It’s a cultural trope to “want what you can’t have,” but it’s also a principle based on 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. If people believe that they’ll be missing out on something, they’ll be prompted to act more quickly to get it.
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%.
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.
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.
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.”
“What is beautiful is good,” the saying goes.
This saying stems from a belief that attractiveness correlates to other good qualities. In a phrase, attractiveness is a Halo Effect.
Of course you can see that on the surface, the logic in that saying is flawed. What’s beautiful has nothing to do with what is good. But we still associate perception and individual traits, making our judgement often inaccurate.
You’ve read about color psychology, system one and two, emotional persuasion, etc. I know you have because it’s everywhere. It’s on Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc., HelpScout, HubSpot… you name it. Hell, we’ve covered some of these topics ourselves.
Why? Well, because many psychological triggers do, in fact work.
But there’s another side to using psychology online that almost no one is talking about: backfiring.
Psychology isn’t a magic formula that can be applied to optimization seamlessly in all scenarios, despite what many self-identified experts are preaching today. [Tweet It!]
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.
Fear and greed are two of the three great forces in the world, according to Einstein (the third is stupidity).
They’re also two triggers that not only stock markets (in the form of the Fear & Greed index), but also marketers and copywriters have been well aware of for years.
That’s because they are powerful emotions that, when used properly, drive people to take action.
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.
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.