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6 Behavioral Science Tricks to Instantly Increase Conversions

In September, I attended the Google Partner Summit in New York City to meet other top agencies from around the world and learn about Google’s latest innovations and product releases. This included an awards ceremony, where Aristotle won a place on Google’s Shortlist for the 2017 Premier Partner Awards in Display Innovation for our Barkansas campaign to promote dog-friendly travel in Arkansas.

Maya ShakarI attended an amazing presentation on behavioral science by Maya Shankar. Here are my key takeaways from her presentation: 6 behavioral science tricks to instantly increase conversions:

#1: Changing the Default

In this example, Maya Shankar described a problem public schools had with getting people to enroll their children in a free lunch program, due to the complicated enrollment process and the social stigma attached. They solved this problem by changing the default to enrolled if they qualified. Instantly everyone who needed free lunches was enrolled and could opt out as needed. This is why email marketers often find that email subscriptions increase when including a pre-checked box to receive the e-newsletter rather than an unchecked box.

#2: Endowment Effect

People value more what they already have, especially if they feel like they’ve earned it. Maya Shankar described a digital marketing experiment for veteran enrollment, where they changed one word to “earned” and saw a significant increase in conversion rate.

#3: Commitment Devices

credit-cardMaya Shankar explained a behavioral science principle that people are much more likely to take action if they commit in advance, so they were able to increase conversions on a landing page by moving the “yes” box to the top of the page instead of leaving it at the bottom. For example, the Call-To-Action might say, “Yes, I plan to attend X event” at the very top of the page with a box next to it that users have to check. Then in the middle the page could provide details about the event, and at the bottom it could have the remainder of the form for submission. The test showed that because people had committed in advance, they were more likely to complete the desired action.

#4: Goal Gradient Effect

Maya Shankar explained the principle that people are far more likely to take action if they feel that there has already been progress made toward the goal. For example, if you provide people with two punch cards – each with 8 slots remaining but one with 2 additional slots pre-punched, people are more likely to use the one with pre-punched slots. In this test, Maya and her team saw a 78% increase in conversion rate.

#5: Identity Priming

Maya Shankar explained that the American Red Cross was able to increase the number and size of donations by identifying people as previous donors in marketing messages. For example, an email message might simply mention their donor status in the subject line to make them more likely to open the email, more likely to donate, and likely to contribute a higher dollar value in donations.

#6: Social Norms

Maya Shankar explained that people are more likely to follow a behavioral pattern that is established as the social norm. This is why Great Britain added this statement to their tax forms, “9 out of 10 people in Britain pay their taxes on time,” resulting in an increased rate of timely tax payments.


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Sarah Stashuk
--Sarah leads a team of experts who are knowledgeable in all aspects of organic and paid search marketing. With more than 17 years of experience, Sarah has built a wealth of knowledge regarding online marketing and the ever-changing rules of search engine optimization and online media buying. Her work with Albuquerque CVB, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Huntington Beach, Kentucky Tourism, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Silver Dollar City and South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism is award-winning and has generated significant ROI for our tourism partners. Most recently, Sarah’s work for the state of Utah won US Search Awards 2017 for “Best Use of Search – Travel/Leisure” and the gold Davey Award in 2017, "Best Brand Strategy" for the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism.
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