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4 Psychological Tricks You Can Use To Boost Your Ecommerce Sales

It’s easier than ever to start selling online, with services like Wix and Squarespace enabling even the most tech-averse entrepreneurs to build professional-looking stores in very little time and on minimal budgets — but that’s just the start. After all, everyone else has access to the same convenient services. If you want to stand out, you need to do far more.

Rodney Laws

Guest writer

So once you have your store configured, what’s the best way to boost your sales? Well, you could put some of your investment cash into hiring a team of specialists to pick apart your site design, or enlist the help of an agency — but there’s another option. By digging into psychology, you can find cheaper and more subtle tricks to deploy.

Take a look below for 4 of our favorite psychological tricks you can use to supercharge your store’s sales (without spending a fortune in the process!).

Exploit the left-digit effect

In the previous example about upselling, we asked our imaginary shopper to spend an extra $5.99 on a screen protector. Why price our goods in such a way? You may have heard people speculate about the original reasoning behind it, with some contending that dipping below round currency numbers was done to force store assistants to open the tills and record the transactions — but why is it useful to us now?

Well, popping a ‘.99’ on the end of a price tag is known to induce what’s called the ‘left-digit effect’. When a shopper spots the pricing, their attention will ‘anchor’ to the initial 5 rather than the following ‘.99’. It’s barely different from simply charging $6, so it won’t meaningfully impact your ROI, but it can have a surprisingly-potent effect on your sales.

Keep in mind that this tactic gets more effective when you’re offering expensive items while still managing to change the left digit. If you’re looking to discount a $250 item, for instance, finding a justification to hit the $200 mark will allow you to offer it for $199.99, making the discount feel more significant and ephemeral.

Lean heavily on social proof

It’s one thing to promote your own product, but shoppers will only value your word so much due to your obvious bias. If you want them to trust in the copy you’re providing, you need to turn at least some of it over to people who lack your bias: specifically previous customers. By making room on your store for positive quotes from your contented customers, you can offer a compelling reason for a stranger to put their faith in your business.

And while those testimonials won’t collect themselves, you can prompt and motivate them fairly easily. Just create an email template requesting a review and offering an incentive of some kind (perhaps a 10% discount voucher) and use it to efficiently contact everyone who’s purchased from you. Not everyone will bite, but enough will for it to make a difference.

You can use the feedback to inform other elements of your site, too, from website layout to new product suggestions. After all, it helps you understand entire customer journeys instead of just small snippets. Ecommerce expert Guido Jansen uses a background in cognitive psychology to bolster sales, and had this to say during a 2019 interview with Cloudways:

“Adding user feedback […] tells you WHY people are behaving that way, which makes it much easier to interpret the data, and not only optimize for short-term behavior, but also for long-term engagement with your website.”

Factor in the ease with which modern frameworks (particularly open source ecommerce platforms) allow for integration with services like Trustpilot, and you can create a slick pipeline for gathering vital social proof. Be sure to place your reviews near your CTAs for maximum impact, though: there’s no point in having glowing reviews if they’re missed.

Offer upsells for big purchases

Are you familiar with the old saying of “in for a penny, in for a pound”? It essentially means this: if you’ve already invested somewhat in a particular endeavor, you might as well invest more to see it through. It’s certainly relevant here, but we can better speak to the truth of the matter by slightly tweaking it. In for a pound, in for another penny. It’s all to do with the power of upselling — and if you’re not familiar, Groove has an excellent guide.

Imagine you’re going through the checkout process for a gaming laptop priced at $1000. As you reach the final stage of payment, the site asks if you’d like to add a screen protector for an additional $5.99. Are you tempted? Most likely yes. The process of browsing, selecting your chosen laptop and taking the last few steps to complete the purchase has solidified your commitment to paying $1000 — and $5.99 is a miniscule sum compared to that. 

In another scenario, $5.99 might seem like a good amount of money, but in this case you’ve psychologically adjusted to the price of your laptop. What’s the difference between $1000 and $1005.99? Barely anything. You may not previously have considered getting a screen protector, but laptop screens are easily damaged, and you have a $1000 investment to protect. $5.99 for a little peace of mind is a fine deal.

In summation, once someone has already allocated a big budget for a purchase, you can easily tempt them to spend slightly more for accessories or even upgrades. Turning back won’t feel like an option, and nor will resolving that their order just isn’t worth a little extra. If you’re going to use this trick, be sure to offer relevant products only. An extra charging cable for a smartphone, for instance, or a bottle of cleaning solution for a pair of expensive shoes.

Tactfully deploy product comparisons

Let’s say you run an ecommerce store specialising in clothing and accessories and you’re stocking two pairs of sunglasses: a premium pair and a ‘budget’ option. Your target shoppers are squarely in the middle of the wealth bracket. What will they prefer? Well, though eyewear can draw in the style-obsessed, sunglasses are chiefly practical purchases for most people.

In all likelihood, more people will opt for the ‘budget’ sunglasses. Why? Because the contrast of the two options positions one as premium, making it sound expensive, and most people are reluctant to buy things that seem expensive outside of rare occasions. Besides, it’s tough to sell the appeal of a premium product online, as shoppers can’t trial it.

But what if you add a third option? One that’s substantially more expensive than the ‘budget’ pair but also notably less expensive than the premium pair? If you present it correctly, and ideally make it at last slightly closer to the ‘budget’ pair than the premium pair, you can make it the clear winner. People don’t feel drawn in by ‘budget’ items, but they also don’t want to overpay. Something in-between is the way to go.

And with a premium pair there to offer a point of pricing comparison, you can get away with making the mid-range sunglasses extremely profitable. You don’t actually need to sell any of the premium sunglasses, so you can ramp up the pricetag to a point of absurdity in an effort to make every lesser price feel more acceptable. Research strongly suggests that people favour centrally-placed items, so make sure you use this to your advantage!

Each of these tips is a tried-and-tested tactic, but the human mind is complex, so test them extensively and tweak them as needed to get them working for your unique audience. Need more visitors to your site? Check out our tricks to attract people to your ecommerce store using digital advertising.

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