Buyer psychology is a vast and deep topic. There is so much to it that we don’t still understand.
But in the last 11 years that we’ve been A/B testing we’ve seen glimpses of elements that make up buyer psychology. So far we know 9 secrets about the minds of shoppers (overview of 9 buyer psychology copywriting secrets).
This article is about:
- People are skeptical of “too good to be true”
- They find expertise sexy
- They root for people who beat the odds
- They are fascinated by surprising details
- They are visual animals
- They need motivation to break habits
- They love personalized experiences
- They like knowing they’ve stumbled onto something rare
- We must resolve their negative thoughts
There is a psychological war going on in the minds of shoppers. There are 4 forces at play. Two of them (push and pull) propel the shopper towards the purchase. Two other forces (habit and anxiety) hold them back.
In order for the sale to happen the sum of push and pull must be greater than the sum of habit and anxiety.
Too good to be true is subset of anxiety.
Biological basis for “Too good to be true”
For tens of thousands of years humans lived in an unpredictable world. Dangers outnumbered safety. Our brains evolved to be overly cautious. Imagine you are part of a tribe that depends on hunting. Your people are starving, you haven’t eaten in days. You’ve been scouting and haven’t seen a single animal. This is highly unusual. Then, on a desperate hunting trip you spot a dead animal. It’s right there. What are the odds? Normally, even if you spot something, you would have had the impossible task of bringing it down. Most of the time the animal was smart enough to get away.
Anyway, now you are staring at an uneaten animal. This seems too good to be true. Maybe it is. Maybe this animal was sick. If you eat it, your tribe might get sick and die. Why haven’t the hyenas been gnawing on this carcass? That seems very odd.
So while part of you is deliriously happy, it also seems highly unusual; too good to be true!
What would you do?
Those types of life decisions are much rarer now but our brains have not adapted as quickly as our environment. That self projective mechanism is still deeply embedded in our operating mechanism. Now we just use it for online shopping decisions.
So this is what’s at stake. For the shopper, a too good to be true is a very risky proposition. It’s true that the downside of a wrong decision is minimal (they could return the item, cancel the order on their credit card) but the mental conflict is just as intense as it was for our hunting ancestors 50,000 years ago.
The secret super power of a great marketer is massive empathy. A good marketer can feel what the online shopper is feeling. When the online shopper salivates the good marketer senses it; when the shopper struggles the good marketer feels it.
The job of the marketer is to remove every instance of too good to be true from the shopping funnel. Starting from awareness stage to interest stage to desire stage to the action stage.
If the shopper senses too good to be true at any of these points, they will abandon.
To prevent this, the marketer needs to retrace the shopper journey and evaluate every word to see if it could be viewed as too good to be true. If any part of the entire journey can, then the marketer needs to craft a message to allay this feeling.
Making the marketer’s life harder
It’s not easy being a marketer. You have to get into the heads of your visitors and see the world as they see it. Feel the things they feel. Ask the questions they ask. When a shopper encounters something that seems too good to be true, they don’t send you an email to ask for an explanation or call customer service to understand exactly how your motor can be 60% more efficient than the competition. It would be awesome of shoppers did that. You know what they do? They say, “I call BS and leave for your site forever”. This is why solving for this is so important: you’ve already spent a lot of money to get visitors to your site and designed a site to engage them. Don’t lose them at the last step.
Example of too good to be true
We all hate popups. This is a great newsletter signup pitch. It makes a claim (+45% open rate) and backs it up. Also, it’s a clever tactic because they are taking the focus away from the size of their mailing list (which is how most marketers pitch their signup box). They might have a mailing list of 130 people. They’ve cleverly focused on the most impressive metric (open rates):
Now that you understand the mechanics and logic behind the too good to be true buyer psychology copywriting method are you interested in learning about 8 other tactics?
So this just happened
I’ve been reading the book Alchemy by Rory Sutherland. It’s a good read. In the book, Rory shared a story. A story about the hare and the dog:
In evolutionary terms we are better off not knowing; we have evolved to deceive ourselves, in order that we are better at deceiving others. The theory is that if all our unconscious motivations were to impinge on our conscious, subtle cues in behavior might reveal our true motivation, which would limit our social and reproductive prospects.
Robert Trivers gives an extraordinary example of a case where an animal having conscious access to its own actions may be damaging its evolutionary fitness.
When a hare is being chased, it zigzags in a random pattern in an attempt to shake off the pursuer. This technique will be more reliable if it is genuinely random and not conscious, as it is better for the hare to have no foreknowledge of where it is going to jump next: if it knew where it was going to jump next, it’s posture might reveal cues to its pursuer. Over time, dogs would learn to anticipate these cues – with fatal consequences. Those hares with more self-awareness would tend to die out, so most modern hares are probably descended from those that have less self-knowledge.
In the same way, humans may be descended from ancestors who were better at the concealment of their true motives. It is not enough to conceal them from others – to be really convincing, you must also have to conceal it from yourself.
I shared the story on LinkedIn, and Georgi Georgiev, someone I really admire said this:
Even if the rabbit story is actually true, I fail to see any evolutionary advantage such a strategy would have for humans, in the shopping context or otherwise. In fact it runs counter to our greatest survival tools.
To this, I said:
It is hugely valuable. It means we don’t understand our own biases, and because we don’t, we’re able to deceive others and ourselves. That strategy helps with alliances, social hierarchy, mating, etc.
I’m not claiming to be an expert on this topic but Robert Trivers work is peer reviewed. I’ve always wondered if peer reviewed is good enough or not. What are your thoughts? Again, to be clear I’m uneducated on this topic.
To this statement Georgi said:
In short, I’ve seen more than my fair share of peer-reviewed bs. A lot of papers I criticize in my various works are peer-reviewed. It is a fairly low standard, especially so in the softer sciences. The paper I’ve linked to has been peer-reviewed as well…
I’m sharing this to make a point. I just assumed the story by Robert Trivers was irrefutable. He is a PhD after all. And the story was published in a book by the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy, the most reputable ad agency in the world. Case closed. But that’s not how Georgi saw it. Georgi needs more empirical data. Your site visitors, just like Georgi, are reading the claims and marketing statements you are making on your online store and saying “I call BS.” Don’t let that be their last thought before leaving your site.
A little about us
Thank you for reading this article about the paradox of choice. We are Frictionless Commerce and over the last 11 years, we’ve thought about just one thing: how do we get online shoppers to convert? We’re fascinated by buyer psychology. And once we understand how your site visitor thinks we use our 9 point copywriting process to convince and convert them.
If you’re on LinkedIn much you
can should definitely connect with me. On LinkedIn, I post ecommerce conversion ideas every day, multiple times a day.