Let’s be rational, being ‘rational’ is not something that comes naturally to people, we’re inherently irrational beings. Behavioural science studies these irrational behaviours, to help us understand why people behave in the way they do.

In the world of eCommerce, brands often spend marketing budgets on paid adverts to drive traffic to their website, forgetting to optimise their products for conversion rates.

What does this mean?

While you can increase the number of people landing on your website, this does not mean that number of sales will increase exponentially. Instead, you need to optimise your site to do more with the traffic you have (optimising for conversion) so that as traffic increases, so will sales. 

In this piece, I want to teach you about some of the behavioural principles that can help you gain a deeper understanding of our irrational brains, and create an experience that improves conversion rates.

At Reflect Digital, we use insights from psychology, behavioural economics and nudge theory to inform our decision-making. Understanding and applying these insights enable us to apply effective marketing strategies that improve conversions.

Here, we outline four ways that marketers can apply behavioural science to increase eCommerce conversions.

#1 Prevent cognitive overload

When individuals are given too much information at once, they freeze, unable to perform or process the information presented to them.

Less is more when it comes to presenting product information to people.

When information is provided to people it can impede conversions. A study by Google in 2012 found that users prefer web pages that are simple and familiar as they are easier to navigate and use. When sites are easier to use the likelihood of conversion is higher.

#2 Clear structure 

As the previous study showed, clarity is King. A clear structure to your site with an intuitive navigation menu and clear CTAs ensures that users can effectively find what they need.

Intuitive navigation menu

A very clear navigation menu where people can see where to look for categories including new items, sale items, etc. goes a long way in providing visitors with the guidance they need to find and purchase the products they want.

Clear CTAs

Heatmaps and eye-tracking studies show us that when people visit eCommerce websites they look from the right to the left, often skipping over the centre of the page. The most important CTA should be placed on the upper right and the second most important on the left.

#3 Friction, way worse than carpet burn

Friction occurs when a user is confronted with an interface that seems intuitive but doesn’t do as expected. This can leave users jumping through hoops to complete simple tasks. This can happen on both mobile and desktop website versions. Although, we typically see more problems with friction on mobile sites.

Learn what people are doing, and make that easier for them.

Reducing friction is simply making the site easier to use and removing elements that may prevent a user from completing transactions.

Research into habits and daily routines by Stanford Professor BJ Fogg suggests that the easier a behaviour is for someone to do, the greater the chance that they will do it. When friction is involved it can put people off and make a new behaviour seem too daunting.

Considering the effect of friction is especially important when it comes to mobile checkouts. Businesses may be tempted to avoid the fees associated with Apple Pay and Google Pay, but the cost is far higher if the alternative means more users abandon the checkout mid-purchase, resulting in a loss of revenue.

Reducing friction can lead to more customers buying more frequently and increasing your chance of converting them into ambassadors or lifetime customers.

That said, it is important to remember that some friction can be beneficial. A study by Harvard Business School found that increasing search friction by adding small obstacles to finding discounted items can lead to higher conversions. The key is balance.

#4 - Social proof

People are more willing to buy a product if they know that others have bought it and recommend the product.

In the buying process, trust is one of the key ingredients. Social proof can help establish this trust in the following ways:

  1. Expert: social proof through an expert in the industry recommending your product. e.g. “99% of dentists recommend Sensodyne toothpaste.”
  2. Celebrity: people buy products that celebrities endorse because they want to look/be like them.
  3. User: when your users recommend your products by providing positive reviews and recommendations. People trust these reviews as those providing them have experienced the product or service already.
  4. Friends: who do you trust more than a stranger? Your friends. When people see that their friends recommend/approve of a product, they are more likely to consider the brand reputable. This support can be shown through friends following a company on social or by word-of-mouth recommendations. 
  5. Crowd: this type of social proof is where a large group of people are seen to be supporting a business. For example, when there is a queue for purchase, this serves as proof that lots of people are after the same product.
  6. Certification: when given a stamp of approval by an authoritative figure. For example, the blue check on Instagram or Twitter.

These product recommendations are also important for good SEO: having strong reviews and recommendations improves the likelihood of them ranking highly on the SERP.

Does using behavioural science get results?

We apply behavioural science principles to our work here at Reflect Digital. One example of this is through applying social proof to Complete Pilates.

We added relevant social proof to the page banner on their Group Pilates page. This social proof took the form of a quote from a regular user of the brand, particularly chosen as it described the results and feelings she enjoyed as a result of taking the classes.

When the results came in we swiftly rolled the test out further across the website to gain more information and higher results. The results were replicable and quickly began pushing up conversion rates across the site.

It’s not enough to simply ‘drop in’ these principles to your eCommerce brand’s marketing strategy. Instead, you need to understand your audience and then apply a test and learn approach to determine what works for your business. If you want to learn more about how behavioural science can benefit your digital marketing, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!





Katherine brings her knowledge of science to her creative work, harnessing psychology to create high-impact copy and digital marketing strategies for her clients. Like a true scientist, Katherine loves learning from her past successes and using them to improve her clients’ digital marketing.

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