CRO: The Art Of Driving Decisions Pt.2
Removing the pressure of choice Pt.2
As discussed in the first part of this post, Conversion Rate Optimisation programmes generally succeed (or fail!) based on their ability to drive the right decisions from a visitor. And in order to make decisions, visitors need to be provided with the right information in the right format at the right time. Last time, we covered some of the fundamentals of decision-making and then introduced the Conversion Flow model in its capacity to aid the critique of your current methods of driving decisions.
The second part of this post will now seek to provide some concrete examples of how your visitors’ decision-making processes can be influenced. Each of the concepts below will almost certainly be familiar to you, and may even exist as part of your website already, but the importance of this post is in linking last week’s theories with this week’s practical example. This way, you can ensure that you are using each of these facets as they were originally conceived to influence decision-making, rather than assuming that their mere presence will increase conversion!
“Sign-posting” is just an industry term meaning “let people know what’s going to happen they do [insert action].” And while that may sound obvious, it is one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of influencing decision-making.
If you think back to the very first fundamental of decision-making from Pt.1, we determined that almost every person’s default answer is “No”; in the absence of the right information, your visitors will decline to do anything. So where does sign-posting come into this?
Consider an everyday situation; a friend you haven’t seen in some time gets in touch and says that they’d love to meet up for a drink after work and catch up. That sounds like an attractive offer to you in principle, but of course, you need to get more details in order to make a reasoned decision. So you ask what date, what time and what location; your friend then declines to provide this information and just repeatedly asks you if you’re going to meet them or not. This is, of course, a catch-up that will never happen — in the absence of essential information, you would not be able to make a decision and therefore not meet up.
Now that may sound like an extreme example, but if you shift the context to the dialogue between a website and a visitor, it actually isn’t as outlandish as it first appears:
A well-targeted ad pops up while you’re browsing Facebook and says it’d love to show you how you could buy a pair of designer shoes for half the RRP. That sounds like an attractive offer in principle once again, but of course, you need more details in order to make a reasoned decision. So you click on the ad and land on the website for those designer shoes. But you quickly notice that the CTAs just have icons that you don’t understand, so you don’t know what’ll happen when you click on them. There’s no progress bar in the checkout process so you’ve no idea how long it is. Once you’ve managed to find the returns policy, you couldn’t work out how to get back to the Basket page. And to top it all off, when you go to close the browser tab, a pop-up appears asking you if you still want to buy those shoes.
If you want to effectively drive positive decisions from your visitors, make sure they understand what will happen with each decision they take. A lack of surprises will build their confidence in the decisions that they are making and by the time they reach the final decision to submit their payment details, it’ll be an easy sell.
Social proof is one of the most commonly-utilised methods of influencing decision-making, but also one of the least understood. At its heart, social proof is about providing a third-party context to your products or services. So instead of your brand speaking about the quality of its products, that opinion comes from an external source. But understanding the effect of social proof on the fundamentals of decision-making is vital to making the best use of it.
In Pt.1, we established that the fear of making an incorrect decision is a stronger driver than the desire to make a correct decision. As such, to effectively drive decisions, it could be claimed that it is more important to allay fears than it is to promote benefits. And it is to this fear of blame, this fear of responsibility, that social proof should be used.
Social proof comes in two different varieties; expert & democratic. Expert social proof utilises the name or logo of a well-known and respected industry commentator to confer their credibility to your product. A common example of this is on movie posters where they show the star ratings from popular industry magazines such as Empire or TotalFilm. Democratic social proof, on the other hand, represents the opinion of the masses, the “people like you” and has even become an entire business model for some companies, most notably TripAdvisor.
But how does this link back to the fear of a wrong decision? Think about the consequences of that decision; assuming that any financial impact is immaterial at this stage, the person making the decision doesn’t want to be blamed for it if it goes wrong. Because with blame comes distrust, and with distrust comes isolation and everything primaeval about the human condition requires interaction with other humans. And so to avoid taking the blame, we assign responsibility for the purchase to either the experts who spoke positively about the product or to the “people like us” who gave it good reviews. Problem solved.
So when positioning your social proof whether at a business-wide level or a product/service level, think first about how it can reassign blame if necessary. And that should help to assume the responsibility for the decision on behalf of your visitors, leaving them carefree and loose with cash!
Like social proof, price comparison offers another means to alleviating the “fear of wrong” and in this case, more specifically the fear of missing out. Again, similar to social proof, large industries have built up around this concept (think MoneySuperMarket, comparethemarket.com, etc.), such is its power over the way we make decisions.
The first thing to note with price comparison in influencing decisions is that it has to fit with the way your business competes with others. If you don’t compete on price, then this may not be an effective tool for you; for price comparison to be effective, it requires your visitors to be price elastic, meaning that a change in price has a significant effect on demand.
Next, your business must be in a market with vanilla products; this tends to come hand in hand with price elasticity anyway, as the greater the number of viable substitute products, the greater the price elasticity tends to be. But in order to utilise the power of price comparison, the prices you are comparing must be for genuinely equivalent products.
And finally, you must be ready to put in the leg-work to make the comparisons accurate and state when they were last updated clearly. This will not only give your visitors confidence in your comparison, but it will also help you to avoid getting any complaints from your competitors through a regulatory body!
But why do all of this in the first place? Because a price-elastic market means that price is a principle decision-making factor; because the products are genuine substitutes, why pay more if you don’t have to? This means that visitors are likely to go to one or more of your competitors to check out their pricing too, and you may never see them again — once they’re on your site, you need to keep them there as much as possible. So by taking the responsibility for comparing the prices for them (and assuming you are cheapest of course!), you are pulling hard on the “fear of wrong” lever and removing one of the biggest decision-making barriers in the business.
Unique Selling Points (USPs)
Now we all know that “USPs” are rarely ever “unique” these days, but the TLA has just stuck, so we all use it! But despite the general lack of uniqueness, USPs can still be an effective means of driving positive decisions. And where they are often most effective is when they are used to influence the balance of trade.
As discussed in Pt.1, the logical thought-process of decision-making can be seen as a balance of trade. And in non-financial decisions, this is a balance struck between a visitor’s time and their perceived value of the action in question; and that action will only take place if the perceived value is higher or equal to the time/effort involved in undertaking it.
Where USPs come in is that they can help a visitor to feel that the perceived value of transacting with your business is actually greater than they first anticipated. A common example of a USP could be free delivery, or next-day delivery, both of which could help to raise that perceived value in a visitor’s mind. And if you can raise that value, you’ve essentially bought yourself a little more time to convince that visitor to complete their transaction with you.
The emphasis on information security in the decision-making process is well-founded. But as with other factors that we’ve looked at, the importance is in understanding the underlying decision-making fundamental that makes it so vital.
As we asserted in Pt.1, the vast majority of human beings have a default answer of “No”; if they don’t feel like they have the information necessary to make a reasoned judgement, they will decline to proceed. Accepting this means that you should stop believing that every visitor who comes to your site is looking for a reason to buy, and start thinking that every visitor who comes to your site is looking for a reason not to! And this is particularly important when security is involved.
Concerns about the security of a website are almost always a show-stopper. At the smallest sign of questionable security, the tab gets closed, and an alternative is sought. And the biggest mistake made is to assume that security messaging is something that is only important when a visitor reaches the stage of their journey where they need to input information.
The narrative of “we’re safe & secure” need only be a secondary one throughout the site, but it should be there. Remember that visitors are looking for a reason not to buy and that security is the ultimate reason not to do so, and weave little nuggets about how you protect your customers’ data throughout the purchase process. Visitors will pick up on them, even if only subconsciously, and by the time they reach a data entry point, they will be feeling the reassuring glow of safety.
Our final instrument of decision-driving is the triggered discount, and it is particularly powerful because it leans hard on two of fundamentals we covered in Pt.1. At its most basic level, a triggered discount offers a financial incentive to a visitor if they complete their transaction. Often they are used when a visitor looks like they are about to deviate from the usual purchase path, such as showing intent to leave the site.
As with some of our other techniques, entire businesses such as Yieldify have been built on the principle of triggered discounting and at the centre of its success are two of the fundamentals of decision-making; the balance of trade & the fear of missing out.
If you assume that a visitor was making a negative step prior to the triggering of the discount, the next assumption has to be that they felt that the overall balance of trade was not in their favour. But by offering to reduce the basket value by 10% for example, the visitor may now feel that the balance has now been tipped in their favour. And as long as security wasn’t their overriding concern, there is a strong possibility that the visitor will continue.
And if the balance of trade wasn’t enough on its own, triggered discounting also plays on the fear of missing out. When used most effectively, the discounts are only valid if a visitor completes the transaction within the same session. This means that a visitor who may have been about to abandon their basket is now faced with a refreshed balance of trade and a limited-time financial incentive that they cannot help but feel like it shouldn’t be passed up.
Driving effective, positive decisions from your visitors can be achieved by applying the techniques above, but to separate yourself from the crowd, you need to consider the fundamentals of decision-making that underpin them. In the same way that a cape and Y-fronts don’t make you Superman, some 4-star reviews and a couple of padlock icons won’t make you a Conversion Rate Optimisation guru. But accepting that your job is to drive decisions, understanding that the core components of decision-making will help you to drive them, and applying the techniques above through the lens of those fundamentals just might.