There are millions of websites on the internet and each search query tapped into Google is able to deliver countless results, leading users in a myriad numbers of directions. Even in niche markets it is becoming increasingly difficult for sites to provide the most attractive, usable and optimised site conducive to generating sales. Competition is fierce, therefore the name of the game is to make sure you stand out from the crowd or get lost in the hustle and bustle of the web. It might be said that sites often follow a format laid out for them by designers, similarity in style and function abound, so a website that aims to tap into their audience’s consciousness will be working harder for its conversions than another. How, in practice, can you stand out from the crowd? What do you need to pay attention to when building and designing a website to make sure you’re attracting the right customers?
Many people think they act consciously when they go shopping. However, studies conducted by Harvard University have revealed that 95 percent of all purchasing decisions – online as well as offline – are based on emotional impulses. This applies especially to female customers: women spend more time browsing and rarely have a specific target when going shopping. Female consumers have been found to react more often to visual stimulus, and emotional images create brand engagement on a deeper level. On this basis, the golden rule to adhere to when tapping into advertising psychology is: information and emotions need to be transmitted in a way that is both clear and concise.
When expounding the need for clarity, advertisers need to take into account one of the key trends for 2013 marketing strategies: usability and user experience. The goal for any marketer should be to put the visitors to the site in a good mood and to spark an emotional reaction, because this is what firstly makes a customer associate your brand with good feelings, then hopefully stimulates within them a desire to make a purchase. So what can you do to make the target group feel comfortable on your website? Simply following your own taste would be a bad start. Exactly the same as in a brick and mortar high street shop, in e-commerce, the customers’ needs should be the top priority. This applies for the service, but also for the usability of the site and the user experience. As much as possible, the customer should be offered what they expect.
In order to achieve the desired result– such as a lead or a sale –the customer needs to first of all notice the offer. Since we mostly process information through visual images, “activating” or inviting a customer to take notice can be best achieved with pictures. Various kinds of stimuli work well in this situation:
- Physical stimulus: rich, widespread colors
- Cognitive stimulus: thought-provoking and controversial images
- Emotional stimulus: displays of human emotions such as freedom, love, and happiness
If you want to confront the user with stimuli on your website, we recommend getting acquainted with advertising psychology. To impart a few pointers, we have come up with four cornerstones of emotive imagery:
- Pictures of people are noticed faster than pictures of objects
- Colour images work better than black and white ones
- Round shapes are more pleasing to the eye than angular ones
- …and lastly, warm colors create a more comfortable atmosphere than cold ones.
However, these generalizations are not always directly transferrable to the world of online, and they do need to be tested and prove their effectiveness with each target group. Conversion optimisation allows marketers to find out which design version works best. By using conversion optimisation, users are unknowingly shown different design variations of a site and their reactions to the different models are measured accordingly. With a little bit of background knowledge in retail psychology you can create interesting new website versions. These versions compete against each other in a split traffic test, and in the best-case scenario it will quickly reveal what goes down well with the visitors.
An example for a clever customer approach is the fashion community stylefruits.co.uk. The website impresses with an excellent user experience.
Users cannot only see the new trends, they can also put together whole outfits from an enormous range of clothes. They can then share these outfits with other members, let them evaluate them, and participate in competitions. On the product detail page the user is encouraged to make a purchase by using several psychological tricks:
- Likes, reviews, and outfit suggestions from other members give shopping a social component.
- Discount information and a very customer friendly user experience give the user the feeling of buying something tailor made to their style and taste.
- Transparent purchasing conditions create trust and promote a feeling of security.
Another positive example is the online gift store megagadgets. This website also offers some great tools to encourage user engagement and drive sales:
- Showing a countdown artificially lowers the availability of an offer. This can trigger an unpleasant feeling of loss, which the customers want to avert by making an impulse purchase.
- Customer reviews give the impression that many other customers were satisfied with the product.
- Quality seals and stating store advantages make the website look trustworthy.
These examples demonstrate how individually approaching a target group on one’s website can be effective. However, what goes down well with the users can only be found out through tests because every target group has different tastes, preferences, habits, and therefore a different buying behaviour.