One thing we love here at JBi is a little bit of science, especially Behavioural Economics. In 2008 a book called Nudge shot to the top of all the bestseller lists and made us all shut up and take note. In a nutshell, this little book told us, controversially, that we are herded, influenced, persuaded and manipulated by brands, governments and institutions to do their bidding. Ouch!Now the real question that you’ll be asking (or should be, at any rate), is “how does this affect the web and how we use it, both as web designers and as consumers?”

A while back, on our very own blog we wrote this about How the colour of your logo can make you spend your dough….

But really, that was just the tip of the iceberg…

Here are my top five behavioural economics tips, tricks and theories to convert users into customers:

  • Understand your audience! A 22 year-old woman will behave very differently to a 55 year-old man. Know the difference and reflect this with your design, content and layout.
  • Social Proof, “the sheep affect” as I like to think of it. How can you convince your visitors they’re not the only person making this choice? Ratings, testimonials, expert opinions – all built in to appeal to your inner sheep.
  • Fear of missing out. Also known as FOMO (not YOLO) or loss aversion. How can you make your visitors think they’d be missing out on something valuable if they don’t take action. Studies show that the pain felt for loss is twice as strong as the reward felt from an equal gain. (Kahneman and Tversky)
  • Blue = trust = sales. Conversely, red = distrust = high bounce rate!
  • Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.

For this, I need to introduce you to Sheena Iyengar, author of “The Art of Choosing”. In a California gourmet market, Professor Iyengar and her research assistants set up a booth of jam samples. Every few hours, they switched from offering a selection of 24 jams to a group of six jams. Customers who stopped were given a coupon for $1 off jam.

Here’s the interesting part. Sixty percent of customers were drawn to the large assortment, while only 40 percent stopped by the small one. But 30 percent of the people who had sampled from the small assortment decided to buy jam, while only 3 percent of those confronted with the two dozen jams purchased a jar.

Welcome to Choice Paralysis. Why offer 20 slightly different products when just 3 will do the job? The thing is, if you’re a brand manager, or a web designer, are you considering these ideas and applying them to improve your conversion rates? If the answer to this question is “no”, then I say “why not?”

Even David Cameron employs a Nudge Unit: A recent trial with HMRC that showed how telling late tax payers that most people in their towns had already paid their tax increased payment rates by 15 percentage points. When rolled out this will generate £30m of extra revenue to the Exchequer annually.

Time to start taking this seriously, then.