Online Persuasion and Personalisation

I was just watching this interesting video about online persuasion:


Many things that are described in the video will react in a "yes of course, that's logical" response of many people.
But it can be very interesting to look more at behavior and online marketing and to develop for a plan based at the six weapons of influence from Cialdini. If you are active in more countries or especially more continents, there will also be cultural differences to keep in mind. I wrote about cultural differences in social media earlier.

So how can these weapons of influence from Cialdini be used online?

Weapon of influence Short explanation Use at internet
Scarcity Make products or services scarce Easy
Reciprocity People tend to return a favor when a favor is given to them. Medium-Difficult
Commitment and Consistency f people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self image. Difficult
Social Proof People do what other people do Medium-Difficult
Authority People will tend to obey authority figures Medium-Difficult
Liking People are easily persuaded by other people that they like Easy

Weapon of influence: likability
  • Scarcity is an easy one and already used by many e-commerce sites, especially in travel. It is relatively easy to use. Just add a label to a product page, telling that there are only a few products left. Or a label to say: we already sold 10.000 pieces. Going fast. Act now! And you can even make this label interactive. Also closed user group sites, such as zalando lounge use this principle.
Weapon of influence: scarcity. Think of your local car salesmen, but then online! Special Price, only for you. Act now!

  • Reciprocity. For reciprocity you already have to do a little more online and also doing this, you probably need some more organizational resources. It means by giving something for free, people want to return a favor to you. Many websites use this method, for example by offering free e-books or whitepapers. I think you have to go beyond that now. To many websites already use this. Only offering an e-book is not enough anymore. People often use their second or third e-mail adress, so there is no commitment. I think for e-commerce websites more of: adding an extra product in the parcel. Shipping the product, but then when it is delivered, let people discover you sent it for free (like zappo's does), offer a perfect service, let people think you really did your best to help them. Make the experience good! If they cannot figure out how the digital camera works, sent a personalised video with instructions for example. 
  • Commitment and Consistency. This is a difficult one online. Many people refer to airlines, who apparently use price increases, the more people are going to look at a certain flight. People already committed to this flight, so after three times watching, probably they pay the higher price. Not only these techniques will be forbidden (in Europe), but it is also difficult to implement. Examples are also to subscribe people to a programme, that then increases prices. But I am thinking more of a different commitment. - sign up maybe only for a dollar, and you get special discounts or advantages. I recently learned that if you ask 1 dollar or 50 dollar, it does not matter for the user behavior. Only by increasing the price you limit your target audience. Also a community, can help increasing the commitment. If your prospects or customers are active at a community they are committed to the brand. Make them feel home, help them and you get committed customers.
  • Social Proof. People do what they see other people do. In e-commerce, you can think of various variants. Medium to difficult implementation, because often you need to change your back office or adapt your CRM system for this. So build a social sign on, and people can see which of their friends also bought with you and also what they bought. But you can also combine this with a community. If a certain person has communicated with another person at your community, you can use this data: your community friend x has bought A! See the product he bought!
  • Authority. People will tend to obey authority figures. e.g. this is our top searched product this week. This product is recommended by our product manager. Or use famous people to recommend your products. But in my opinion, authority can also be a community where customers help each other and the company responds as well. It will increase the company's authority. Authority can also be earned by as a company being active at the reviews at your e-commerce website. 57% of consumers say they will buy faster, when a company responds at reviews itself (Cone 2012)
  • Liking. People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Immediately you think of the "like button" with this weapon, which of course is also true. But this can be much more in my opinion. You can also like a seller, for good service, or if you chat or cam with a sales person in the online world, you can also like him or her because you see the seller face to face. After a sale, be nice and sent out an e-mail from the customer service agent to see you care. "Thank you for ordering, did the product arrive in good order" . That is also liking. Relatively easy to do, not many departments are involved and the like button is implemented easily at almost every website. I think storytelling in content is also something that can influence the "likabililty" of a brand. Don't just spread loose communication messages, like today an offer, tomorrow a promotion, the day after that a whitepaper. Try also to bring in a story, make it this way, that people return for the story. Good content can also increase the like factor.
This is all very interesting and you now want to make a plan, to test all of this. But you will then test a big group. All of your visitors and buyers are included in the test. And in general you see what works and what not.
The next step, will be personalization. Because you might be influencable for social proof, I might be influencable by commitment and consistency.
If you know at person level who is influencable by which weapon, you can optimize your e-commerce site per person!
If you have in your CRM that a person is influencable by scarcity, because you discovered this by a web test and suddenly he contacts the contact centre by phone, you notice in your CRM that this person is influencable by scarcity and you can use this information to sell products via another channel as well.

Of course there are privacy issues here. But big retailers can have an advantage. If Amazon knows a person reacts at scarcity or at a red button, it can use this information at all of it's e-commerce websites.

Do keep in mind, that you have to re-test always. Behavior changes! Try not to focus solely online, but try to think cross channel. The power of influence can be used everywhere!

I found a nice infographic about persuasion. For a bigger version of the infographic below, click here

An infographic about e-commerce and the weapons of influence

Thanks for reading and greetings,

Alex Baar


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