Manipulation vs. inspiration

E-COMMERCE Whether to buy something online is the consumer's decision. However, stores use many motivational measures. Which one shapes e-commerce the most? In the e-commerce environment, there is more manipulation than you think - but customer loyalty is much more important.By Timo Oelerich*Is the site trustworthy? Do I want to order the newsletter? Do I want to download the PDF? Should I [...]

In the e-commerce environment, there is more manipulation than you might think - yet customer loyalty is much more important.By Timo Oelerich*Is the site trustworthy? Do I want to order the newsletter? Do I want to download the PDF? Do I want someone to contact me directly? Do I want to become a Facebook fan? Should I order the article here?The list of questions and decisionswhich visitors meet on a website need is long. The more micro and macro goals are mapped by the e-commerce solutions, the longer. How well or poorly these goals are being achieved is revealed by the web analysis. Or, at the end of the day, by the business result - which is then too late to intervene and optimize.The goals of a website are diverse and granular. Nevertheless, all goals have one elementary thing in common: whether they are achieved is in the hands of the users and their decisions. If a website pursues business-oriented goals, then the decisions of its visitors ultimately correlate directly with the business result. Sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. In any case, however, the decisions of the visitors are the central success factor of an e-commerce solution or CMS solution with goals.

Can you influence traffic decisions?

If a user is faced with an economically relevant decision for the operator (e.g., adding items to the shopping cart or filling out a contact form), the website must motivate the potential customer to act in a way that is correct and relevant for him. Since the brain bypasses cognitive effort at every opportunity, this motivation should be as implicit be. In the form of a bridge between the store article and the consumer's brain, so to speak, via which a subtle "go ahead, decide to do this" message is transported.Willing zombie customers? No, so It's not a bad thing. It is primarily about simplifying decisions in terms of user motives, e.g., to have not only higher target achievement rates, but also more satisfied customers.The implicit motivation to an action, or the "influencing" of human behavior can be done either by manipulation or inspiration. Both work very well, but take fundamentally different approaches to strategy and communication. Generally speaking, while manipulation enables short-term results, inspiration is among the medium- and long-term strategies.Which of these motivators is shaping today's e-commerce environment? That's right, manipulation. Sounds scary at first, but a closer look reveals that almost everyone is actually doing it. Here are a few examples:Manipulation via pricesPrice is probably the most effective argument. Lower prices low enough and customers will buy. Stinginess is still cool! But above all, stinginess, or rather price, is an extremely emotional value from the point of view of neuromarketing - and not a strictly rational one (one might think otherwise), because with (a lot of) money (all) desires can be fulfilled. Wishes, in turn, are deeply anchored in the emotional world and motivate very strongly from there. That's why it works so well (decisions are emotionally driven).Manipulation via bait and promotionsBring me your old car and we'll give you CHF 5,000 when you buy a new lilac SUV. For many car dealers and car manufacturers, this has become a matter of course. The principle behind it: Give something away, thereby minimizing the perceived risk and making it easier for the customer to make a choice.There are many ways in which this so-called decoy effect can be used. Relativity is the crucial element here. Our brain is better at comparing values and benefits than at putting absolute data into perspective. If customers are confronted with too much choice, they become downright incapable of making a decision (paradox of choice). Especially the long-tail spoiled online trade is challenged to find the right measure of relevant article variety or to present it to the potential customer. Skillful promotions disentangle here and help to establish cognitively simple relations between articles - in order to implicitly "simplify" the decision. By the way, this does not only apply to completed shopping carts. Newsletters also become much more interesting if they promise a relevant advantage (e.g. coupons).Manipulation via the game with fearEvery thirty seconds a person dies of a heart attack! Admittedly, this is certainly a sales pitch of the tougher variety. But it works for insurance companies when it comes to protecting their beloved family in the event of an emergency. The fact that there are a good 7 billion people on the planet and that the statistical probability of one's own being affected is rather low plays only a subordinate role.The idea behind it is: If you do not buy this product, then bad things could happen. If fears are evoked, then facts are only a secondary matter. This is rooted in our basic behavior and is intended to ensure our own survival.far less martial than the above-mentioned heart attack is, for example, the scarcity principle. If only a few of a discounted item are available ("only 2 items left at this price"), then the "fear" of no longer being able to make the interesting deal acts like an accelerant on the motivation to buy.There are many possible variants to create a "fear". Of course, it doesn't work the same for all websites, but almost every one of them can increase their sales with at least one variant of it.

The price of manipulation

One can observe again and again that these manipulations partly work very well and have a strong influence on the decisions of the visitors of a website. Since these decisions correlate directly with the business result, it can only be good to turn the manipulation screw as much as possible.But ...Manipulating motivation only brings a short-term uplift. In the medium or long term, it is too expensive and promotes operator interchangeability, as the customer's primary concern is lowest prices at maximum performance. Since e-commerce today is in a decidedly competitive environment, moving more and more towards a cut-throat market, shrinking margins and increasing interchangeability are exactly what operators don't want.In addition, price cuts and promotions naturally attract even more competition, so that net prices for products and services tend to fall further. The Internet in particular has manifested an expectation among customers (themselves) in this way.Thus, according to the HSG, a full 76.7% of online shoppers surveyed said that price was the most important criterion for online shopping. Countering this home-grown expectation with further price reductions leads deeper and deeper into a vicious circle, because getting customers back to the point where they are willing to pay higher prices for something requires really very good arguments - and a new strategy!Selling only on price is expensive and can therefore only be propagated until the second most efficient falls below the profitability threshold. It speaks certainly nothing against it for individual articles and short periods sales-promoting on the action decisions of the visitors to affect. But the strategically important success factors in e-commerce have shifted to values such as customer lifetime value, genuine added value and service excellence. The customer, the relationship with him and knowledge about him are more important in the medium term than short-term uplifts in scaling via traffic. In short, it's all about customer loyalty.

Websites want loyal customers

Manipulation works, but it costs a lot of money and prevents true customer loyalty. If the budget required for manipulation is no longer available, the lack of loyal customers is very painful for the entire business model. The price hunters are then gone. Loyal customers, on the other hand, stay. If customer lifetime value comes to the fore (and this is currently already the case), then new customers must become repeat buyers. And so the value of a customer is inextricably linked to their loyalty.As a company, you want to have loyal customers. Apart from that, loyal customers are also the happier customers, which has a positive impact on the return rate, among other things. So relying on loyalty is a win-win situation for both sides. However, this must first be established. Unlike manipulation, however, the visible results usually take a while to materialize. But it is worth it. -----------------------------------------------------* Timo Oelerich is a specialist for e-business, e-commerce and online marketing projects with a focus on increasing the overall efficiency of online sales solutions through conversion optimization as a higher-level meta-discipline. Other key areas of expertise: Project management, web analysis, information architecture, usability, e-commerce law (CH/EU) and quality assurance.

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