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Buyer psychology deals with the understanding of why shoppers behave the way they do.
I’d like to share an example to show how online stores use buyer psychology to nudge shoppers towards certain outcomes.
I was on a mattress site this morning and saw this popup:
It’s pretty obvious anyone shopping for a new mattress would be doing it because they care about the quality of sleep. So why add that extra step? That’s because the retailer is using a buyer psychology principle.
By getting a small easy commitment from the shopper the retailer is able to make a bigger ask on the next screen:
Why Understanding Buyer Psychology Matters
We’re living in a world of abundant choices. Google for a pair of running shoes, air filter, coffee machine, health supplement, or car mats and you are going to encounter a whole bunch of brands competing for your attention.
What’s true for other brands is true for yours too.
You know that rogue brands– who are trying to steal your customers– aren’t as good as yours, but shoppers don’t know that. The marketer’s job is to educate buyers on the differences.
There are three buyer psychology trends impacting your marketing results. Marketers who understand these trends have an unfair advantage.
Trend 📈 1
Site visitors aren’t sticking around. In 2020 Wolfgang Digital analyzed 130 million eCommerce site sessions and calculated the average session duration (time on site) was 2 minutes and 32 seconds (source).
And this means:
There’s more bad news– this already short visitation is getting shorter. In 2019 the average session duration at 3 minutes 1 second.
With the explosive growth of TikTok, what will the time on site be like in 2025?
Trend 📈 2
I’m sure you closely track your site’s return visitor rate. Here is a screenshot of mine in Google Analytics:
My site’s return rate (also called Return Visitor Rate or RVR in short) is 11.8%. Google Analytics defines Returning Visitors as people who have visited within the past two years using the same device.
For an eCommerce business, we want to have a large percentage of returning visitors, especially since we’re paying so much on advertising and less than 3% of that ad traffic makes a purchase.
Trouble is, 68% of these new visitors never return. That’s infuriating.
But don’t worry, we have a solution in mind.
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Trend 📈 3
Companies and Governments are regulating visitor tracking. This trend is being led by companies like Apple, who, in 2021, changed its default settings, allowing Apple customers to block tracking data. This means sites can no longer track returning visitors in Apple-controlled environments.
What Apple has done will become the norm across the ecosystems. In fact, Google Analytics has already started showing this message to Google Analytics users:
Starting July 1, 2023, Google is no longer taking responsibility for holding your site visitor data. If you want to hold it you need to do it on your own servers. Google is doing this because they don’t want to be sued for privacy violations.
Recap of the 3 Trends
The average time on site for eCommerce is 2 minutes and 32 seconds, the visitor return rate is 32%, and moving forward it will be harder and harder to track returning visitor behavior.
Bottom line: it’s more important than ever for the marketer to understand visitor buyer psychology and convert them on the first visit itself.
This is a big shift in thinking. A marketing plan built around the idea that shoppers visit multiple times before buying is completely different from one that recognizes the first visit is also the last.
In CHAPTER 4 we’ll reveal how to construct a Sales Pitch that converts shoppers on the first encounter.
Are these 3 trends clear? /
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Next, we’re going to discuss a topic that won the Noble prize in economics.
The Subconscious Mind– System 1 vs System 2 Thinking
Did you know the average online shopper is exposed to nearly 1,000 ads a day?
It simply isn’t possible to consider each ad and put together a pros and cons list to decide if an advertised product is worth it. Our brains are expensive devices– consuming 20% of our daily caloric intake.
To manage this chaos our brains have developed selection tricks. Marketers who understand these tricks will win, and win big.
The shoppers we are trying to influence are in System 1 mode. We explain System 1 and 2 modes in this important article: Shopper Psychology: System 1 Versus System 2. You should take a few minutes to read about System 1, but here’s a quick visual summary:
Buyer Psychology Terms and Stories
For those interested in diving deeper into buyer psychology we have two more articles. In the first article, we’ll share some essential buyer psychology terms that directly relate to eCommerce. The second one is a collection of mini case studies:
How Shoppers Behave Online
Online advertising today is quite different from what it was 100 years ago. Back then the advertiser would place an ad and have very little reliable performance analytics data.
Today, advertisers are so much more sophisticated in terms of the precision of ad targeting and the data they collect. Marketing has become weaponized.
At the same time, it’s more democratized than ever. Where 100 years ago there were like 100 major advertisers today there are millions.
To win the buyer psychology game the marketer needs to focus– to channel attention.
Channeling Marketing Attention
Marketers have a lot on their plates. They have to:
– Develop marketing promotions.
– Manage advertising campaigns.
– Reactivate past buyers who haven’t bought in a while.
– Help drive up average order value because advertising is getting more and more expensive.
Basically, marketing teams are doing more than ever.
And while all the marketing tasks listed above are important, to win big the marketer needs to focus on a select few. We can’t do it all.
I focus my entire marketing attention on a very specific shopper– Healthy Skeptics.
What are Healthy Skeptics? How are they different from other types of buyers? I’m glad you asked because we have a whole article devoted to that topic: Focus on Converting Healthy Skeptics.
Now that we understand who healthy skeptics are the next logical question is– how do we construct a sales pitch that gets this group over the hump?
This exact question is addressed next. It happens to be the subject we’ve spent 8 years studying.
The 9 Truths About Online Shoppers
Buyer psychology changes based on what’s being purchased. For example, the selection criteria for buying an electric toothbrush is quite different from what we use when choosing men’s woolen running shoes.
But after running 100s of marketing experiments 🧪 we’ve seen a set of selection criteria that repeat across a huge range of consumer products.
These selection criteria operate at the subconscious level.
You see, consumers aren’t able to analyze every marketing pitch they meet (they meet too many) so our brains have developed shortcuts to quickly reject bad pitches. But what are the criteria the brain uses to make such calls? That’s been a marketing mystery.
But imagine what would happen if we marketers could crack the code on this selection criterion? That would be like discovering the Rosetta Stone
Our Rosetta Stone moment: Through extensive experimentation, we were able to isolate nine mental checklist items (shortcuts) shoppers use when evaluating purchases.
Here’s the list:
1: Shoppers are skeptical of too good to be true
2: They find expertise sexy
3: Root for people who beat the odds
4: Are fascinated by surprising details
5: Are visual animals
6: Need motivation to break habits
7: Love personalized experiences
8: Like knowing they’ve stumbled onto something rare
9: Must overcome their negative thoughts
Those nine truths along with practical examples are revealed in this in-depth The 9 Truths About Online Shoppers article.
This article is CHAPTER 2 of the four-part Frictionless Commerce philosophy. CHAPTER 3: Conversion Copywriting continues the journey. You will learn the history of copywriting, how it relates to buyer psychology and what it has to do with lawyers (crazy, but there is a connection, I promise). That super important topic is covered here: CHAPTER 3: Conversion Copywriting.