How Digital Psychology Can Increase Conversions

How Digital Psychology Can Increase Conversions

Digital psychology is not a fundamentally new field. It combines existing and emerging knowledge about human psychology with behavioural economics. In short, it seeks to understand the decisions people make online.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of concepts. CXL for instance even offers a mini-degree program on the topic. In this article, we’ll cover four key components of digital psychology and how they affect the way you market to your consumers.

1. Novelty

Practitioners of digital psychology can use their learnings to improve the performance of websites and apps–meaning more users, better engagement, more conversions. Those who do it well get a bucket of money for their troubles.

That said, you won’t get to conversion if you can’t hold a web visitor’s interest. Gaining and keeping the attention of new visitors as they browse your website is essential.

The Psychology

Novelty keeps the brain interested and engaged. As a result, it promotes information transmission and may even be an essential need of the mind.

How does it work? Rapid changes mean more unknowns and places more demand on our brain to solve what will happen next. Once we’ve mastered something—even if that’s mastery of a visual layout—our brain goes hunting for something new.

The Digital Marketing Application

If your website opens with large, consistent blocks of text, you’re not generating enough novelty to keep visitors engaged. While every design should be tested, elements that break up a page can help sustain novelty.

Take, for example, the alternation of text and images:

Aligning all images on one side would create a visual consistency that the brain could easily master, likely leading to more skimming and less reading.

Be careful, however, when it comes to novelty. Too much novelty can have a negative impact on the user experience. Simple designs often work best.

2. Social Proof

Social proof like reviews, recommendations on social media, testimonials, and other forms of digital referrals are a persuasive force in digital psychology. They can make-or-break an online sale.

The Psychology

Peer-to-peer referrals are a long-known source of leads and sales—many marketing funnels add loyalty and advocacy past the conversion point to fuel growth.

When it comes to online reviews—a proxy for peer-to-peer referrals—the studies are clear. People read reviews, and they make decisions based on those reviews. In fact, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

The Digital Marketing Application

If you haven’t already, focus on earning more reviews for your site and on third-party platforms. Google likely uses reviews as one factor to rank local businesses, so ‘social proof’ in this way can influence customer acquisition as well.

Importantly, do not delete negative reviews. A handful of bad reviews may actually help sales by increasing the credibility of the reviews, however not every bad review is the same. Reviews that politely critique an element of a product or experience are ideal.

Of course, tons of negative reviews will have a negative psychological impact and, almost certainly, suggest bigger issues within an organisation.

3. The Paradox of Choice

Consumers want choices. The more sizes, colours, and versions, you offer, the more likely you are to get the sale. Right? Wrong.

The Psychology

In fact, studies show, the more choices you offer, the fewer people will buy. This phenomenon was famously illustrated by researchers who offered jam tastings at a California supermarket. A follow-up study on chocolates had similar findings.

The experimenters ran two versions of their tasting stations:

  • One with 6 exotic chocolates
  • One with 30 varieties


Those who got to choose among 30 chocolates found the choice more ‘enjoyable,’ but they also found it more ‘difficult’ and ‘frustrating.’ When offered a box of chocolates or cash as a reward for their participation, only 12% of those who sampled the larger variety took chocolates as a ‘thank you.’ Some 48% given the smaller sample size kept the sweets.

Why does choice negatively impact sales? There are two potential reasons:

  1. Analysis paralysis. Choosing among 30 chocolates requires more brain power than choosing among six. It takes more effort to settle on one-of-many and, therefore, increases buying ‘friction.’
  2. Buyer’s remorse. If there are 30 options, you’ll almost certainly leave behind some tempting flavors. Buyer’s remorse—or the fear of it—may cause consumers to hesitate.

The Digital Marketing Application

Don’t always feel compelled to offer an abundance of choices in terms of product types or prices. For instance, there are plenty of ways to test pricing strategy, if that’s your company’s main way of offering choice to your customers.

Limiting choice can also result in an improved website design and UX, which ultimately has a positive effect on conversions. Making user pathways clear and simple can help increase user engagement and get more users to the point of purchase.

4. Law of Reciprocity

What if your buying cycle is more complex than a one-time visit and purchase? The law of reciprocity can help nurture your leads as they move closer to conversion.

The Psychology

More than fifty years ago, psychologist Phillip Kunz sent out holiday cards that included a personal note and photos to complete strangers.

What happened? He began to receive holiday cards back from the same strangers to whom he had sent them. The law of reciprocity was strong enough to motivate random people to return the unsolicited yet generous action of Kunz.

Even if your new leads are, effectively, strangers, the law of reciprocity can influence how they perceive your business and how they respond to your sales team.

The Digital Marketing Application

Digital marketing campaigns that provide value—with well-researched white papers or helpful tutorials—may build a sense of reciprocity with your target audience.

If you’re starting a drip campaign that may take months to pay dividends, make sure you’re providing value every step of the way.

By contrast, be careful not to ask for too much up front. Just because you may want an immediate sale doesn’t mean you’ll get it. A pushy ‘buy now’ or ‘sign up today’ call to action may make you the debtor in your reciprocal relationship.


Digital psychology is a massive topic. After all, it combines two other massive disciplines— human psychology and behavioral economics—and applies them to the full range of online interactions.

That said, digital psychology also provides a tested, scientific framework to inform design decisions that might otherwise defer to personal preference, not business performance.

Usabilla & CXL Solution Partnership

Usabilla recently partnered up with CXL, a leading agency and source for optimisation, growth and digital analytics expertise. This alliance will offer both current and future Usabilla and CXL customers robust digital marketing and conversion optimisation services fuelled by Usabilla VoC technology.

Joint customers in both EMEA & the Americas will benefit from Usabilla’s ability to capture and analyse large amounts of feedback and easily integrate with other web analytics and optimisation tools. Combining this real-time customer feedback with additional optimisation support for website, content or pay-per-click performance gives Usabilla and CXL customers an edge when it comes to boosting conversions and drive ongoing optimisation longer term.

This article originally appeared on Usabilia blog.

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