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psychology

Science of familiarity

Do you remember when Slack launched? At the time, I was a diehard HipChat fan. Needless to say, I wasn’t interested in trying Slack.

I considered it nothing more than a passing trend. Now? I use it for an average of 10 hours a day for personal and professional reasons. (Sorry, HipChat.)

What’s going on here? How’d I go from loathing something to using it daily in the span of just 3-4 weeks? It’s called the mere-exposure effect, which means we tend to develop a preference for things just because we’re familiar with them.

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Serial position effect

You put tons of time into creating your product, experimenting with acquisition channels, and honing your messaging.

Yet here I am, about to tell you that consumers are often swayed by such subtle nudges as the order in which you present your products, or the “serial position effect.”

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Emotional persuasion

You’d like to think that you’re a completely rational person making completely rational decisions, right? It’s nice to believe that you haven’t made major life decisions based on how you were feeling.

Well, you have. Many times.

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Apple Store

Perception isn’t always the same thing as reality, even when it comes to something as “objective” as your product’s value.

In fact, the perceived value of your product is fairly malleable. There are countless studies, as well as anecdotes, that support the notion that you can tweak small things to increase your product’s value perception.

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Scarcity examples

It’s a cultural trope to “want what you can’t have,” but it’s also a principle based in decades of psychological research. That principle, scarcity, is incredibly powerful in marketing, persuasion, and conversion optimization—when done right especially in a free market with limited resources.

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Logical fallacies

When you first start doing conversion optimization, you think that the biggest hurdles are technical things: running an a/b test the right way, collecting data correctly, QA’ing tests.

These things are all important, of course. But the solutions are fairly straightforward, and when you reach a certain level of experience and skill, they tend to be a given.

No, the biggest obstacle to a testing program – even a mature program – tends to be human error and cognitive bias.

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image of cigarettes

It’s summer in the UK. Two cigarette disposal bins are erected on a littered street. One bin is marked Ronaldo, the other, Messi. 

The bins encouraged smokers to vote for the best football player with their cigarette butts. After twelve weeks, cigarette litter dropped by 46%. In the United States, a similar experiment reduced cigarette litter by 74% in six months. 

Instead of yelling at smokers to “clean up your butts,” the bins implied the desired behavior in an easy and fun way. 

That’s a nudge.

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Cognitive Biases

Persuading completely rational people to make a rational decision or take a rational action would be easy. Unfortunately, you’re stuck dealing with irrational thinking, fueled by cognitive biases and emotions.

So, how do you persuade effectively when people are so heavily influenced by subjective (and contextual) factors?

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The paradox of choice

More choice equals freedom, right?

Well, yes, but there’s a good body of evidence that the more choices presented to us, the less happy we are with the one we make.

What does that mean for conversions? Or retention? Or revenue?

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Purchase decisions

If you want to get people to buy your stuff, you need to understand how consumers make purchasing decisions.

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