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JONES AND WIEBE 30 Days of Persuasion Reprinted with Permission by Copy Hackers 1

PERSUASIVE WEB:
WHERE PSYCHOLOGY MEETS CONVERSION
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IN THIS EBOOK
INTRODUCTION to the 30 Days of Persuasion .............................................................................................. 4
DAY 2: Tricks Online Book-Sellers and Vacation Sites Use to Persuade You ................................................ 5
DAY 3: Social Proof: Part II (Enjoy Your Stay) .............................................................................................. 11
DAY 4: Use Data to Sell: Recommenders in Online Apparel Shopping ....................................................... 16
DAY 5: Can You Sell More by Offering Less? Exercises in Scarcity Marketing ............................................ 23
DAY 6: A Case Study in Neutralizing Barriers Online: WeightWatchers.com ............................................. 30
DAY 7: Show Your Flaws Openly to Convert Users (by Minimizing Ambiguity) .......................................... 35
DAY 8: How Likeable Is Your Online Experience? (And How Does That Impact Conversion?) ................... 42
DAY 9: 10 Characteristics of Playful, Engaging and Persuasive Websites ................................................ 48
DAY 10: 5 Companies Try to Monetize Free ............................................................................................. 54
DAY 11: Dont Interrupt Me! Can Interstitial Upsell Pages Persuade? .................................................... 61
DAY 12: Product Catalog Pages How Strategic Is Yours? ......................................................................... 65
DAY 13: Designing Trustworthy Web Sites Part 1 .................................................................................... 71
DAY 14: Building Trustworthy Web Sites Part 2....................................................................................... 77
DAY 15: Delegation! When Your Users Ask YOU to Tell Them What to Buy .............................................. 87
DAY 16: Bloggers Persuade With Authority ................................................................................................ 94
DAY 17: Is Cause Marketing Persuasive? .................................................................................................... 98
DAY 18: Counting Your Customers Will Bring You More .......................................................................... 104
DAY 19: The Persuasive Power of Following Norms ................................................................................. 109
DAY 20: Whats the Magic Word? Because ........................................................................................ 114
DAY 21: A Flawed Persuasion Principle? ................................................................................................... 117
DAY 22: Persuasion Before Usability? ....................................................................................................... 122
DAY 23: Why Sex Sells Romance, Scarcity and Persuasion .................................................................... 125
DAY 24: Applying Persuasion Principles eBags.com .............................................................................. 129
DAY 25: When Time Is a Factor, How Much Copy Is Too Much Copy? ..................................................... 138
DAY 26: Applying Persuasion Principles 37signals ................................................................................. 143
DAY 27: Commitment, Consistency and Really Crappy Free Stuff ............................................................ 151
DAY 28: 30 Ways to Persuade (Part 1 of 2) ............................................................................................... 156
DAY 29: 30 Ways to Persuade (Part 2 of 2) ............................................................................................... 160
DAY 30: Persuasion Round-up and Whats Next ...................................................................................... 163
JONES AND WIEBE 30 Days of Persuasion Reprinted with Permission by Copy Hackers 3

BONUS 1: Interactivity The Cure for the Common Cold and World Hunger? ........................................ 165
BONUS 2: Connecting Emotionally With Users Online ............................................................................. 167
Sources ...................................................................................................................................................... 172

JONES AND WIEBE 30 Days of Persuasion Reprinted with Permission by Copy Hackers 4



INTRODUCTION to the 30 Days of Persuasion
LANCE AND I ARENT THE FIRST online marketers to be fascinated by the likes of Robert
Cialdini and other great minds in the psychology-meets-consumer space. It seems that once
you get a taste of how people think and behave, you awaken a hunger for much more.
In 2009, Lance and I were what some might call obsessed with human decision-making
behaviors, consumer biases and psychology in general. We were knee-deep in the A/B
testing world; we had well-used subscriptions to databases of academic publications; we
were buying every book under the sun and staying up all night reading them. We were
attending conferences. Taking courses. Reading blogs. Studying voraciously.
Like any half-decent study partners, we challenged each other, and those challenges led to
an uber-exercise: blog for 30 days about persuading people online. Make each post meaty;
include contemporary examples; and support it all with academic research. The result was
the 30 Days of Persuasion blog, which is the online version of this ebook (here published
under Copy Hackers) and which was written from June 1 to June 30 of 2009.
As you can imagine, when you take a blog about online marketing in 2009 and put it in front
of a savvy audience in 2013-14, you might find some stuff worthy of back-patting such as
the now ubiquity of then fresh ideas, like the power of because but youre just as likely
to find, um, embarrassing stuff. Like forecasts unrealized. Outdated assumptions. And
points we might not be quite so bold as to make today. (Or, hell, maybe we would!)
As much as some of the examples within may be out of date check out screenshots of the
old 37signals site the studies they support are as relevant as ever. Which means the
lessons persist. And the persuasion opportunities presented continue to be viable testing
ideas that you, dear reader, can and should run.
~joanna


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DAY 2: Tricks Online Book-Sellers and Vacation Sites Use to
Persuade You
June 2, 2009
Lance Jones

Read any good books lately?
When was the last time you came across a
new or used book Web site or hotel
aggregator site that didnt offer consumer
reviews? Would you go back if that was
the case? Probably not, since user reviews
are now the price of entry for any Web
site that sells a large number of similar
products or services.
It used to be that sites like Amazon.com
and TripAdvisor were lauded for their user
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review systems. Epinions built an entire business around consumer-driven product reviews.
Although the initial buzz has turned to quiet praise, why have so many sites continued to
adopt user reviews? Likely because users began to expect and then demand user
reviews.
But did you ever stop to think about what drove this expectation and why user reviews are
so powerful?
User reviews are a form of social proof a well understood persuasion principle that is
defined by Wikipedia as a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous social
situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making
the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, they
will deem the behavior of others as appropriate or better informed.
And further, Social influence in general can lead to conformity of large groups of
individuals in either correct or mistaken choices, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as
herd behavior.
Do we really follow the crowd (sometimes to our own detriment) when making important
decisions about where to spend our money?
It would seem so.
Yi-Fen Chen conducted a study in 2007 titled, Herd behavior in purchasing books online
that examined recommendation systems and their impact on consumer behavior.
Here are some of her findings:
The rapid growth of e-commerce has created product overload in situations where
consumers have become unable to effectively choose products they are exposed to
The opportunity for consumers to choose among growing numbers of products has
increased the burden of information processing before product selection
So the Web has created too many choices for us (no revelation) choices that may have
always existed but never been fully exposed. Students of persuasion know that with an
increasing number of choices, decisions become more difficult to make. And thats a core
benefit of user reviews: they are intended to make decisions easier for consumers, and the
prevalence and popularity of reviews would appear to indicate that this is a real outcome.
But why do reviews make our decisions easier? Chen explains:
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When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other (Hoffer,
1955)
Informational cascades occur when individuals follow the previous behavior of
others and disregard their own information
I interpret this to mean that we (i.e., humans) dont like to expend too much energy on
making decisions. And when you consider just how many decisions we are forced to make
in a single day(!), its no wonder, really. In fact, its this desire to make it through the
hundreds of daily decisions and still have the energy to eat, talk, laugh, exercise, and play
with our kids that is largely responsible for the study of persuasion as so many of the
persuasive principles well discuss on this blog relate to our moving through life on auto
pilot and how understanding this behavior can work for you and your Web business to
compel people to reach for their mouse and make the next click.
Chen also provides insight into specific elements of user reviews that can influence peoples
behavior:
Star ratings of books can influence consumer buying behavior and cause an
informational cascade
Providing cues for eliciting herd behavior will influence consumers and lead to
online herd behavior
She references the following cues:
Star ratings
Sales volumes
Recommender system recommendations
As consumers come to rely even more on reviews in their complicated purchase decisions,
cues such as these are quickly becoming part of what users expect to find on all Web sites.
Its no longer enough to provide a simple star rating. Users want more.
And finally, Chen makes a point of examining the influence that the source of reviews has
on our behavior:
Previous studies have demonstrated that source expertise, trustworthiness, and
attractiveness positively influence consumer attitudes towards a brand and
purchase behavior
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Consumers are influenced more by collective intelligence than by a small group of
experts
Consumers clearly prefer to receive guidance from those perceived to be similar to
themselves
Her first point about expert reviews being potentially more influential is countered by the
other two excerpts. I interpret them to mean that if a book has 5 expert reviews and 5
consumer reviews, people will lend more weight to the expert source. However, when the
number of reviews by end users exceeds the volume of professional write-ups by a
reasonable margin, there is power in numbers and the numbers tip the influence in favor
of the laypeople.
Chens final point about similarity is also insightful (and relates to another persuasion
principle known as likeness), but I dont see it being put into widespread practice by e-
commerce sites. However, ratings and reviews vendor Bazaarvoice does offer the option to
profile reviewers to its customer base, probably knowing full well that review readers will
assign more credibility to people that appear to be just like them.
So, given Chens findings, how are popular book-selling Web sites doing in terms of their
use of consumer reviews? Lets take a peek at the powerhouse of the used book market,
Victoria BC-based AbeBooks.com, and the leader in new book (and everything else) sales,
Amazon.com. (For anyone who hasnt read the press release, Amazon acquired
AbeBooks.com in August 2008.)
AbeBooks.com does indeed provide book reviews (in this case for Cormac McCarthys The
Crossing), but only in their most basic form. A review date and smiley rating are the only
two attributes of each review:
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Amazon.com, parent company of AbeBooks, does things a little differently and offers much
more depth in their implementation of reviews.
The book-selling behemoth incorporates a number of social proof elements into each set of
recommendations in order to compel people to engage [and hopefully purchase]:
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With only a brief scan of its product pages, its pretty clear that Amazon understands
consumers and what they have come to expect from an e-commerce site. And with an
average annual conversion rate north of 15%, the company also has a firm grasp on the
principles of persuasion and specifically the power of social proof.

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DAY 3: Social Proof: Part II (Enjoy Your Stay)
June 3, 2009
Lance Jones

In yesterdays post about the principle of persuasion known as social proof (and how social
proof relates to Internet user review systems), I left off with an illustration of how
consumer reviews are implemented on two popular book sites, Amazon.com and
AbeBooks.com.
While both sites offer user reviews, Amazon clearly demonstrates a deeper understanding
of how social proof and user reviews can compel people to purchase its products. Many of
Chens research findings that I cited in yesterdays post align perfectly with the design of
Amazons popular product review system.
That was books. What about higher ticket priced items such as hotel rooms? How are travel
aggregator sites making use of social proof?
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There are many more attributes of a hotel than a book and there is also generally more at
stake when it comes to making a vacation booking than buying a vacation book. As a result,
we see a lot of rich detail on hotel site user review systems.
Lets take a look at three popular hotel aggregator sites:
1. Hotels.com
2. Travelocity.com
3. TripAdvisor.com
Hotels.com incorporates guest reviews directly into its product pages and provides some
nice features for drilling into whats important to travelers when searching for a hotel
property. Ratings for service, hotel condition, and cleanliness give visitors an additional
layer of detail than a single overall rating. Reviews can be filtered by the type of trip you
plan to take which makes sense given that leisure travelers will likely have a very different
set of expectations than business travelers!

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Travelocity.com positions its reviews as a new feature. While perhaps late to the reviews
game, the site designers have done their homework when it comes to allowing visitors to
drill down into the information that matters most to them. A simple two-column layout and
a surprisingly high number of reviews across the listed properties makes it easy for hotel
searchers to get the information they need and feel confident in the overall assessments.

TripAdvisor.com was one of the first travel aggregators to offer user reviews. However, the
site has not evolved at a pace one might expect on the Web, and a lack of in-depth review
features generally means more work for site visitors and the advertisements are a
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distraction from the primary goal of the page, which is to persuade users to book via great
user-generated content.

Ive scored the 3 sites across 7 different dimensions to get a sense of their overall
effectiveness and ability to persuade. I used a 10-point scale, giving equal weight to each
persuasive element (this is subjective but it is my blog). The absence of a particular feature
doesnt necessarily translate into a 0, since there may be a proxy for that missing element.
For example, the ability to sort reviews by rating could be called a proxy for Hotel
Popularity, but its not as elegant a solution. Photos, however, are an all-or-nothing
element (i.e., it does mean 0s for not having them).
So howd they do? There is no runaway winner because no site provides all of the
persuasive elements and they each tend to excel in different areas. TripAdvisor.com
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edges out the other 2 sites mainly because of its user-submitted photo feature, which I
would argue is a highly persuasive element. Travelocity misses with the absence of
helpfulness ratings and Hotels.com lacks depth in the areas of filtering and individual
attribute ratings.

With their persuasive properties grounded in social psychology and plenty of research like
Chens to support their continued use, consumer review systems are a unique value add on
the Web. People have come to rely on the opinions of others for online and offline
purchase decisions, and I suspect that without them we would feel lost. But that is an
unlikely scenario so long as people continue to take the time to provide their opinion.

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DAY 4: Use Data to Sell: Recommenders in Online Apparel Shopping
June 4, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

Recommender agents can get your customers to buy more of the clothing they want.
When I buy shoes, I think about the outfits Ill wear them with. When I buy an outfit, I think
about what shoes will go with it. In fact, nearly every time I see an outfit I like on a
mannequin, I look to see if theyve paired it up with shoes just to get an idea as to what I
should buy.
(Bear with me, non-shoppers. Im going somewhere here.)
Traditional print catalogues have been great for showing shoppers the whole ensemble.
Sears comes to mind immediately. And even J. Crew, which sells shoes, accessories, and
clothing, has recently started selling Timex watches in their print catalogues assumedly
because people like to buy coordinating pieces and feel confident that theyll look stylish
even if style doesnt come naturally.
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Maybe thats why Anthropologie.com has
a Buy This Outfit function on their site.
Because there are a lot of moving pieces
to creating an outfit, and it can be hard
for one person to determine which pieces
go best with which others. Stimuli
overload!

Welcome to the World of Recommender Agents
What happens to online shoppers when theyre faced with lots of information? Huang,
Chung, and Chen (2003), referencing other studies and their own, argued that information
overload online creates enormous challenges for customers during decision-making and
that intelligent recommender agents can help customers overcome those challenges.
Recommendation systems assess what a customer is currently viewing online or has
purchased in the past and work a little behind-the-scenes magic to recommend additional
purchases to them.

What exactly is that magic? Well, intelligent recommenders use knowledge engineering,
collaborative filtering, content, or a hybrid of those approaches to make recommendations
(Huang et al., 2003) and depend on machine learning as well. Most commonly, intelligent
recommenders will use association data mining (Huang et al., 2003), or data from other
customers, to recommend products/solutions, like Amazon does here:

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And here:

Simpler recommenders may pull recommendations in from neighborhoods (Huang et al.,
2003), which are basically pre-set categories of similar or complementary items to the one a
user is viewing or has viewed. For example again, Amazon:

The goal of intelligent and simple recommenders is the same: To help users make more
purchasing decisions more confidently on an e-commerce site.


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Persuade Them: People Just Like You Buy Products Just Like This
The beauty of recommenders is that they are one more tool to help time-harried shoppers,
users overwhelmed by information, and users lacking the ability to judge the quality of a
product make the decisions they want to make.
We know that, when abundant information hinders rational choice, the brain relies on
social influence choice (Donadebian, 2006) to help us decide. Social influence choice or
social proof, as weve seen already, is great for online decision-making. Recommenders are
one more type of social proof theyre just based on quantitative purchasing data rather
than qualitative user assessments.

Whos Using Recommenders To Sell More Product And Whos Not?
Well, Amazons obviously the king of recommenders, as shown in the screenshots above.
But Im not shopping on Amazon right now. No, right now, I want to buy a new pair of
pumps so Im heading over to Piperlime.
For those who like to shop for clothes, Piperlime is great because its actually 5 sites in one:
the Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta and Piperlime. That means just one checkout
process (one shipping fee, one account setup, one credit card entry) for a range of clothing
shopping needs. We love it!
Given that there are so many outfit + shoe purchasing opportunities on Piperlime, we fully
expected the site to have a recommender agent of some kind. Even a simple one. Cos its a
great cross-selling opportunity and what marketer doesnt love those words?
We arrived on the site. We found some great heels and, on the product detail page, all sorts
of awesome social proof in the form of user ratings and reviews.
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Then we added the shoes to our cart and expected to be met with customers who bought
these shoes also bought this bag or these shoes look great with this dress from Banana
Republic. But we got nuthin. No, we were sent directly into the cart to create an
account with nary a recommended cross-sell to bump up the average sale price.
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This lack of recommender represents a persuasion opportunity for Piperlime, Gap, Old
Navy, etc., which are already doing great things with social proof. User testing could help
determine if recommenders would feel too salesy to users. And an A/B test could also help
determine if recommenders on Piperlime lead to any sort of lift, especially today when
some might argue that people lack the disposable income to even consider additional
purchases.
Apparel etailers who ARE using recommenders, albeit very simple ones, include Bluefly

and J Crew
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Those etailers and others! must hypothesize that recommenders help users and the
business. An A/B test could help reveal some insights there.
The truth is that recommenders do help users make more confident purchasing decisions.
They also persuade users to buy items the might otherwise not have considered. All with
the data youve probably already got. So use em!

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DAY 5: Can You Sell More by Offering Less? Exercises in
Scarcity Marketing
June 6, 2009
Lance Jones

One day sale!
Limited time offer!
These deals wont last!
Weve seen messages like these our entire lives. There is a well-known persuasion principle
at work here and marketers have been using it to sell product and services forever. Its the
principle of scarcity.
What is scarcity?
According to Wikipedia, scarcity is the problem of infinite human needs and wants, in a
world of finite resources. What a great definition!
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How does it persuade?
In a nutshell: You want now what you may not be able to get in the future.
We find things that are scarce desirable. If something is difficult to obtain, then getting it
demonstrates to ourselves and others that we are in control of our environment. If a person
or company comes along and threatens to take away that which we desire or somehow
limit its supply, it triggers our primal need to remain in control and not be controlled.
If you can control supply, then you have a significant lever on demand and you can
artificially create scarcity. The De Beers Company buys huge quantities of diamonds on the
world market, simply to keep them scarce so that their high price is maintained. OPEC
works in a similar way.
A study conducted by Zhang, Ying, Fishbach, and Ayelet in 2005 supports this,
concluding that individuals evaluate losses more extremely than gains of similar size.
Think about the gasoline shortage in the early 70s. Or consider what happens with
dwindling water supplies during a drought or emergency. Gas and water are considered
essential to survival (well, sadly, gas is considered essential in North America) so people line
up at the mere mention of a shortage and can actually fuel a downward spiral. But the same
principle holds true for ordinary, everyday items as well as for luxury items.
For example people flock to see a heavily censored film. Music that is banned on radio
stations typically shoots up the charts. Bad boys are often desirable to young women if for
no other reason than prior admonishment from trying-to-do-right parents; rebellion
is definitely connected to scarcity (i.e., trying to have what you are told you cannot or
should not have).
The same holds true for banned substances. When we realize
that we do not have something, we desire it. But when
someone or some agency bans that something, it only makes
things worse. Interestingly, when Lady Chatterleys Lover
was first published it was banned. Apparently many black
market copies were sold and it made the author, D.H.
Lawrence, famous.
And in the more recent past, do you remember the insanity
surrounding these popular and heavily advertised
Christmas gifts? The Pet Rock (1975), Star Wars toys (1978),
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Rubiks Cube (1982), Cabbage Patch Dolls (1983), Tamagotchi (1996), Furby (1998) and the
Nintendo Wii (2006) are all examples of scarcity being applied during the holiday season:
People were actually injured in the stampedes to obtain commercial items in limited supply.
Now if something is not scarce, then it is not desired or valued as much. Praise from a
teacher who seldom praises is valued more than praise from a teacher who is liberal with
his or her praise. And if everything is scarce, then scarcity itself lacks value and people
become too used to it. Studies of retail sales have shown that if more than about 30% of
goods have sale sticker on them, the effectiveness of this method decreases. How
persuaded are you by furniture stores that advertise weekly blowout sales?
Scarcity on the Web
How are companies applying the scarcity principle on the Web?
Going once, going twice, sold! eBay is an entire business built on this principle, combining
limited supply and a highest bidder pricing model to create a massive marketplace fuelled
by scarcity which ends up being highly persuasive (and addictive!). The study by Zhang,
Ying, Fishbach, and Ayelet refers to this principle (as it applies to buyers and sellers) as the
endowment effect, which is defined as the gap between the price buyers are willing to
pay in order to acquire an object and the price that sellers would demand in order to part
with this object.
Gone in a flash! Scarcity is also applied as a persuasion technique by online apparel and
fashion retailers using a concept called flash sales where goods are offered
at sizable discounts for a limited period. Take a look at the following examples from
Outnet.com and GiltGroupe.com:
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Deals are flying out the door! Were also seeing the scarcity principle applied by travel
aggregators and airline sites. What could be more persuasive than learning there are only 2
seats available at the sale price?


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Here are some ideas and things to remember when youre trying to generate the same
persuasive effect on your own site:
Strictly limit the amount of product youre selling in a promotion. Display the
quantity right up front in the headline where every visitor can see it and strictly
adhere to your statement.
Create time-sensitive deadlines that actually expire. Set a date for the promotion to
end and offer a special discount on the product if purchased before that time and
dont be tempted to extend the closing date. Credibility is the key to generating
scarcity.
Try providing special insider access passes or memberships to the first X number of
respondents or if your visitors order before a deadline. You increase value and
evoke quicker responses by limiting the number of memberships available.
Offer forward-dated discount vouchers for future product releases. For example,
Buy our amazing software this week at $199 and youll automatically receive our
next release with 12 additional features at just $99.
Display dramatic visual countdowns to increase the sense of scarcity and amplify
your visitors urge to purchase.
Hopefully this sprinkling of scarcity mechanisms will inspire you to employ them in your
own headlines and throughout your Web copy. If you state simply and clearly that a
genuinely scarce commodity is available to a hungry target market (who you know want
what you have!), and you can make it disappear before their eyes, people wont stop
reading. In the end, if youve done it correctly, theyll place the order.

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DAY 6: A Case Study in Neutralizing Barriers
Online: WeightWatchers.com
June 8, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

Have you heard? Americas obese.
A search on NYTimes.com for obesity returns over 10,000 results of articles & multimedia
distributed online in the past 30 days alone. Morgan Spurlock marketed the documentary
Super Size Me on the back of popular media on obesity. Basically, youd be hard-pressed to
find someone who doesnt have an opinion on weight gain in America whether theyre
overweight or not or American or not.
Telling people that theyre overweight and that everyone around them is overweight is a
great way to get people to believe that theyre overweight and that everyone around them
is overweight. Theres a lot of persuasive power in repetition.
So how intimidating is it for consumers who are ready to diet to actually get started, with
that prevailing rhetoric of obesity creating some seriously negative anticipation? And the
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bigger question, for these 30 Days of Persuasion: How does anticipation of an outcome
affect consumer decision-making?

Anticipation: Shaping Fantasies for Consumers
Brian Knutson out of Stanford explores the concept of anticipatory affect, or the
emotional states people experience when expecting big outcomes, in his work in the area of
neuroeconomics and antecedents of decision-making. Using fMRIs, Knutson has shown
that, seconds before
Help Your Users Imagine Themselves Enjoying Your Product or Service
When a consumer makes a choice, they experience changes in neural activity. His work is
part of a growing body that suggests that consumer decision-making is not always based on
information about a product that the consumer has previously encountered or that the
consumer ascertains at the moment of first impression with a product. Sometimes,
anticipation of a purchase (or, better, the exchange of money to gain an item of desire)
plays a significant role in consumer decision-making.
Knutson tells us what happens before a consumer even approaches a decision-making
environment.
Then theres what happens when the consumers in the decision-making environment and
begins to anticipate future use of the product or service under consideration. Thats where
these ideas come in to play:
Jackie Snell and Brian Gibbs have introduced the concept of intuitive hedonistics, or
common-sense decision-making based on anticipation of pleasure
Michel Tuan Pham referred to affect recruitment heuristic, or decision-making that
involves picturing oneself doing something with a purchased item, feeling a certain
way (i.e., experiencing affect) about that image, and using that affect to make a
purchasing decision
Diane Phillips, Jerry Olson, and Hans Baumgartner called the process of imaging
oneself using a product a consumption vision
What can we take away from these researchers work? Well, that research today is clearly
showing that consumers:
a) may start the decision-making process before arriving at your website
b) do have emotional responses that affect purchasing decisions but theres much more
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to the popular notion that emotion influences decisions than meets the eye

Making the Most of Anticipation: WeightWatchers.com
Dieters hate dieting and fall off the bandwagon ALL the time. So when a dieter considers
really buckling down and learning how to have a healthy diet that is, when a dieters
ready to go to WeightWatchers.com anticipation has not only set in but has likely taken
over a good part of their experience with the site. And they havent even arrived on the site
yet!
WeightWatchers.com needs to both overcome negative anticipation of the dieting
experience and exaggerate the positive consumption visions for dieters moving towards
their goal weights.
Negative Anticipation
The good folks over at WeightWatchers.com address negative anticipation (a barrier)
throughout their site. They use great messaging to break down barriers, especially in How
Weight Watchers Works, the first tab in their global nav:

Further in, WeightWatchers.com addresses a pretty powerful excuse used not only in
dieting but in almost everything potentially life-changing: Its too big a challenge.
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WeightWatchers.com also makes it easy for people who are crippled by previous failures in
weight-loss or those who just dont think they quite need to start a proper dieting regime
with Weight Watchers to back out without feeling guilty about it.

Is it powerful to hear that you dont have to lose all that weight quite yet? Is it reassuring to
know that you might not be ready to start the diet yet and that thats okay?
Consumption Visions
When consumers have decided that theyre ready to start losing weight that is, when
theyre engaging in consumption visions its the job of WeightWatchers.com to leverage
that opportunity in order to persuade them to sign up.
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What might consumption visions look like? Im guessing here, but lets say it begins at
fitting into old favorite jeans and ends at Valerie Bertinelli in a bathing suit. A dieting
consumer likely imagines herself turning a few heads. Thats the excitement. Thats the
motivation to proceed.
Does WeightWatchers.com play into consumption visions to persuade users to become
members? The Success Stories section seems to try by showing video-stories of Weight
Watchers members whove lost weight and kept it off.

Whats interesting is that WeightWatchers.com has gone decidedly neutral in their
success stories. Sure, the stories are good but are the people actually people that
consumers envision themselves resembling after months of saying no to dessert?
Its clear that WeightWatchers.com was going for a real people vibe here, likely to make
their stories seem more credible. Gotcha. But, for us, WeightWatchers.com fails to balance
the credibility element with persuasive consumption visions that conjure up actual affect.
This is a point of opportunity for a site that otherwise does a great job with anticipation.
Maybe its time to test it, WeightWatchers.com?
Remember: Theres Good Anticipation and Theres Bad Anticipation
Anticipation doesnt always mean looking forward to or hoping for something.
Sometimes anticipation looks like dread (I really dont wanna stop eating fries and gravy!)
or impatience (I know this is gonna hurt lets just get it over with). Is dread or
impatience a potential barrier to sign-up for your consumers? How is your site mitigating
negative consumer anticipation?
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DAY 7: Show Your Flaws Openly to Convert Users (by
Minimizing Ambiguity)
June 9, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

Risk vs. Ambiguity: better the devil you know than the devil you don't.
Risk and ambiguity impact how and whether people make decisions. Research (e.g., Brand,
Labudda, & Markowitsch, 2006; Qi, 2006) has shown that, in risky situations, people make
decisions much differently than in ambiguous situations. Very interestingly, Qi has shown
that when consumers are given the choice between making a decision based on risk or
based on ambiguity of information, consumers will choose risk over ambiguity.
So heres what we know and will look at today:
1. When faced with a risky decision or an ambiguous decision, consumers choose risk.
2. When coping with making a risky decision, consumers require more proof about a
product/service to help make a decision than in non-risky situations.
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Ambiguity vs Risk: The Ugly Mug Principle on Dating Sites
So youre on a dating site, and youre sorting through a big ol result list of potential
matches. Thats a lot of info to process when making a decision. And, of course, you want to
make the right decision.
When in the presence of multiple stimuli and when youve got your romantic future on the
line, which options do you immediately eliminate? Did I hear the ones without photos?
Why do you eliminate the photo-less results? Because theyre ambiguous options. Because
no photo means that the match is so unfortunate-looking (read: risky!) that they cant even
compare to the worst of the worst on a dating site. It is in the interest of avoiding ambiguity
that most result lists on dating sites are chock full o photos today even though it seems
that a lot of online daters arent that photogenic.

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What youre witnessing is The Ugly Mug Principle. Even if youre not the hottest guy, youll
still have a better chance of a woman checking you out if you show a photo of your ugly
mug than no photo at all. Why? Because when faced with a risky decision or an ambiguous
decision, consumers choose risk.
THE UGLY MUG PRINCIPLE:
Show your products flaws instead of glossing over the issue
or pretending its not there.
So youve reduced ambiguity by showing your mug but youve also increased risk by
showing that you aint that pretty. Now what? How do you minimize risk to persuade users
to click to learn more about you? How do you persuade a potential match that, okay, sure,
you kinda look like Elvis Costello without the talent, but you really are a pediatric surgeon
who spends the weekends taking his nieces to ballet class? The fact is that if youve
heightened risk (i.e., risk in partnering with you), so you need to minimize or neutralize it in
one of 2 ways:
1. Simple solution: You prove that, in spite of your shortcomings, youre not a risk.
With photos of you in the O.R. With photos of you watching your nieces dance in
The Nutcracker.
2. Better solution: You get others to prove it for you. This is where sites like
eHarmony, Match.com and PlentyOfFish have room to grow by adding in reputation
management tools or links to recommendations on LinkedIn, Naymz, etc.
Why? Because when dealing with risk, consumers require more proof of the worth of a
product than in non-risky situations.

The Less Obvious Ambiguity-vs-Risk Example: Shipping Costs
Okay, so we have yet to encounter an online shopper who isnt interested in knowing
shipping costs early on yet only the big-time e-commerce sites seem to do this well.
(Probably because the eStores most companies run have ridunculously high shipping costs.)
When youre telling users about shipping costs, you need to place those messages
strategically. The point in the conversion funnel at which you reduce ambiguity around
shipping costs will impact how much further a user goes down the funnel.
So you can show on your home page that you charge $25 to ship. Or you can show it on a
product detail page. Or you can show it in the cart. Or the catalog. Its definitely worth a
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test on your site to see the impact of shipping messaging in various places in the conversion
funnel.
Lets look to some random examples quickly to see whos doing what where.
Sites that remove ambiguity in shipping costs on the home page:



Sites that remove ambiguity in shipping costs on the product detail page:
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Sites that remove ambiguity in shipping costs in the cart:


Sites that HIDE shipping costs (e.g., in lightboxes on product details or in carts):
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Weve seen that even the highest-converting sites position their shipping costs in differing
places, and that those etailers with a better shipping story to tell (e.g., low-cost, flat-rate,
free) tend to place those shipping messages earlier in the conversion funnel.
If you want to avoid putting your users in a situation where they have to choose between
ordering on your ambiguous eStore or on the very unambiguous Amazon.com, it might not
hurt to start by reconsidering where your shipping cost messaging is positioned. Even if it
appears to present a risk for users. Just mitigate that risk with high-quality value prop
messaging and, as we always advocate, test it.
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DAY 8: How Likeable Is Your Online Experience? (And How Does That
Impact Conversion?)
June 9, 2009
Lance Jones

Behavioural researchers consistently find that we are inclined to respond positively to
people we like.
That means we buy from those we like, we accept their proposals, we comply with their
requests, and we refer business to them.
This is the likeability principle of persuasion: People are more likely to say yes to people
they like.
This principle is very simple, and its good news to people who are naturally charismatic.
But what about the rest of us? What can we do to use the principle of likeability to achieve
positive results?
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Sorry, but you wont find the answer to that question in this post since were focusing
here on selling products or services on the Web. Charismatic is not really a term Ive yet
heard applied to a Web site. Anyway
There are various elements of likeability, some of which you may have already heard. For
example, we like people who are similar or have similar interests to us. Or the even more
widely-known concept that people like genuine compliments. These two elements of
likeability may be highly effective in face-to-face situations such as sales calls or
negotiations but its difficult to translate them to a one-way medium such as the Web.
However, another element of likeability is transparency or in the case of the companies
Im about to discuss being completely open and honest with your customers about what
your product wont do, as well as what it will do. How many companies do you see
marketing where their product falls short, or where their competition may offer more? The
list is likely very short. But it is the potential risks of being completely transparent that end
up endearing customers to the businesses that are courageous enough to use this
approach.
First, let me give you a few examples of how this has worked offline over the years. These
are all examples of companies who have embraced their weaknesses and turned them into
brand- and business-building strengths.
The Volkswagen Beetle has arguably become one of the worlds most beloved automobiles.
But the North American advertising campaign that vaulted the quirky, relatively fuel
efficient novelty vehicle (back the late 1950s) into a popular status symbol did not focus on
the Beetles strengths. No, the firm Doyle, Dane, and Bernbach touted the German cars
weaknesses. Surprisingly, Ugly is only skin deep and It will stay uglier longer were
some of the slogans used in the campaign.
It turns out that arguing against your own self-interest, which can include a drawback of
your product, creates the perception that you and your organization are honest and
trustworthy. And this in turn puts you in a position to be more persuasive when promoting
your products genuine strengths.
In Volkswagens case, the Beetle wouldnt win any beauty
contests at least not relative to the more mainstream designs
of the time by the Big Three US automakers but its strengths
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were durability, fuel economy, and price, which are ultimately what helped sell the Beetle
to Americans.
Avis took advantage of this same principle in its memorable motto: Avis. Were #2, but we
try harder (When youre not #1 you have to.) Other examples include Listerine: The
taste you hate three times a day, LOreal: Were more expensive, but youre worth it,
and Buckleys: It tastes awful. And it works. This approach has worked for more than just
a few companies.

Applications of Transparency on the Web
Progressive was the first major insurance company in the world
to launch a Web site in 1995. One year later, car owners could
use the Progressive Web site not only to learn about
Progressives rates, but also to learn about the rates offered by
Progressives major competitors. And while Progressive may
beat the competition in most cases, it is not always the case.
Has it worked? The companys enormous growth since it
implemented this innovation an average of 17 percent a year,
with annual premiums growing from $3.4 to more than $12 billion suggest that its quite
effective at turning potential customers from Web browsers into Web buyers.
A little more than a year ago, [very] shortly after the original launch of Kindle, Amazon sold
out of product. Instead of letting site visitors spend time moving from home page to
product page and through the cart and checkout before discovering what would surely be a
frustrating out-of-stock notification, Jeff Bezos posted an explanation and apology on
Amazons home page:
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How many other online retailers post out-of-stock notifications for their most popular
products on their most popular (i.e., home) pages? Its uncommon because its likely viewed
as a risky decision. After all, you may be able to get a visitor to invest in filling out your
checkout forms before notifying them of the fulfillment delay and still have them complete
their order despite the delay. On the flip side, however, how do you think the abandoners
would feel about your organization after spending that time unnecessarily completing
forms only to experience the let down of an unavailable product?
For something a little closer to home (for me) here is an example of transparency that we
(Intuit Global Business Division, my employer) experienced during the busy Canadian tax
season.
The QuickTax.ca home design that was live between January and March attempted to
channel site visitors into our online tax preparation products by providing multiple Try it
free buttons that led to QuickTax Online. We didnt make it easy enough for visitors to
locate our CD and downloadable tax products, and as a result, many visitors ended up in
our online application (when what they really wanted was our desktop software):
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While the business would love Web site visitors to adopt our online tax applications, this
lack of transparency and clarity around the products we offer manifested itself as a lower-
than-expected conversion rate for our desktop software customers. The solution involved a
redesign that clearly laid out our two types of consumer tax software giving equal weight
and prominence to both CDs/downloads and the online application:
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The revised home page enables visitors to make a well-informed decision instead of pushing
them toward an online product that may or may not actually meet their needs. If anything,
we should have used persuasion principles to compel people to try the online tax product
instead of hiding the desktop option from site visitors.
So in your next series of A/B or multivariate tests, consider using the likeability principle
and mention a weakness (or two) of your product right up front to help earn your site
visitors trust. We believe itll be that much easier to convince them that the truly superior
features of your product really do surpass the competition in those areas. Or at a minimum,
be sure to reveal pertinent details such as dropped products, out-of-stock items, and price
changes to your prospective and existing customers to show them that you have their best
interests at heart. Itll pay off in the long run.

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DAY 9: 10 Characteristics of Playful, Engaging and Persuasive Websites
June 10, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

Sites need to be usable.
Who could possibly argue that they dont need to be? Jakob Nielsens done a great job of
teaching us all that useful tidbit.
But what if you could take a really usable site like this:
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And merge it with a fun, playful site like this?


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You might get something like this:

Today, were talking about making usable sites playful in order to persuade users to move
through your site, return to your site and, if youre selling stuff on it, buy products or
services on your site. Were talking about the power of play (or what some call user
engagement).

Play: A Key Part of User Engagement (Along with Flow, Aesthetics and
Interaction)
If you work on the web, you already know about the importance of sorting out a user flow
and crafting stories through interaction design. Not to mention the importance of
aesthetics. These three elements help to create user engagement But have you given
much thought to play, the fourth element of engagement (OBrien & Toms, 2008)?
In 1967, William Stephenson developed the Play Theory of Mass Communication. This
theory takes shape around the concept of communication-pleasure, which posits that play
can be the sole purpose of a user that play for the user need not lead to any concrete
outcome. Playing is enough. Playing is pleasurable. (I mean, who hasnt been distracted
from a work task by something fun?)
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If you could make a task feel like playtime,
wouldn't you be more interested in doing that
task?
But is the idea of visitors playing on your site
and buying nothing good enough for you? No,
probably not. Thats why it might interest you
to know that play leads to happier users who
are more willing to stay on your site and
return later.
For example, research on affect in online shopping (e.g., Nahl & Bilal, 2007; Arnold &
Reynolds, 2003) allows us to extrapolate that engaging users in playful e-commerce
experiences increases pleasure, which renders users more likely to return to a website.
Atkinson and Kydd (in 1997) wrote about the role of play in decision-making on the web,
where play is associated with increased satisfaction with using a web system and is
attributed to increased motivation and affect for users.
So lets say you want to apply the very broad concept of play to your site. Is a playful site
just a good-looking site? Is it just an easy-to-navigate site? Do you basically need fun little
icons to engage users via play? All legit questions and the following checklist should help
when you test the value of play on your own site.

Checklist of 10 Common Play Characteristics:
Stimulates or challenges the mind/imagination
Is totally easy to use, with big bold targets and larger fonts in a range of styles
You can navigate it without any triangulation techniques
Makes the user feel like theyre in full control
Includes novel elements cool features users didnt expect and maybe havent
seen before
Has great aesthetic appeal, whether its an uber-clean interface or something
reminiscent of the Ringling Brothers
Creates a feedback loop with the user
Lives and breathes variety
Offers a high level of interactivity
Creates sensory appeal with a range of multimedia (e.g., text, graphics, sound)
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The more of the characteristics your site offers, the more playful and, in turn, engaging
it will be for users. And when you keep users happy and on your site longer, you have a
much better chance of them noticing one or two of your persuasive messages and
converting.
Here are a few examples of (what couldve been serious) websites that encourage play
while remaining largely usable by incorporating some of the above play characteristics.


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And if all else fails and you just cant see the point in play, remember this: If its good
enough for Porsche, its good enough for you.

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DAY 10: 5 Companies Try to Monetize Free
June 11, 2009
Lance Jones

What do you do when somebody you just recently met gives you a birthday or Christmas
present?
What happens after your neighbours invite you over for dinner? Or after a friend buys you a
drink at a bar?
How do you respond when a co-worker gives you a recommendation on LinkedIn or
Naymz?
And then theres Twitter. What do you do when someone decides to follow your tweets?
If youre a typical, well-mannered and considerate human being, you reciprocate.
Turns out, reciprocity is one of the most powerful principles of persuasion, spanning
demographic, socio-economic, geographical, and cultural boundaries. Sociologist Alvin
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Gouldner says that there is no human society on Earth that does not follow the rule of
reciprocity.
This rule states that we are all bound even driven to repay debts of all kinds. Someone
does something for you then you feel obligated to repay. Its an almost automatic
reaction.
Reciprocity is at work in all the above examples. When one person does something for
another, that other person senses that a debt is owed and is compelled to repay.
An example of this principle at work (from some years ago) is the
Hare Krishna technique of giving travelers at airports a flower. The
Krishna disciple would say that the flower was a gift. Then when the
gift was accepted, the disciple would ask for a donation. With a
pretty flower in hand, it was hard to then refuse a smiling request
for a small donation. And those little flowers and small donations
added up nicely, helping to build a multibillion dollar religious
empire that spans the globe.
Another example comes from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). For years, the DAV
sent a basic form letter to potential donors, asking for their support. With that basic letter,
the DAV had enjoyed an 18 percent response rate. But the DAV hoped for better. Using the
principle of reciprocity, the charity made a brilliant strategic decision. One year, instead of
sending the form letter alone, the DAV also included in their donor package a small gift:
personalized address labels. As a result, the response rate jumped to 35 percent.

Applying Reciprocity to High Tech
If youve looked for free anti-virus software or free online financial products lately, chances
are youve had decent success. Its not difficult to understand why people seek free
applications, but what motivates companies to offer products that generate no direct
revenue? Are they consciously applying the reciprocity principle to their business?
[Note: Im treating free software differently than free trials. Free trials enable site visitors to
try before buying, but software developers are counting on the fact that when the trial
period ends, people will pay for the privilege to continue to use the product. The quality
and usefulness of the product may persuade users to pull out their wallets, but this is not
really the reciprocity principle at work. Ill save that for a different discussion.]
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Lets take a look at some of the leaders in the anti-virus and online financial product
businesses to get a better sense of their free offerings and whether or not the principle of
reciprocity is being used:

AVG offers a free product as well as trial and paid versions of their popular software.
According to their site, more than 80 million people use the AVG Free Edition, which is
offered at no charge for non-commercial use. It appears as though AVGs strategy is to drive
traffic to their site with a free offering and highlight its limited feature set in the hope of
immediately upselling visitors to the paid products.
If visitors choose to proceed with downloading the Free Edition, we would expect some
percentage of users to upgrade eventually. Neither of these techniques are great
examples of reciprocity.
Remember, reciprocity is about creating an urge in people to repay a favour in kind or
remove a feeling of obligation.
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Quicken Online is free personal financial software offered by Intuit, the makers of TurboTax
and QuickBooks (and also my employer). There are no strings attached and no paid
versions. So whats the catch? Although I am not involved in the Quicken Online business at
Intuit, its safe to say that Quicken sees adoption of its free product as a way to bring
people into Intuits family of products.
By offering a great user experience at no charge, its certainly possible that people will feel
a sense of obligation to at least explore (and possibly pay for) other Intuit products when
presented with an appropriate offer at the right time.
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FreshBooks is a Canadian start-up that offers online billing and invoicing services to
freelancers and small businesses. There are five fee-based monthly subscriptions and one
free plan. If you have fewer than four customers (as a small business), the free plan will
accomplish all your needs, but as your customer base expands, youll require the paid plans.
So there is no need for FreshBooks to upsell customers because the adoption of paid
products should happen organically.
Even so, there is an element of reciprocity at work on FreshBooks. The company explicitly
requests that you share your experience with friends (and other small businesses) if you like
their product. And if a great experience is offered for free, its likely that many people will
follow through.
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Mint.com offers free personal financial management software on the Web. Positive reviews
by the media and consumer word-of-mouth have generated double-digit growth rates since
its launch. With a completely free product, how does the company make money? Well,
once you set up an account, Mint assesses your financial picture and presents you with
offers from participating financial institutions:
We give you personalized ideas on how to save money by presenting the greatest
savings from among thousands of financial products. If you decide to make a change
that saves you some cash, we sometimes earn a small fee from the bank or company
you switch to. You save a lot; we make a little.
So Mint has attempted to create a user experience that keeps you coming back. And with
each visit, they have an opportunity to present you with another offer. Now its unlikely
that youre going to blindly accept a savings account, credit card, or loan offer because you
feel obligated to the provider of free online software (i.e., a persons decision to accept is
likely going to be based on the quality of the offer), but the reciprocity principle suggests
that youre more open to receiving offers. Its a favour (being open to Mints offers) for a
favour (free useful software).
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If the Mint.com example seems like a plausible example of reciprocity, then could
reciprocity also be a factor in Googles success? Sure, Google has created a search engine
based on ease, speed, and relevance, but its also counting on search users clicking on paid
advertisements to generate revenue. Its clear that people will continue to use Google
because of its user experience, but Id like to suggest that users are also open to being
presented with and reading paid ads due to reciprocity. Google provides a great online
experience at no charge, and people are happy to reciprocate by looking at marketing
messages.
If you want to make the principle of reciprocity work for your business, remember to give
first. And whether you choose to give away your time, valuable advice, a whitepaper, or
free software, the potential to persuade increases just the same. To improve your chances
to convert, create a sense of obligation in your customers minds and dont be afraid to ask
for something in return.

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DAY 11: Dont Interrupt Me! Can Interstitial Upsell Pages Persuade?
June 11, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

Don't bug me! I'm eating.
Heres a persuasion dont: Dont interrupt people when theyre trying to buy your products.
Its like youve got a cookie in your hand, its nearing your mouth and someone bumps
your hand. Even if you dont drop the cookie, its still kind of frustrating.
Or how about this? Youre on a website. Youve added to your cart the products youre
willing to pay your hard-earned money for. Youre ready to checkout. And suddenly youre
confronted with a cross-sell page thats keeping you from buying your products and getting
on with your life.
If youve been in this situation and had a less-than-great response to the interruption,
congratulations! Youre human! And as a human, youre evolved to avoid delays in
consumption of any kind. Its part of foraging theory, a model within the behavioral ecology
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of consumption and its what were talking about today.

Yes, Consumers Are Foragers
Even the most civilized among us cant train out the evolved behaviors of our ancestors.
Human consumption, according to some theorists (e.g., Hantula, Brockman & Smith, 2008),
is a bio-behavioral phenomenon where behavioral adaptations from ancestral
environments impact decision-making. That means that what you consume has more to do
with built-in decision-making processes than you mightve expected.
Whales have become expert foragers, evolving and perfecting the 'bubble wall' that traps
their prey.
The idea calls on foraging processes of ancient times, wherein hunters/gatherers sought out
often-scarce food and the scarcity of the food made acquisition of it (and eventual
consumption) highly competitive and valued. Foraging theory is what makes us want stuff
now and it applies to online consumers.
People who shop online experience the same major phases of foraging our ancestors did:
Searching
Handling
Consumption
Handling or the period that begins with an item sitting in your cart and end with that item
being delivered to you (via mail or download) is the period during which interruption
most frequently happens. Items that have a longer handling time are less preferable than
items that can be consumed with little delay.
Enter Interstitial Upsell Pages (i.e., Interrupters), the Bain of the Foragers Existence
Ive been in marketing for years. So, I mean, trust me, I get the importance of cross-selling
and I know how powerful tools like recommender agents can be in getting people to add
more products to their carts. I like higher conversions!
But I dont like interruptions.
And marketers know that people dont want to wait in line at retail or experience page load
delays on e-commerce sites so why the Helsinki are e-marketers adding these interstitial
upsell pages in to the shopping flow? Here are two experiences I had recently.).
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Did I love being interrupted in these two separate product acquisition (i.e., handling)
processes? Well, I didnt abandon, at least but I do remember not liking the experience
feeling disengaged and sold to. That was my personal experience.
The first real question is, Does extending the handling period and delaying consumption
cause users to abandon their carts? Not necessarily, according to Jason Goldberg. In fact,
interstitials have shown great results for many etailers and they must be working a bit, or
test-savvy sites like QuickBooks.com wouldnt be using them.
The second and more interesting (to me) question is, Are the interrupters
themselves persuasive? Do they actually help rather than hinder? Is it an interrupter that
increases sales or the entire concept of cross-selling? Can you achieve the same results
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you might achieve with interrupters by using a less-interruptive technique than an
interstitial upsell page?

Trigger Their Rapid Forager Response
Whether you use interrupters or not, its clear that people care about delays. That means
theres an opportunity to remove possible barriers to purchase for your users: tell users
how far they are from getting their hands on the products theyre ordering on your site.
Throughout the conversion funnel, try messaging any of the following that apply to you:
How many days it takes to ship a product within an area
How long it will take to download software from the site
How quickly users can expect to receive free whitepapers in their email inboxes
How long it takes to get a refund
How many hours it takes to receive a response from the technical support team
By eliminating barriers re: delays, you move your users closer to a place where you can
persuade them to purchase your product.

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DAY 12: Product Catalog Pages How Strategic Is Yours?
June 12, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

Consumers can make better sense of your offerings
when you group them.
Hands down, the topic of persuasion architecture in
online catalogs is my favorite. Its pretty fascinating
to think that you can design information/content in a
high-stimuli page to persuade more users to click on
products that are actually better suited for them.
Whats even more fascinating is that so few
companies actually seem to be designing their
catalogues with even basic persuasion principles in
mind.
Here are a few examples of what seem to be
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haphazardly organized default product catalog pages with complete apologies if Ive
dissed your catalog design.

Catalog pages that show opportunities for persuasion architecture.
Each of these 3 catalogs presents a lot of information for the user to sort through. Thats
asking the user to do work. Not good.
To give the above page designs the benefit of the doubt, could we assume that these
etailers are simply counting on users to use their sorting capabilities to create for
themselves a better shopping experience on the catalog? and thats why theyve done
very little with the default catalog? Even if that is the case, the question still remains as to
why the default catalog is not organized in a meaningful, persuasive way, given that users
will spend time on it before sorting.
So, what can make a catalog page more persuasive? And what might a more persuasively
architected catalog page look like? Lets discuss.

Persuasion Architectures Low-Hanging Fruit: Context Effect
Its been argued that consumers make decisions based on one of two desires:
1. To make an accurate choice (i.e., which product is absolutely right for my needs?)
2. To minimize effort (i.e., which product can I acquire without having to think about it?)
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Its ideal to exert as little effort as possible to make the most accurate choice for you. Users
online want that especially, research has shown, when theyre shopping for utility rather
than for pleasure. Consumers have well-developed methods of trying to make sense of a lot
of information one of those methods is leveraging social proof, and another is choice
simplification via relational comparisons.
All summed up, its called the Context Effect. And it can be your closest ally in designing a
catalog page. Why, you ask?
We've been learning to compare items in context to spot the differences since we were
little
Well, in 1992, Simonson and Tversky showed that consumers determine the value of an
option by focusing on it in relation to other items in a choice set (or a grouping of items).
Context Effect shows that, in decision-making environments, consumers make relational
comparisons between options. They scan the information they see to start comparing and
making sense of everything. They look at the bullet points of a product description and
begin making trade-offs between the one list of bullet points and another list on the page.
Rather than standing back and looking at the environment and its information from a
global perspective, consumers go local they focus in on certain product attributes in
relation to the attributes of another product and make decisions accordingly.
This information is a bit different from a persistent assumption that people look at objective
facts in making rational purchasing decisions.
Case in point: Buying insoles is a decidedly non-emotional purchasing decision, but do you
think youd be able to look at the insole catalog above and not start sorting the information
by eliminating certain items and contrasting others? How else would you make sense of it
all?
So the point is that consumers make relational comparisons between options rather than
making absolute assessments. What can we, as catalog designers, do with that?

Applying Context Effect to the BestBuy.ca Catalog Page
If people need choice sets to begin making better relational comparisons, lets give those
sets to them. To develop choice sets, just begin by looking at the products in your catalog to
see which are most similar; the ones that have the most in common become natural choice
sets because they may make it easier for users to compare.
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The goal is to help users compare and, if possible, to make the best products actually look
like the best products by showing that, compared to other products, theyre just numero
uno.
Now heres an example of a default catalog page that feels like it could benefit from the
Context Effect.
Without changing the six-box, stacked layout or the products on this default catalog page,
heres what we can do to resolve the opportunities noted:
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Generally speaking, BestBuy.ca B lines up all camera images, product names, prices,
savings/discounts and feature lists to facilitate ease of comparisons in choice sets. It also
creates choice sets by grouping similar cameras to help users who are looking for a certain
camera attribute or shopping with a budget in mind to easily find the cameras they want
and eliminate the ones they dont. Finally, the use of whitespace on the $1199 camera
shows its lack of similarity to or relationship with the two colour camera options, which
can work to either eliminate it as an option for people who dont have a $1200 budget OR
to eliminate the two colour camera options for those who have a bigger budget.
Nothing has changed except the grouping of the choice sets and the lining up of names, etc.
In this example, theres of course still some room to improve. For example, the huge savings
on the $599 camera could absolutely be called out to persuade users; this is also an
opportunity to contrast the $599 with the $1199 for those who mightve been shopping
with a $750+ budget. Another option is to pull the megapixels out into bullets so those can
be better, more quickly compared.
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What You Can Do with the Context Effect
Context Effect helps users make sense of all the information youd like to present to them
information that is otherwise overwhelming. All you need to do is sit down with your
catalog, your product managers and your marketing team to figure out which products to
group into choice sets and what attributes youd like to line up to facilitate relational
comparisons. And, by all means, test your newly architected catalog against the old one to
see if Context Effect affects your users.

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DAY 13: Designing Trustworthy Web Sites Part 1
June 13, 2009
Lance Jones

What elements are essential to making a Web site persuasive?
Human Factors International (HFI) pioneered a new way to look at the effectiveness of Web
sites, called PET Design, where P=Persuasion, E=Emotion, and T=Trust. In our 30 Days of
Persuasion were obviously focused on the P in PET, but Id like to dedicate a couple of
posts to trust as well. Today Ill introduce some trust-building concepts for e-commerce
sites developed by a Swiss PhD student, Florian Egger, back in 2003. In a follow-up post, Ill
explore how online start-ups and small businesses are applying these concepts to establish
trust and credibility with first-time visitors particularly on their home pages.
So, on to the concepts
Trust and credibility are vital in the pursuit to persuade. If you cant establish trust and
credibility, then your site will not likely persuade. Which means it wont convert, either.
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Florian Eggers conducted an interesting series of studies in 2003 for his doctoral thesis
on establishing trust online. His thesis, titled Designing the Trust Experience for Business-
to-Consumer Electronic Commerce, explores the most influential factors in building
credibility on a Web site, and goes so far as to design a checklist for evaluating trust factors
and a survey for understanding site visitors perceptions of a Web sites trustworthiness.
Although Florians publication is nearly 6 years old, most of it is still relevant to the process
of building trust on e-commerce sites.
So what are the elements of trust on which Florians research recommends focusing? There
are four main categories:
1. Pre-interactional filters
2. Interface properties
3. Informational content
4. Relationship management
Pre-interactional Filters refer to the trust that is established prior to direct interaction with
a company. The reputation of the industry to which the company belongs is a pre-
interactional filter. For example, people likely have more trust in banks than in high interest
rate loan companies. Within a specific industry, what is the reputation of the company?
How much offline awareness exists for the organization? If the company has an offline
presence, what is its reputation? Offline brand awareness and experience play a critical role
in trust and are eventually transferred online. And, in addition to our own experience with
a company, we tend to rely on the experience or advice of sources we trust, whether
friends or publications a concept known as transference.
The second trust factor is known as Interface Properties, which can be thought of as the
look and feel of a Web site and it can be split into two
components.
The first component of the interface is branding, which Egger
refers to as a sites visual design and is primarily responsible for
making that positive first impression. For example, are the
graphical elements appealing and appropriate for this kind of Web
site? But its not only visual appeal that comprises branding; other
elements of branding include the company name, logo, and its
unique value proposition. What exactly does the company do? Is it
immediately apparent? Does the design compel users to explore
the site further? And finally, the perceived professionalism of a
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Web site also factors into branding. It should be customer-centric and pay attention to
detail (i.e., convey a professional image through good use of grammar and spelling).
The second component of Interface Properties is usability, which Jakob Nielsen (1993)
describes as a systems learnability, efficiency, memorability, error prevention, and user
satisfaction. A usable site should be easy for first-time visitors to grasp and engage with. Is
the content organized and laid out logically? Legibility should be high if the appropriate
fonts sizes and sufficient contrast are used. In terms of the sites navigation, how easy is it
to understand the labelling and categorization of content? Upon visiting the home page,
users should be able to form a mental model of how the site is organized based on the
content, layout, and navigation. Usability also addresses how information is requested from
visitors (e.g., during registration and checkout) and how the site delivers feedback,
guidance, and error messages during data entry. Even site performance is an important
element of usability, relating to the availability of pages and the download speed of those
pages (and it goes without saying that there should be no broken links or orphaned pages!).
And finally, the degree to which visitors feel that the Web site is relevant to their needs is
also a function of its overall usability.
Informational Content is the third factor in establishing and building trust with your site
visitors. Its a pretty big topic, spanning how a company presents information about its
identity, its products and services, as well as its security and privacy measures.
Identity. So how do consumers assess the
trustworthiness of your organization without a face-
to-face interaction? On the Web, this can be
addressed by providing complete information about
the history of your company, its legal status, and the
people behind it. You can also use well-crafted
content about your companys values, partnerships
(especially with trusted organizations), achievements,
and community participation (including charity
support) to bridge the gap. How you message your
companys success will influence visitors trust,
whether it is providing a portfolio of recent work or
links to an annual report or the size and reach of your
customer base. Does your site show that there are real people behind the company
including key names, photographs, bios, and email addresses?
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Products and Services. The quality and depth of information
about your products and services also contribute to establishing
trust. Whether visitors have a specific goal in mind or show up
simply to browse, detailed descriptions of your offerings will
help them make confident and informed decisions. Product
descriptions should be objective and free of sales jargon and
lofty claims. Images should effectively complement your
product descriptions. Prices should be prominently displayed
and being transparent with respect to additional costs (e.g., shipping, taxes) early in the
purchase flow will prevent negative surprises for your visitors later on. Are product
availability and shipping times provided? These are all
ways to reduce the perception of risk for your site
visitors.
Security. Speaking of risk, your sites content should
include summary level and detailed information about
your security and privacy measures as risk and trust are
closely related. Consumers react well to explicit security
policies, which typically detail how data is transferred,
processed, and stored. But although consumers
appreciate the sense of security such policies provide, it has been observed that they rarely
read them in great detail so a prominent link to your policy will likely suffice. Your
ordering process should take place on secure pages and provide multiple payment methods
to address visitors varying comfort levels with credit, debit, or electronic transfer of funds.
Displaying seals from trusted third parties that assess your companys commitment to
security is also a common consumer expectation.
Privacy. As with security policies, people like seeing that a
Web site has a privacy policy, although most of them hardly
ever read it. For those folks who do venture into the finer
details, it should be written in an easy-to-understand way and
clearly state what personal information is collected, how that
information will be used within the company, and whether it
will be sold to other companies. Your site should feature a seal
from a trusted third party that audits your organizations
privacy practices. And when it comes to registration and
purchase forms, you should only request personal information
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that is absolutely necessary and that matches the expectations of customers. Sensitive
data such as social security and drivers license numbers require special treatment and
assurances.
The fourth and final trust factor is known as
Relationship Management, which describes the
quality and availability of resources for site
visitors before and after a purchase is
completed.
For pre-purchase interactions, the availability
and ease of locating different methods of
contact both online and offline can be an
indication of how much a company cares about
its customers. Is there a dedicated customer
service area that includes multiple forms of help
such as FAQs, live chat, and user forums? Once
communication is initiated by a visitor, response
time becomes an additional indicator of the
value a company places on its customers (and no response at all will likely result in no sale).
Is the companys response to your question relevant and complete? Does the response
include a personal touch such as a real persons name and email address? And what is the
tone used by the respondent?
Post-purchase interactions include how the order is processed, how its fulfilled, and how
any issues are handled. Once a purchase is complete, are customers able to manage and
track the progress of their order? Seeing an order progress through the various checkpoints
helps consumers feel confident in the vendor. Fulfillment refers to the delivery of the
product. Was it delivered on time? How about the packages condition and presentation?
The correctness and completeness of the order is critical, and the amount charged by the
company should be identical to the original amount specified on the Web site. And finally,
the companys method of handling returns and customer service inquiries is crucial to the
maintenance of trust and development of the customer relationship.
Part II: Applying trust-building theory to your Web property
If the list of trust cues and considerations seems daunting, it should. Trust is not something
you achieve quickly or easily or with a single headline on your home page. No, trust is built
over time and across multiple interactions, and it should be treated as a fragile commodity.
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From what people read about your organization on the social Web, through their first
exposure to your site, and on to completing a purchase and experiencing the quality of your
companys customer support, there are dozens of opportunities to build or erode trust so
lets explore some examples in the next post.

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DAY 14: Building Trustworthy Web Sites Part 2
June 14, 2009
Lance Jones

In yesterdays post, Designing Trustworthy Web Sites, I outlined the fantastic and still
timely research conducted by Florian Egger in 2003 on building trust and credibility for e-
commerce sites. Florians doctoral thesis includes a checklist of the elements to look for in a
trustworthy Web site, and they are categorized into the following high level categories
or trust factors:
1. Pre-interactional filters
2. Interface properties
3. Informational content
4. Relationship management
Since yesterdays discussion was so theory heavy, Im going to let pictures do most of the
talking today, but for each trust factor above, Ill quickly summarize the basic premise.
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Pre-interactional Filters refer to the trust that is established prior to direct interaction with
a company. Im highlighting Mint as a company that doesnt just rely on conversations
taking place about its site, but brings those conversations (happening amongst users and
the press) back to its Web site via reviews and testimonials:

The second trust factor is known as Interface Properties, which can be thought of as the
look and feel of a Web site and it can be split into two components: branding and
usability. Companies that excel in building trust through their interface design choices
include MailChimp, 37signals, Invoice Machine, and Product Planner:
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Informational Content is the third factor in establishing and building trust with your site
visitors, and it includes company identity, products, security, and privacy. Examples
of companies doing a great job of building trust through content are Instabox, Clearleft,
Tapbots, Bridge55.com, 37signals, and MailChimp:

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The fourth and final trust factor is known as Relationship Management, which describes the
quality and availability of resources for site visitors before and after a purchase is
completed. MailChimp and Bridge55.com have designed their sites to give visitors
confidence in their customer service capabilities:
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There are obviously countless more examples of small businesses and start-ups that are
demonstrating expertise in building trust and credibility on the Web. If youd like to offer an
example of a site doing well in the areas outlined above, please use our blogs comment
feature and well do our best to showcase your recommendation!
And if youre interested in reading Florians extensive research in its entirety, here is the
link.

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DAY 15: Delegation! When Your Users Ask YOU to Tell Them What to Buy
June 15, 2009
Lance Jones

When you don't have the knowledge you need to make the right decision, it's time to
delegate!
Really effective persuasion is based on tapping in to the decision-making processes of
consumers to address their barriers to purchasing and break those barriers down by
highlighting/applying their motivators for purchasing.
Principles of persuasion are largely based on how to help consumers make the decision you
want them to make. But purchase decision delegation is all about consumers stepping
back and letting others make their decisions for them. Its like subcontracting your decisions
to someone better able to make them.
Why would a consumer want to let someone else make up their minds? Most often, its
because:
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Theyre lacking the product knowledge they need to make an accurate decision
Theyre too busy to be bothered
They dont really care and just want to get the purchase over with
In such situations, consumers may be open to using an online recommender agent to show
them their options and suggest the best matched product for their needs. (Lets call this an
online agent.) Think of any time youve asked a coworker to recommend a real estate
agent, for example if you ended up going with that agent, you effectively delegated your
decision. Doesnt seem like too much of a stretch anymore, does it?

What Purchasing Decisions Might Consumers Delegate to Your Online Agent?
Before we go too far, lets be clear: Delegating decisions doesnt always mean delegating
the final purchasing decision. Consumers arent going to necessarily give you their credit
card numbers and tell you to buy whatever you think they need (except maybe for personal
stylists and interior decorators). No, instead we can ask consumers to allow us to help them
make decisions at one of these 3 (of the 5) purchasing stages:
1. Information Search They need your help to figure out what characteristics they
should be looking for in the product/service they purchase
2. Evaluation of Alternatives They need your help to narrow down their choice sets
(or products in product categories)
3. Purchase Decision They need your help to make the final decision
Regardless of the stage at which your customers may wish/need to delegate their decision
to your online agent, the fact is that they will have at least 2 major barriers to overcome in
order to subcontract that decision to you The good news is that there are at least 4 major
motivators that you can highlight to help break down those barriers and open them up to
delegating to your online agent. This chart describes.
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The desire for control in making a decision about what to buy cannot be underestimated. It
might be impossible for your online agent to erode the control barrier for some users but
it is not always impossible, or, if it were, this blog post and the research that supports it
(e.g., Crane; Klein & Ford, 2003; Ratchford, Lee & Talukdar, 2004) would never have
happened.
For you to make the most of this information and its opportunities, it may be valuable to
consider first the elements that litter the path between your users and their use of your
online agent:
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This path diagram shows that your potential customer is separated from subcontracting
their decision to you by the barriers and the motivators, where the barriers need to be
lessened and the motivators highlighted. (With regards to the motivators, its worth noting
that accountability, authority and customization all lead to an increased sense of
trustworthiness of your site and its online recommender agent.) Here are some ideas
around how you can highlight motivators:
Accountability On the agent landing page, message that you have a 100% 30-day
money-back guarantee for any purchase and that, for purchases made from the
online agent, consumers get an additional 30-day grace period for returns. Or offer a
feedback tool that lets users return post-purchase and tell others if they liked the
product or if they should use the online agent.
Authority Give the credentials of the people behind your automated online agent
or on your chat tool.
Customization Create a truly robust online agent that takes the detailed info of the
consumer and uses that info to generate a custom recommendation.
Trustworthiness Huge topic dealt with in last 2 posts

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Examples of E-commerce Sites with Online Agents

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Where Are We Seeing Online Agents Today?
The above examples are for wine, mortgages and movie rentals, respectively. There are also
a schwack of travel, insurance, stock/trading and wardrobe recommenders out there. These
online agents are pretty obvious solutions, given how align closely with at least one of the
reasons to delegate we noted at the start of this post:
Theyre lacking the product knowledge they need to make an accurate decision =
WINE, MORTGAGES
Theyre too busy to be bothered = MOVIES
They dont really care and just want to get the purchase over with
But where are the software recommenders? Where are the contractor recommenders? And
what about options in the I dont care just get it over with area? Im seeing a future of
online agents that recommend birthday cards for coworkers, new wiper blades for your
car..

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DAY 16: Bloggers Persuade With Authority
June 16, 2009
Lance Jones

If a police officer stopped you in the street and told you to move because there was a
parade about to begin, would you comply?
What if a policeman said you matched the description of someone who was wanted for
burglary, and that you should go with him to clear it up would you go?
Most people in these situations obey without questioning. We see the uniform and never
think to question the possibility that the policeman may not, in fact, be a policeman.
Then there is the story of the doctor who prescribed eardrops for a patient with an earache,
but in his haste to attend to a more pressing emergency wrote on his pad, Place in R ear
instead of Place in right ear. Guess where the patient received his eardrops? Obviously
rectal treatment of an earache makes no sense at all, yet neither the patient nor the
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administering nurse questioned it. The fact that a legitimate authority gave the instructions
completely clouded the common sense of another highly capable professional.
The dual effect of authority is that not only are we compelled to obey it, but we are not
permitted to challenge it! This makes authority a very powerful persuasion principle.
How did that happen? It turns out that from a very young age we are trained to obey
authority figures: first our parents, then teachers, policemen, managers and so on.
Eventually our need to comply extends to anyone who seems to be our superior. We
effectively divide the world into those who are superior to us (and who should be obeyed)
and those who are inferior (and who should obey us!). We then make the critical error of
equating superiority with authority.

Indicators of Authority
What are the cues that tell us when someone else is in a position of authority?
Uniforms
Uniforms are overt symbols of authority. They show membership in and allegiance
to specific groups. We typically associate uniforms with police and military forces,
but we extend our belief to water inspectors, security guards, postmen, and more.
Of course, less-than-honest individuals can take advantage of trusting folks by simply
donning a uniform.
Wealth
We assume that if someone is wealthy, then they must be successful. And if they are
more successful than us, then they must somehow be superior to us. We hurry to
help and obey those who seem richer than us, perhaps also in the hope that they will
share some of their wealth or impart some wisdom that will help us attain what they
have. Just like with uniforms, this is not the most difficult form of authority to fake.
Physical attributes
Evolutionary programming tells us that, in general, a taller, stronger person could
hurt us so we tend to associate authority with taller men and women. It is also a
fact that more executive positions are held by taller people. Interestingly, there is
also a reciprocal effect at work here: we actually perceive people in positions of
authority to be taller than they really are. Although it is an expression not often used
today, Walking tall is a reference to this aspect of authority.
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Knowledge & experience
With age come knowledge, experience, and wisdom (hopefully!), and although its
not necessarily true of all cultures, authority is extended to people of more
advanced years especially in Asian societies. But age is not a pre-requisite for
knowledge and experience; in fact, everyone has the ability to develop themselves
as an authority by demonstrating their abilities to the people they wish to influence.
Even the youngest player on a professional hockey team can still be team captain if
he demonstrates the ability to lead and play to a consistently high level. Experts (i.e.,
people with significant experience) are typically authorities in their domains.

How Can the Authority Principle Be Applied Online?
It has become clear over the last few years that a very effective way to establish oneself as
an authority on the Web is through blogging. And to be successful at blogging, one does not
need a uniform, wealth, size, strength, or membership in the AARP. Blogging gives everyone
an opportunity to establish their authority by demonstrating expertise on a topic,
process, product, service, etc.
If you also happen to be in the business of selling online, blogging can pay off even more.
Your ability to persuade site visitors increases with authority, so becoming a trusted
authority through blogging can actually help you sell to your target audience.
Here are a few examples of bloggers who have established themselves as authorities in
their respective areas and who have translated blogging success into business success:
Danny Sullivan (Search engine expert)
Blog: Daggle
Company: Search Engine Land
Products or services: Premium membership to site, conferences, events
Avinash Kaushik (Web analytics expert)
Blog: Occams Razor
Company: MarketMotive
Products or services: Online courses and certification related to analytics (and more)
Bryan Eisenberg (Site conversion expert)
Blog: GrokDotCom
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Company: FutureNow
Products or services: Conversion optimization services
Mike Arrington (Silicon Valley start-up expert)
Blog: TechCrunch
Company: TechCrunch
Products or services: Research and reports about Internet companies and products
Lance Jones & Joanna Wiebe (Online persuasion experts)
Blog: Persuasive Web
Company: N/A
Products or services: TBD
If you want to set yourself apart as an expert and gain the authority needed to persuade
people online, blogging is low-risk, high-reward endeavour but it requires passion and a
tremendous commitment in order to be truly effective. Just ask Joanna and me writing
the 30 Days of Persuasion is turning into one of the most intense and rewarding
periods in my life. My hat goes off to all the people who have made the commitment and
continue to deliver week after week, month after month, and year after year.

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DAY 17: Is Cause Marketing Persuasive?
June 17, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

Youve heard of cause marketing. Thats when businesses
support/sponsor a cause publicly in order to, ultimately, line
their pockets with the proceeds of goodwill.
Think Dawn cleaning up birds affected by oil spills. Pamperss
tetanus shots for expecting moms. The Lexus/Scholastic Eco
Challenge for students. Haagen Dazss support for
bees/pollinators. And the oh-so-popular Sears sponsorship of
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
At their most basic, cause marketing campaigns are product
placements. The Extreme Makeover designers go running
through Sears in search of appliances for the new home, with
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a big ol Sears sign overhead. Product placement.

So, heres the question: Are product placements as overt attempts to entrench a brand
in ones memory and, hence, as overt marketing actually persuasive in cause marketing
campaigns?
If you read this popular article from AdAge, youd say that, yes, they are. But lets dig a bit
deeper than that, shall we? On Day 17 of the 30 Days of Persuasion, thats exactly what
well do.

When Consumers Reward Companies for Self-Serving Selflessness
Consumer decision-making researchers Drs. Becker-Olsen and Cudmore argued that
consumers will support a company that engages in cause marketing (i.e., sponsoring
philanthropic efforts) when these 3 things are true:
1. The consumer believes the effort makes sense or fits with the companys
products/services offerings
2. The consumer believes the act is from the heart (motivated by pro-social ideals)
3. The consumer perceives the act as proactive rather than reactive
So Sears engaging in cause marketing on Extreme Makeover should enhance consumer
attitudes towards Sears because it meets those 3 heuristics. That is, it makes sense for Sears
to donate appliances; they consistently sponsor the TV program, which feels like true
corporate motivation; and their efforts were not motivated by negative PR. Even further,
Sears restrains its product placements, so viewers arent beaten over the head with their
commercial intents.
Surprise, surprise: Even consumers think its okay for companies to engage in cause
marketing under the right conditions.
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And When They Dont (and Your
Efforts Backfire)
Youre motoring along a road in Kentucky,
and you pass over the black-filled remnant
of what once was a pothole. You glance
down, and what do you see but a big ol
KFC logo and Re-freshed by KFC stamped
in white paint on it?
Now tell me, do you feel oh-so-glad that
KFC was kind enough to take a few of their
billions of dollars and fill in the potholes
you thought your tax dollars were going
towards? Or do you maybe feel a touch choked that not only are taxes crazy but now
youve gotta deal with KFCs thinly veiled attempt to get you off the road and into their
drive-thru where the chicken is barely chicken, nevermind fresh.
KFC, you already knew consumers were hugely skeptical about being marketed to, but you
had to go and slap your logo all over their streets.
What KFC was trying to do here was to engage in cause marketing (not a bad thing) and
enhance their brand in consumers memories (not a bad thing). But heres where they went
wrong, insofar as persuasion is concerned: they revealed their hidden commercial intent.
How? By spray-painting every single pothole with their logo and even incorporating some
sort of new tagline around their product as fresh. (Wha.?)
Itd be like every person on Extreme Makeover wearing a Sears t-shirt. And the entire
program being named Sears Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
According to Drs. Bhatnagar and Aksoy, companies like KFC can expect consumer backlash
to heavy-handed cause marketing in the form of a negative impact on:
The trust consumers have in that brand
The trust consumers have in the claims that brand makes
The trust consumers have in the media used

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Companies Who Are Doing Cause Marketing Persuasively Online
The webs a persuasive tool, so why not take these efforts online? These websites designed
around cause marketing initiatives meet Becker-Olsen and Cudmores 3 criteria of fit,
motivation and timeliness/proactive-approach.

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty Fits the Product and the Brand Value Proposition:
To Be Real


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Accor Hotel Group Tucks Their Great Microsite (for the Accor Foundation) Into a Corner of
Their Corporate Site... Rather Than Parading Their Philanthropy

Virgin's Music Movement Fits Well With Their Brand and,
As One of Nearly 10 Movements in Virgin Unite, Shows All the Right Motivations

So, at the End of the Day, Is Cause Marketing Persuasive?
Well, 92% of US adults have a more positive image of a company that supports a cause the
consumer believes in, and 87% of consumers say theyd switch brands if quality & price
were the same but the other brand supported a good cause. So we can say that, when done
well, cause marketing can be extremely effective. According to Nielsen Media Research,
Extreme Makeover has helped Sears achieve better recognition and positive feelings among
consumers:
August 28, 2007, New York, NY The Sears Department Store placement on ABCs
Extreme Makeover Home Edition had the top product placement score on
broadcast network television in June 2007, The Nielsen Company reported today in a
new metric based on both brand recognition and positive feeling. According to
Nielsens product placement measurement service, 58.1% of the Extreme
Makeover Home Edition audience not only were able to recognize the presence of
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the Sears store brand during the program but also came away with a positive feeling
for the brand as a result of that exposure.
Time will tell how people actually respond to KFCs initiative. So far, it looks like the mayors
of a lot of the towns KFC is approaching re: their citys potholes are not jumping at the
opportunity..


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DAY 18: Counting Your Customers Will Bring You More
June 18, 2009
Lance Jones

I wrote about social proof here and here, on days 2 and 3
of the 30 Days of Persuasion. The focus of those two
posts was one element of social proof frequently used on
the Web to persuade visitors to convert: customer
reviews.
In this post Ill explore another variation on social proof:
quantifying the size of your customer base. Where
customer reviews is about letting your customers do the
talking for you, quantifying the reach of your product or
service is about letting the numbers do the talking.
The principle of social proof suggests that when we do not
know how to behave, we copy other people. These other
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people act as information sources for how we should behave since we tend to
[sometimes wrongfully] assume other people know what they are doing (this form of social
proof is sometimes termed, informational social influence). In addition, because we care
so much about what others think about us, following the crowd provides a safe course of
action; at the very least, we cannot be criticized us for our actions.
We are more likely to use this principle when the task at hand or situation is very serious.
Social proof occurs most often in one of the following situations:
The situation is ambiguous. We have choices but do not know which to select.
There is a crisis. We have no time to think or experiment. A decision is required
immediately.
Others are experts. If we accept the authority of others, they must know better than
us.
On the direr end of the spectrum, youve probably heard the stories of normal, everyday
people ignoring public muggings and cult members being led into bizarre and even
suicidal acts.
But since this is a happy blog(!), here are some additional examples of social proof that have
far less serious consequences:
The use of canned laughter in sitcoms to encourage audience enjoyment
The seeding of tip jars at bars or cafes to encourage tips
Manipulation of the line-up at clubs to boost its attractiveness
The gradual increase in standing ovations as more audience members join in
In other words, when we are not sure of our own ability to know what to do, we will look to
others to tell us.
Back to applying this principle on the Web
One very straightforward way to adopt this technique is to tell your site visitors how many
customers use your product or service. MacDonalds has applied the concept since the
1960s although not on the Web its a well-known example of quantifying your customer
base (nitpicky readers may tell me that MacDonalds actually counted hamburgers served,
but its the same idea). Here are some examples of companies doing the same thing, but
online:
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Opera.com

QuickBooks.co.uk
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37signals.com

MailChimp.com
This technique wont work if youve just launched a start-up, simply because you wont
likely have many customers. However, there are variations on the idea. For example, if your
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product or service is just getting off the ground, but youre seeing fast adoption, you can
message how quickly people are converting since your launch date:

FreshBooks.com
Another variation on quantifying your customer base is citing your market leadership or
market share. Being #1 in your market (and you can play with what your market means
without being manipulative!) is effective because it removes the perceived risk in that first
purchase. Oracle uses this technique in television ads and on the Web. Here is a snippet
from Oracles career site:
75 of the Economic Times top 100 companies are Oracle customers and worldwide
this includes 92 percent of the USA Today Internet 100 and 96 percent of the
Fortune e50.
Notice here that the percentage would be much smaller if Oracle settled for a percentage of
the Fortune 500, so they use another slice of the market where the percentage is higher.
The persuasive effect is maintained while still being factual.
Whichever variation on quantifying your customer base you use, the core message you
send by applying this technique is, Others choose us and so should you. Now go crunch
some numbers.

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DAY 19: The Persuasive Power of Following Norms
June 19, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

Every environment has its own norms that influence how people behave in that
environment.
Lets imagine that each website is its own environment, influenced by surrounding websites
(e.g., the search engine that brought them to the site) but ultimately creating its own
context, its own reality. In this way of understanding websites, a site is a microcosm, if you
will complete with norms and social expectations that are the equivalent of those in the
real world but are perhaps more concentrated in a specific online environment. For
example, the norm people should not tell lies still makes its way into the context of every
website, but in sites, like Twitter, as a news-heavy microcosm, telling the truth is a even
more important than in other environments.
If that is the case, then the norms you reinforce and even create on your site will influence
how your users respond to your messages.
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Basically, norms can actually persuade (or dissuade!) your users from acting. Thats right.
You can leverage what your users believe (social/cultural norms) in the way you message on
your site to help users conduct themselves in keeping with norms they were raised with
(e.g., people should say thank you) and the norms you highlight in the unique context of
your unique online environment (e.g., people like to use our products). The idea, of course,
is that people want to conform to the norms its a great survival technique well get into
another day so theyll act in normative manners.
Its called normative conduct, and its a great way to persuade your users.

The Focus Theory of Normative Conduct
This theory suggests that norms influence the way people behave, with norms fitting into 2
categories:
Descriptive norms: People do X.
Injunctive norms: People should do X.
Further and of great importance, when two norms are at odds in a situation (e.g., people
shouldnt litter, but people do litter in New York), people focus on the most salient or highly
observable norm wins, and most will conform to that norm.
For example: There are 3 apartment building
lobbies, each with a wall of mailboxes. Lobby
A is very clean, suggesting people dont
litter here. Lobby B is very clean with a
single bit of litter (actually, a watermelon
rind). And Lobby C is covered in litter,
suggesting people always litter here.
The question: In which lobby will apartment
residents discard their mail (i.e., litter) more
frequently?
Such was the premise for a study Cialdini (with Reno and Kallgren) conducted in 1990. The
results were very interesting:
In Lobby C (the dirty one), 26.7% of residents added to the litter
In Lobby A (the clean one), 10.7% of residents littered
In Lobby B (just 1 piece of litter), a mere 3.6% of residents littered
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What does this study show? That norms guide behavior. In this study, the norm was built
around what people do regarding litter. For Lobby C, the norm was to litter, and so people
littered. For Lobby A, the norm was to avoid littering, so people avoided it but as soon as a
few people started littering, the norm shifted to people litter here, and people responded
accordingly.
And then theres that weird little surprise that is Lobby B. This situation saw several norms
at odds: the injunctive people shouldnt litter norm that sits in the back of our heads, and
a conflict between the descriptive people dont litter here and people litter here norm.
In the otherwise clean environment, the injunctive norm and the former descriptive norm
rose to the top, beating out the people litter here descriptive norm. People acted in
accordance with the most powerful norms.
We can take this theory beyond the litter example to the idea that a norm is ultimately an
expectation of people, and when you tell people what the norm is, they are more likely to
act that way. Consider that neighborhood watch signs have actually caused an increased
perception of crime in an area and, in turn, more crime.

Applying Normative Conduct to Online Environments
So, great, people act based on what they think theyre expected to do. They act based on
the norms of the environment theyre in. Now what does that mean for persuading people
in your eStore? Well, you want to show people that buying your product is the norm,
conforming to the norm is good and deviating from the norm is bad. Of course, doing this
effectively requires knowing without question what youre trying to sell and that you
are, in fact, absolutely trying to sell it. Obvious? Not really, actually. Case in point:
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In the above examples, the comparison charts, which might normally be a great way to be
transparent about how you stack up, actually create the norm that people should shop
around and that people do shop around (if not, you wouldnt even be looking at that
comparison chart, would you?) so you, too, should shop around. Not good for conversion
unless youre 100% positive that your product will blow the others out of the water.
Now, if you get normative conduct right and can create an environment in which buying
your product/service is the norm and conformity is good, youre set. Here are a few
examples of websites that successfully leverage normative conduct.
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Do you know how you might turn your brand, product or service into the norm without
causing users to feel like real deviants if they choose not to conform to the norm on your
site? Its a fine balance and the stuff of another post down the road.

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DAY 20: Whats the Magic Word? Because
June 20, 2009
Lance Jones

A core mission of this blog is to explore proven principles of persuasion and their potential
to influence your site visitors while still being completely transparent with your target
audience. Yes, persuasion techniques can be abused and human behavior can be exploited,
but Joanna and I firmly believe that integrity is critical to building a successful online
business.
Over the past couple of years, weve read quite a few books
about traditional sales, marketing, and advertising. One of the
best so far, in my opinion, is Influence: The Psychology of
Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini.
Cialdini distilled the thousands of sales, influence, and
compliance-seeking tactics he observed down to a handful of
techniques that he calls weapons of automatic influence, or
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the common denominators found in most of the methods he studied. He claims that each
of them is based on a human psychological principle that has the ability to produce a
distinct kind of automatic, mindless compliance from people, that is, a willingness to say yes
without thinking first.
Applying persuasion principles taps into the auto-pilot programs under which we operate
every day programs that enable us to make decisions quickly and survive a busy [and
sometimes dangerous] world. Given how many decisions we make in our lives (and have
had to make to ensure our survival), its not surprising that we are conditioned to avoid
over-thinking every single scenario we encounter.
In his book, Cialdini explores the most effective ways we can influence people to comply
with our requests. He writes, A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we
ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People
simply like to have reasons for what they do. The strategy itself makes sense if you think
about it. We dont like to be told things or asked to take action without a reasonable
explanation.
So when you need people to be receptive to your thoughts or requests, always give a
reason why. And the most effective transition word when giving a reason why is because.
People are simply more amenable to influence with the addition of this simple word.
The power of because has been well-documented by social psychologist Ellen Langer.
Langer performed an experiment where she asked people queued for a copy machine to cut
in line ahead of them.

Langer's Study Illustrates the Persuasive Power of 'Because'
She tested three different ways of asking people the same basic question and recorded the
results:
1. Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?
Result: 60% said OK
2. Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because Im in a
rush?
Result: 94% said OK
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3. Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to
make some copies?
Result: 93% said OK
By providing a reason and using the word because Langers desired compliance rate
improved dramatically. More surprising perhaps is the fact that in case #3, it didnt really
seem to matter what specific reason was given (surely making copies is the most obvious
reason to use a Xerox machine!). The word because triggered an automatic response in
the participants and changed the outcome.
This technique is well-known amongst direct marketers and ad copy writers, but I havent
seen it applied on Web sites with any frequency and a quick Google search is not yielding
great results. For example, why dont companies who offer a product promotion give
visitors a reason for the price reduction? And with free becoming so prevalent on the
Web, why not provide potential users an explanation (using because) as to how a product
can be offered for free in the first place like gaining market share, or eventually moving
customers into paid products.
Since all were talking about is adding the word because and a reason to your online
requests, why not test the theory out for your next campaign? Test it in your email subject
lines or Web page headlines.. or primary calls to action basically anywhere you wish
visitors to comply with your request.
Bottom line: If you want to persuade someone to buy your product or complete a task, give
them a reason. Of course, a good reason will likely be more effective, but even if you think
your reason is less than compelling, the research suggests that site visitors are more likely
to comply than if you had given no reason at all.

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DAY 21: A Flawed Persuasion Principle?
June 22, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

What happens when you look for a flaw but find nothing?
The athlete who must be on steroids but isnt. The 24-year-old millionaire who must be a
drug dealer but actually runs a successful start-up. The beautiful actress who you hope has
veneers & extensions, gets Botox by IV, is brainless & shallow but whos actually naturally
gorgeous, a PhD and a math tutor for inner-city kids on the weekends.
Theres power in looking for flaws and being proven wrong. Its persuasive. Research into
consumer decision-making behavior even proves it.

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The Experiment: The Power of Being Proven Wrong

What if someone sat you down in front of the aspirin message to the right (from Bayers
Aspirin website) and said, Tell us what you think about this product? And what if they
then sat your friend down and said, Tell us all your negative thoughts about this product?
Drs. Derek D. Rucker and Richard E. Petty of Ohio State University conducted that
experiment almost exactly. The widely held assumption in consumer research, prior to their
research, was that people cant be persuaded once theyve started to argue against the
claims or messaged benefits of a product. So when Rucker and Petty asked one group to
focus on their negative thoughts about aspirin, they mightve expected that the effect of all
that negativity would be anti-persuasion.
The actual result? People who aggressively considered drawbacks to aspirin but found
none concluded that they had truly few negative thoughts about the product which
actually increased their certainty in choosing aspirin. Those who sat and objectively
processed the aspirin message that is, those who were asked just to think about aspirin
were less certain about choosing aspirin. Why? Because they had not attempted to find
fault and come up empty-handed. They hadnt engaged in battle and lost. They hadnt been
proven wrong.


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What Happens If They Counter-Argue And Are Proven Right?
Umm dont let that happen. As researchers Tormala and Petty found, people who
successfully counter-argue a message ended up feeling even stronger negative feelings
towards a product because theyd been proven right. Their negative attitudes stuck and
even further solidified. Good luck breaking down that wall! (Well, it can be done but why
go there if you dont have to?)

Examples of Companies Who Benefit from This Flawed Persuasion Principle
Some companies use guarantees, inviting consumers to investigate their products for flaws
and return the product if there are, in fact, flaws in it. The truth is that any company that
has a truly great product can confidently encourage people to try to find their flaws. When
no such flaws are revealed, the effect is a more positive attitude towards the company
and/or product.

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The moral of the story? As Rucker and Petty put it:
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Aggressively considering drawbacks to a product, but finding none, allows individuals
to conclude they have truly few negative thoughts, which increases attitude
certainty. Individuals who objectively process a message have not aggressively
considered the faults, and therefore are not as certain.
Are you ready to put yourself out there? Is your product so good that, when put to the test,
consumers would talk themselves into using your product rather than talking themselves
out of it?
Its a big challenge, putting yourself and your brand out there to be picked apart but
weve seen that, if youre as good as you claim to be, theres no reason people should
choose the competition. So the real question is whether youre as good as you claim to be.
And no number of persuasion principles even expertly applied can help you if you
arent. (Not in the long run, at least.)

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DAY 22: Persuasion Before Usability?
June 22, 2009
Lance Jones

Short answer: Never.
Simply put, in the context of the Web, usability is making it easier for your visitors to
accomplish their intended task or goal. Persuasion, on the other hand, is compelling a
person to want to get there, or perform the given task in the first place. Without
persuasion, making something easy to accomplish doesnt necessarily make it something
people want to do. Think of it as can do versus will do. Making a site easy for visitors to
use makes them more proficient users but does not necessarily make them customers.
Eric Shaffer of Human Factors International (HFI) writes in a blog post dated January 26,
2009:
The next wave in Web site design is persuasive design, designing for persuasion,
emotion, and trust. While usability is still a fundamental requirement for effective
Web site design, it is no longer enough to design sites that are simply easy to
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navigate and understand so users can complete transactions. As business mandates
for Web site design have grown more strategic, complex, and demanding of
accountability, good usability has become the price of competitive entry. So, while
usability is important, it is no longer the key differentiator it once was.
On this blog, persuasive design gets all the attention, but Eric makes a valid point that we
have not yet delivered here: usability is still a fundamental requirement for effective
Web site design. Once the foundation of a Web site is laid functionality and usability
attention can and should be turned toward engaging and persuading visitors to act on their
desires.
In the physical world, people may overlook poor usability in favor of aesthetics. Think about
the Lamborghinis of the 1980s (Im a car nut) drop-dead gorgeous design but terrible
ergonomics. Affluent car shoppers were persuaded by the sexy Italian exterior, crazy
performance statistics, melodic exhaust, and thoughts of people staring back from their
Ford Fairmonts and Buick Skylarks. Luckily for Lamborghini, they were purchased by Audi,
the undisputed king of interior design. And now purchasers can experience all the emotions
afforded by the cars beautiful design and still feel like everything is at their fingertips and
still manage to walk without back pain after a long cruise. Lamborghini sales have never
been better.
On the Web, persuasion without usability (or even basic functionality) just doesnt work. On
the Web and especially on e-commerce sites people expect to be able to accomplish
tasks in an efficient manner. The rush of a long-anticipated purchase may be equated to a
ride in an Italian supercar, but any obstacles encountered along the way will likely diminish
the overall experience. There is no exhaust note or rush of acceleration to make users
forget about an unusable Web site (and very few Web sites spur the release of dopamine in
the human brain!).
No, in our opinion, you cannot have a persuasive Web site until you address basic
functionality and usability. Think of them as pre-requisites for graduating to the level of
persuasive design. Let me break down the differences between these three concepts:
Functional sites offer all the basics but typically get launched with no user testing.
Everything works, but not necessarily the way visitors expect (i.e., there is some
frustration). Forms are reasonable in length, spelling and grammar is correct, and there are
no broken links on the site. Images include alt tags, a site map is in place and basic search
engine optimization is complete. Basic Web analytics are collected. However, it is also likely
that a high percentage of shopping carts are abandoned, conversion rates are below
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average, and customer frustration is expressed through high bounce rates, frequent
support calls, or occasional email complaints.
Usable sites are the next step up in the evolution of Web site effectiveness. Usability
guidelines are embraced by site designers and user testing is part of the release lifecycle.
Forms are optimized, navigation is intuitive, product features are clearly messaged, and
essential tasks are completed by visitors without frustration. Traffic patterns are reviewed
regularly and basic Web testing (e.g., A/B or multivariate testing) helps to deliver a more
delightful user experience. Conversion rates are higher than the purely functional site but
orders may still have to be completed via other channels (e.g., phone) in order for all
customer concerns and questions to be answered. The user experience at this level is still
far from optimal because persuasive elements such as motivation, emotion, and trust have
not been addressed.
Once functionality and usability are in place, persuasive design can become a reality.
Persuasive sites employ the principles discussed throughout this blog, such as social proof,
social learning, contrast, authority, reciprocity, and likeability. The sites value proposition is
clear, visitor paths are free of friction, benefit statements abound, and calls to action are
obvious and compelling. Forms are designed to be completed with minimal anxiety and
maximum ease and trust is reinforced at key decision points. All elements of visual design
support and enhance key messages and company branding is consistent throughout the
experience. At the other end of the sales funnel, visitors typically purchase more than they
intended when they arrived at the site and they often recommend the site! Additional
outcomes of persuasive design (contrasted with a usable site) include lower customer
service and acquisition costs, higher average order values, and higher customer retention
rates. Email and pay-per-click-campaigns also yield higher returns.
Persuasive design requires a deep understanding of customer needs, desires, and barriers.
But to reach the level of persuasive design, a site must first enable visitors to complete the
purpose of their visit and deliver an experience free of usability obstacles. Until a site
reaches the persuasive level or until functionality and usability have been fully addressed
marketing dollars to promote the site are not optimized, conversions are lost, and
business performance is well below what can be achieved.
Where is your site on this spectrum?

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DAY 23: Why Sex Sells Romance, Scarcity and Persuasion
June 23, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

Influence guru Robert Cialdini and several fellow researchers this month published an
article on Evolution, Emotion and Persuasion (Journal of Marketing Research) in which
they discussed the interplay of evolutionary shaping, fear & romantic arousal and the
widely used persuasion heuristic scarcity. Here, very briefly, is what their discussion led to:
FEAR Fear contexts and fear-heavy content can cause normally persuasive scarcity
appeals to backfire
ROMANCE Romantic contexts and romance-heavy content can cause scarcity
appeals to more effectively persuade
Why does fear cause scarcity appeals to backfire? Because, from an evolutionary
perspective, people facing fear have survived by sticking together not by being
conspicuously visible, off doing their own thing and seeking out limited editions.
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And what of the power of romance in increasing the effectiveness of scarcity appeals?
Simply, mate attraction equals reproduction, which is a very basic human need and we
become more attractive when we are differentiated from the larger group. That is, its good
to own a limited edition as that scarce item is one more thing that separates you from the
crowd and makes you more attractive to a potential mate.

Moving from Cavemen to Conversions
What can we as online marketers do with Cialdinis insights into the popular persuasion
heuristic that is scarcity? Lets consider visual design. First, an example of a site that creates
fear context and the banner ads that attempt to persuade users in those spaces.

According to Cialdinis research, ComCast may not achieve the results they might otherwise
have simply by virtue of the fear arousal that users felt prior to clicking the banner ad and
landing on ComCasts offer page / lead gen form. Thats because scarcity appeals and fear
do not mix well.
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Fears not very fun but romance is! So lets go there next. Remember, romantic arousal
including photos of attractive people or even stories about romantic desire can cause a
person to think less about their decisions and be more readily persuaded by the widely
used persuasion technique that is scarcity.

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Missed Opportunities? Swimsuit, Lingerie and Other Womens Apparel Sites
Given that attractive members of the opposite sex have been shown to make scarcity
messages more persuasive, its surprising that sites targeted to women shoppers are so
filled with photos of women. And beautiful (which is not necessarily likeable) women at
that! From a persuasion perspective, it seems safer to assume that women shoppers would
be more effectively influenced with images of men-and-women. So why do sites for
women like JuicyCouture.com & BlueFly.com (a scarcity-heavy site) feature images of
women only? Simply because women wear the clothes? Really?
And why does VictoriasSecret.com not have a single man on their entire website? Is it
because, after all, the site really is for men? Surprising.

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DAY 24: Applying Persuasion Principles eBags.com
June 24, 2009
Lance Jones

Over the past 23 days (whew, 6 days still to go in our 30 Days of Persuasion!), weve
explored a ton of persuasion principles, discussed their application and potential on the
Web, and tried our best to illustrate the techniques and why they work.
Discussing each principle separately in our opinion is the most effective way to inform
and educate readers of our little blog. However, in my final few posts this month, Im going
to pull together the various elements and examine some companies that are doing an
admirable job of taking their sites to a holistic persuasive level of design (i.e., beyond just
functional and usable, as discussed in yesterdays post).
Its hard to write a blog without loving blogs in general. I have my list of favourites and
probably scan 200-300 posts per day. Of those I read about 10%. Sometimes I come across a
reference to an older article or interview that piques my interest which is likely a form of
nostalgia and the aging articles that are most interesting to me are related to Web site
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design and conversion. In this little gem from 2003, Christine Perfetti of User Interface
Engineering interviews Andrew Chak about persuasive design. In the article, Andrew
mentions that one of the most persuasive sites hes seen is eBags.com, so I decided to
check it out and see for myself if Andrews praise was (and still is) deserved.
Upon arriving at the site, the first thing I noticed was how little eBags.com has really
changed over the past 6 years. While some may consider its design somewhat outdated, its
hard to argue with success (10 years, 10 million bags sold). And there are a few other
companies that have done well to slowly evolve their site designs like Google, Craigslist,
eBay, Amazon.com, Lands End, and ProFlowers.com. The second thing I noticed was how
right Andrew was to point out eBags.com as a leader in persuasive design. Many of the
elements of persuasion weve discussed here are being applied year after year, visitor
after visitor to their home page, category page, search results, product page, cart, and
others:

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The visual and content designers at eBags.com clearly understand how to deliver for
customers as well as the business. The company is placing its biggest bets on the principles
of scarcity (e.g., one-day sales) and social proof (e.g., user reviews, number of people
currently browsing the site), but it is also adept at establishing trust and credibility on the
very first visit. Remember, persuasion is not manipulation; its about engaging and guiding
visitors to making confident purchase decisions and it certainly looks as though eBags.com
approaches this effective style of selling with integrity and a sincere focus on the customer.

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DAY 25: When Time Is a Factor, How Much Copy Is Too Much Copy?
June 25, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

Ive been a web writer for quite a few years now, and Ive developed a list of pet peeves
along the way. Its a short list of pet peeves, thankfully yes, Im one of those annoying
people who loves what she does more with each new day but it is a list nonetheless. And
at the top of that list is this statement, commonly made by marketing managers or
executives reviewing a websites copy:
Theres too much copy on this site! Lets just get to the point.
Balance that bit of opinion-based criticism with this statement we often hear from users in
usability studies:
I need info. Where is it? Why cant you just tell me what I need to know?!
Given that were sticklers for usability around here, I tend to listen a bit more to the
frustrations of our users regarding copy quantity than to management. (Call me crazy!) As a
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result, I lean more in the direction of writing additional content and, of course,
positioning that content in non-interruptive but easily accessible ways than in the get to
the point direction.
But am I right?
Are study user groups right?
Are managers right?
And, hey, you have an opinion on the subject. Are you right?
That really brings us to the obvious, oft-debated question: How much copy is enough copy
on a website and how much is too much?
The answer: Ha ha ha! Were you really expecting an answer here? I mean, how could
there be just one answer? Were dealing with people so theres always an exception (or a
whole massive group of exceptions). But it would be nice to get closer to an answer So
lets ask a better question.
The better question: When my users are on my site and are trying to find a product without
wasting their time sorting through content, how much copy is enough copy and how
much is too much?
Now thats a question we (with the help of Chowdhury, Ratneshwar, Mohanty and their
lovely recent research) can answer.

Time-Harried Shoppers: Crafting Enough Copy to Help Users Make Decisions as
Fast as Theyd Like
Not everyone makes decisions the same way under the best of circumstances nevermind
when theyre uber-busy. The truth is that, when consumers need to make decisions quickly,
time becomes a hugely influential factor in their choice processes. Chowdhury, Ratneshwar
and Mohanty showed us (in 2009) that consumers will even alter their preferences, switch
brands or fail to buy products when hurriedness enters into the equation.
Thats right: Time is an influencer. Actually, its both an influencer and a barrier. (Double-
edge swords are fun!) A lack of time can prevent people from making decisions That said,
when considered during your sites content development, a users lack of time can actually
work in your favour and help to persuade your users.
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Time is an influencer.
Heres how time influences the decision-making of the 2 primary groups of consumers,
Maximizers and Satisficers.
MAXIMIZERS This group of consumers strives to make the best decisions possible
and seek out content to help them make those decisions. Maximizers are born
window shoppers: the more options you present to them, the more time theyll
spend considering those options. When pressured for time, maximizers feel it
heavily and may make a rapid decision accordingly, but theyre more likely to feel
regret about those decisions and change their minds later, if given the opportunity
to do so.
SATISFICERS - This group of consumers is willing to settle for decisions that are
adequate rather than perfect. These folks like to get to the point. When pressured
for time, satisficers hold up well, making rapid decisions with little regret;
unfortunately, satisficers may be more prone to making the wrong decisions (given
that they are happy with good enough and may not consider what good enough
fails to address).
If youre building a website for satisficers who may be
rushed, less copy/content is fine-and-dandy (as are fewer
options). Just get to the point youll make satisficers
happy enough to make a purchasing decision. (Just hope
that they dont have a maximizer partner at home to point
out why their decision
was not good enough
and force them to
return the purchased
item to you.)
If youre building a website for maximizers who may be
rushed, you need to be a bit more careful with the
amount of copy you choose to put on or cut from your
site not to mention how you organize/design that
copy. Maximizers require enough content to make
them feel that they can make the best decision
because they know all the facts and are 100%
informed of their options. But when theyre busy,
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maximizers need to find a balance between getting enough content to feel confident and
not getting so much content that they feel they wont become 100% informed (because
they dont have enough time to read everything!), cant make the best decision and, as a
result, may not buy at all.
Make sense? The primary point Im getting at, without saying it, is that you have to know if
the majority of your sites visitors are satisficers or maximizers, and you have to write
content for them.

Example Site: Designed for Satisficers
This website is one of the top-converting sites today and is made, largely, for quick
purchases rather than well-researched purchases not too surprising for flower-ordering/-
delivery sites. That is, its designed as if its made for satisficers first, maximizers second.

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ProFlowers.com can still help maximizers (rushed or not). But thats not what the home
page is for. Thats what the rest of the entire site is for. (Pretty smart, if satisficers are the
primary visitors to this site.)

Example Site: Designed for Maximizers
Top-converting QVC.com provides more content to help maximizers find the info they want
to find and purchase it only when theyre actually ready to. (That is, not from the home
page.)

At the end of the day, of course, as youve already guessed, building a site for satisficers
makes less sense than building a site for maximizers. Why? Because satisficers are happy
with good enough. Its the maximizers who give a damn what youve got for info. Its the
maximizers you can actually help with your sites copy. So give em what they need and
see how the amount of copy you place can lead to better conversions thanks to better
persuasion.

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DAY 26: Applying Persuasion Principles 37signals
June 26, 3009
Lance Jones

37signals is a small, Chicago-based company which prides itself on simplicity and offers a
well-honed suite of Web-based productivity and collaboration software. In their words,
Our products do less than the competition intentionally.
Their founders have made a few waves in the business and developer communities because
theyve been vocal about how:
Companies shouldnt always listen to their customers (especially when it comes to
new feature requests);
Businesses should focus on generating revenue with products that offer real value
(versus trying to monetize free) and;
Venture capital isnt the optimal method of financing a new venture.
Several months ago I read their popular publication, Getting Real which is about
building a successful Web-based application and business and thoroughly enjoyed the
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authors honesty and openness about what has worked and hasnt worked for 37signals, as
well as his view on business and quality of life.
In addition to focusing on simplicity, its apparent that the folks at 37signals know a thing or
two about persuasion, and specifically around the principles of social proof and contrast. In
todays post Ill again use screenshots to highlight how this company is converting visitors
into customers:

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So there you have it.
37signals design team offers up some great examples of how to effectively weave social
proof, authority, contrast, and credibility messaging throughout your site. While I question
their choice to pack so much content into their home page, it wouldnt hurt (even a little!)
to emulate the companys overall approach to persuasive design.

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DAY 27: Commitment, Consistency and Really Crappy Free Stuff
June 27, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

You and Ive both noticed how much free stuff there is floating around the Internet.
Free software. Free email accounts. Free [legal] music downloads. Free information in
the form of blogs, ebooks, podcasts and webinars. Free, free, free.
But have you noticed how crummy a lot of that free stuff is? Theres the really bad free:
Free software downloads that come with free viruses. Free email that comes with free
spam. Even free music lyrics that leave you with a screen full of free! annoying smiley face
pop-ups. And theres the less-bad free: Free ebooks that are pure fluff. Free music thats
interrupted with Music now! mid-way through the song. And free webinars that promise
one thing and end up being about something quite different.
Webinars are great ways to share useful info worldwide... for free. But when they're empty,
webinars can backfire.
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I recently attended an hour-long webinar by David Meerman Scott (the uber-bright New
Rules of PR and Marketing guy). It was called something like Creating an Effective Social
Media Strategy a timely, relevant topic pour moi, given that I was working on creating
exactly that for the global division of Intuit. My colleague and I signed on to the webinar
and, after 10 minutes, we thought, K, thisll get on topic soon. And then another 10 minutes
passed. By the time 35 minutes had passed and wed sat through a very general
introduction to the power of social and how social can support PR and marketing initiatives,
we decided to cut our losses.
Wed heard nothing of developing a social media strategy not what to do, not why or
how. Wed been taken in. Promised one thing, and delivered something else. Wed given up
over an hours worth of combined time on, basically, nothing. Not cool.

When Free Goes Bad: Beggars CAN Be Choosers Today
I guess the idea with giving something away free is that people who take your free offering
should just be happy with anything you give them. Beggars cant be choosers. Kinduv an
old idea, though, no? Cos the thing is that beggars using your freebies are, of course,
potential customers. (You knew that! Thats why you were giving your stuff away to begin
with, right?) The beggars on the phone for Meerman Scotts webinar are people who
mightve purchased his books at minimum or even advocated to invite the man to consult
with their Fortune 500 companies. So why the lack of quality, on-topic content? Cant free
be great???
So heres the deal: If your webinar or ebooks title promises something, the content had
better deliver on it. When it doesnt, we as consumers even free consumers get
offended. We shake our heads and say, Whyd you waste my time like that? and what
we really mean is, Why did you make a commitment to deliver something, and then act
inconsistently with that commitment?
If (When!) Obama lives up to "Yes we can", there'll be relatively little persuasion work to be
done for re-election.
It speaks to Cialdinis commitment and consistency persuasion principle. If you want to
persuade people, you should:
Make a commitment to do something, and then
Act consistently with that commitment
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Acting consistently with what you promise also called a high say:do ratio builds trust
in you. It emulates an ideal that society has reinforced since we were knee high to a
grasshopper. If you say youre going to do it, do it. People like it. And likeability is
persuasive.

The Reverse: Persuade Users to Do What You Want by Asking Them to Make a
Commitment
Just as people expect companies to act consistently with their commitments, so will people
act consistently with the commitments they make. I mean, no, this isnt always the case
if it was, no one would ever default on a loan, and no contractor would ever skip town
before finishing the drywall in your basement. But, by and large, when you give people the
opportunity to act consistently with what theyve said/thought/felt, you will find them
persuaded to do so.
What does that mean, practically speaking?
It means that when you want someone to give you a $25 donation, you say, Will you
please commit to a $25 donation to the SPCA? rather than asking them simply to donate
(e.g., Please give to the SPCA). It means that you ask the people who download your free
plugin to rate your plugin 5 stars. Not just to rate it. But to rate it at 5 stars.
So heres the trick: Write calls-to-action that closely mirror exactly what you want users
to commit to doing, and see your conversion rates skyrocket. Avoid ambiguity. Instead, get
right to the commitment you want them to make, and in doing so set expectations as to
what they will be doing to follow through on that commitment. Check out these examples.
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Long story short: Get your users to make a commitment, and they will be more likely to act
consistently with that commitment. Its all about commitment and consistency for your
users and for your company.


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DAY 28: 30 Ways to Persuade (Part 1 of 2)
June 28, 2009
Lance Jones

Its been an incredibly intense and rewarding 30-day journey into exploring and applying
the power of persuasion on the Web. Of course, were not quite done yet (2 more sleeps!),
so on Days 28 & 29, Joanna and I will summarize 30 of the 55 persuasion opportunities
weve discussed during the month. Why 30 of 55? It seems only fitting since this is the 30
Days of Persuasion! And following our final post on June 30th, well be happy to give you
the remaining 25 opportunities as part of our free e-book (100% free, no registration
required, no sales calls or annoying follow-up, and in limited quantities!).
And with that tongue-in-cheek sales plug, here are 5 principles of persuasion and 15 ways
for you to apply them to your own site:
I. Authority: We look to experts to show us the way.
1. Endorsements Publications: Showcase endorsements from trusted publications
to build credibility.
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Example: Product review quote and logo from significant published authority (e.g.,
Time Magazine).
2. Endorsements Experts: Showcase endorsements from trusted experts in a field
to build credibility.
Example: Video testimonial from a well-known user (e.g., Seth Godin).
3. Endorsements Influencers: Showcase endorsements from trusted influencers to
build credibility.
Example: Preferred product selection or recommendation from authority figure
(e.g., Rachel Zoe for PiperLime).
II. Commitment & Consistency: We want to act consistently with our commitments and
values.
4. Say-Do: You say youre going to do
something, and you do it.
Example: Specific call-to-action buttons
that match exactly what you want the
user to do (e.g., Order the Swiffer
Sweeper Now).
5. Make Free Great: Give away items
that are as high-quality as your paid
items.
Example: Free webinars packed with
useful content not fluff.
6. Share with Friends: Visitors who
would recommend a product to a
friend are more likely to purchase that
product.
Example: Tell a friend calls to action.
III. Contrast: We notice and decide by the differences between two things, not absolute
measures.
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7. Bang > Buck: Simplify product selection by telling users which product/service will
give them the most for the least.
Example: A best value icon positioned on/near the product.
8. Line Em Up: Position similar information across various products in a standard
layout to help users easily scan and contrast features, pricing, etc. and, in turn,
narrow their options.
Example: Price for products positioned in same proximity to each product and
formatted identically.
9. Proximity in Lists: The items you place at the top of the list are the items that will
create context for shopping (on your catalog page in particular).
Example: List the items your want users to choose from at the top of a list, with
lesser items lower in the list.
IV. Engagement & Emotion: We want to interact with things that make us feel.
10. Play: Make your site or the tasks on it feel more like a game to activate an
emotional response in users and limit the amount of executive thinking (the bane of
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persuasion efforts) required.
Example: Car-builder tools on auto sites.
11. Interaction: Use interactive tools to help people find the information theyre
looking for (rather than sorting through lines of text).
Example: Product recommendation quizzes.
12. Affect Recruitment Heuristic: Use images & messages that help your users
picture themselves doing something with a purchased item, feeling a certain way
(i.e., experiencing affect) about that image, and using that feeling to make a
purchasing decision.
Example: Imagery of a melting slushy drink on a cabana (on a travel site).
V. Likeability: The more we like people (and companies), the more we want to say yes to
them.
13. Be Transparent. No, Really.: Be completely honest about your companys
motivations.
Example: Tell users that youre giving them your product for free in the hopes that
theyll love it, share it and be willing to pay for it later.
14. Cause Marketing: Support a relevant-to-your-brand cause to help users relate
better to your brand.
Example: Tides Loads of Hope campaign.
15. Win Healthy Debates: Encourage users to find flaws in your product flaws you
know you do not have. In seeking out a flaw but not finding it, users will be more
likely to believe in you than had they been indifferent to flaws.
Example: Money-back guarantee if your product doesnt save users at least 5 hours
each month.

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DAY 29: 30 Ways to Persuade (Part 2 of 2)
June 29, 2009
Joanna Wiebe

Lets continue yesterdays 30 Ways to Persuade post with the remaining 15 ways.
FYI: The 10 categories into which weve divided these persuasion opportunities are based
on the work of Robert Cialdini and HFI (among others).
Remember that weve got an additional 25 persuasion opportunities in our free ebook
(which were currently preparing and hoping to share out um soon). Without further
ado
VI. Reciprocity: We feel obligated to return favours performed for us.
16. Give to Get: Give your customer something before you ask them to give you
anything.
Example: Free software download, followed by an email request to rate your
software 5 stars, if they like it.
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17. Ask for Favours: Without giving anything, ask users to do a favour for you, with
the favour element clearly highlighted.
Example: Can you please help us? Were trying to get the word out about our blog
so would you do us a favour and Digg it if you like it? Thanks so much.
VII. Scarcity: The less available something is, the more we want it.
18. Sales Urgency: Highlight the end date or time for a sale.
Example: Sale ends midnight (MST).
19. Sales Flash: Intentionally limit sales to a very short period of time and
explicitly state the time.
Example: Clear start time for sale, and countdown of hours left in your sale.
20. Just 1 Left! Provide a real-time countdown of the quantity of a high-value item
available.
Example: Number of seats remaining for a concert or on a flight.
21. Exclusive Access: Provide access to an event on your site to a limited number of
people only (and commit to that number) to encourage those with access to take
advantage of this exclusive opportunity.
Example: Invite a select group of preferred customers to your site for a sale, and give
them a personalized access code as well as start/end times.
VIII. Social Proof: We look to what others do to guide our own decisions and behavior.
22. Herd Behavior: Showcase ratings & reviews from users alongside offerings to
help narrow decisions for shoppers.
Example: Rated 4.38 out of 5 stars by Canadian entrepreneurs.
23. Social Pressure: Quantify the number of others who are already doing what you
want your new users to do.
Example: Already 80,000 users worldwide in just 6 months.
24. Intelligent Recommenders: Use data from other shoppers and/or the current
shopper (e.g., past behaviours) to recommend new best-match products and
effectively narrow choices into sets.
Example: People who bought the Apple iPhone also looked at the Palm Pre.
IX. Trust: Show your character and competence to help people feel confident in choosing to
work with you.
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25. Low-Risk Purchase Return It: Build trust and reduce barriers for shoppers by
explicitly stating your return policy.
Example: No hassle returns! We even pay the return shipping.
26. Clear Payment Options: If you allow users to pay by PayPal, credit card, e-check
and/or other methods, or if you have credit terms, highlight those options early in
the process (pre-cart).
Example: Dont pay for 90 days or pay easily today by PayPal, Visa or
MasterCard.
27. Interface Properties Brand: Clearly brand your site to ensure users know
theyre on a legitimate site for purchasing and feel confident providing their credit
card info.
Example: Consistent brand elements throughout the experience.
X. Other: Extra persuasion tips/tactics that are so unique, they just cant be categorized.
28. Repetition: Say it once. And remind them of it again to reinforce facts and reduce
barriers related to uncertainty. (You dont want users to have to hit the Back button
to find that info and end up abandoning their carts.)
Example: We accept PayPal messaging near purchase calls-to-action and again at
entrance to cart.
29. Because: The word because is a cue to people that they are in the presence of
reason and logic and that, in turn, they dont need to think the thinkings already
done for them.
Example: More people choose our product because its the only one that removes
stains in 4 minutes flat.
30. Security: Highlight security & safeguards on your site to help users trust that
youll protect their info.
Example: HackerSafe logo placed prominently on main pages and nearby buttons in
cart.
Its been a phenomenal 30 days for me. Im looking forward to helping to craft this blog into
a great resource for all things persuasion, usability, emotion and trust and I really hope
youll help us shape this blog into what you need and want. Its all about increasing
conversion, baby!

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DAY 30: Persuasion Round-up and Whats Next
June 30, 2009
Lance Jones

June 30th, 2009. Its a big day for us.
The 30 Days of Persuasion has come to a close, but were not going anywhere. This is just
the beginning of what we hope will become a valuable resource for anyone looking to
improve Web site conversion through understanding how people behave.
The concept of a persuasion blog was entirely Joannas (take the credit or the blame, Jo!).
We talk a lot (perhaps too much just ask our friends) about conversion and persuasion
since were both responsible for those aspects of Intuits global businesss Web properties,
but weve never put fingers to keyboard to capture our conversations until June 1st,
when this little project began. As many of you know, a blog requires a huge commitment, so
what better way to demonstrate our commitment than to blog every day about this hugely
interesting and new-to-the-Web topic.
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Its been a valuable learning experience for us, too. Were not formally trained in social
psychology (i.e., the foundation for much of what we cover here), so were relying on the
research of experts to form our own thoughts on how the principles can be applied online.
To be fair, however, Joanna is completing a graduate thesis on persuasive information
design, a component of which is her own research project.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for me to overcome initially was the notion that wed be
writing for nobody but ourselves and those friends who tire of hearing us talk about
persuasion. But based on what were seeing in our WordPress Web analytics, the falling
tree is making a sound, and the idea that people may actually benefit from what were
writing has become a motivator and given us reason to deliver against an aggressive posting
schedule.
So, where to next? First thing is to package up the 30 Days of Persusasion into a free e-
book something you can easily take with you, print & read offline, email to others, or
scribble on during your Web site conversion meetings! From there, and after a short break
no more than a week you can expect to find a continuous flow of new ideas and
examples on how to apply persuasive design to your own e-commerce sites.
In the meantime (or anytime), wed like to hear your thoughts on the first 30 days of the
blog (use the comments feature or email us: lancecj at gmail dot com OR wiebe.joanna at
gmail dot com). Wed really like you to share your ideas on where we might take this
project. And wed absolutely love it if youd share this resource with people you feel would
enjoy it.
Heres to the beginning of something new and exciting. Thank you for coming.

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BONUS 1: Interactivity The Cure for the Common Cold and
World Hunger?

What is interactivity, and how can it help you persuade users on your website? Well,
scholars define it thus:
Coyle & Thorson, 2001: A structural element of the medium
McMillan, Hwang & Lee, 2003: A perception variable in the mind of the user
Ha & James, 1998: A multidimensional construct
Um wha-?
Lets try a definition thats a bit more tangible. Interactivity is the action that takes place
between users, as [ostensibly] humans, and the computer. At its most exaggerated,
interactivity on the Web is, like, World of Warcraft, where youre playing a game with the
computer not to mention the millions of other players super-glued to WoW worldwide.
Interactivitys most common form is a link on a page or even the opening of your web
browser.
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The more you get people to interact with your site, the more interactive it is. And
interactivity is very, very good for persuasion.
Not only does interactivity engage the senses and stimulate the mind, but its also been
proven to solve world hunger! No. Okay. Not quite.
It has, however in all honesty been proven to improve impressions of politicians on their
websites. That is, a 2003 study by Sundar et al., referenced in a 2006 paper by Wise,
Hamman and Thorson, found that increased interactivity on a political website led to more
positive impressions of a political candidate and higher levels of agreement with the
candidates policy positions (p.28). So it doesnt directly solve world hunger but if that
now-elected politician ends hunger, then interactivity kinda helped, no?

Why is interactivity persuasive?
Hard to say but we can guess! We know that, to persuade someone, its good to get them
nodding with you. Hence the success of great DM pieces by brilliant copywriters like
Schwartz, where the writing asks the readers questions that they cant help but nod along
with and, soon enough, all that nodding tricks your mind into believing that you actually
do want a lifetime supply of super-absorbent shammies. In clicking on a link, expanding a
div-tag, hitting play on a video demo, users are actually nodding along with you. Youve
offered them the chance to do something, and theyre doing it.
We also know that people like playing. Playing can be very persuasive. So, if you put a cool
quiz, a poll or a fun YouTube video of a cute little cat on your site, youre inspiring
interactivity & play which equals persuasion.

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BONUS 2: Connecting Emotionally With Users Online

A classic marketing strategy is to engage your customer emotionally to get them to buy. In
the offline world, achieving emotional engagement is done best by face-to-face
interactions, such as talking to the car salesman in the lot, and tactile interactions, such as
picking up the book and turning it over in your hands. When you make people feel
something, you help them open up to hearing your messages with less suspicion.
When we talk about connecting emotionally online, though, theres a sense that you have
to get your product alone to trigger an emotional reaction. That, or you need a big ol photo
of two happy people. But is that really the case? Does a stock photo of a woman hugging
her computer make me feel connected to the software youre trying to sell me and open
me up to receiving the marketing messages?
Id argue that were missing the point.

In E-Commerce, the Computer Is Your Salesperson
Yes, its true. The computer is your salesperson. The website is not your saleperson its
just the storefront. The messages on the screen are the words your salesperson says. The
images on the site are the framed photos on the wall of the store.
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That means that this hard, cold little box with wires sticking out of it is the most frequently
approached member of your sales force.
That reality raises a few points of concern, as anyone in computer-mediated
communications might tell you:
The computer doesnt have a warm handshake or smile
The computer doesnt know when a prospect is backing away from a purchase or
having trouble making a decision
The computer doesnt create a sense of comfort or open itself up for questions
The computer has no name, no identifiable hairstyle, no jovial laugh across the room
Uh oh. A cold, hard box is supposed to replace the salesperson and the emotion-filled
opportunities they bring to a sales chat. Is there any hope?!

Your Computer Isnt Just a Cold, Hard Box
Okay, well, it is. But as more people use computers more frequently, the truth is that
people are beginning to assign personalities to their computers. I recently wrote a paper on
this subject, with the following explaining this phenomenon briefly:
As Nass, Steuer and Tauber showed, even though interactors know that a computer is not a
person, they will often assign personalities to computers (as referenced in Zdenek, 2007)
and, as Cassell showed, attribute to them human-like properties such as friendliness, or
cooperativeness (as referenced in Zdenek, 2007, p.404). To overcome the mediation of
computer hardware, interactors effectively transform the computer into something that
more closely resembles a person.
Weve already noticed this behavior at our desks, when the computer freezes and we shout
at it. Or when were trying to retrieve a file we think weve lost, and we beg the computer
to find it.
This means that users can be open to connecting emotionally with this little plastic
salesperson. You just have to pull their heads away from the idea that theyre dealing with a
little plastic salesperson instead of a warm-blooded salesperson who can blink, laugh, get
distracted, pay attention and basically be as imperfect as a human. You have to make all
cues that say computer virtually disappear.

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Faking Human-ness Online to Persuade
People connect emotionally with people so you need the computer to disappear from the
line of sight of your users. When the computer goes away, it makes room for a personality-
filled, emotional interaction between your website and the person sitting at their desk.
(Its like watching a movie when the screen starts to disappear, and your emotions engage
magically enough to make you believe youre in the activity. Or reading a book, and feeling
so engrossed that the scratchy paper pages disappear.)
How? Well, there are lots of ways! Like, for example, ever noticed how, when you write
something by hand, the letters are imperfect? Thats because we dont put pen to paper
and churn out letters in Calibri 11-point font.
That means that a perfect font is a cue that youre dealing with a computer not a human.
No, you shouldnt eliminate all fonts on your site and hire some poor chap to come in and
handwrite all your copy. That may not result in the most usable site. But you can follow
the lead of some websites that are managing to find a balance between precise, readable
fonts and short, quick, personal-feeling notes.

The nice, personal-feeling "Thanks for choosing Basecamp!"
is more effectively rendered in a handwritten style.
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seomoz jots down a quick, personal note inviting site visitors to their conference
If youre not keen on using handwriting on your site (cos, say, your brand managers have a
stranglehold on the fonts you can use), using a variety of fonts can also replicate the sense
of scattered personal writing.

BatchBook CRM solutions for small businesses mix things up a bit with
a variety of fonts, font sizes and font colours, replicating what you might
see in an average joe's notebook
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The goal is to keep people from believing theyre interacting with a machine. Remove cues
that suggest coldness and perfection, and opt for a little bit of fun and personality to
encourage users to open themselves up to the suggestions (i.e., marketing messages) of
your website.

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Sources
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