What is persuasive e-commerce?

What is persuasive e-commerce?

Online business owners have struggled with low conversion rates for some time now. Convincing shoppers to not only add items to their cart but also complete a sale is challenging, as online stores miss out on some of the key compelling features available to a bricks-and-mortar store.

Fortunately, this is where persuasive e-commerce comes in. Essentially, this refers to the ability of online store owners to influence an attitude and/or behaviour without resorting to manipulation.

The idea of persuasive e-commerce is perhaps best explained by Guido Jansen, a conversion specialist and cognitive psychologist working for Magento. He regularly hosts workshops and presentations on the subject at Meet Magento conferences across the globe.

The following is his take on the theory of persuasive e-commerce, supplemented with additional research:

Why do we need persuasive e-commerce?

Influencing the behaviour and attitudes of your customers is crucial for achieving more positive conversion rates in your e-commerce analytics. Online merchants struggle with troubling conversion rates. Average figures for bricks-and-mortar stores are around 20 to 25 per cent, while e-commerce figures are a mere 2 to 10 per cent.

This is because online stores lack several key factors that help influence and persuade customers who shop in offline stores, such as:

  • Sensory input

Smells, sound and comfort are all important factors when considering a sale. Many of these physical cues are lost when a customer instead chooses to browse online.

  • Direct feedback

Having a sales assistant on hand to offer advice and guidance is important, as customers can ask questions and receive immediate responses. Answers are significantly slower for e-commerce, as store owners often rely on email and online forms which can take hours or days to complete.

  • Commitment prior to checkout

When a shopper picks up an item and adds it to their cart, they commit to the sale. The physical holding of the product makes it harder to put down and leave behind. Conversely, online customers can abandon their carts and sales at the click of a button – there is no commitment.

Fortunately, Mr Jansen reassures us there is a solution.

The importance of persuasive e-commerce

The majority of our decisions made each day are 90-99 per cent unconscious. We are continually making choices and assumptions made on cognitive bias. We have so many biases, we’re not even aware of most of them. Even the most open-minded shopper will be influenced by some unconscious decision making.

Examples of common prejudices include:

  • Higher costs mean the products are good quality
  • A person wearing a white coat is an expert and a truth teller
  • More of a product equals a better deal
  • Shiny items are newer and more luxurious
  • Familiar is safe

When customers have limited time, knowledge and resources, they rely on automated thoughts and actions. Persuasive e-commerce is about using these cues and biases to encourage sales.

How can you incorporate persuasive e-commerce?

E-commerce business owners have a range of tools at their disposal when dealing with online shopper psychology. Important factors to consider include:

  • Social proof – Showing a customer that other people are purchasing the product so they should too – all of your peers are buying it, why aren’t you?
  • Authority - Be the authority by demonstrating that you are the leader in your industry – wear the white coat.
  • Scarcity - When products are only available for a limited time or you only have a few products left in stock, tell people. This can encourage more sales.
  • Perceptual contrast/framing – Give the customers context for your chosen prices so they better understand the value they are receiving.
  • Choice paralysis - Too many options can harm sales as people require more time to consider their choice and ultimately end up talking themselves out of the purchase. However, having too few choices can have a similar affect, as customers cannot find the particular product that is right for them.

If you integrate these and the other persuasion tools outlined by Mr Jansen into your e-commerce store, you could soon see a positive change in your conversion rates.

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