Transactions are what keep a business going; a potential customer fills out a form, purchases a product, or otherwise completes some “conversion” action, and the more of these actions a business realizes, the more revenue it stands to make. Accordingly, most marketers have dedicated themselves to a kind of “trial and error” game, throwing out different designs, different copy, and different angles, and only keeping what ends up getting them more transactions.
I can’t argue with this approach; it’s practical, numbers-based, and reliable in terms of getting better results. Mathematically, it’s reliable, but there are a couple of problems that hold it back:
· You start with nothing. You’ll gather data as you experiment with new approaches, but if you want a stronger start with a new concept, you need some pre-existing understanding.
· Your results are quantitative. Yes, you’ll get more transactions, but why? Understanding why helps you know your customers better, which leads you to make more customer-oriented decisions in other areas of your business.
Accordingly, it’s good to keep this trial-and-error model, but it’s also important to understand the psychology that goes into a consumer transaction in the first place. Why are people buying your products or filling out your forms? What’s motivating them?
1. Novelty and Attention
When the brain encounters something “new,” it triggers a release of dopamine. Theoretically, this is a mechanism that evolved to help us learn and absorb more information from these new experiences, but in the marketing context, it means people pay more attention to messages that are unlike those they’ve encountered in the past.
This is especially true because the digital marketing world is hyper-competitive, and users tend to filter out designs and messages they’ve come to categorize as “advertising.” Your goal should be to stand out, to grab and sustain attention, so you need to do something at least slightly off the beaten path. For example, you may choose a controversial message or image to arouse users’ natural interests, or strive for an unconventional format that stands out from the crowd.
Trust is a complex and multifaceted psychological element of transaction, and it probably warrants multiple sub-sections, but I can’t help categorizing these ideas together since they all stem from a common idea. The idea here is that a user feels safe and secure transacting with you. They believe you won’t use their email address for spam, that you’ll actually send the product you’ve ordered, and that you aren’t lying in your overall messaging.
For long-time customers, this trust is inherent. For new customers, however, you’ll have to build this through subtle indications. For example:
· Social indicators. Demonstrating that you’ve been accepted by others will make new people accept you easier. Customer reviews, testimonials, and even the presence of a human face can make you seem more trustworthy.
· Brand history and reliability. Showing off your company history goes a long way to securing a foundation of trust — link to more information for those who want it.
· Familiarity and warmth. People have more trust for personable, approachable brands, or brands that they identify with. Showcasing a personality in your voice and design that matches those of your target audience will create an environment of welcoming and trust.
These are just a handful of ways to build trust, so get creative here. Ask yourself, why would a new user trust this message?
Let’s assume you’ve gotten a customer’s attention, and you’ve managed to earn their trust. Does that mean they’re going to buy from you? Not necessarily. At their core, exchanges are still logical transactions; you aren’t going to spend money on something unless you’re convinced that it’s worth that money (and the same idea applies to submitting your personal information).
Therefore, your next job is convincing your audience that what you’re offering is worth more than the value exchange you’re requesting. For example, you might list out all the competitive advantages your product offers over any others currently on the market. You might also offer something objectively better — such as giving users a free eBook in exchange for giving you their personal information. However you do it, you need to tip the scales in favor of the user; make it clear that there’s an objective value in transacting.
Finally, there’s the dilemma of urgency; if you assume that your customers have paid attention to you, trust you, and see the value in your products, a transaction is still not a done deal. Many consumers at this point, thanks to the constant availability of information on the web, will say to themselves, “maybe later,” and later never comes. The urge for consumers to procrastinate is strong, so you need to convey a strong sense of urgency if you want them to close the deal.
How do you create this urgency? There are dozens of different ways, but some of my favorites are using powerful, action-based language, implying a degree of scarcity, or putting a time limit on the transaction.
The psychology behind consumer transactions is far more complex than my four pillars (novelty, trust, value, and urgency) could feasibly cover in a comprehensive way. However, if you start dissecting your users’ behavior in terms of these four categories, you’ll be able to produce higher-converting content and ads, then walk away with a more complete understanding of your customers’ psychology. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple emotional connection.