion is definitely a technique you need to master, and you need to make people feel comfortable with what you’re saying and not overuse it or create something that isn’t real.
3. Analysis Paralysis: What it is and how to avoid it
Okay, let’s move into the third cognitive bias, which is analysis paralysis. Now, this is one of the biases that many marketers know about or talk about, but seem to forget almost immediately when they’re planning landing pages, websites, pricing pages and stuff like that. Analysis paralysis is as simple as it sounds. When we’re given too many options, our brain goes into a state of confusion or overthinking, and it just chooses not to choose, so think about that. This means that if you give your audience too many options, they will have a very difficult time making a decision, and they’ll simply opt out of making that decision. Where do we actually see this happen most commonly? This happens in pricing pages. When you have too many plans, you’re confusing people. It’s problematic.
A few people just wrote to me, “Oh my god, is that a real pricing plan?” Yes, that is a real pricing page that I found. The thing about it is that it’s not just about the amount of pricing plans that you have on your design, it’s also to do with helping people choose, making it easier to compares. It’s not just about, oh, you should only have free pricing plans, but, also, thinking about how even when you do have free pricing plans, how can you help people make the right decision?
Analysis paralysis in action
Notice the example on the left side, the names of each plan are general, quite common, but on the right, we have multiple techniques, helping prospects compare their offerings. So, the names, free, one month, one year, the highlighted plan, and even the call to action buttons that explain the exact meaning of each plan. So, when you click on a button, you know what’s going to happen, you know what you’re going to get. You can clearly see that their favoring the one on the right, the one year, and it says “most popular”. So, there’s the bandwagon effect.
Then, I guess, there’s Hotjar. I just love their website, and I also love all the examples that I can use from them. Here’s another way that they avoid analysis paralysis and they help people make decisions. They allow you to choose a plan, firstly, according to your need. Is it personal, business, or is it an agency? Then, according to the amount of page views that you have. So, all these contribute to reducing analysis paralysis and helping people make a choice easily. You can see that they’ve taken away that kind of stress of “What plan should I choose? What should I do? How should I do it,” and kind of really walking you through your options, and, essentially, helping you identify the right pricing plan for yourself.
Let’s move on to another example. Another important thing that you can do is reduce the fear of making a huge decision. The lighter the consequences are to a decision, the easier it is to make. Make it easy in both a user experience perspective and a psychological perspective to make a decision. For example, allow people to immediately see the value of paying that yearly fee versus the monthly fee by highlighting the cost and the value. It’s just an important thing to do. Focus on the end result, the most desired need of your prospect versus the pricing of the features, so that they can see the value easily and find less reasons to persuade themselves against that action.
So, when someone’s coming to your pricing page and they’re trying evaluate stuff, don’t only think about, okay, how many plans should I have or how can I highlight the one plan that I want people to take, but how can you reduce that friction by highlighting the end result, the value of it? It’s really cool because when you do that, when you highlight the outcomes for people, it really helps us justify our decisions and to feel the gain versus the pain of what it is.
Now, Amplitude, over here, explains the value of their product, how easy it is to get started and even highlight a company that used their solution. Essentially, looking at this, you can easily decide where you fit in. Are you more like Chorus? I think I said that name correctly. Sorry. Are you more like Lime? Are you more like Microsoft? Even their navigation bar, here, is used to highlight what you can do with the platform. I love this, and I think I’m gonna actually swipe this and try and use it on clients’ websites. I’ve never seen this done before, where you have a dropdown menu, where it says “solutions” and instead of just the list of services that they have, it says, “Use Amplitude to set product strategy, improve user engagement, optimize conversion, or drive retention.” I think it’s brilliant. Nikki’s correct, Nikki, which you can’t see her comments, she’s saying that this is the bandwagon effect too. This one, where it says all these companies have chosen to use Amplitude. Oh, yeah, sorry. You can see Nikki’s comments.
The most important thing to remember with loss aversion is to reduce friction. Have one goal and one goal only. Ask people to perform one action, one action only, and don’t confuse people with too much information. Let me see … oh, I just … okay, it’s the same one. Okay, so I guess that is the most important thing. As Corey says, KISS, that’s a great … keep it simple, stupid. Probably one of the best advice that you can give someone. The problem, specifically analysis paralysis is usually mentioned around pricing pages. If you are a SaaS company, if you have some sort of pricing plans, that’s where analysis paralysis comes into play. I guess it’s just a matter of simplifying things. I know that it can get super crazy and super confusing when you want and you have many ideas and many options, but when you are reviewing your pricing page, go to your pricing page even right now, look at it and tell me, am I confusing people? Am I making it absolutely super clear to people what pricing plan they can choose?
By the way, using names, I’m just gonna go back here. To using special names for your pricing plans is actually very, very helpful. It helps people identify who they are. Like, express 10, express 40, express 75, or what most companies have, it’s like, free, pro, ultimate, platinum, silver, gold, all of these pricing plans, they give you a sense of what’s more expensive, but they don’t help you choose and segment yourself. When you actually give pricing plans names like growth or enterprise, you’re actually helping people segment themselves and quickly identify what type of plan they should be choosing. That’s another way of kind of getting that done.
Wrapping things up
Those were our three cognitive biases for today as promised. It was super quick. I was going to do it as actionable as possible and as … hold on. Where am I? You can’t see me. I’m back! Hi. As I said, I wanted to quickly cover these three cognitive biases, which are loss aversion, bandwagon effect, and analysis paralysis. Three super simple cognitive biases that you can immediately go into your websites, your emails, and just make sure, am I using them or am I overusing them, or should I be avoiding analysis paralysis? What am I kind of doing that is maybe kind of confusing people or sending people away?
Now, let me see if we have any quick questions, ’cause I think I’ve been answering questions throughout. Vic says, how should we best use colors to help make a decision? That’s actually a very big topic, Vic. When you talk about color psychology, color psychology’s a huge thing, and it has huge impact on our decision making process. We’re going to have a dedicated workshop just about color psychology in a few weeks, but I’ll just say this. With color psychology, the one thing you need to remember is that it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. It’s not just red means this and blue means that, ’cause that’s how usually people simplify color psychology. If you’d like, we have an article on the website where I get into full details about this, how to use color psychology to increase conversions, so that would be …
It’s not like if you have a red color on your page, that’s gonna make people, “I should choose this product!” It just works with the strategy of everything together, so color psychology doesn’t work alone, just like images don’t work alone, cognitive biases don’t work alone, copy doesn’t work alone, everything has to support each other.
What have you seen with conversions on sliders versus typing in amounts?
So, what you’re referring to … Nikki’s referring to the screenshot that I showed you of Hotjar where you can slide and choose how many page views you have. Some companies have you put type in a number and some companies allow you to slide in like Hotjar. I wouldn’t say there’s any universal answer, Nikki, like, what is better, but from my experience, when you ask people to type something in … so, there’s a pro and a con to it.
When you’re asking someone to type in the amount of page views that they have, you’re actually getting people to interact with your page, so you’re getting that foot in the door. We spoke about this a few weeks ago. It’s this technique where you’re, essentially, getting people to take one step, one small step, and then, they’re more likely to take another one. In that aspect, asking people to kind of say, hey, how many page views do you have, and actually typing it in, is getting people active and more prone to take another action. On the other hand, allowing people to slide just kind of helps them process it easily. It’s for those lazy people who don’t really know how many page views they have, or they wanna compare , they wanna know, “Well, right now I have 5000, but I’m gonna reach 10,000, so how much is that gonna cost?”
It really is more about your goals with the pricing page and knowing your audience, which I know is an annoying answer, but if you know that people on the website, the visitors, on your B2B client aren’t that active, they don’t really take too many actions, then it might be a cool thing to do to ask them to enter some sort of number, like page views, or something, or teammates, or whatever it is. If you know that people are not likely to answer, you don’t want them to even do that, you don’t wanna give people an easy way to compare things, then, I’d use the slider. But, as usual, test, test, and test.
Okay, so we have Stephanie, “I love the concrete examples of how different companies are using these tactics. That’s awesome.” Cool. As I promised, this was gonna be super quick, actionable for you guys and that’s it. In 48 hours, we’ll have the video, the transcript, the worksheets, and the slides all uploaded to our vlog so that you will be able to check them out and review them. If you have any questions, then just let me know in the blog. Next week, we are walking into our last week of psychology and persuasion. I’ll introduce the next month of what’s going on. There’s lots of things that are happening. I’m really excited about them. I will email you early next week with next week’s topic. It’s a surprise.
Thank you everyone for attending, for taking time out of your day to learn. I hope this was super helpful. Until I see you next week, stay awesome, have a great weekend or week, and enjoy. See you soon. Bye.
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