Leveraging Psychology to Increase Digital Sales

If you described advertising in the most basic terms, it would sound something like, “convincing people to buy things.” It sounds straightforward enough, but countless hours – not to mention dollars – have been spent (and wasted) trying to accomplish this goal with maximum effectiveness.

The psychology of selling isn’t a mystery. In fact, there has been a great deal of research dedicated to figuring out what makes someone cross the line from “interested in a product” to “paying customer.” In this article, I’ll explain 5 psychological considerations that can help you increase consumer urgency and drive sales and revenue.


1. Scarcity

What can you learn from the McRib sandwich at McDonalds? It’s certainly not the best-tasting thing on the menu, it’s far from the healthiest, but it continues to get customers to stop by the nearest Mickey D’s year after year.

The entire McRib saga is one big case study on marketing tactics. The approach centers around the idea of “scarcity” – more specifically artificial scarcity – and makes customers think that they need to act fast, lest they miss out on one of the most iconic fast food menu items of all time.

Our evolutionarily-developed brains are programmed to prioritize something that isn’t available everywhere at all-times. This is why precious metals and gems are valuable, and grains of sand are not. When speaking about rubies and emeralds, there simply aren’t that many available.

Artificial scarcity is the concept of scarcity by design. Of course McDonalds could offer the McRib all year long, but then it wouldn’t stand out from the other standard menu items. The fact that it’s only “here for a limited time!” means if you want it, you better act fast. Heck, you might even want to buy two while you’ve still got the chance.


2. Urgency

A close cousin to scarcity, “urgency” also plays on a part of the brain which evolved to help us survive. When something is only going to be available for a limited time only, our instincts tell us to get it while you can, even if you don’t really need it. Whether it’s that new pair of shoes that are only going to be available for a week, or a BOGO deal at Chipotle, if it’s not going to be available in the future, we want it before it’s out of reach.

Human beings are able to recognize a marketing play that uses urgency to encourage action. It’s not exactly a new concept that hasn’t been exposed time and time again, but it’s still effective. That’s the thing about our psychological predispositions: we know they exist, and we still can’t resist.

Even if you have the capacity to offer a particular product or service all year long, you can create demand by making something available periodically. The best marketing isn’t about making people want top buy something. The best marketing is that which actually gets people to take action.


3. Appeal to Authority

An “appeal to authority” might be a logical fallacy, but it’s still an extremely effective sales tactic that works to validate the product or service you’re selling. This marketing strategy might best be explained in terms of “pitch” men or women who endorse products that they supposedly have given their stamp of approval.

If you’re selling golf clubs and you hear Tiger Woods tell you that these irons will help you hit it further and straighter, who are you to question the greatest golfer of all-time? Similarly, if a nutritionist with six-pack abs tells you that drinking this particular brand’s protein shake is the way to a better body, it seems like they should be believed.

Even when we recognize the flaw in the presentation (Tom Brady probably doesn’t include Subway sandwiches as part of his diet), it’s still effective nonetheless. In our minds, we’ll still make the argument that a product can’t be that bad if such a high-profile person is participating in the marketing efforts. Therein lies the beauty that all these advertising tricks have in common: even though we know it’s not real, we still can’t help falling for the pitch.


4. The Desire to Fit In

Nobody wants to admit that they like following along with the crowd. In fact, some people make it their goal to never “conform” to society’s expectations. In reality, the vast majority of individuals find comfort in fitting in, and the science suggests we’re hardwired to make ourselves a member of the group.

We want what’s popular, and we want the things that have received a high approval rating from our peers. Reviews have taken on a new significance in the digital age.  The most valuable form of advertising, word-of-mouth, is no longer relegated to friends and family. Highlighting the positive experiences that your customers have had with whatever you’re selling is an extremely effective way to advertise. Whether it’s through UGC (user-generated-content) or simply repurposing reviews as marketing material, when potential customers see how much your current customers are enjoying your brand, they’re instinctively going to become more interested.


5. Offering Free Stuff

As a species that once lived as hunter-gatherers, our brains have evolved to simply “want” everything. And if there’s no cost associated with obtaining it, why wouldn’t you want it?

Have you ever seen the lines at a restaurant when something is offered at no-charge? It doesn’t matter if it’s a $1 ice cream or $3 sandwich, if it’s being given away for free, people will wait an hour or longer to take advantage of the promotional deal.

Even though it might feel like you’re losing money when you offer your services for free, chances are people will return as paying customers because they’ll be familiar with your brand. It’s an investment strategy that has paid off time and again, and that three-block line outside Krispy Kreme on free doughnut day suggests this trend isn’t going anywhere.


Wrapping Up

None of the information in this article is new, but advertisers can get caught up in their creative pursuit and forget about the tried-and-true realities of purchasing, selling, and the way human beings think. The best part is that these inclinations are hardwired into our brain through evolutionary psychology, so it’s unlikely that our thought patters and decision-making strategies are going to change any time soon.

If your business needs assistance in putting together a campaign that gets the attention of potential customers, get in touch today for a free consultation and we’ll find a solution that works for your goals and budget.