5 Conversion Experts Weigh in on User Psychology

by Ritika Puri

Last updated on April 3rd, 2018

Psychology is an unstoppable force of nature.

As tech savvy, opinionated, and intellectual as we are, our instincts inevitably kick in. From subtle designs to bold colors, we’re constantly relying on signals to guide us through key decision-making moments.

Consumer behavior is no different.

The decision-making process is just as straightforward as it is complex. We constantly follow predictable patterns as we decide what to buy, eat, and wear. For conversion-driven online marketers, this concept is mission-critical to understand.

What motivates your users? With all of the competing options out there, why should they pick your brand?

According to a recent infographic from Pardot, the five psychology principles that drive conversion behavior include social proof, loss-aversion, anchoring, foot-in-the-door, and authority.

Let’s take a look…

Using Simple Psychology to Increase Conversions

 Psychology - Conversions - 2

Points you don’t want to miss

  • People care about their peers’ experiences and thoughts. That’s why reviews and shares are so important.
  • Humans are unbelievably afraid of loss. Maybe it’s instinctual, or maybe we’re just attached to our valuable resources. Position your product as a scarce resource, and present your offer in the context of a time frame.
  • People are constantly looking for incentives while evaluating various options. Discounts and bonuses can be helpful in swaying the decision-making process.
  • Even behind computer screens, people crave human-to-human connections. Conversion-driven marketers need to look beyond direct response to nurture relationships for the long-term through tools like social media.
  • Thought leadership and strategic partnerships can help position your brand as an authority, which helps build trust. Case in point: celebrity endorsements.

So what does that mean for your brand?

I could probably type forever, but I’d much rather share insight from some of the Internet’s most influential conversion marketers. Here’s what they have to say about user psychology:

1. Be Strategic with Your Colors – Colm Tuite

Designer and developer Colm Tuite wrote a great post for Quora explaining how to best leverage colors to captivate users on an emotional level.

“Tints and shades can also play a part in what feelings the color conveys. For instance, a darker shade of blue would convey more security and integrity. Lighter tints of blue would convey more tranquility and peace.”

He also points out that some colors have adopted particular meanings over time.

2.  Understand Your User’s Context – Peep Laja

Mobile means that your users aren’t necessarily at the computer. In fact, you probably don’t know where they are. They could be on the train on their morning commutes, taking a brain break at work, or sitting in a hospital waiting room.

Be ready for changing contexts with a responsive design, explains conversion expert Peep Laja.

“The process of trying to buy something from a desktop design site with a smartphone can be summed up with one word — pain. On top of navigating and zooming a computer-monitor-sized site on a three-inch screen to find relevant content, internet retailers assume that you are a screen-tapping ninja that understands the relevance of their lengthy forms and Terms and Conditions. All of these obstacles make it an unexpected challenge to reach the checkout page.”

3. Simplicity is key – Oli Gardner

It’s not always great to have options. Writes Oli Gardner in an ebook for Unbounce:

Consumers constantly face “analysis paralysis, where too many options actually result in no decision being made.”

As he emphasizes, your landing pages should “remove distraction and focus visitors on a single targeted conversion goal.”

4. Empower your users – Laura Klein

Users aren’t marketers, so don’t expect them to read your mind. UX expert Laura Klein, on her blog Users Know, wrote:

“We constantly need to be asking ourselves what we really expect a user to understand about our product, and we need to have ways to preemptively help them in places where we’re presenting new concepts or unfamiliar terminology.

“Users don’t know our slang. They don’t know our jargon. They don’t know our product. If we want them to use our products successfully, we need to teach them what they need to know without making them feel like idiots.”

 5. Keep a fresh perspective – Karl Blanks

All marketers have blind spots, explains Karl Blanks. Make sure that you’re constantly researching and seeking second opinions to evaluate yours.

Here’s what he says in a blog post for UserTesting:

“That’s why user testing is so helpful. After working on a site for even just a few days you can lose a fresh perspective. We call it the ‘house visitor’ effect. When you have a visitor in your house, the minute they walk in the door you start noticing things that you didn’t notice before, like the pile of books in the corner or a mark on the wall. You start seeing everything through the visitor’s eyes.”

Your Turn

What are your best tips for connecting with user psychology? Share your own expert perspectives below.



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Ritika Puri

Ritika Puri is a San Francisco-based blogger who writes about trends in business, internet culture, and marketing. She’s inspired by the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship, and sociology. By day, she works for a large online media company, and after-hours, she runs her writing consulting business, UserGrasp.


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  1. Jim_Clarks says:
    January 14, 2015 at 4:37 am

    Oh, the #5 is a very topical problem for a mobile testing. While connecting your project to open beta, there’s always a huge risk of something unexpected may happen just at the start of the testing process.
    As it is said on Ubertesters’ blog, the best advice in this case is to start the public open testing in small groups. If you see that the process of the beta testing is successful you may gradually add more testers. It will give you the opportunity to finish the process of beta testing with minimal damage in case something goes wrong. I talk more about it here.

    • January 14, 2015 at 8:49 am

      Thanks, Jim. Great tips for testing your UX.

    • Neil Patel says:
      January 14, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      Jim, thanks for sharing your experiences.

  2. July 13, 2013 at 4:15 am

    Hey Ritika,
    Thanks for the inclusion – great company to be in.

    To expand on the point mentioned above, less is often more. In one of the examples from the ebook I talk about an experiment that happened in a supermarket where shoppers were faced with a jam tasting display. Those who saw the display with 24 flavors converted to buying customers at a rate of 3% – compared to 30% for those faced with 6 flavors.

    An analogy I like to use for analysis paralysis – where there are too many options presented – is something called the toothpaste trance. We’ve all experienced it. It’s when you are standing in the toothpaste aisle and have absolutely no clue which type you should buy. They are all essentially the same. In the end, you often end up buying something at random, and only because you have to, which is a terrible result for any marketer.

    Imagine Colgate just had one type of toothpaste, but they managed to corner the same amount of space in the aisle. It would be such a huge wall of consistency that it would encourage far more purchases.

    Reduce the available options and you’ll have more focused visitors/consumers.

    • July 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      Hey, Oli, thanks for stopping by. Love the term, “toothpaste trance.” What a great say to talk about analysis paralysis!

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