Head Games: 6 Psychological Triggers That Convert

Head Games: 6 Psychological Triggers That Convert

Last updated on September 21, 2016 by Minta Montalbo in Conversion Rate Optimization
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"What you call 'love' was invented by guys like me… to sell Nylons." Mad Men’s Don Draper summed up the marketing scene of yesterday, when advertisers told consumers what to buy, where, and in what color.

Thanks in large part to technology, today’s consumers now have countless options and unprecedented access to information needed to make their purchasing decisions.

Yet, they aren’t. Here’s the data to prove it:

This graph shows why low conversion rates are hurt by the lack of psychological triggers.

In 2015, more than 97% of the world’s internet traffic took no action. They didn’t follow CTAs, enter sales funnels, or convert. In short, they did not make decisions.

Why not?

As an example, think about all the information out there on the values of healthy eating and exercise. We all know what we should be doing — walk 10,000 steps every day, eat plenty of vegetables — yet 70% of American adults are overweight.

Knowledge isn’t enough. The human brain is more complicated than a data analysis tool, and much of our decision making is handled subconsciously, through mental shortcuts called heuristics, or psychological triggers.

This post will examine common psychological triggers that help consumers make decisions (whether they know it or not), revisit neuroscience to explain why they work, and offer tips for incorporating these triggers into landing pages that will increase conversions.

Psychological triggers

A psychological trigger is defined as “a stimulant which elicits a response.” Some triggers and responses are innate, as when the aroma of food causes salivation, but as Pavlov’s dogs showed us, triggers are also learned. The human brain uses these triggers to help make sense of information and determine appropriate action.

By incorporating psychological triggers into your landing pages, websites, and digital advertising, you increase the likelihood that potential customers will make the decision to click your CTA, download your offer, or request a quote.

Here’s the science.

The neuroscience: making decisions feels good

When our brains are able to make a decision, we get a hit of dopamine. But when faced with too many choices, our brains suffer paralysis of analysis. The following psychological triggers appeal to our ingrained preferences, making decisions a snap.

1. Scarcity trigger

Human beings are biologically prone to respond to the idea of shortage. A 2012 wristwatch advertising experiment found the average consumer was willing to pay 50% more for watches marketed as “exclusive editions” with “limited stock.” We associate scarcity with higher value.

Landing page application

Use verbiage like “limited time only,” countdown timers, pricing deadline dates, early bird registration dates, and other scarcity triggers to encourage viewers to take quick advantage of your offer.

Booking.com incorporates both “last chance” and “today’s value deal” scarcity triggers into their search result page:


Fair warning: scarcity triggers only work if they are true. How many times have you seen a “Going Out of Business – Must Sell Now!” sign on a storefront, only to find them still in business months down the road? That kind of trigger trickery cuts into consumer trust and the company’s bottom dollar.

2. Reciprocity trigger

We have a natural tendency to respond to another’s action with an equivalent action, out of a sense of obligation.

Landing page application

Offering a free trial or ebook in exchange for filling out your form invokes reciprocity, leading to higher conversions.

3. Authority trigger

We respond to authority figures — both real and perceived — and actively seek out signs of trustworthiness.

Landing page application

Incorporate trust indicators such as relevant statistics, customer logos, security badges, privacy policies, and testimonials. Learn more about how to use trust indicators on your landing page here.

Alaska Life’s landing page uses both reciprocity (free download) and authority (privacy policy) triggers to entice the visitor to click:

This picture shows how Alaska Life uses an authority trigger to increase conversions.

The neuroscience: familiarity, images, and patterns attract our attention

Familiar faces and places, organization, and patterns all serve to help our brains make sense of the world around us, to understand what we’re looking at. Design your landing page with psychological triggers to cue a sense of comfort and clarity that will lead to conversion.

4. Human element trigger

The human eye actively seeks recognizable faces. We form emotional connections based on those images.

Landing page application

Photographs, videos, gifs, and even infographics can turn your landing page into a welcoming environment for a visitor’s brain.

5. Visual hierarchy trigger

Where you place different elements on landing page influences how your visitor’s eye will travel. Imagery, color, and white space will grab attention.

Landing page application

Your product or service, imagery, testimonials, CTA and other information needs to be in a clear order so that you push the visitor towards your desired action with ease.

This happify landing page uses center-justification to create an inverse pyramid of text that naturally draws the eye down to the bottom CTA button, while the angled division of the two blues points to both CTAs. The combination of a uniform background color and CTA color pop enhances the effect:

This picture shows how Happify uses a visual hierarchy to increase landing page conversions.

Autopilot uses both imagery and hierarchy to create a compelling journey across their page, which ends with a row of trust-establishing company badges. The CTA buttons changing color when hovered over is a nice touch:

This picture shows how Autopilot uses testimonials to increase landing page conversions.

6. Social proof trigger

We are social creatures and look to our peers for signals, i.e. triggers, on what to like, do, or buy. That’s why we ignore a poster ad if too many pull tags are intact (it must not be interesting if nobody took the tags) but pay attention to pages and products featuring customer testimonials.

Landing page application: Use social media tools to provide quick and dirty social proof. Provide “like” and “share” buttons to encourage your customers to become your brand ambassadors. Customer testimonials are great sources of social proof, in addition to serving as trust indicators.

The LA Fitness homepage includes a drop down menu with its social media sites:

This picture shows how LA Fitness hides their social media sites reducing their conversion rates.

Ideally, social media links should be easily spotted, not hidden in a drop down box.

ProWorkflow’s page uses a nice style of customer testimonials, combining quotes with a universally recognizable star rating. Note the Twitter promotional offer as well, a great way to encourage social sharing:

This picture shows how Pro Workflow uses testimonials and a Twitter widget to increase landing page conversions.

The neuroscience: less is more

Armed with all these powerful psychological triggers, you’re probably itching to apply them to your landing page. But before we get started, remember the most important neuroscience principle of all: Keep it simple!

Check out this page for Beats by Dre, with a rotating slider. This image trigger captures the eye with color, stylized product presentation, and artful visual hierarchy. The “limited edition” scarcity trigger is elegant and matches the simplicity of the page:

This picture shows how Beats by Dre uses the scarcity trigger to increase sales.

Don’t try to incorporate every trick and trigger in the psychology book to one landing page. Pick the triggers that make the most sense for your business. Just as a perfect picture can be worth a thousand words, a tantalizing tagline can pack more conversion trigger power than a clutter of images.

Remember, when it comes to marketing, it’s all in your head. Start using the triggers by building your own page with our fully customizable builder and one of our 100+ templates.

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