Let’s play a little game of word association: chocolate sandwich cookie.
Did anyone think of Hydrox?
Didn’t think so. You probably thought of Oreo, and no one would think of Hydrox, even though it actually predates the Oreo. But because Oreo so quickly came to dominate the market, it became a household name for the next century.
So, what is it that ingrains your brand into a potential customer’s mind? How can you tap into the consumer psychology to keep people coming back for more?
Here are the key variables that inspire people to become customers.
1. A Personal Relationship
Successful brands build an emotional connection with their customers, choosing to go beyond the merely transactional to the relational. ModCloth is a retailer that champions this concept.
ModCloth drives sales by connecting its customers to its products. The company runs a “be the buyer” program to let community members vote on new products. This technique makes customers feel like they are part of the brand – a similar feeling that a company’s most engaged employees have.
People have the opportunity to start thinking about (and falling in love with) ModCloth’s products before items are even in stock. This is a great way to start generating demand and boosting sales.
A second way that ModCloth builds an emotional connection with customers is through its style gallery. Community members can upload photos of their favorite outfits to the ModCloth site. People can then vote on styles that they love.
ModCloth strives to inspire positive body image and make women feel beautiful. The style gallery comes directly from the community – not from models – so audiences can feel inspired by women just like them.
It’s no secret that having regular contact drives sales. This concept has underscored small business strategy for years.
The problem is, one-on-one connections are less straightforward with online marketing. Is it possible to build a personal relationship when you’re both separated by a screen?
The answer is an overwhelming yes.
The key is to look at natural touch points between customers and your brand. Set up email marketing campaigns that respond to specific user interests and activities on your website. If users are failing to complete a sign-on process or transaction, send them an email.
One way that ModCloth boosts relationships is through retargeting campaigns on Facebook. If you’ve browsed a product on the ModCloth website, you’ll likely see it again and again – you’ll also see recommended items that are similar to the ones that you’ve expressed interest in.
ModCloth also sends eye-catching emails when you’ve completed certain actions on their site (for instance, abandoning your shopping cart).
ModCloth could have very easily written an invasive, aggressive email. Instead, they aim to delight, keep customers happy, and inspire laughter – the ultimate one-on-one connection.
Win your customers’ hearts once, and you’ve hooked them for life. They’ll come to your advice and shop with you. Competitors and distractions will fade away. Your business will become a focal point in their lives.
ModCloth inspires loyalty through authenticity. If you don’t like a product? No problem. Leave a negative customer review. Instead of deleting or defending these reviews, ModCloth community reps will respond with a positive, forward-looking comment. They’ll fix the situation to keep customers coming back for more stuff.
ModCloth also makes it clear that they will incorporate customer suggestions:
As ModCloth exemplifies, the key to building brand loyalty is to be loyal to your customers first. Audiences will reciprocate this feeling – it’s not every day that a company will show that they truly care about you.
2. Trust Signals From Fellow Shoppers
Every purchase carries a risk that the customer might not like or enjoy the product or service. That’s why shoppers are always looking to mitigate that risk.
The deciding factor for many consumers is the reputation of your business.
But here’s the thing. Fellow shoppers don’t care about what your brand says about itself. As much as you talk yourself up, consumers want to see evidence of strong performance.
Your brand needs to have a strong track record within communities of shoppers. What people say about your company matters more than what you say about yourself.
The following tactics can help:
Image credit: Garry Knight
Endorsements from Friends
A recommendation from a trusted friend or family member is gold. Think about it – how likely are you to second guess a product recommendation from your mom or best friend who knows you better than anyone? That concept presents a powerful lesson for marketers.
The online marketing landscape is a reflection of the relationship dynamics that take place every day.
Just as you are more likely to trust someone introduced to you by a friend than a total stranger, customers are more likely to buy from a brand to which they were referred by a friend, or with which they have had a good experience in the past. Facebook product pages shows us people we know who like a business. This might help influence our decision of what restaurant to go to, for example:
Companies can capitalize on this by offering discounts or other deals to customers who are willing to “like” their product page or share a positive experience on social networks. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of reviews from friends – one customer can quickly become dozens, with minimal investment.
Endorsements from Authorities We Trust
Celebrity endorsements seem silly at first glance, but brands keep capitalizing on them. Why? Because they work.
As humans, we’re programmed to take advice from the folks that we respect. We look to inspiration from our idols.
That’s why it’s mission-critical for brands to be reviewed by authorities. If you’re manufacturing a tech product, you need to be up on CNET.
If you’re running a tech company, a plug from TechCrunch or Mashable wouldn’t hurt either. You can bet that the iPhone deals featured in the example below received some extra attention.
Consumers also pay attention to what other consumers say about your products and services.
If we see multiple people buying a product, we’ll quickly assume that it’s good. It doesn’t even matter if our fellow consumers think the product is actually good. At the end of the day, we’re hard wired to believe that if enough people spend money on something, it’s worth it.
That’s why Amazon places so much visual emphasis on customer reviews:
Adding social sharing metrics on Underwater Audio’s product pages have also improved conversions.
3. The Feel-Good Factor
If something makes us feel good, we’re more likely to buy it. That applies to every consumer – even the most rational of thinkers.
The same holds true for the opposite situation. When an experience upsets us, we won’t buy.
All the social proof in the world won’t make a difference if the consumer has personally experienced a negative moment at any point in the purchase cycle. Instead, they will abandon the purchase, return the item or worse yet, abandon your brand — possibly for good. It’s essential to ensure a positive, rewarding, and cohesive experience.
Image credit: Daniel Zimmel
User Experience – Your Website
Consumers are perpetually time-strapped. Your website needs to be as easy-to-use and straightforward as possible. Your website’s user experience has little to do with your actual product or service, but it still matters to your marketing strategy.
Even if your product is more expensive than your competitor’s, you may still win the sale. Why? If your website is easier to use, you’ll save your buyers time – which is also money.
Think about this concept from a personal perspective. How many times have you tried – and failed – to find the information that you need on a brand website? What happened when you couldn’t find what you needed?
You probably moved on to a competitor.
Do your customers a favor and make your website dead-easy to use.
Example: New customers can create account on Zappos by using their Amazon credentials, which removes some of the barriers to purchase.
Mobile User Experience
It’s an understatement to say that the world is going mobile. Having a mobile site isn’t enough – you need to make sure that you’re delivering the best user experience possible.
Keep in mind that your customers aren’t sitting at the computer. They’re on the train. They’re taking brain breaks at work. They’re hanging out in a waiting room at the doctor’s office.
In all of these moments, they’re likely to buy. Make sure that your website is extremely easy to navigate and use.
If you need some inspiration, MobileAwesomeness has some stunning examples of great mobile sites.
Even though you are a marketer (or business owner), you’re a consumer first and foremost. Imagine all the times that you’ve experienced a horrible mobile website.
Now imagine that your customers are feeling the same way – and don’t underestimate the power of first impressions. If users have a poor experience on your mobile site, it’s unlikely that they’ll come back to you via desktop either.
Find out more about mobile usability from expert Jakob Nielsen or check out a list of mobile optimization resources on Crazy Egg.
Service with a Smile (Never Goes out of Style)
Service is a key part of keeping customers happy. Even online, you need to make sure that you’re taking care of your customers. Provide them with the tools (FAQs, user guides, etc.) to answer their questions. Make sure that your phone number and contact details are easily available.
Most importantly, respond to negative customer reviews when somebody has a complaint. ModCloth does a great job monitoring and maintaining an active presence in its customer feedback section:
Online marketing should never be impersonal. Even when you’re doing business behind a computer screen, one on one relationships should be a priority.
4. Price and Value
If “location, location, location” is the real estate market’s credo, then “price, price, price” is e-commerce’s. Most shoppers are very conscious of the money they are spending. Not to mention that they have instant access to price comparison tools as well as all of your competitors’ data.
In other words, they have infinite power to research details as they need them. The chances of prospects abandoning your business are high if the you can’t provide the best value for the price.
Image credit: Paris on Ponce
Keeping Prices Simple
As a marketer, your job is to reduce the barriers to purchase – and that means getting the pricing right. Sometimes, that’s about keeping it simple.
That’s why TodayMade recently scrapped the multi-tiered payment plans for its blog editorial calendar in favor of a simple price per blog.
Small details can yield big outcomes. Study after study shows that the tiniest website tweaks can make your customers more likely to buy. Here are some examples:
•Font size of prices: Studies have shown that prices in smaller type are perceived as lower.
•Inclusion or exclusion of currency signs: Removing the currency sign may reduce the perceived price.
-Percent-off or money-off coupons: Conduct testing to see which approach your customers prefer.
-Reducing the number of digits in the price: This simplification often makes the price seem smaller to buyers.
-Making prices end in a 9: Most customers perceive a $29 price as significantly lower than $30. Losing $1 per sale will be worth it if sales increase significantly.
Conduct your own testing using these tips to see what will work for your business. Find out more about this concept by reading through this infographic on The Science of Pricing.
The Perception of Value
Pricing aside, the decision to purchase may also rest on whether customers perceive that a particular item represents value, especially when it’s not a must-have.
If someone needs an item, and you provide it with good service and a good price, then it’s likely people will buy from you. If it’s just a “want,” then you need other differentiators to help people to buy.
Giving something for free can create a perception that shoppers are getting something for nothing, which makes them more likely to buy. Nordstrom’s shipping policy is a great example of this.
Mixergy has a great checklist on helping marketers communicate product value to customers.
Putting It All Together
The heart of marketing is the human mind, and it’s often difficult to understand what motivates a customer to take action.
Image credit: Julian Partridge
Smart marketers know that consumer psychology is complex. More likely than not, buyers are influenced by a combination of factors rather than just one. Success requires the right balance of tactics.
To find that balance, make sure you’re testing combinations of elements such as those listed here, to see what resonates with your audience.
The bottom line is, listen to your customers and they will reward you.