12 brands increasing conversions by understanding human psychology | Econsultancy

12 brands increasing conversions by understanding human psychology | Econsultancy.

Posted 06 August 2012 10:32am by Kelvin Newman 

First up a great big caveat emptor: in conversion rate optimisation there’s no such things as rules, there’s only findings. What may prove emphatically effective in one test, might be a waste of time in another similar situation.

Having said all that, there are a number of hardwired human traits and behavioral patterns understood by psychologists, behavioral economists and other social scientists that we can use to increase our conversions.

I have identified 12 brands that understand some of these common behaviors and have reflected it within their web designs. Examples like this can give you some ideas of potential things to try and test on your users.

Social Proof

One of the most effective things you can bring to your site to increase the confidence of buyers is ‘social proof’. Social proof is the phenomena where people tend to believe that the decision and actions of others reflect the correct behavior in a specific situation.

So, we have to create an experience which convinces our visitors they’re not the only person making this decision.



In this design we see a subtle mention of the sheer number of other people who have made the same purchasing decision that the visitor is considering.

Raven SEO Tools


One of the most common ways to integrate social proof into your site is by including testimonials into your site, especially if you can include a picture of the person providing the social proof. Software as a Service (SaaS) companies are the kings of this. But it’s a sensible addition to most B2B sites and can also work well in B2C environments to.



I think far and away Wish.co.uk is one of the best put together websites I’ve had the pleasure to come across, but that’s no surprise as, it’s the work of CRO legend Stephen Pavlovich.

There’s a huge number of clever CRO techniques in place on this page but I want to highlight one of the easiest ways to implement social proof into your site, using the off-the-shelf Facebook Like button/widget. It really simply shows you the profile pictures of other people who’ve liked that page on Facebook, also prioritizing those who are connected the to the visitor of the site.

Not just social proof, personalised social proof. Actually it’s even better than that, it’s automated personalised social proof.



Poor old Groupon. It might have been getting a lot of stick recently but it, more than nearly every other major internet business, has a deep understanding of human behavior. Here it illustrates how they’ve built social proof into the very DNA of its business.

By showing how many other people have bought the same offer Groupon hopes to persuade the visitor to do the same, and place an order.

Loss Aversion

The disutility of giving up an object is greater than the utility associated with acquiring it is known an Loss Aversion. I hate the word ‘disutility’ but put simply means we hate to loss something more than we love to gain something. Sometimes this is about a subtle re-framing of your copy to concentrate on loss rather than gain. We need to ask ourselves ‘How can we make visitors think they’d be losing something if they don’t buy?’.



Many travel website are particularly good at communicating loss aversion, with this example from LateRooms being a great execution, which It makes it clear what you would lose if you don’t book now. This serves to instantly increase urgency.



Qwertee has built an understanding of human behavior right into its business model. Its t-shirts are only available for 48 hours and after the first 24 the price increases. Every time you visit the site there’s a huge ticking clock showing exactly what you’re going to miss out on if you don’t purchase soon.



Amazon is the king of using cognitive biases to increase conversion rates. One particular example where it uses loss aversion is for its ‘Prime’ customers. Prime users are a subset of their most frequent customers who have paid upfront to have access to next day delivery by default. If you’re a signed-in Prime customer, every product you visit that has next day delivery reminds you how long you’ve got before that day’s cut-off point.



It’s not just online behemoths like Amazon making use of our innate loss aversion to increase purchases. High street retailer Argos taps into our aversion to loss to drive footfall to its shops using this clever lightbox.


One of my favourite cognitive biases that influences the way behave, is known as anchoring. It is the tendency to rely too heavily – or ‘anchor’ – on a past reference or on one trait or piece of information when making decisions. These anchors can often be numerical. Our challenge is to ask ‘How can I reference an ‘anchor’ that influences visitors to my site?’.



One of the oldest anchoring tricks in the book is what the price was reduced from. Cross-hatched higher prices showing the available discount is a simple way to anchor the price of an item and make it seem better value.



SaaS companies like MailChimp often make use of a clever anchoring technique that I think more business would be wise to try and use. You’ll notice they have one high price that’s much higher than all the other price points. This maybe be because it’s a popular option, however many anchoring experiments have found introducing one higher price point can lead to people spending more in total even if nobody chooses that option.

I’ll repeat that point because it is a bit counter-intuitive: adding an extra expensive option to your page can increase the average order value of the page even if nobody selects that option, this is because it makes your other expensive options seem less expensive. One that’s well worth testing.



There’s also a case of possible anchoring taking place on the homepage of Broadband.co.uk, where the BT offer is significantly more expensive than the other options. That’s because the package is very different to the others. If we believe the principle of anchoring this may be increasing the value of the traffic to this page by encouraging them to asses the relative value of the other options differently.



Adding related products to a page can be a great way to increase the number of items people add to a basket. There’s also a possibility that the selection of these products might also have an anchoring influence. I don’t expect too many retailers bear price anchoring in mind with their related product algorithm, but it’s something you would expect some retailers to have tested.

As I said at the beginning of the piece we don’t always know in every case that these changes have been implemented to increase conversion rates, but if we understand human behavior and some of our cognitive biases it would certainly seem a fertile area to explore.

Does A Phone Number On Your Site Increase Conversions?

Does A Phone Number On Your Site Increase Conversions?.

Back in September Flowr set off on the Grasshopper / KISSmetrics Phone Number Challenge. The idea was that they were going test placing a phone number on their home page to see if they could increase sign ups. The hypothesis was that by having a visible phone number on their home page, the trust factor would increase and therefore sign ups would too.

Jonathan Kay from Grasshopper Virtual Phone Systems, proposed the original concept of this challenge. He believed that:

“People feel more comfortable with brands that they can put a face behind. Even though you might purchase a product exclusively online, having a phone number on your site and the ability to talk to a real person (who cares) in turn makes you feel more comfortable taking out your wallet (or recommending someone else to) for this brand.”

TheFlowr.com Home Page Variants

Before we get into the results of this simple A/B test, let’s quickly look at the differences between the two home pages.

The image below is the original Flowr home page. If you look closely, you will see that there is no phone number on the page.

the flowr.com home page

In the next image, you will see a screenshot of the home page variant with a phone number and the call to action “Want to have a chat? Call us at..” (look for the red asterisk).

theflowr.com variant home page

The Results

Flowr ran a simple A/B test with one home page variation using KISSmetrics. Again, the only difference in the variation home page was the addition of a small phone number and some supporting call-to-action text. The results were as follows:

Results from Flowr a/b testing

Test Conditions

  • Test Duration: From September 9, 2011 to October 24, 2011. (approx. 6 weeks)
  • Test Item: Website home page of Flowr vs. home page variation.
  • Test Type: A/B Test (only difference between variation was a phone number and associated call-to-action).
  • Test Goal: Increase software sign ups from home page.


  • 53.96% of sign-ups originated from the home page variation with the phone number.
  • 46.04% of sign-ups originated from the original home page without a phone number.
  • Conversion Increase: +.5% (half of a percent increase)

Statistical Significance

We didn’t hit a statistically significant threshold during the allotted time for the test. However, we like the trend that we saw and we’re going to try another test with a bigger phone number next.


The first thing we would like to mention is:

The Flowr didn’t follow instructions and they still got some sign up lift!

The rules explicitly said to have a highly visible phone number on their home page variation. As you can see the phone number is tiny (at least it was above the fold). But even with this tiny phone number, Flowr was able to increase their sign ups.

Davorin Gabrovec from Flowr concluded:

“Even though we didn’t receive a lot of calls I believe that having a phone number visible on the website gives more credibility to our product and trust to our visitors. When we re-design our website we will definitely include appropriate space for a bigger phone number.”

The bottom line is that having a phone number does bring peace of mind to consumers and people you do business with. If, at the very least, it instills trust in your visitors and removes any “fly-by-night-operation” fear they may have. If you run a Software as a Service (SaaS) business, we encourage you to try testing a phone number on your site (and let us know what happens!).

About the Author: Sean Work is the Marketing Director at KISSmetrics.

Is the Click Still King? (Source: e-marketer)


Online marketing has been touted for its measurability, a quality that should make it easy for marketers to determine effectiveness and value for money. Despite widespread recognition that the click-through does not measure the full effect of an online ad—even ones placed with direct response objectives—and calls for better branding metrics, many marketers still rely on the easy-to-track click as their top performance metric.

A March 2010 survey by Chief Marketer showed the click remained on top, with 60% of US marketers reporting they measured performance in click-throughs. Fewer than two-fifths measured overall return on investment (ROI).

Metrics Used by US Marketers to Measure Interactive Marketing Performance, March 2010 (% of respondents)

Those responses were similar to the 2009 edition of the same survey, and Chief Marketer suggested respondents were sticking with “old-school metrics” while playing lip service to the importance of ROI.

Similarly, Collective Media reported that in February 2010, click-throughs were the most common measurement of ad network performance, used by 64% of responding advertisers.

Datran Media found in December 2009 that marketers worldwide considered conversions the most important success metric, with nearly 90% saying it was “very important.” Click-throughs were rated important by 56.7% of respondents. But when Datran asked what types of measurement marketers actually used, clicks came out on top, with 72% of respondents tracking them.

These measurement practices left one-quarter of respondents to the Chief Marketer survey unsure whether interactive campaigns produced greater ROI than traditional marketing efforts.

The CMO Council’s “State of Marketing” survey did not ask about click-throughs specifically, but found marketers worldwide were most likely to measure their campaigns through page views, registrations, and the volume and origin of site traffic.

Methods Used by Marketers Worldwide to Measure the Effectiveness of Online Marketing/Advertising Campaigns, 2010 (% of respondents)

Asked about their online marketing performance measurement ability, the plurality of respondents to that survey (44%) were either working on increasing their capabilities or “struggling” to put a value on their interactive spending.

“Marketers’ familiarity with clicks is only one factor that contributes to its continued usage as the top metric,” said David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer. “Click are easy to count, too, and therefore an inexpensive metric to gather.

“In contrast,” Mr. Hallerman said, “measuring either brand effectiveness or the indirect effects of online ads—such as how display ads contribute to search clicks—is more complex and typically costs more to accomplish that just tallying up clicks.

Best way to improve conversions (source: e marketeer)

Testing and analysis, of course


Unsurprisingly, companies worldwide told Econsultancy in summer 2009 that the No. 1 conversion relevant to them was sales, with sign-ups and registrations a close second.

Overall site conversion to sale was also the top metric used by client-side respondents, monitored by 68%. That was followed by overall site conversion to response, lead conversion rate and basket conversion rate.

But many companies (39%) are not satisfied with their conversion rates. They reported A/B testing as the most valuable way to improve conversion, with more than one-half of companies saying it was highly valuable and another 42% saying it was quite valuable.

Methods that Are Valuable for Improving Conversion Rates According to Companies* Worldwide**, July-August 2009 (% of respondents)

Agency-side respondents to Econsultancy’s “Conversion Report” did not always know what their clients thought about the best ways to improve conversions. A/B testing came farther down the list when agencies were asked what worked, and they overestimated the value of expert usability reviews for their clients.

Methods that Are Valuable for Improving Conversion Rates of Their Clients According to Agencies* Worldwide**, July-August 2009 (% of respondents)

Even in the difficult economic circumstances, the majority of client-side respondents (70%) reported improved conversion rates in the past 12 months. Interestingly, calculations by Econsultancy determined that an organization was more than twice as likely to experience better conversion rates if there was an employee directly responsible for conversion. Although 52% of agencies said their clients did not have such a person, 60% of client-side respondents reported having a worker devoted to improving conversion rates.