Who doesn’t want to increase their site’s conversion rate?
But here is the challenge.
Conversion rate optimization, unlike many other marketing techniques, cannot be scaled the way content marketing and SEO can.
Because it requires you to understand your customer and their frame of mind when making a purchase online. To optimize conversion rates, persuasion needs to be introduced in both design and copy to win the hearts and minds of customers.
This is where neuroscience, especially cognitive neuroscience comes in. Cognitive neuroscience is a branch of neuroscience and is the study of how the brain acts and reacts to different cognitive factors including memories, emotions and thoughts.
Here are few ways in which neuroscience principles can be applied to your business to increase conversion rates.
1. Use the desire to be in a tribe
Humans have a neurochemical survival drive to feel connected to others. Therefore creating a sense of belonging is effective in increasing conversions. Research suggests it is more effective to focus on one or two demographics directly rather than a broad all-encompassing demographic. In other words, it is more useful to be categorical rather than general.
Take for example Apple ads like this one.
The focus is on people, mocking PC users while portraying Apple users in a positive way. The ad itself has little product information.
Patagonia is another example of a brand effectively using of this concept. Patagonia utilized their key demographic’s concern for the environment by promoting their contributions to environmental sustainability campaigns on their website. This was done to appeal to its target consumer through creating a sense of connection, and they tripled their profits partially by utilizing the idea that people felt tied to a group cause when making a purchase.
37Signals found that adding an image of a human in the background of their Highrise product page increased their rate of signups over a hundred percent. Using an image of a human works better than using a white background as the brain instinctively recognizes and makes a connection to a fellow human being.
● Use images of people that your desired audience can relate to.
● Tap into the values that your desired audience holds in common with you and consider championing them.
2. Reduce the number of options
Large lists of products can significantly reduce conversions.
Because the overwhelm will cause them not to make a decision and lead to inaction. The principle behind this is called ‘processing fluency’. The principle essentially refers to the ease with which information is processed. We are therefore more inclined to action when the decision-making process is limited to fewer options or possible choices.
The Sims3 team tested their original value proposition which offered a number of options and discounts against a single proposition which emphasized a free offer. The improved and simplified value offer boosted registrations by over 100%. This A/B test shows that the principle of simplifying a number of options works better than overwhelming the brain with a number of offers.
● Group large amounts of information thematically and in a hierarchy so people can easily determine what next steps to take
● Try grouping information by color or shape.
3. Use relevant images
Neuroscience suggests that more of the brain is naturally committed to processing visual data over text. Apple for example uses this principle to great effect on their website like they do for their iPhone6.
Using photos that are directly related to encouraging conversion is beneficial, but photos that are indirectly related or distracting can negatively impact conversions, even if the web page features strong text. Video use should also be limited, and again be directly related to the call to action. For example, a surf wear company would be benefitted more by featuring photos of their actual clothing rather than photos of a beach.
Hawk Host ran A/B testing on their homepage. The first homepage featured a globe while the second featured a padlock. The use of a relevant image resonated with the brain’s natural commitment to process visual data over text. In other words, using an image that accurately reflected the company’s services or products conveyed the message more effectively to its target clients. Hawk Host reported a double to triple increase in conversion when the relevant image of a padlock was used on their homepage.
● People are hardwired to respond to faces, so use images of people where applicable.
● Images and motion capture attention and help people digest information quickly so use visual hierarchy to help your audience digest key information and to help them take the next step.
4. Use visual processing order
It is important to consider the order with which we naturally process information. Studies show we are wired to pay attention to motion first, graphics/photos second, and text and words last.
This can be utilized to design every portion of the online experience to guide the user to what we wish them to view. For example, users will fail to notice text if the images are too strong, and motion can either be used to detract or attract attention to an element of a web experience.
A suggestion via neuroscientific principles would be not to feature banners that change rapidly if this has the potential to distract from other more important items on the page, as they would get ignored by the potential consumer.
Zen Windows had a complicated and text-based website design which featured several of the firm’s services and offerings.
The new design featured an improved design flow and choice process which made it easy for clients to navigate the website.
The new site outlined choices and guided the brain through the selection process. It also made use of images to tap into the brain’s preference for processing visual data over large portions of text. As a result, Zen Window’s conversion rate jumped from .75% to 2.95%.
● Consider how you represent video on your site and experiment with different options to find out what works best for your audience
● For e-commerce sites use collages of category level static images that reveal the diversity in the category as opposed to sliders that can take up your screen real estate.
5. Use the right colors
Research indicates that humans may be hardwired for certain color hues which in turn affect their emotions. In fact, Patricia Valdez and Albert Mehrabian from UCLA studied the effect of different colors on emotional responses and found distinct reactions to different colors.
According to neuroscientist Benvil Conway, there are ‘globs’ of specialized brain cells that detect colors. He and his collaborators found that the largest neuron cluster in the brain is devoted to recognizing red, followed by green, blue, and then yellow.
Performable ran an A/B test on their homepage using a red button and a green button featuring the same words ‘Get Started Now!’ The result was that the red button outperformed the green one by over 20%.
An airline company based in the UK (BMI), found that using a red background on their CTA with the text “Hurry! Only XX seats left” increased conversions by 2.5 percent. Again, the color red generates the quickest reaction from the human brain more than any color. Furthermore, it signals urgency across many cultures. Pairing the color red with a message of immediacy and urgency (‘Hurry!’) evokes a strong emotional response in customers and urges them to action.
● Choose and test colors that coordinate well with the message to increase the conversion rate of landing pages.
● Use studies like that of Performable as a guide to choosing the right colors for your calls to action but be sure to test your hypotheses.
6. Strategically deploy symbols of authority
A cognitive bias that sites can leverage is the mere-association tendency. It is a bias that causes people to be easily manipulated by mere association with people, quality of products, advertising, etc. This also ties into positive emotional experiences.
This particular aspect of how neuroscience affects conversion is sometimes referred to as emotional equity, or the idea that if a website or online experience creates a positive emotional feeling in the user, they will feel invested in it. They will return to the same website or e-commerce site and are more likely to purchase instead of just browsing as they feel connected.
Websites should aim to create a “feel good” experience to increase conversions. Take for example Oriental Furniture.
Oriental Furniture ran an A/B test on their site to see whether featuring a Buy Safe seal would increase conversions. They found that the page which had the security seal increased conversion rate by 7.6% compared to the control which lacked the seal. The seal was key to evoking a positive emotional response from visitors.
As shopping in E-commerce sites (a virtual environment) presents an element of risk, companies should work on providing assurance and building trust with their clients (like with the seal on the checkout page in the image below) – all positive emotional experiences.
● Survey your customers to gain insights into their reactions and thoughts about their experience.
● Keep an eye on customer service questions and requests to ensure that the customer experience is simple, builds trust and provides a positive experience.
● Conduct reviews and evaluations on how each step of the customer experience adds value to them.
7. Address their pain
According to a study by Forrester Research –
“Many online consumers want help from a live person while they are shopping online; in fact, 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a Web site can offer.”
Why is this?
Because live chat helps address a person’s pain at the time, they need it the most. Conversion rates based on live chat alone vary across industries. However, studies show that it could have a beneficial impact. Take Intuit for example.
Intuit used proactive chat to ramp up their product comparison page’s conversion rate to an impressive 211%. Adding a Live chat to their checkout process also increased the average of their order value by 43%.
Again, the brain recognizes and responds to a human connection better than to a machine or artificial intelligence. Also, adding a live chat provided a sense of assurance that somebody is at hand if the client had any questions or concerns. The image of a live chat box also conveys the message of proactive communication.
● Use live chat to get feedback on the overall user experience.
● Engage customers in real time to find out what features are important to them and what prevents them from signing up.
● Use the transcripts of conversations via tools like live chat to provide data that inform customer service and conversion optimization improvements.
8. Create a novel experience
Our brains are wired to seek novel experiences and variety, so one key to sustaining conversion is to shift elements of a web experience. This could be something as simple as having a page that features different types of photos or text, or changing the format regularly enough to keep return visitors engaged.
Vidyard watched the email signups for their alpha product rocket to 100% more when they put in an animated explainer on their website. The video featured a demo animation of their alpha product along with a voice over. The element of novelty clearly tapped into the brain’s attraction to variety. Vidyard changed the elements of their clients’ web experience, and as a result improved their conversion rate. The animated explainer also induced a halo effect in that it gave clients a deeper comprehension of the product that reduced their hesitancy to register.
Uncommon Knowledge experimented with their website design for a product launch and found that the old design performed almost 20% better than the fancy one. The reason is that their website, which focuses on trauma treatment, attracted clients who are 45 to 64 years of age more than younger customers.
The older audience preferred the conventional design more than the revamped page. Uncommon Knowledge also realized that their older audience may be more cautious about giving away their email address so they did not respond well to the new page which specified that customers may unsubscribe to emails at any time. This study shows that novelty does not work well for everyone and companies should know their audiences well. By trying to go with the trend, Uncommon Knowledge worked against tribe mentality and unknowingly alienated their audience. Research shows that it is better to focus on a single or few demographics rather than trying to catch customers from all ages.
● Consider adding new features to your product much like the iPhone series.
● Test new product lines to increase conversion rates.
● Test new models and upgrades.
9. Tell a relevant story well
In making purchase decisions people make them based on emotion and not so much on logic. While emotions cannot be incorporated into products, they can be incorporated into marketing messages. By understanding your customers, you can identify emotions that are aligned with your product and then use stories to build rapport, trust, and loyalty with them. In other words, evoke an emotional story that is relevant to your audience and how they live their lives and, therefore, create a connection between the consumer and your brand.
Studies on people watching ads show that while people may not be able to articulate what stories they like best, their neurological activity indicates they know a good story when they see or hear one. Apple for example in this video passionately describes and shows how the body of each MacBook Pro laptop is carved out of a single block of metal allowing it to be more robust, lighter and smaller.
Brands are also memorable and often recognizable when they carry a metaphor or symbolism that triggers meaning behind it. For example, Nike’s choice to evoke the goddess of victory through its name and swoosh symbol or Amazon’s arrow designed to highlight the A to Z in its name.
● List the key benefits of your product
● List processes and achievements that you might underestimate or think are commonplace.
● Bring the processes to life by telling the story of people who worked on it and the passion behind it.
● Be highly specific. For example, Lexus says – its certified pre-owned cars go through a rigorous 161-point checklist instead of just saying they went through a rigorous screening process.
10. Use reward framing
Reward framing is the way a customer perceives a reward as valuable which then compels them into becoming a repeat customer.
This is where the framing effect comes in. It refers to the idea that the way a question or fact is presented or “framed” can influence how a person responds to it. Why?
Because peoples brains are wired to seek rewards.
According to an academic paper by Shlomi Sher and Craig R. M. McKenzie:
[I]n one study, beef described as “75% lean” was given higher ratings than beef described as “25% fat” (Levin and Gaeth 1988); similarly, research and development (R&D) teams are allocated more funds when their performance rates are framed in terms of successes rather than failures (Duchon et al., 1989).
In a study by Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and American Express it was proved that modest financial rewards improved customer happiness, reduced stress and built store loyalty. In fact, shoppers who received an expected $40 at checkout were 19% more likely to want to shop in the store again.
● Progress is a strong motivator to completing action so show indicators like you find on many checkout processes.
● Rewards that do not require any effort aren’t usually consider as valuable as rewards that require effort. So consider getting users to commit to small actions to reveal information and create buy-in.
● Change rewards often to keep your audience engaged
● Provide rewards immediately
These examples show a clear advantage of using neuroscience principles to increase conversion rates. What it boils down to is engaging consumers on a deeper subconscious level and understanding what they relate to, providing them with what they actually need, not what they think they need.
Have you had success in using neuroscience to increase your conversion rates? Share with us in the comments below.
Vinay Koshy provides data-backed insights into content marketing and conversion optimization at Sproutworth.com. Discover his simple yet effective ways to create contagious content or follow him on Twitter.