By John Stevens


What does a 1961 experiment have to do with boosting website conversions? You’ll find out as you read this article. First, it is important to establish some facts:

  • For every $92 spent on advertising, the average business spends just $1 on conversion — this explains the abysmal conversion rates most businesses have.
  • 99 percent of people who visit your website will not make a purchase on their first visit.
  • The average shopping cart abandonment rate is 68.81 percent — yet a whopping 73 percent of companies do not have an idea as to why people abandon their shopping carts.

If conversion optimization has always been a mystery to you, it shouldn’t be anymore. Below, I’ll be sharing some psychologically-proven techniques — many that were first documented decades ago — that you can use to boost your conversions in 2017. First, let’s start with that 1961 experiment…

  • What’s Stanley Milgram’s Experiment in Obedience Has to Do With Your Conversion Optimization Techniques

  • Sometimes in 1961 a famous psychologist, Stanley Milgram, decided to conduct an experiment to see what extent people were willing to go to obey authority. While this experiment was initially conducted to explain why German soldiers obeyed authorities to commit atrocities during the nazi regime, it has far reaching implications on marketing and conversion strategy.

    For the experiment, Milgram recruited participants through a newspaper ad. He then had his partner strapped to an “electric chair,” while a researcher in a coat lab (an authority figure) stayed in another room and asked participants to administer electric shocks to his partner. The whole setup was fake (the electric chair was fake and the participants had no idea that the “victim” was Milgram’s partner), but the participants all believed the experiments was real.

    Shocks were to be administered from a range of 15 to 450 volts — with 15 representing mild shock and 450 representing fatal shock.

    The results of the experiment was shocking. A whopping 60 percent of people obeyed the authority to administer the shock up to 450 percent, even when they thought the shocks were fatal.

    Now, here’s the kicker: The exact same experiment was repeated, but without the real presence of an authority figure. Compliance dropped to 20 percent.

    Implication for your business in 2017:

    As part of your conversion strategy, try to get authorities and niche influencers on board. Have them endorse your products and offers. The more authoritative they are, and the more recognized they are to your audience, the higher the conversion gains you will record. Also, make effective use of social proof you’ve gotten by highlighting them.

  • What the Little Albert Experiment Can Do to Your Conversion Rates

  • Famous psychologist John Watson conducted an experiment in 1920, that most certainly wouldn’t have been allowed today, called the “Little Albert” experiment. It involved a very young child with a natural liking for furry animals, especially a white rat.

    In the experiment, the child started off playing freely with furry animals — however, over time the experimenter made a loud bang whenever these furry animals came around. This gave the child a scare, and the child eventually noticed a pattern and associated the furry animals with the bang; eventually, just the presence of the furry animals was enough to give the child a scare.

    This experiment explains the classical conditioning phenomenon, a principle many top brands use: Apple is associated with luxury and high spend. Walmart, on the other hand, is associated with cheapness. What is your brand associated with?

    Implication for your business in 2017:

    Identify the association you want to people to build with your brand. Once you identify this association, consistently employ it — by subtly and directly communicating what your brand stands for. It might not have much of an immediate results on conversions, but consistent application of it will help you build a core group of loyal followers and help your long term conversion strategy.

  • The Paradox of Choice: While More Options Will Always Hurt Your Conversions

  • In his book The Paradox of Choice Barry Schwartz used research to show that giving people too many options can have a paralyzing effect, negatively impacting conversions and making people unhappy. A classic study on choice was cited to argue his point:

    In a 2000 experiment, Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper observed the actions of 754 shoppers in an upscale supermarket. About half of the shoppers were shown a variety of 24 gourmet jams while the other half were shown a variety of six jams. The experimenters discovered something shocking: while the large display of jams attracted more people, the display of six jams converted 10 times more people. That’s a 900 percent increase in conversions!

    Implication for your business in 2017:

    More choice could hurt your business, decreasing conversions by up to 900 percent. Carefully experiment with reducing the number of choices you give to people and measure the impact it has on your conversions.

  • The Little Black Bag Experiment and the Familiarity Principle

  • Does familiarity breed contempt, or does it breed content?

    The answer to the above question lies in an experiment conducted by professor Charles Goetzinger of Oregon State University. Goetzinger had a student come to class dressed in a black bag — a process that was repeated for months. Students were initially hostile to the black bag, but they gradually became curious and eventually came to like the bag. This proves the mere-exposure effect.

    Implication for your business in 2017:

    The more people are exposed to what you have to offer, the higher your conversion rates. Regularly share your content on social media — statistics show that resharing old posts on social media can boost engagement by 686 percent. Similarly, start an email list in order to give yourself an avenue to constantly reach your audience. The more avenue you have to reach people, and the more times you actually reach them, the more receptive they will become to your offer and the higher your conversion will be.

  • The Economist Pricing Experiment, and What Decoy Pricing Can Do for Your Sales

  • In an attempt to see the impact decoy pricing can have on sales, psychologist Dan Ariely decided to test the famous Economist pricing on 100 of his students at MIT. He initially gave them two options and asked them to choose:

    • Web-only subscription — for $59
    • Print and web subscription — for $125

    68 percent chose the web-only subscription and 32 percent chose print and web. Ariely then decided to switch things up by introducing a decoy price. He gave the following options:

    • Web-only subscription — for $59
    • Print only subscription — for $125
    • Print and web subscription — for $125

    This changed things drastically. A whopping 84 percent of people chose the print and web subscription (they felt they were getting a bargain!), 16 percent chose the web-only subscription and 0 percent chose the print only subscription.

    By introducing a decoy price, Ariely was able to make an initially unattractive, “expensive” package look like a bargain, more than doubling its initial conversion rate.

    Implications for your business in 2017:

    You can use this same principle to boost product sales, especially if you are selling expensive products. Introduce a decoy price that gives people something “extra” at the price of an apparently weaker product. Just because people feel they are getting a bargain, and that the price could be a mistake, sales and conversions will go up drastically.


    Sales and conversions is not complicated. Once you know a few psychologically proven principles, you will be surprised at the massive conversion increase you can record. Make effective use of the above principles and watch your sales grow in 2017.

    John Stevens is a marketing consultant and the founder of Hosting Facts.

    Source:: Search Engine Watch RSS