13 Persuasive Techniques that Drive Online Sales
by Andrew Cox
Ecommerce is incredibly competitive. You face brands from all over the world. Many have similar products to you, and some might even offer better prices.
So, how do you ensure you win in your market?
The answer is to use persuasive techniques to present your product to people in the most enticing way.
This article will discuss some of the most powerful and proven persuasion methods to help you build stronger relationships with customers and ultimately grow your online brand.
Let’s get started.
Persuasive techniques are copywriting or advertising strategies that companies use to elicit emotions and convince their audience to agree with particular ideas. Ultimately, companies can use these techniques to encourage customers to purchase their products.
There are many different techniques that you can employ, but we can group them into three main categories, according to Aristotle’s modes of persuasion:
Pathos is an appeal to emotion. Advertisers attempt to evoke a certain emotion out of their target audience, such as fear, greed, happiness, or excitement.
Logos is an appeal to logic or reason. An advertisement that uses logos will describe "just the facts" such as statistics and research results that are quantifiable, as opposed to relying on subjective emotional appeal.
This is an appeal to character or credibility. Advertisements use ethos to show how the brand is honest or reliable, for instance, by using third-party endorsements.
Marketers and advertisers are responsible for presenting their product to their target audience in the most positive way to encourage purchases. Persuasive language techniques are helpful strategies based on psychology that you can use in this process.
It should be noted that if you don't have a great product or something truly valuable to offer, then these techniques won't work — they are not a quick fix for a substandard product. If you use persuasive techniques to get people to buy inferior quality products, you may do irrevocable harm to your brand.
If you have a genuine solution that will help improve your customers' lives, you can use this device to help more people with the product.
If you want to sell more ecommerce products, you need to understand your audience better. When you know who you're selling to, you can keep this customer in mind throughout every stage of your marketing campaign.
The most effective approach to audience research is to create an avatar of your average customer. Also known as a buyer persona, this fictional representation of your ideal customer comprises useful information about the target audience, which you can use to guide your advertising.
For instance, the persona can include their age, geographic location, occupation, and income level. To dig deeper, ask yourself, "what are their desires, fears and problems?" If you skip this step and fail to get to know your audience properly, none of these persuasive techniques will be effective.
Okay, so without further ado, here are 13 persuasive techniques you can use to improve your customer experience and ecommerce business:
There is a lot of noise on their email, social media platforms, and other online activities, so websites must make a great first impression to keep people interested.
Therefore, your headline must be as compelling as possible. The best approach is to highlight your product or service's main benefit - your unique selling proposition (USP).
Also known as the unique value proposition (UVP), this is the key differentiator between you and everyone else. Think about what aspect of your product will allow you to provide greater value to your customers than your competitors.
Death Wish Coffee pulls no punches with its USP, announcing to site visitors that they can “Wake up with the world’s strongest coffee.”
By identifying your USP, you can highlight your product's main benefits and establish a stronger position in the market. Done right, your USP hooks visitors from the moment they arrive on your site.
The fear of missing out (FOMO) can be strong. Studies indicate 69% of millennials experience FOMO, and up to 60% of people make impulsive purchases because of it. People will buy something if they think they could miss out on a limited offer.
In your ecommerce store, you can use FOMO to imply scarcity in your product range. For example, you can tag products as “limited edition,” or state that there is low stock on popular items. Another idea is to set a countdown timer on special deals, showing visitors that time is running out for them to snap up a great offer. Of course only do this if you really have a “limited edition” or if the offer really will expire. If you do it just for the sake of it, your customers will notice and you’ll lose credibility and their trust.
Just ahead of Black Friday 2020, skincare brand Frank Body changed its homepage to state, “My limited edition holiday range is here,” helping stir up interest ahead of the peak shopping event. Similarly, Culture Kings use countdown timers before launching new products to build anticipation. People will keep an eye on the site, and may even set alerts to ensure they can buy products before they sell out.
If people always made purchasing decisions based on logic, then selling ecommerce products would be easy. You would simply list and show the facts about your product and watch the sales roll in daily. There would be no need for persuasive writing techniques.
However, we live in a world dominated by emotion - especially when it comes to buying decisions. Attentional bias asserts that humans unconsciously pay more attention to emotionally-stimulating factors. Therefore, if we harness the power of emotions in our marketing, we can drive action.
One excellent way to do emotions is to think beyond simple features, and tell prospects how your products can make them feel.
Then I Met You is a sustainable skincare brand with principles rooted in the Korean concept of ‘jeong’ - a deep feeling of empathy and altruism. The copywriting on the site stays true to the brand’s values, speaking to readers about “taking the time to slow down,” so they can “create lasting bonds with the people, places and things that matter most.”
You are more likely to be persuaded by someone with whom you have something in common. In other words, likeness creates trust. If a customer chooses between two brands and feels a personal connection more strongly with one of the brands, they will usually purchase from that brand (all other things being equal).
You might currently have a “face” to your brand — a company executive, mascot, or hired representative. If not, consider adding this to your brand. If possible, include a shared commonality that the face of your brand has with your audience.
Fashion store, Henning, specializes in clothes for plus-size women—a market often underserved by the high street. The opening header on the homepage is “Clothing Raised to Our Level,” which does a great job of making visitors feel included and understood.
You can also use colloquial language, or humorous use of puns and alliteration to present your brand with a conversational voice that is more relatable. Inclusive language makes people feel more comfortable, than a dull, generic, expert opinion.
If your customer has unresolved objections, they won’t purchase your product. And of course, you can’t overcome these objections if you don’t know what they are in the first place.
In-person, this is easier. But with ecommerce, you must take time to learn what these common objections are, so you can preempt them with answers that assuage their concerns within your copy. One great way to do this is via an online FAQ page.
Shwood uses visual imagery and smart formatting to categorize its FAQ page. This thoughtful design enhances the user experience while they find the answers to questions or potential issues that might frustrate them or deter them from buying from the brand.
With some careful consideration of what your customers’ worries might be, you can create an excellent FAQ page that assuages their concerns, and keeps them on-track to making a purchase.
Thanks to the commitment and consistency principle, people are more likely to take action if they already have momentum. In other words, once someone does something, their mind wants to remain “consistent” with that identity.
The 70s shorts brand, Chubbies, uses consistency in a mantra-style section at the bottom of its homepage. By listing their beliefs with the refrain, “We believe in…”, they make an active call-out to site visitors who share those beliefs.
If they make a connection with people, it’s a powerful technique that can persuade people to buy from Chubbies, as the customer recognises the brand is aligned with how they think.
Quite often, marketers use this CTA technique to encourage site visitors to start with small tasks, like signing up to an email list. After that, they can build trust with leads, before asking for the main purchase or upsell.
Social proof is incredibly effective, and one of the most under-utilized persuasive techniques for ecommerce. People are wired to trust products that are already endorsed by others.
Bright Local discovered that 82% of online shoppers read reviews first before buying. Make sure you prominently display reviews and testimonials with a direct quote to increase buyer confidence in your product. Mentioning key brand partnerships is another way to invoke social influence.
For example, on the homepage of wellness brand, Tropeaka, you’ll see the brand has been featured on reputable publications and media outlets, including Elle, Vogue, and News.com.au. Further down, the page displays 5-star customer reviews to add more social proof, which helps new visitors build trust with the brand.
In ecommerce, simple language works better. This is hard for some marketers to do if they attended higher education because academia encourages a wider vocabulary and overly formal language. It’s important to remember that ecommerce marketing is not a thesis.
Sunday Supply could wax lyrical about with storytelling and exaggeration to tempt people to buy one of their beach umbrellas. Instead they keep it simple, giving visitors only what they need to know:
Timeless Beach Umbrellas with modern qualities and natural finishes. UPF50+ premium fabric, exclusive prints, 100% cotton tassels.
Many writers like to use figurative language in marketing, amping up their products through hyperbole, a clever metaphor or simile. However, sometimes, it’s best to just use simple, everyday language. Sometimes, the most persuasive text is that which gets right to the point.
We mentioned earlier that emotive language is vital in getting people to make purchasing decisions. But you should not totally abandon the "logical" side of the equation.
Use facts, data, and citations from authority sources to add credibility to your content. By referencing studies and key trends in your industry, you can strengthen your case and trust people. This approach is second-nature in a company blog, but many companies don’t think to add it in their website copy.
Secret Lab sells high-end gaming chairs, so the brand must do whatever it can to stand out in a competitive market. On the homepage, you’ll see the following claims:
- Secretlab cold-cure foam mix that's made to achieve a firmness that feels amazing and beneficial for your posture.
- Four times more durable* with Secretlab PRIME™ 2.0 PU Leather
- Secretlab Signature Memory Foam Pillows for additional neck and back support.
- Over 750,000 Happy Users and Counting
The page also includes glowing reviews from Forbes, CNET, and Windows Central, attesting to its comfort and back support. Together, Secret Lab intertwines factual claims of superior design, social proof, and backing from authority sources to present a highly credible brand and product line worthy of its price point.
Specificity sells more products than being vague. This technique works for two reasons. First of all, being specific is more believable. If you are vague, it leaves people with doubts. Secondly, being specific allows you to demonstrate precisely how your product is unique and better.
Look at Dollar Shave Club’s product listing for the Executive blade:
- Six blades for laser-like hair removal.
- Aloe lube strip for a soft finish.
- Built-in trimmer for exacting detail.
- Flexible head that contours to your surfaces.
- Precisely aligned to maximize comfort.
We can see how being specific ties features to benefits in a succinct way, making it clear how this product can help people.
The stodgy, fake “corporate” personality of days past is a fast way to show your audience that you are inauthentic. Any underhanded attempt to bait your customers with disingenuous branding is a surefire way to poison the well.
Modern consumers value authenticity because they need to be able to trust with whom they are doing business. Aim to be real, authentic, and even slightly humorous if it is appropriate for your industry.
For example, The Horse is a curated collection of leather lifestyle goods, owned and operated by Scott and Amy Hawkes in their Sydney studio. This husband and wife team don’t try to be anything other than themselves, as their story page is accompanied with a playful photo of the couple, and a handwritten signature.
By being real, and telling the simple anecdote of how they got the idea for the company from a people-watching while having a coffee, Amy and Scott ensure they don’t deter people with any corporate stuffiness or pretentious branding.
80% of people will read your headline, whereas only 20% of people will read the rest of your product copy. That means that your headline is the heavy lifter of your ecommerce marketing campaign.
If you incorporate the main benefit (UVP/USP) in your headline, as we mentioned above, you are already ahead of the game. Other headline techniques include invoking curiosity, a call-to-action (CTA), or evoking mental pictures.
Seed & Sprout is a zero-waste store for the environmentally conscious. They offer products that help you make healthy choices and reduce the need for single-use plastic. As soon as you arrive on the site, you understand that goal, and feel the urge to help thanks to some clever psychology in the headline and sub-header:
- Headline: Un-Plastic Your Christmas Explore
- Subheader: Our range of products that won't cost the planet this festive season
Humans are hardwired to respond to stories. We've been using them for thousands of years to convey information effectively. Stories work because they are entertaining (and every marketer needs to capture attention), and they create a connection with your audience.
Consider how you can tie stories into your brand and product. Are there inspiring real life stories of customers who have used your product to great success? Do you have a personal story that ties into your sales message and makes you more relatable? If you start looking, you can find story opportunities in various aspects of your brand.
Bonnie Ashley and Neil Downie tell the story of their humble beginnings in a tiny workspace, where they nurtured passions in fine art, textiles, and floristry. Over the years, they have built their company, Bonnie & Neil, into one of the most popular independent textile brands in Australia. The relatable story of normal people following their creative passions is something that endears others to the brand.
In ecommerce sales, people can't touch, feel, or experience your product like they can in a physical store. Therefore, you need to be smarter about how you present your product. In addition to using attractive imagery, you can use well-crafted persuasive techniques that shape customer viewpoints.
Don't get overwhelmed by trying to implement everything at once. Select a few techniques that you feel will resonate with your customers, and focus on using them for your next campaign. Continue testing and monitoring the results to understand the impact of each strategy.
Eventually, with repetition and iteration, you can master these approaches to persuasion, and you will be able to ethically and effectively build strong relationships with your audience and sell more products.
Which one will you try first?
Do you want to attract more visitors and keep people engaged on your ecommerce website? Let's talk and take your store to the next level.