At Snow Commerce, we strive to lead our clients down a path to success. For most clients, this means helping them build or redesign a new eCommerce website.  Mobile-friendly, responsive, fast-loading, safe, user friendly; these are all terms that we focus on as we build the foundation for the online business to grow. While building a website that matches all of the criteria previously mentioned is our goal, the success of each online business inevitably relies on  something else. In order to be successful in the eCommerce world, we have to be able to turn website visitors into website purchasers. No matter how well-designed, how fast, or how safe your website is, you can only be successful if you are able to turn those visitors to your site into customers.

After a website is built, tested, and live, the next step is driving traffic. This is where my role comes in as the Digital Marketing Manager of Snow Commerce. How can we launch and utilize the various channels available to us to drive interested consumers to the website and lead them down a path to conversion? Having been in this role for some time now, there is one thing I am starting to notice and which I believe we need to take a step back and really think about.

Whether a brand is new or well-established, the task that I am given most often is to ‘drive traffic’; everyone is interested in traffic and I know there is valid reasoning for this. Websites can’t make sales without traffic, you can’t test the usability of your new site without visitors accessing the site, and not every visitor will convert, so you need to hit certain levels of traffic. But there is a key metric in ecommerce that is also very important: Conversion Rate. The average conversion rate for an eCommerce website is 2-3%!  In the United States, the average conversion rate for Q4 2016 was 2.97%. In Q1 of 2017 it was 2.46%. This is where I think improvements and optimizations can still be made and continually improved upon. Rather than always focusing on bringing the number of visitors up, what if we continually raised the conversion rate? No longer would it be a marketing budget game, but instead make your same marketing budget much more valuable by converting not 2-3%, but 4-5%. When a business is doing hundreds of thousands in sales per month, just 1-2% of increase in conversion is substantial without changing the amount spent on marketing.

The next logical question is how do we start to raise the conversion rate? This can be done to an extent through website functionality (landing pages, speed of site, minimizing clicks to purchase, etc). This can also be done by better understanding why and how a visitor is making a purchase and capitalizing on the understanding of their purchasing behavior. This is where my focus is rooted. It is not a new theory or a new strategy that has come about in the digital age of eCommerce. These principles have been researched and tested for years in a variety of settings. They are more psychological behaviors than they are ‘digital tricks’. We will call these behaviors the ‘Triggers of Influence’ as originally coined by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence, published in 1984.

Cialdini is a professor of psychology and marketing and has researched these behaviors and condensed them into a book for us to study and implement. He has laid out 6 ways to get people to purchase what you are selling:

● Reciprocity

● Commitment & Consistency

● Liking

● Authority

● Social Proof

● Scarcity

These 6 triggers help influence a consumer as they interact with your brand and your products. These triggers should be discussed and implemented into your website and marketing strategies as often as possible to get more sales and customers. Now we will take a look into how each trigger can be used to improve your site and start increasing your conversion rates.

1. Reciprocity:

Reciprocity is the principle that when someone gives us something, we feel compelled to give them something in return. This is currently used in a variety of ways. You may see it when you’re at a local grocery store and they are giving out samples of food and you feel obligated to purchase the item.

This same principle is used with online retailers. Some offer a deal like a free gift with purchase. The customer feels as if they are getting something for free from your company and will entice them to make the purchase or come back for a second purchase at a later time.

The free gift mustn’t always be physical. Many online retailers will offer free content. Not only does this help from an SEO perspective, but visitors to your site are able to consume this content for free and feel as if you have given them a ‘gift’ of free information.

Whether it’s a small add-on item, a style guide or just information on your brand, product or market, use the principle of reciprocity to help convert customers on your online store.

2. Commitment & Consistency

The principle of commitment & consistency states that people will go to great lengths to appear consistent in their words and actions, even to the extent of doing irrational things.

You have probably seen this theory in the form of social posts around weight-loss or diets. People will state their goals or beliefs publicly and once they do this they have more incentive to keep up this appearance or belief.

As an eCommerce website, an easy way to implement this principle is by getting a visitor make a smaller commitment (newsletter signup, free trial) initially rather than only pushing a purchase.

Companies with incredibly easy return policies see the effects of this as well. There is less friction for the customer to buy because they know the ease of which they can return the item if they do not like it. But once a customer has the product it isn’t very likely they will return it.

3. Liking

The principle of liking says that we are more likely to say yes if we feel a connection to the person or company asking. This is why most people asking for donations or giving out samples are smiling and want to appear friendly. This is also why companies use celebrity endorsements. An individual who appreciates or respects the celebrity will have a better connection with the company being represented.

There are many ways that liking can be used as a trigger for your store.

Use believable models: If you are selling clothes, jewelry or accessories, using models that your customer base will relate to and match your products allows them to envision themselves in the products. Check out for a good example of this.

Social Links: being that individuals now spend so much time on social media, some of their most trusted advisors and salespeople are their friends or peers. People are more likely to purchase something if it is recommended by someone they know. Having a social page on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and more allow customers to share your brand or website with their friends and act as salespeople online. This links can be implemented on your site, next to your product on the product pages, and throughout checkout.

Telling your story: having a strong brand story including background, pictures, personality and goals that represent what your customer will like. This is done well here:

Displaying what others are buying: Showing on your website what other people are purchasing gives shoppers a feeling of validation and connectivity. Like seeing a shirt or pair of shoes on someone in the street that drives the sensation of wanting the same item.

4. Authority

One example of the Authority principle is the Milgram Experiments. In these experiments, volunteers were tasked to deliver what they believed were incredibly painful electric shocks to unseen objects, even when they could hear screams of pain (fake) in the background. The presence of a man in a lab coat telling them to continue was enough to earn the compliance of the volunteers and they continued. This helped show that people are naturally inclined to respond to the appearance of authority.

Now how does this apply to eCommerce? By using an authority figure in your story or message. If you sell in the medical or scientific field, using content associated to professionals with credentials or having credible brand reps.

To pair this theory with content, you can create a ‘Staff Picks’ or ‘Expert Picks’ curation of products or a list that the consumers can look through. They will think these have been put together by somebody who has expertise over the product.

5. Social Proof

The social proof principle is connected to the liking principle. As digitally social as most people are, we tend to like things that people we know like without actually understanding them.  Anything that shows popularity of your site, validation of your product or awards can trigger a response. Use quotes from customers that have reached out to you, feature your good reviews share your press releases and write ups.

Another manifestation of this on eCommerce sites is the use of most popular or best seller pages. When consumers land on your page they have a place to check out what other users purchase most from your company and can see what the most popular items are.  This is one of the biggest factors on Amazon. Reviews on products affect the ranking and the conversion rate as shoppers use these for proof and validation of products before purchasing.

6. Scarcity

The final principle is scarcity. This states that people are motivated by the thought that they may miss out on something or that it will only be available for a limited time. Ways in which this can be used online are:

Deadlines for sales: using tools like a countdown for your on-site sale let the consumer know that this deal will be gone soon and the low prices will become unavailable.

Impending Out of Stock notifications: Only 3 left! These create urgency that if the customer doesn’t buy now they may miss out.

Seasonal or limited: marketing promotions ran by companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks show this. Peppermint shakes only available for 2 months. Pumpkin Spice lattes only in the Fall.

These deals drive urgency to purchase while available.

These 6 triggers of influence offer additional ways to impact the consumers behavior and interactions on your website, hopefully increasing the conversion rates and improving sales!

Posted By: Nick Watkins