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5 Psychological Principles You Can Use To Convert More Website Visitors Into Customers

5 Psychological Principles You Can Use To Convert More Website Visitors Into Customers

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Have you ever made a purchase without wanting to?

Sure. We all have. That’s why “Buyer’s remorse” is such a collective human experience. People buy. Then they wish that hadn’t. Naturally, that leads to regret about the decision to buy in the first place.

Which raises an important question: Why the heck would anyone buy a product when they’re going to feel guilty about it afterward?

The answer is simple: someone or something psychologically influenced them to do so. In fact, that influence was so powerful that they did so when they didn’t even want to.

Now, I’m not recommending that you create a terrible product and try to sell it to people who don’t want to buy it – that can hurt your business in the long run. But there’s a greater implication here. If it’s possible to convince uninterested people to buy your product, then it’s definitely possible to convince interested people at a much higher rate.

The trick lies in understanding the hurdles that your target market needs to jump before buying and then helping them make those leaps.

Here are five psychological principles that will do just that.

1. Priming

Let’s play a game.

Fill in the blank spot on the word next to the pictures below.

Priming for psychological principles

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If you’re like most people, you used the letter “U” to make the word “Soup.”


Because of how the exercise was framed. The pictures are all of other foods – butter, bread, and juice – so it’s only logical to create a word that fits into a similar category.

Still, you could have made two other words with that prompt: “Soap” and “Sopp.”

In fact, if I were to show you the below images instead, what letter would you choose?

priming for soap for psychological principles

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That’s right. “A” for “Soap.”

And yet, nothing changed about the letters themselves. You made a different decision because of the way the decision was framed. In marketing, this is called priming.

Jacob Mcmillen, a professional copywriter and the Head of SEO for Consulting.com, said,

“As a copywriter, priming is a pretty core part of my process. Everyone knows you need to focus your marketing on how the product/service will directly benefit the consumer, but priming takes that concept to the next level. When possible, I like to really trigger people’s emotions related to the challenges a product/service is designed for. We want them actively feeling frustrated, annoyed, or even angry when we present the solution because it’s going to then trigger more positive emotions surrounding the solution.”

In other words, you can prime your website visitors to buy before they even see the CTA button. By preparing the prospect’s brain to be receptive to your solution, you can quickly and easily increase the conversion rate on your website.

Here are a few practical ideas to help out.

  1. Write sales copy that frames the problem before discussing the solution  – Don’t introduce your solution too early. You want prospects to feel the problem before you explain your solution. People are far more likely to buy a solution if they’re in the midst of a problem versus having forgotten what that problem is like. Remind them as best you can.
  2. Introduce a high price before showing the actual price  – If you’re selling your product for $500, first show website visitors that the product is actually worth far more ($2,000 or $4,000, for instance). They’ll get a bit nervous about how much you’re going to charge, but when they see the actual price ($500), they’ll perceive it as much lower than they would have if they hadn’t seen the $2,000 or $4,000 number first.

2. Reciprocity

Robert Cialdini tells a shocking story in his book, Influence, at the beginning of his chapter on reciprocation:
“A few years ago, a university professor tried a little experiment. He sent Christmas cards to a sample of perfect strangers. Although he expected some reaction, the response he received was amazing – holiday cards addressed to him came pouring back from the people who had never met nor heard of him.”

As it turns out, giving a little goes a long way.

Not just because people appreciate it, but because they have a psychological need to return the favor. Clearly, this is a marketing goldmine ready for exploitation on your website.

Ryan Peck, the founder of Care Ultima, credits his success to the rule of reciprocation: “This rule is one of the driving forces of my success. It elevates me above my competition. When everyone is trying to ‘sell,’ I merely provide free value. Part of our human nature is that when we receive a free benefit from someone, we are significantly more likely to return that gift and become a loyal customer.”

So how can you use this principle to convert more visitors on your website?

One of the most common ways is by using lead magnets – whether it be a free eBook, webinar, or downloadable checklist.

For instance, this…

Reciprocity for psychological principles

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Or this…

Reciprocity for how to earn $30, 000 in 7 days for psychological principles

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Or this…

IG for 40 years for psychological principles

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Why are so many marketers giving stuff away for free? Because it pays. When someone downloads one of these resources and you provide honest value for them, they will naturally feel a tug to do business with you once you ask.

After all, you’ve already helped them out, the least they could do is help you out – or so the logic goes.

Here are a few different types of lead magnets you can create to take advantage of the rule of reciprocation.

  1. eBook – It doesn’t have to be nearly as long as a normal book. Aim for 5,000 or 10,000 words, even. Just make sure you provide plenty of value.
  2. Webinar – The big mistake that people make on webinars is not providing enough honest value for their audience. Instead, the whole thing is just a sales pitch. Don’t do that. Start with providing value, and pitch your product at the end.
  3. Podcast – Focus on providing value for your audience. Help them connect with you and learn to trust you. Then, they’ll likely buy from you later.

3. Social Proof

If you’ve ever watched a sitcom and laughed during the show, then you’ve probably been a victim of social proof’s influence on your actions. As Robert Cialdini points out in Influence, that canned laughter is intentionally placed to help the viewer understand what’s funny.

As you and I have both experienced, laughter is contagious. Certain kinds of laughs make us uncontrollably giggle, regardless of how funny the actual content or situation is. This is exactly what sitcom marketers intend to do when they use canned laughter on a show.

Regardless of how funny the show is, these marketers want you to laugh. When you laugh, the show becomes funny, whether there’s a good reason for it or not.

Why? Because other people are laughing, so, your brain thinks, something must be funny about this.

This is only one example of social proof in action. There are, naturally, many different ways to apply this principle to your website’s conversion rate.

It’s less important how you do it and more important that you do. As Katie Melissa, entrepreneur and e-commerce superstar, said when I asked her about this, “On any website, it’s important to establish a major trust factor. Trust is key when influencing people (online or offline) and creating that sense of comfort increases conversions.”

Which is why websites like Carrot put a testimonial at the top of their website.
Social Proof for psychological principles

And it’s why BalingWireDirect put a trust-building credibility bar at the top of their website.

baling Wire Direct for psychological principles

Testimonials and credibility bars alike use the psychological principle of social proof and encourage prospects to purchase by showing them that other people have purchased and been satisfied.

And it’s why WikiJob increased its sales by 34% after changing from this…

Wiki Job for psychological principles

To this…

Wiki Job Testimonials for psychological principles

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Okay – testimonials and canned laughter. But how else can you use social proof to increase the conversion rate on your website?

A few ideas.

  1. Use someone-just-bought notifications – When choosing a restaurant, you want to go where everyone else is going. It must be good if everyone else is going there, right? These social-proof-packed notifications do the same thing for online sales.
  2. Show one of your target market’s influencers on the landing page – Influencers are one of the quickest ways to build trust with your target market. Pay them to endorse your product and put their picture on your landing page in place of the hero image.
  3. Testimonials – We already talked about this. 😉
  4. Case study – Interview some of your best customers and create a blog post or video about their success with your product. This will help prospective customers understand how you can help them in a similar way.

4. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)

Does being in a committed relationship make you more attractive or less attractive to onlookers?

ConversionXL reports on one surprising study. A group of women, split into two groups, were shown a picture of their “dream man.” The first group was told that the man was single, but the second group was told that the man was in a committed relationship.

Then, the women were asked whether they would pursue the man or not.

59% of the first group said they would and a staggering 90% of the second group (those who were told the man was in a relationship) said they would pursue him.


Morals aside, this study reveals something remarkable: people want what they can’t have and they’re afraid to miss out on favorable opportunities.

In fact, this Fear Of Missing Out pattern is so prevalent that dictionary.com has officially defined FOMO as “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”

Why is that important for your website conversion rate?

Because when people are anxious about missing out on a sale or buying opportunity, they’re far more likely to go digging in their wallets.

But how, exactly, can you use FOMO to your advantage when trying to increase your website’s conversion rate?

Well, Dmitriy, the Co-Founder of Influex, recommends,“When creating your email opt-inn headline, list the number of subscribers, then have your best customer testimonials visible right below the opt-in fields. For example, a headline can be: ‘Join 150,000 Subscribers In Downloading The Facebook Profit Playbook’ with 3 testimonials below that verify winning results.”

Here’s a few more ideas:

  1. Use a sales countdown timer.
  2. Show the number of products left in stock.
  3. Limit free shipping to the first “X number of items” purchased.

5. Commitment and Consistency

Robert Cialdini, in Influence, tells the psychological story of people who bet on horse races. It all starts with a struggle to determine which horse to bet on. Should they bet on the up-and-comer or on the tried-and-true? To start, it’s a difficult choice – one that the interviewed gamblers weren’t so confident about.

Up until they actually placed their bet, that is. Once these risk-lovers put money down on a horse, suddenly, confidence in their decision increased exponentially, regardless of the horse they chose to bet on.


Because of a psychological principle termed “Commitment and consistency.” Here’s how Security Through Education explains this phenomenon: “People have a general desire to appear consistent in their behavior.” And for better or worse, “Compliance professionals,” or marketers, “can exploit the desire to be consistent by having someone make an initial, often small, commitment.”

In fact, Shopify recommends using exactly this strategy in their article regarding multi-channel marketing:

“Whether visitors are coming to your site through organic search, social media, or paid advertising – each channel tells a slightly different story. Unfortunately, few sites take advantage of that story by leveraging a psychological principle known as ‘consistency and commitment.’

Rather than treat all visitors the same, you can start building your strategy around identifying customer intent via their traffic source. The best course is to serve up custom content so that a visitor’s first impression aligns with where they came from.”

In other words, people want to be consistent with their past decisions. So, if you help them make a small commitment to you now, they’re far more likely to make a big commitment to you later.

Here’s a few ways you can apply this to your website and its visitors:

  1. Give away a free book but ask for the person to pay shipping on it – This strikes the perfect balance between generosity on your part and building commitment on the prospect’s part. By having them pay shipping, they’ll be more likely to purchase bigger-ticket items from you in a few months.
  2. Ask for the visitors email address – Today, people try to protect their email inboxes from spam religiously. If you get the prospect to enter their email, then that small commitment might be enough to get them to purchase from you later on.
  3. Have several small-step forms during your checkout process – Try starting the buyer’s checkout process with just an email address and name. Then, move them to entering their address. Then, the shipping method. Then, maybe a form that says, “How excited are you to change your life with this [item]?” with a scale of 1-10, or something to that effect. Finally, send them to the payment information page (the most difficult page for people to fill out). The point is to help the potential buyer make small commitments before buying so that they’re more likely to follow through with their purchase in the end.

Wrap up

Sometimes, people buy a product even when they don’t want to.

And they likely do it because one or several of these five psychological principles are at work.

  1. Priming
  2. Reciprocity
  3. Social Proof
  4. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)
  5. Commitment and Consistency

Of course, I’m not saying that you should try and force uninterested people into buying your product. Down the road, that would only hurt your business and destroy trust with buyers.

Instead, use these principles to encourage your target market to convert – the people who would benefit from your product, but might just need a bit more convincing before they do.

Guest author: Mike is a writer for SUCCESS, AdWeek, and Addicted2Success. He’s been quoted on Forbes and Entrepreneur for his expertise in marketing and personal development. He’s also the owner of Get Your Gusto Back where he helps people reignite their inner fire.

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