Welcome to a huge resource on conversion optimization.

Over the years, marketers have written countless articles about online persuasion. So why do we need another one?

Well, something is missing from the literature —the why:cro

  • Why are contrasting buttons effective?
  • Why should you use 1st person CTA wording?
  • Why (and when) are trust symbols effective?

This article uses academic research to answer those questions. You’ll learn the psychological explanation to 30 powerful techniques in conversion rate optimization (CRO).

For each tactic, I include four sections:

  • Principle: The psychological principle involved
  • Example: A visual illustration of the tactic
  • Explanation: The reason why the tactic is effective
  • Extra Resources: A/B tests and other related information

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a complete newb, you should find some valuable takeaways.

PDF Bonus: This article is 7,527 words. Click to download the full PDF + checklist so that you can reference it later.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Click a Button

Create an Account

Add to Cart

Complete the Purchase

Share on Social Media

Introduction

The Role of Psychology in CRO

The best A/B tests are grounded in concrete hypotheses:

  • You collect data about your visitors (e.g., through a survey or heatmap)
  • You propose a split test based on that data

But there’s a problem with that premise.

If you’re the only person running your business, oftentimes you won’t have the resources to capture that information. You won’t have (a) the time to collect and analyze that data or (b) the capital to hire somebody else. So what do you do?

Well, that’s where psychology can help. Psychological tactics are already grounded in concrete hypotheses. Will they work every time? Well, no. But they’re not some random split test that you pulled from thin air. More often than not, they should provide a positive boost.

How to Prioritize This List

This article is huge —how do you know which tactics are most important? The answer lies in the structure of the article.

You’ll notice that I’ve broken out the tactics by different CTAs.

Call-to-Action (CTA) — A specific action that you want visitors to take

Each section represents a different CTA — a separate step in your funnel. Do you run an eCommerce store? Then your funnel might look like this:

Ecommerce Funnel

Once you separate those steps, you can calculate the conversion rates for each step:

Ecommerce Funnel With Conversion Rates

Once you calculate those values, you can pinpoint the areas that need the most improvement. Figure out which step — if improved — would provide the greatest value. And start with those tactics. By adopting that growth hacking mindset, you can scale your growth more effectively.

The List of Tactics

Click a Button

Some marketers obsess over their buttons. Even though some of that obsession is unwarranted, there is some merit to it.

Button testing offers a few key benefits:

  • Top of Funnel: Most conversions in your funnel will originate from a single click. If you increase the conversion rate at the beginning of your funnel, you’ll increase conversions at each stage of your funnel.
  • Larger Sample: If you target visitors earlier in your funnel, you’ll be working with more people. So you can run more A/B tests in a shorter time frame.
  • Easier to Test: Most of these A/B tests involve the characteristics of a single button. So they’re easier to implement than A/B tests that require structural changes.

Tactic 1: Choose a Contrasting Button Color

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 1

Explanation:

Back in the day, our ancestors acquired an important trait: the ability to detect contrast in the surrounding environment (Endler, 1992). They needed that trait to detect predators or life-threatening stimuli. Without that trait, people died off.

Thanks to natural selection, you still possess that ability. Your attention is naturally drawn toward stimuli that are visually salient (Parkhurst, Law, & Niebur, 2002).

So use that insight. Increase the visual saliency of your CTA button. Choose button colors that contrast with the rest of your page. That contrast will naturally attract attention.

But that’s pretty obvious, right? Obviously contrast will attract more attention.

Well…there’s more at play too. Consider the following A/B test:

cta-button-contrast

In both variations, the button is located in the same spot — a very prominent place on the page. Even though the green button has less contrast, it’s still hard to miss. People still probably noticed it.

So, then, what’s going on? If people noticed both buttons, why did red perform better? The answer involves processing fluency.

Processing Fluency — The ease and speed with which we process information (see Alter & Oppenheimer, 2009 for a review).

Whenever a concept enters our mind quickly and easily, it produces a pleasant sensation in our brain. We then falsely attribute that pleasantness with our evaluation of the stimulus. We evaluate that stimulus more favorably simply because we were able to process it more easily.

How does that relate to button colors?

Contrasting button colors increase processing fluency. Due to the contrast, the act of clicking your button will enter visitors’ minds more easily.

That ease will then generate a pleasant sensation in their brain. The act of clicking your button will seem more appealing, so they’ll be more likely to do it. Pretty interesting.

Plus, in addition to attention and processing fluency, there’s a third reason why contrasting buttons perform better. But we’ll revisit that answer later.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 2: Increase the Amount of Whitespace

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 2

Explanation:

See Tactic 1.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 3: Convey Depth Through a Border, Bevel, or Shadow

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 3

Explanation:

We judge the probability of an event based on representativeness (Kahneman & Tversky, 1972).

  • How similar is the stimulus to its parent population?
  • Does it contain features that are representative of that population?

If it’s similar, then we’re more likely to categorize that stimulus with the parent population.

You can apply that takeaway to your CTA button.

Some websites create fancy buttons — perhaps a gigantic button that you can’t possibly miss.

Huge CTA Button

Don’t do that.

Your CTA button needs to contain features that are representative of other buttons. Without those common characteristics, your button won’t look like a button. So people won’t click.

How can you make your button look clickable? For one, keep it a normal size. Don’t use a monstrous button that overwhelms your page.

Also, consider giving your button a border, bevel, or shadow.

CTA Button Heuristics: Border, Bevel, Shadow

Those cues represent depth, so your button will look more clickable.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 4: Convey Movement With an Arrow

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 4

Explanation:

See Tactic 3.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 5: Alter Your Button on Hover

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 5

Explanation:

See Tactic 3.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 6: Orient Gazes Toward Your CTA

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 6

Explanation:

We possess an evolutionary trait to follow people’s gazes (Emory, 2000). To direct attention toward your CTA, orient images of people so that they’re looking at your button.

If you want a deeper explanation, you can refer to my stock photo article or advertising article.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 7: Repeat Your Primary CTA

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 7

Explanation:

You should consider repeating your primary CTA for few reasons.

First, with more placements, you’re more likely to capture attention. Visitors might miss your CTA in the upper right corner, but they might see your CTA at the bottom of your page.

Second, your timing might be more conducive. Perhaps they weren’t ready at the top of your page, but they’re ready by the middle or bottom of your page.

Oh hey there. Did you know that you can download a PDF version of this article? Plus you’ll get access to my entire collection of bonus PDFs and videos. Just thought I’d remind you 🙂

There’s a third reason too. In his seminal research, Robert Zajonc proposed the mere exposure effect. People develop a stronger affinity toward a stimulus if they’re repeatedly exposed to it (Zajonc, 1968).

Part of that effect might involve processing fluency. With repeated exposures, people can digest your CTA more easily, which enhances their affinity toward it.

However, Zaionc proposes a different reason: classical conditioning:

“The repeated-exposure paradigm can be regarded as a form of classical conditioning if we assume that the absence of aversive events constitutes the unconditioned stimulus. Empirical research shows that a benign experience of repetition can and of itself enhance positive affect…” (Zajonc, 2001, pp. 224)

What does that mean?

Well, if you’re exposed to a stimulus — and if you don’t experience a negative response to it — then you experience a positive emotion. And you attribute that positive emotion to the stimulus. Because of that new association, a subsequent exposure to that stimulus will trigger a positive emotion.

Either way, the takeaway is clear: repeating your CTA should help increase conversions.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 8: Use 1st Person Wording

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 8

Explanation:

Some marketers have increased conversions by using 1st person wording for their CTA text:

Start Your Free Trial vs. Start My Free Trial

For example, Michael Aagard tested the above example, and he increased conversions by 90 percent.

And that effect seems consistent. In a similar experiment, he increased conversions by 25 percent. Joanna Wiebe increased conversions by 24 percent. Visual Website Optimizer increased conversions by 8 percent.

So what’s causing the consistent lift? I’m guessing two factors:

  • Mental Simulation: Research shows that people develop a more favorable attitude toward a stimulus if they mentally interact with it (Elder & Krishna, 2012).
  • Conceptual Fluency: Research shows that you’re more likely to complete a task if you can envision yourself performing that action (Song and Schwarz, 2008).

By using 1st person wording, you apply both insights.

First, your visitors mentally evaluate the CTA in terms of their personal use. With 3rd person wording, they consider your CTA from a 3rd person perspective — which isn’t as strong.

Second, because they envision themselves performing that CTA, they experience a higher level of conceptual fluency. They can see themselves performing that action. So they become more likely to do it.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 9: Change Your Button During a Visit

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 9

Explanation:

Shapiro and Nielson (2013) found a cool insight. When a stimulus subtly changes in your environment — even if you don’t consciously notice the change — you develop a stronger affinity toward that stimulus.

The researchers attributed their finding to processing fluency. When a stimulus changes in your environment, you subconsciously detect that change. And, as a result, you devote more processing resources to evaluate it (thus enhancing your attitude toward it).

But how can you apply that insight?

For one, you could adjust the appearance of your CTA button, depending on a condition. For example, you could use JavaScript to change your button color every 30 seconds.

Or, like Bounce Exchange, you could change your button color as visitors scroll down the page.

Button Changes From Blue to Orange

Sure, those visual changes might attract more attention. But, even if they don’t, visitors should develop a more favorable impression of your CTA — thanks to the benefits of incidental change detection.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 10: Force Visitors to Accept / Reject Your CTA

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 10

Explanation:

You’re walking down the street. Further ahead, you notice somebody handing out free snacks for a promo. Hmm, interesting.

But you’re not overly enticed. You plan to ignore the vendor.

Unfortunately, he puts a kink in your plan. As you walk by, the vendor shouts directly at you, “Hey there, do you want a free granola bar?”

Ugh. Now you need to actively reject his offer.

But, in contemplating your refusal, you experience a change of heart. For one, you weren’t that opposed to his offer in the first place — just on the fence. Plus, a refusal would (a) be impolite, and (b) contradict social norms. What kind of weirdo doesn’t want free stuff?

So you cave. You happily accept the granola bar and move on.

How does that anecdote relate to conversion optimization? Most bloggers —including me, at the moment — are letting visitors walk by undeterred. Visitors can exit out and ignore our CTAs:

CTA No Rejection

Don’t let that happen. Be the annoying vendor. Force visitors to choose an option: accept or reject (with an explicit consequence for rejecting).

Joanna Wiebe implemented the following change and increased her conversion rate by 400-500%:

CTA With Rejection

If visitors need to give you an answer — yes or no — many will experience the same change of heart. They’ll be more likely to accept your offer because it feels more natural than rejecting it.

Why does that happen? If you force people to reject an option, they need to consider the benefits that they’re giving up — which triggers loss aversion (Levin et al., 2002). They accept the offer because they don’t want to lose those benefits.

That effect is particularly strong for hedonic choices (Dhar & Wertenbrach, 1999). So you could also incorporate hedonic framing into your copy.

Extra Resources:

Create an Account

Once visitors click your button — whether they’re subscribing to your blog, creating an account, or starting a free trial — it’s inevitable. Some won’t complete that process.

These tactics should help prevent visitors from exiting your funnel prematurely.

Tactic 11: Use a Two-Step Opt-In

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 11

Explanation:

Want to get more conversions? Then you should make it harder for people to convert.

…I’ll explain.

When you ask people to create an account, you generally have two options:

  • One Step Opt-In: You present input fields directly on the page.
  • Two Step Opt-In: You display a link or button. When visitors click that button, then your input fields are shown.

It seems counterintuitive, but two-step opt-ins are more powerful. The reason? They trigger cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957).

When visitors click the initial button in your two-step process, they’re usually trying to accomplish a goal (e.g., create an account, receive bonus content, etc.).

Oftentimes, visitors will click that initial step without realizing that another step lies ahead. But, in clicking your button, they reinforce an attitude that they are interested in achieving that goal. And that initial attitude is the key.

Once visitors reach the second step, they experience a dilemma. They clicked your button because they were interested in your CTA. If they don’t complete your CTA, then their behavior will be inconsistent with their attitude. And that inconsistency activates the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula (Veen, Krug, Schooler, & Carter, 2009).

Those visitors feel a painful emotion — i.e., cognitive dissonance — and they become motivated to resolve it. How do they resolve it? They act in a manner consistent with their initial attitude. They complete the opt in.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 12: Let Visitors Create Tangible Progress

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 12

Explanation:

Many entrepreneurs view account creation as a dichotomy:

  • Step 1: Users create an account / free trial
  • Step 2: Users test out the features

But that dichotomy is wrong. There is no dichotomy. Instead of positioning account creation at the starting gate, move it slightly further in your funnel.

Gradual Engagement - False Dichotomy

Ideally, visitors should create tangible progress with your product before they fill in their personal details. If they make tangible progress, they’ll experience a stronger desire to complete the sign up process when they encounter it.

Suppose that you created an app that organizes top content around the web into a personal dashboard. With the original dichotomy, your funnel might look like this:

Gradual Engagement - Incorrect

Instead of starting with account creation — a large and invasive step — start by asking users to choose the topics that interest them.

Gradual Engagement - Correct

Often referred to as gradual engagement, that setup gives you three key benefits:

  • Smaller Step: Choosing topics is less invasive than filling out personal details. People will be more likely to do it.
  • Triggers Momentum: Their progress will reinforce an interest in your app. If they don’t create an account, they’ll feel cognitive dissonance.
  • Triggers Loss Aversion. If users don’t create an account, they’ll lose the progress they’ve made — which feels painful (Tversky & Kahneman, 1991).
Extra Resources:

Tactic 13: Don’t Require Credit Cards for Free Trials

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 13

Explanation:

Should users enter their credit card to start your free trial? There are two schools of thought:

  • If it’s required, you might discourage people from signing up
  • If it’s not required, people might be less likely to upgrade

So which is best?

Totango analyzed data for 100 SaaS companies. They found that companies performed better when they didn’t require a credit card for their free trial.

Data: Credit Cards and Free Trials

When credit cards were required, more people upgraded later — which is good. However, that requirement limited the number of people who started a free trial.

When credit cards weren’t required, the increase in new sign ups produced a greater overall improvement in the final conversion rate.

The takeaway? Always make the initial steps in your funnel as easy as possible. If you can trigger momentum — any amount of momentum — people will be more likely to follow that path (Cialdini, 2006).

Extra Resources:

Tactic 14: Emphasize Their Progress Within Your Funnel

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 14

Explanation:

As humans, we succumb to the goal gradient effect. We feel a stronger urge to reach a goal after we’ve made progress toward that goal.

One popular experiment took place in a coffee shop (Kirvetz, Urminsky, & Zheng, 2006). For a loyalty program, returning customers needed to acquire 10 stamps to earn a free coffee.

Turns out, customers were more likely to return if — instead of a 10-stamp card — they received a 12-stamp card with 2 stamps already acquired.

Goal Gradient Effect Example

Even though both cards required exactly 10 stamps, the illusion of progress motivated customers to return.

So use that insight in your conversion funnel. At each step, emphasize the progress that people make:

  • Account Creation: “Your profile is 23% completed”
  • eCommerce: “You completed 2 out of 5 steps in the checkout process.”
  • Surveys: “You’ve answered 3 of 10 questions”

Assuming that your funnel has a manageable number of steps, those statements will guide customers toward the end of your funnel.

Extra Resources:

Add to Cart

Do you run an eCommerce site? Then you’ll need people to add your product to their shopping cart.

Or perhaps you offer subscription plans or pricing tiers. In that case, you’ll want to influence people to choose a plan with a high ROI.

These tactics can help with both goals. And if you want some more conversion tactics related to the pricing of your product, you can refer to my pricing article.

Tactic 15: Add Visual Contrast to Your Target Plan

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 15

Explanation:

Tactic 1 described two benefits of visual contrast.Not only does it capture attention, but it also increases processing fluency. People can digest your CTA more easily, enhancing their attitude toward it.

Those benefits apply here too. Consider adding visual contrast to your target product.

In describing Tactic 1, I also hinted at a third benefit of visual contrast. Well, here it is: when a stimulus is visually salient, people spend more time looking at it.

Big deal, right? So what?

Well…it is a big deal.

Visual fixations — by themselves — can influence choice behavior. Research shows that people are more likely to choose an option if they spend more time viewing that option (Armel, Beaumel, & Rangel, 2008).

Similarly, when people choose among a set of options, they’re more likely to choose the last option that they viewed (Krajbich, Armel, & Rangel, 2010).

That’s why visual contrast helps visitors choose a particular product. When you increase the saliency of your target product, visitors spend more time looking at — and thus contemplating — that option. They’ll be more likely to choose it when they make a decision.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 16: Position Your Target Plan in the Center

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 16

Explanation:

In the previous tactic, I explained the role of visual contrast, eye fixations, and choice behavior. But you should also consider the location of your target product.

Researchers have found a center-stage effect. Objects attract more attention when they’re centrally located, influencing more people to choose that option:

“Findings from two eye-tracking studies suggest that brands in the horizontal center receive more visual attention. They are more likely to be chosen.” (Atalay, Bodur, & Rasolofoarison, 2012, pg. 2)

You can guide attention toward your target plan — and influence more people to choose it — by positioning it in the middle of your other plans.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 17: Identify Your Target Plan as “Most Popular”

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 17

Explanation:

So your target plan is now centrally located with a visual distinction. Why not add a social cue as well?

As humans, we experience an innate desire to follow the crowd (Asch, 1956). By identifying the “most popular” option, you reveal the socially accepted path. Your visitors will feel a natural tendency to choose that product.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 18: Create a Default Option or Add-On

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 18

Explanation:

Johnson and Goldstein (2003) found a startling insight with default options.

According to their data, countries could double their organ donors by using an opt out (rather than opt in) method. When donating is the default option, twice as many people stick with it.

Why are defaults so powerful? Three main reasons…

  • Reduces Cognitive Load: Decisions become easier. Why spend time choosing an option? One has already been chosen.
  • Triggers Conformity: Defaults are viewed as the “most popular” option (see the previous tactic)
  • Triggers Loss Aversion: We imagine ourselves with the default option, and we feel entitled to those benefits. If we lose them, we feel pain.

You can use default options in various ways. For one, you could make your target plan the default (see the visual example above).

But that setup is pretty awkward. Very few people structure their pricing pages that way.

Perhaps more effectively, you could use default options to upsell customers during checkout.

Default Option to Add Protection Insurance

When visitors see that default, they imagine themselves with protection insurance. So if they opt out, then they’re losing those benefits. That’s painful.

You could also use defaults when people sign up for a free trial.

Default Option to Continue Free Trial

That decision can be a toss up for some customers. But if you add a default, you reduce the need to think about it. Instead of exerting mental resources to contemplate that decision, some customers will simply keep the default.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 19: Ask Customers to Subtract Features

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 19

Explanation:

This tactic won’t work for every business. But it’s a great way to maximize revenue if your product is customizable.

Park, Yun, and MacInnis (2000) asked participants to purchase a hypothetical car:

  • Some participants started with a fully loaded model, and they removed features that they didn’t want.
  • Some participants started with a base model, and they added features that they wanted.

Like the previous tactic, the defaults were powerful. When participants started with all features, they experienced loss aversion. They didn’t want to lose those features, so they were more likely to keep them. Those participants eventually paid a higher price for the car.

If your product is customizable, consider starting with all of the features by default (and asking customers to remove the features that they don’t want).

Not only will you trigger loss aversion, but you’ll also take advantage of anchoring (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974). If people start with a fully-featured product, their final product will remain closer to that starting point.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 20: Prime a Which-to-Choose Mindset

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 20

Explanation:

Quick question. Which animal do you prefer?

Elephant vs. Hippo

Got your answer? Great.

Xu and Wyer (2008) asked participants that same question. Turns out, it made people more likely to buy a computer.

Weird, right? Why did that happen? Well, it involves the three main stages of a purchase decision:

  • Stage 1: Whether to buy
  • Stage 2: Which to buy
  • Stage 3: How to buy

Whenever people make a comparison — regardless of the topic— they acquire a “which-to-choose” mindset. If those people then view a set of products, they’re more likely to skip the first stage of the buying process. They won’t decide whether to buy. They’ll decide which to buy.

So how can you apply that insight? Before presenting your products, ask visitors to make a choice or comparison.

Suppose that you sell clothing. Most online stores bring visitors directly to the product catalog:

Full Product Catalog

Consider restructuring that interface. Before displaying your products, ask visitors to choose the products that they want to see. You could keep it simple by asking them to choose their gender:

Are You Male or Female?

Or you could then offer additional choices, such as the clothing category:

Do You Want Shirts, Pants, or Shoes?

…or their size:

Are You Small, Medium, or Large?

But eventually — after visitors make their selections — you can present your adjusted catalog. If visitors want to readjust the filtering options, they can use a menu on the left.

That approach is pretty different. But it might increase conversions for a few reasons:

  • Reduces Choice Overload: Instead of overwhelming visitors with your entire catalog, you’ll only display the products that are relevant.
  • Reduces Loss Aversion: With more options, people are often less likely to make a decision (Schwartz, 2004). That occurs because of loss aversion. When we choose an option, we lose the benefits in other options — so we postpone our decision. The previous solution reduces that perceived loss because it hides the other products (i.e., benefits) in the catalog.
  • Triggers Momentum: When visitors make those initial choices, they develop an attitude that they’re interested in your products. If they don’t complete a purchase, they’ll feel cognitive dissonance.

Those were just a few benefits. But don’t forget about the main benefit: you also prime a which-to-choose mindset. Instead of deciding whether to buy your clothes, they’ll be more likely to decide which clothes to buy.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 21: Depict Products to Encourage Mental Interaction

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 21

Explanation:

In this advertising tactic, I explain a trick to enhance your product images. And that tactic works for ecommerce as well.

In short, Elder and Krishna (2012) found that mental interaction sparks more purchases. In other words, when participants envision themselves interacting with a product, they become more likely to purchase it.

So how can you spark more mental interaction? In addition to holding the product from a POV perspective (see example above), the researchers also found support for the following examples:

  • Orient asymmetrical products toward the right (i.e., toward the dominant hand of most people)

Handle Facing Right

  • Place instruments or utensils on the right

Bowl of Food With Utensil

  • Orient product openings toward the viewer

Shoe Openings Toward Viewer

  • Remove products from their packaging

Hamburger Buns Removed from Packaging

All of those images increase mental simulation. People imagine themselves interacting with the product, and so they become more likely to purchase it.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 22: Specify a Limited Time or Quantity

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 22

Explanation:

Scarcity is one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence (Cialdini, 2006).

This tactic is pretty common, so I won’t regurgitate that information. You can refer to his book, Influence, for a deeper understanding.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 23: Emphasize More Attributes for Hedonic Products

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 23

Explanation:

What’s the ideal length of your product descriptions? It’s a tough question. And it depends on your product and niche.

However, researchers have found a useful insight. With hedonic or frivolous products, you should incorporate more — rather than fewer — attributes.

Sela and Berger (2012) found support for that claim. And they credit their finding to an increase in perceived usefulness:

“Because attributes often serve as a heuristic cue for product usefulness, they benefit options that people perceive as relatively inferior on this dimension…[our] five studies demonstrate that attribute numerosity benefits hedonic more than utilitarian options by increasing the extent to which the former appear useful.” (pp. 1)

Extra Resources:

Complete the Purchase

So, a visitor clicked your Add to Cart button? Congrats! But don’t celebrate yet.

Baymard Institute looked at 31 different studies on shopping cart abandonment. They found that, on average, 68.5% of people abandon their cart. That’s huge. The tactics in this section will help you reduce that abandonment.

Tactic 24: Provide Reassurance Through Trust Symbols

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 24

Explanation:

Whenever we pay money for a product, we feel a sense of pain known as the pain of paying (see my pricing article for more detail).

Why do we feel that pain? It partly stems from cognitive dissonance. Whenever we pay money, we feel two opposing attitudes:

  • On one hand, we want the product.
  • On the other hand, we don’t want to pay money.

Those contradicting attitudes cause pain (Festinger, 1957). And we usually resolve that pain by justifying one of those attitudes:

  • Option 1: We justify purchasing (e.g., we remind ourselves of the benefits that we’re receiving)
  • Option 2: We justify not purchasing (e.g., we remind ourselves of the money that we’re saving)

Either way, we consolidate those contradicting attitudes.

That process usually occurs during checkout — because that’s when we feel the strongest amount of pain. And that’s why trust symbols are so important.

Trust symbols are visual elements that provide reassurance — whether it’s a representation of your guarantee or a security symbol near your payment button. By providing reassurance and justification during the checkout, you help resolve their dissonance. You guide them toward Option 1.

Guarantee, Testimonial, and Shield Symbol

The underlying psychology is important. Some marketers place trust symbols earlier in the funnel, such as the account creation process. But that’s usually a mistake. And it might explain why some tests have found negative results.

You don’t need trust symbols early in the funnel because we don’t feel pain in that section. We feel it during the checkout — when we’re about to hand over our money. So that’s where you should place trust symbols.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 25: Deemphasize Your Coupon Field

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 25

Explanation:

People are rarely happy with absolute outcomes. In most domains, people compare their outcome to the outcome of other people (Festinger, 1954).

And that effect occurs with prices. How do we determine the fairness of a price? We usually consider the amount that other customers have paid:

“…all price evaluations, including fairness assessments, are comparative. Both equity theory and the theory of distributive justice suggest that perceptions of fairness are induced when a person compares an outcome (e.g., input and output ratio) with a comparative other’s outcome.” (Xia, Monroe, & Cox, 2004, pp. 1)

If customers need to pay a higher price than other customers — even if the absolute price is fair — they’ll be less likely to buy. They want to pay a price that’s equal, if not lower, than the price that other people are paying.

And that sparks a dilemma with your coupon or discount field.

If customers encounter a discount field— and if they don’t have one— then they’ll know that other people are paying a lower price. And that’s painful.

So what do you do? Well, you don’t need to remove that field entirely. Just reduce the saliency of it. Instead of displaying a form field, provide a text link: “Have a discount code?”

By deemphasizing your coupon field, you’ll reduce the saliency of potential price differences. Customers will be less likely to enter the social comparison process, and they’ll be more likely to complete the checkout.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 26: Remove Links and Navigation from Checkout

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 26

Explanation:

Are you familiar with landing page optimization? Then you’ve probably encountered a common problem.

If your landing page contains the site navigation (or various links within the page), oftentimes you’ll reduce conversions.

When visitors click on a link, they leave your page. They’ll start venturing down a new rabbit hole, with new stimuli and new distractions. Maybe they’ll return. Most likely, they won’t.

Use that insight to enhance your checkout. Every link represents another opportunity to lose the purchase. To solidify your funnel, remove your site navigation and all unnecessary links.

When you remove stimuli that divert attention away from the purchase, you increase intention — a key component of self-regulatory behavior (Shapiro & Schwartz, 2000). Visitors narrow their focus toward completing their purchase, and they become more likely to accomplish that goal.

Extra Resources:

Tactic 27: Retarget People Who Abandoned the Checkout

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 27

Explanation:

If you follow the previous tactics, you’ll reduce the number of people who leave your checkout funnel. But it’s still inevitable. People will leave.

And for many reasons too. Maybe they changed their mind about purchasing. Or maybe they plan to come back. They just need to…

  • Think it over
  • Check with their spouse
  • Check your competitors

All legitimate reasons. And oftentimes people leave with genuine intentions to return.

Unfortunately, our memory is crappy. If people leave your checkout, they’ll often need a stimulus to trigger their memory to purchase (Marsh, Hicks, & Cook, 2005).

Well, if your product is unique or non-essential, they probably won’t encounter a relevant cue. That means you’ll slip into the deep abyss of their memory, never to return. Not a fun place.

But that’s where retargeting can help. With resources like Google AdWords or Facebook Ads, you can show ads to people who abandoned your checkout

Or, better yet, you can email the people who abandoned your checkout. According to a study by SaleCycle, 44% of cart abandonment emails are opened (and each email generates an average of $8.21 in revenue).

Either way, by retargeting those people — perhaps with an enticing discount — you trigger their memory to complete their purchase.

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Share on Social Media

Most people don’t consider conversion optimization for social sharing. But that’s a mistake. With the rise in growth hacking over the past few years, social sharing has become even more important. So the tactics in this section can help you encourage more people to share a message.

Tactic 28: Provide an Incentive to Share

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 28

Explanation:

Within a few short years, Dropbox became a billion dollar company.

What was their secret? Among a few key factors, they incentivized social sharing. By offering free storage for each new referral, they increased signups by 60 percent.

Dropbox Screenshot

Though you could explore research on incentives and extrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000), this tactic is mainly grounded in common sense. To boost social sharing, offer an incentive.

Depending on your business, here are some examples:

  • Ecommerce: Customers share a recent purchase to receive a discount code
  • Blog: Visitors share your article to receive a relevant bonus (e.g., PDF checklist)
  • SaaS: Users refer a friend to receive more credits in their account

And here are some platforms to help you integrate those types of incentives on your website:

Extra Resources:

Tactic 29: Post Screenshots of Previously Shared Messages

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 29

Explanation:

Most marketers use testimonials for their products. When you demonstrate that other customers were happy with their purchase, you reduce the risk for other customers.

But have you considered using testimonials for social sharing? It sounds weird, but hear me out.

Whenever you share a message on social media, you encounter social risk.

  • How will people perceive your message?
  • Will they like it?
  • Will they hate it?
  • How will they perceive you?
  • Will they judge you negatively?

Because sharing has a social risk, visitors feel more comfortable if other people have shared that message.

Take advantage of that. Post screenshots of other people who shared your message. That way, you remove the social risk — sharing is the social norm. So people will be more likely to do it (Asch, 1956).

Extra Resources:

Tactic 30: Add Social Currency to Your Message

Principle:
Example:

Conversion Tactic 30

Explanation:

In Contagious, Jonah Berger describes social currency. We tend to share content that makes us look good.

  • We share data-driven content so that we look smart
  • We share funny content so that we don’t seem boring
  • We share heartwarming stories so that we look caring

Suppose that you started a SaaS company. To grow your business, you plan to incentivize new users to share a message so that you can capture referrals.

If you were executing that strategy, what message would you ask people to share?

Most people wouldn’t give it much thought. They would probably use a standard benefit-driven message:

Want to do XYZ? Check out [APP NAME] [LINK]

There’s nothing wrong that message. It’s simple. It’s straightforward. And it would probably entice the target market to click.

So what’s the problem? That message is promotional — it’s essentially an ad for your business. And people don’t want to share advertisements. They want to share content that makes them look good.

Instead, let’s revise that message to incorporate social currency. By creating a message that makes people look good, your users will naturally want to share it. You won’t need to convince or entice them.

Here’s an example:

Officially accepted into [APP NAME'S] list of beta users. Want to do XYZ? Check them out [LINK]

That type of message might perform better. The wording, “officially accepted,” seems like an accomplishment — as if users joined an exclusive club. So it makes them look good.

Although you would need to confirm the results through split testing, that message would probably generate a higher percentage of social sharing from new users.

The main takeaway: add social currency to your message so that people will naturally want to share it.

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Conclusion

If I could only recommend one takeaway, it would be this: always have concrete hypotheses for your A/B tests.

Never conduct a test merely to see which variation performs better. If you don’t have a reason for conducting an A/B test, then the test probably isn’t valuable. You could implement a more effective test — one that’s grounded in a solid hypothesis.

Where do you find hypotheses? You could…

  • Analyze your website data
  • Survey your customers
  • View industry best practices

If you’re not sure where to start, then use this guide. The tactics in this article are grounded in psychology, so you already have the concrete hypotheses.

Bonus: Click to download the 79pg PDF + checklist so that you can reference it later. You’ll also get access to my other PDFs and videos.

I want to end with a suggestion that I emphasize in my other articles: remain skeptical.

Sure, the previous tactics were grounded in psychology. But that doesn’t mean they’ll always work. Sometimes they won’t.

Never assume that your change will improve performance. Always confirm any big changes to your website through A/B testing.

But with that analytical approach — and the previous conversion tactics — you should be able to scale your website growth more efficiently.