How to Turn Users into Customers with Reciprocity

The article was originally published on The Rectangles Blog

Have you ever been reliant only on yourself for a longer period of time? Probably not. I would even risk a statement that none of us have experienced the state of being completely alone for, let’s say, longer than a couple of days. We’re social animals and we need other people to live, it’s our nature. Throughout our whole lives we depend on others: their protection, experience, knowledge, and help as much as they depend on ours. Such mutual dependence is called reciprocity and it’s extremely powerful factor influencing people’s behavior.

Online Favors

Reciprocity may be used online to accelerate users’ behaviors toward a particular goal.How does reciprocity work? Recall a situation when someone gave you a favor. Not only were you grateful but you also felt obliged to return the favor. This feeling of obligation can be a strong drive and can be used to motivate people to certain actions. Reciprocity may be used online to accelerate users’ behaviors toward a particular goal. Online favors may be done in many different ways: offering useful and easily accessible information, teaching something new during the interaction with the website, giving freebies in the form of trials, e-books or access to software. All such favors leave users grateful and as a result may prompt them to certain actions.

By offering your website vistiors a favor, you make a big step toward turning them into customers. Below you can find three ways how to make use of the power of reciprocity.

Help to Achieve a Goal

This is what UX design is all about — allowing users to easily achieve their goals. Any kind of information that will facilitate fulfilling users’ goals may be perceived as a favor. Showing users at the very beginning of their journeys the trend of putting unique value proposition in the above-the-fold section of the website is so useful.

Above the fold section quickly explains users what services they can expect

When the user knows that he or she is in the right place, their next step is to learn more about a product, service or organization. How to describe it? How to explain everything precisely? Human mind thinks in pictures, that’s why the more visually appealing the explanation is, the better. Using icons together with written information to show how things work is a good idea. Also, more and more popular are short videos with a voice-over. When a product is really complex and using it requires a specific step-by-step actions from the user — video is the best solution.

To depict its products, Intercom uses funny graphics that make users understand everything quickly.

Showing users easy access to all the information they may need before making a decision of, let’s say, purchasing is a favor that will profit quickly.

Teach Something

Think about the users’ needs and write content that will teach them something valuable.People are naturally curious, they want and like new information. This desire motivates exploratory behaviors. The acquisition of new information is therefore a reward that makes us feel good. Since helping users to gain new information may be perceived as a favor, sharing valuable content is always a good idea. Unfortunately, plenty of businesses produce content that is so focused on promotion of their product or service that the readers may start thinking that the article they are reading is directly aimed at selling. It would be better to think about the users’ needs and write content that will teach them something valuable. For example, articles containing useful tips from someone who is a professional in their field. Such pieces of information may be immediately used by a reader making him or her a grateful favor-taker.

Another idea could be sharing information about the company itself. Potential customer who can read about the team, culture and procedures behind a product would feel more familiarized with your company. As a result, it will increase trust and the heighten the chance that the user will become a customer. Let’s take Buffer as an example, the team shares articles about how their work and build company culture. By reading such content, user not only gets to know the team better but can also make use of their ideas.

Buffer is sharing information about the company.

Give a Take-away

An easy way of turning users into customer is giving take-aways. Take-aways can be simple step-by-step manuals, materials, leaflets or tools. Very popular thing now is using free trials which also serve as take-aways. The problem is that people are so used to them that they no longer consider them as favors. They became obligatory from the users’ point of view. In order to take advantage of reciprocity in this case the free trial needs to have special feature, for instance, only the time a user actually uses the software counts as a trial. A great example here is Ulysess, an app for writers that offers free trial for 14 days — and it counts only the time when the user is actually writing.

Ulysses, an app for writers, is available as a free trial for 14 days.


There are many ways to turn users into customers — taking advantage of reciprocity is one of them. Focus on your users: help them, teach them and offer something for free. As a result, the chance they will return your favors and choose your company instead of competitors is very likely to increase.