Psychology Your Way Into Sales

It’s no surprise that humans react in odd and irrational ways, particularly when it comes to spending money. To that end, Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions, offers many insightful lessons into the quirky (and largely predictable) human psyche. And in turn, these lessons may help web businesses shape their image and behaviors in order to garner as many sales as possible and become a successful online destination. Here are some important aspects of online sales tactics to consider when running an e-commerce or service-oriented business:

It turns out Einstein knew what he was talking about—relativity does matter. Although this kind of relativity isn’t exactly what the theoretical physicist had in mind, there is something to be said for comparing your products to others. When products are offered in a standard and deluxe version, the standard version suddenly looks like a bargain and tends to sell. Create instant price comparisons on your site, and people are less likely to leave the site to shop around.

Products are often viewed as high end, designer, or desirable simply because the brand itself has taken on that appeal. This doesn’t mean you can generate that kind of buzz by selling a shoddy product, but it does mean that when you pay $1200 for a cardigan, you’re paying for a lot more than cost of materials plus time. If you position your brand alongside premium competitors, you have a better chance of accruing the same position in your customers’ minds. And this opens the door to charging “premium” prices.

There’s nothing like the word “free” to drive people into a frenzy. Also, free items often take on a greater significance just by virtue of being free. Think back to all the inexplicable pushing and shoving that occurs at sporting events when a plain cotton tee with an ironed-on logo gets shot into a crowd by a t-shirt gun wielding mascot. Logically, nobody should care. But they do. Use these kinds of free incentives to gain traffic, web surveys, ad views, mailing lists, and more. Also, don’t underestimate the power of a free token to sway people that can influence your brand appeal such as bloggers, dissatisfied customers, and others.

Don’t forget this very simple principle: people value what they own or have worked for. For this reason, free items can be a great tool, but there are also cautions to consider. Customers who receive a service or item for free might start to associate that product with a low value. So make sure “free” doesn’t deteriorate into “worthless.” Also keep in mind that it is much easier to keep customers than hook new ones. So don’t forget to show your appreciation to existing customers. They’re the most likely candidates for more purchases.

Limitations can actually be a good thing, especially when placed on customers. If your customers feel like they only have a few, simple decisions to make, they become more likely to commit. This applies to navigation options and options within your pages.

People can’t help but believe what they’re told. As much as we fight it, if we’re set up to expect something, we have a hard time breaking those established expectations. Capitalize on this by creating the most positive branding possible. If people come to expect quality and value from your product, they’re more likely to believe that’s what they’ve received when they purchase.

Everyone knows price is important. But lots of people don’t realize that lower doesn’t always equal better. Again, it ties back to perception. If people find your prices too low, they might begin to believe your product is too good to be true. In non-euphemism terms, they will think you’re selling junk. Counterintuitive as it might seem, raise your prices (within reason), and see the sales.

Psychology and marketing have always gone hand-in-hand, and online marketing is no exception. So consider brushing off your psych 101 textbook, and you might just reap some sales in return.


  • Chris Moran

    Nice writing style. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

  • Sarah Crowley

    This article was super informative and extra amazing. You really hit the nail on the head. Your committment, skill, and passion never fails to come through in your writing!

  • Liz Herrin

    Chris–Thanks so much for reading! And make sure to keep your eyes open. There’s certainly more articles on the way.


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