How to use psychology to increase conversions

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How to use psychology to increase conversions

Today. How to use psychology to increase conversions.

We’ve got, out there, neuroeconomics, behaviour economics, marketing psychology; all really sexy words out there at the moment in the digital marketing space. What they’re all trying to do is look at the mechanics of the brain, and how that influences behaviour.

Some of you may have heard of the chimp paradox, or the chimp vs. irrational brain, or system one vs. system two, thinking fast, thinking slow. Anyone? Okay.

How can we use cognitive biases to encourage conversion?

Basically, popular psychology has this idea that there’s two systems. That there’s one that is fast thinking, emotional, that is reactive; and there’s this rational part that is much slower, that we consider things.

If we look at it, the brain itself is a really complex thing. They reckon that there’s around 38,000 trillion calculations, or equivalent to calculations, the brain makes per second. That’s a lot of calculations. That is very tiring. It tyres the brain out very quickly. So ,what has happened is the brain has evolved a lot of these shortcuts, or cognitive biases, that are very quick, very efficient, to try and get around this problem.  The brain itself burns around 20% of your calories a day. It’s a very resource-heavy thing.

We can look at some of these shortcuts, some of these cognitive biases, and, perhaps, use them to nudge people in the direction of converting. I’m going to go over a few of those with you today.


I’m going to start with chunking. Chunking is where you…It’s not about drinking, or anything like that, not binge drinking. It’s about breaking things down into small chunks. Smaller individual tasks are perceived as less daunting than one big task, even though it’s exactly the same thing you’ve got to do, if you break it down, it’s perceived as being easier.

Who hasn’t seen a form like this, where you just go: “Oh, no. Got to fill that all out,” and your heart just drops? What Beagle Street did is they’ve taken something like that – a big form – and they’ve just made it into small, really easy steps to do. There’s lots of clicks involved. You’ve got to do each step, and click onto the next one. Conventionally, we’re trying to reduce the number of clicks, but, in this case, by increasing the number of clicks, we’re actually making it easier to do.


Reframing. Information may be numerically identical, but interpret it in a different way, and we perceive it as being different. That’s reframing. For example, would you go for something that’s 20% fat, or 80% lean? They’re exactly the same thing, but by reframing it, we’re making one seem more appealing than the other.

Another example I’m going to use is easyJet. You know when you go on holiday, and you land on the tarmac, and the plane stops, and you look out the window, and you can just about see, just on the horizon, is the terminal building, and you’re like: “Oh, no. I’m going to have to get in a bus with all the other passengers, swaying around”?  You’re just like: “This is not what I want to be doing.”

This one enterprising easyJet pilot came in, landed, he’s parked out middle of nowhere again. He’s like: “I’ve got some bad news, and I’ve got some good news for you. The bad news is that someone parked in our space by the gangway, and we can’t get in. The good news is there’s a bus coming to collect you, and it’s going to take you to the terminal right by the passport control.”

What he’s done there is he’s reframed it. He’s turned what normally is thought as a positive into a negative, and what is normally a negative into a positive. What works best, when you do that, is by putting a disruptor in at the beginning. A disruptor is something that breaks the flow of thought. In this case, he used the disruptor of saying: “I’ve got some bad news and good news.”

When you’re worried about what your USPs are, you don’t know what your USPs are, or you don’t know why your product is different than your competitor’s, think about reframing. You can create value from just a phrase.

Goal-gradient effect

Next, the goal-gradient effect. This is where the closer we see ourselves to reaching a goal, the more motivated we are. This is the classic loyalty card scheme. Research has shown that if you give someone, in this case, a loyalty card with eight circles, and stamp two of them, they’re going to buy more coffee, quicker, than if you’d given them a card with just six circles with no stamps, because they’re perceived to be close to the goal.

We can use this online. I go back to Beagle Street again. We can use this online, here. You remember, before they broke it down into small chunks, that whole process. We then come to a form, here, and you go: “Oh, no. I’ve got a form to fill in.” But look! I’ve already completed three of my steps. I’ve only got two left to go! Now, I might as well just finish it.

When you’ve got a long, convoluted conversion funnel, try thinking about trying to put some steps at the beginning. Then, it looks like you’ve already completed a few of those, so there’s less to do, perceived less to do.

Peak-end rule

The next one I’m going to talk about is peak-end rule. Peak-end rule is…an experience is not remembered equally. The mind is not really great at remembering things that quickly. We tend to remember the peak experiences, things that are most intensive, emotionally. The end experience is the things that happen right at the end of the experience.

An example of this, if we remember back to 9/11, that was a really intensive experience that we all remember. Following that, no matter what the stats say about flying being the safest form of transport, and having flown many times before, there were lots of people who were terrified of flying. They took to the road. One study showed that the year after 9/11, there were 1,600 more road deaths in the US than before.  Is this an example of this peak-end rule, where this one intensive experience has influenced our behaviour, and actually done something that is illogical, and, therefore, may have paid the price for that?

Online, we often go through a process, and we get to a thank you page a bit like this. We spend a lot of time trying to make the journey as easy as possible so we don’t get that peak point, but we often forget about the end point; the end rule, where, at the end of the experience we just say: “Thanks for your money…” and that’s it. What can we do, at this point, to try and get repeat customers to come back? Can we give them a funny cat video, just so that they remember that it was fun? Can we give them information? What kind of links to articles, or advice, can we give them, at this point, to try and get them to remember that this was a good experience?

Loss aversion

A final one I want to go over is loss aversion. Loss aversion’s a big one. I’ve talked about it in other talks, before, around scarcity. It’s one of the scarcity model. Loss aversion is, we are more motivated by the fear of loss than the joy of gains.

In fact, some studies show that we feel pain twice as much than we do the joy of gaining. That means if I flip a coin, and I also say if it lands on tails, it’s going to cost you 10 quid, in order for you to want to risk that, you would need 20 quid if it was to land on heads. Okay?

Here’s some examples. Get 30% off. Another: “See this deal again.” This is one we see all the time, when we’re booking our flights, or our hotels: “Only two rooms left. High demand.” All loss aversion, here. This one I quite like, as well: “Want to save 10% on your first purchase? Yes. Get a code. No thanks, I prefer to pay full price.” That: “No thanks, I prefer to pay full price,” is the thing that is the loss aversion.

Let’s try and use some of these psychological cognitive biases to increase our conversions.

Thank you very much.