The Anchoring Bias: Use Priming
The human brain tends to over-rely on the first piece of
information it receives when making decisions. We are “anchored” to this
first piece of data. All subsequent information is viewed in the
context of the first.
So marketers “prime” their audiences through context. If
you see big numbers up front, you’re thinking big. Small numbers? You’re
thinking small. This is why priming is important in pricing and
11. Plans and Pricing Pages
How did Williams-Sonoma nearly double the sales of their high-end breadmaker? They added an even more expensive model (source). This set price expectations of shoppers higher, making the second most expensive option seem more affordable.
Consider how these two pricing pages put visitors in different mindsets…
$22 seems like a lot to me…
$150 sounds pretty reasonable!
Anchoring can easily backfire on ecommerce websites. A big
price discount on the home page may put visitors in a price-sensitive
mood. Make sure there is always at least one higher-priced product on
your home page.
The Loss Aversion Bias: Use Scarcity
When making decisions, the brain tends to overvalue loses
and undervalue gains. We are generally more worried about losing
something than excited about gaining something. This bias is called
Loss aversion is so powerful, shoppers who are normally
courteous will literally trample each other to death during the
holidays. According to Black Friday Death Count,
there was only one death in 2013, down from two in 2012. Why do we do
this? We’re scared we’ll miss an opportunity to buy at a discount.
It’s an easy neuromarketing technique to work into web
design. The goal is to remind people what they will lose by not buying
or becoming a lead, or to create urgency by indicating scarcity.
12. Limited Supply
Scarcity makes people worried they’ll miss their chance.
This is called #FOMO or “fear of missing out.” If you have a limited
supply, be sure to let visitors know (“This event sold out last time”).
Many marketers selling products with unlimited supplies,
create artificial scarcity. For example, Amazon offers “in stock
protection” to many publishers, allowing them to print on demand and
ship even if they don’t have a book in stock. That’s an unlimited
supply! But they still show inventory to indicate the current physical
supplies are limited.
Here’s another company that’s good at using scarcity and loss aversion. (Also, notice the social proof).
I doubt if this place is really going to run out of microdermabrasion treatments, so it’s artificial scarcity.
13. Early Bird Registration, Countdown Clocks, Sale Ends Saturday
Time is always scarce. If you have an offer that expires,
let visitors know. Ecommerce sites selling holiday gifts can let
visitors know how many days they have left to order in time to get it
there. This works for every holiday. (By the way, every day is a holiday. Happy Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day!)
Loss aversion is also the psychology behind early bird
registration. This second deadline and a second chance to make visitors
feel they may lose an opportunity.
Here’s how the same Groupon offer creates urgency…
14. Trial Periods, Free Samples, and the Endowment Effect
People will pay more to keep something they already have
than to get something they don’t already own. This is called the
“endowment effect” and it works both online and offline.
The idea is to get the product or service into the hands of
the customer, knowing that once they have it, they’ll feel ownership of
it …and they’ll feel loss at the idea of giving it up.
Sites that offer free trials can take advantage of this
with a “Don’t lose your access to…” call to action. It’s because of the
endowment effect that subscription websites offer free trials. Sites
that sell books offer free chapters. Ecommerce sites offer free samples.
Bioelements lets visitors choose free samples in the shopping cart…
The Von Restorff Effect: Use Action Colors
Neuromarketers and usability pros use special cameras to
track eye movements on web pages. The goal is to discover what visitors
look at (and don’t) to guide design decisions and get better results.
Let’s look at an eye tracking study to see what web design tricks we can learn.
15. Colors and Action
In 1933, psychiatrist and researcher Hedwig Von Restorff
published a paper explaining how visually prominent items are more
likely to be remembered. It’s called the “isolation effect” and it works
because the eye and brain are constantly scanning for interruptions in
It’s relevant to color selection in web design and
supported by this well known eye tracking study. Here is a web page
where a large callout is used (NO FEES), a series of logos, and a call
to action with a phone number…
Here’s what the eye tracking study revealed. Visitors
attention is pulled toward the color and the logos. Few visitors looked
at the call to action…
Lets try it again without the big red call out, with a
bigger call to action (the light blue box with the phone number) and
with a different picture…
Now let’s look at the eye tracking results…
You can see that the big red truck is pulling the eyes
toward it. So are the red logos. Since most of the site is blue, you can
see the Von Restorff effect in action.
One more try with a blue truck, no logos, and a call to action in a contrasting color…
And the study shows…
…that now the desired action is the center of attention. By
removing distracting elements and colors, the visitors eyes are
successfully guided to the call to action.
Using an “action color” that contrasts with the brand and
the design itself is just one of many ways that web designers can guide
visitors toward successful outcomes. Find a good designer and trust
Brilliant? Or Creepy?
Some brain science-based web design techniques
make a huge difference. Others are so subtle, they may give only a tiny
improvement, making them worthwhile only if you have a lot of traffic.
They might make you want to take a shower to wash off the creepiness,
but once you’re aware of them, you’ll see them everywhere.
Remember, 100% of your target audience has brains. B2B or B2C, lead
generation, or ecommerce, it doesn’t matter. Keep those brains in mind
in your marketing. And as consumers, we should be aware of how marketers
are taking advantage of our own biases.