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5 Psychological Triggers You Can Target With Digital Advisors

Despite unprecedented access to a wealth of information, consumers still struggle to take action online.

The facts show it: Statista estimates that the global conversion rate of online shoppers currently hovers around a mere 2.48% and it’s dropping further. This means that more than 97% of the overall online traffic doesn’t convert.

Discount tire-kickers, price-shoppers and bargain hunters, and you’ll still arrive at a rate that’s pretty discouraging. With an estimated 0.80% sales conversion rate that number is even lower for mobile shoppers.

The majority of shoppers with an intent to buy just doesn’t follow CTAs, invitations to sign up, download or make a purchase.

Why is that?

Conversion rate of online shoppers worldwide as of 1st quarter 2017
Conversion rate of online shoppers worldwide as of 1st quarter 2017


Well, the plain answer is that we humans are complicated creatures. When making decisions, we subconsciously rely on mental shortcuts (heuristics) or psychological triggers. If that final nudge isn’t there, we don’t take action.

Per definition, a psychological trigger is “a stimulant which elicits a response”. It is one of those factors that are difficult to pinpoint but have a major influence on how people make decisions.

By understanding how these triggers can be used to actively assist online shoppers during their often overwhelming decision-making processes, you can increase your chances of them taking action. It’s basically what Digital Advice aims to do.


In this article, we’ll take a look at the five most impactful psychological triggers and examine how different digital advice solutions harness them to drive action.


Trigger #1: Inspire Curiosity

Inspire curiousity

George Loewenstein, a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University developed the “information gap theory of curiosity”. It says that curiosity is an innate behavior that comes when we feel a gap “between what we know and what we want to know”.

People are most curious when they know something about a subject in question but just not enough that they are still uncertain about the answer. It’s like an itch they need to scratch or a gap they feel compelled to fill through knowledge.

By triggering curiosity, you can not only get the attention of your audience but also inspire action and increase activity.


Example: West Marine’s Stand-up Paddleboard advisor

West Marine is a household name in boating communities and throughout the boating culture in the U.S. Catering to water life enthusiasts and novices alike, and with a huge online catalog, online consumers might fail to convert because of analysis paralysis.

West Marine inspires the curiosity of browsers and advice-seeking online shoppers by integrating contextually relevant banners in the after search navigation and on category overview pages. These banners play to questions their shoppers ask themselves when they land on these specific pages, such as “Which stand-up paddleboard is best for me?”

After Search Navigation - West Marine Paddleboard Advisor
After Search Navigation


 Category Overview Pages - West Marine Paddleboard Advisor
Category Overview pages


By piquing an online shopper’s interest and offering something of value that answers their most pressing questions during the crucial stages of the buyer journey, you can reduce bounce rates and keep users, who might have left your site, engaged.


Trigger #2: Make Shoppers Feel Significant

Makes shoppers feel significant

According to Tony Robbins, a personal coach, every human has the desire to feel unique, important and special. It is one of the six basic human needs.

In most situations, online shoppers want to feel unique and significant enough to think that you’re not only interested in taking their money but are interested in their unique needs and preferences. And rightfully so. They want to buy stuff that’s right for them and solves their unique – one of a kind – problems.

Shoppers tend to reward businesses that make them feel significant and make an effort to personalize their experience with greater loyalty.


Example: Celebration Homes – Dream Home Finder

Celebration Homes is an Australian home builder that provides home designs to families and young couples/singles (usually first home buyers). According to their website, they know that buying a home is an important and deeply personal experience in which every touch point matters – offline AND online.

With their Home finder, Celebration Homes makes online buyers feel valued and important. They make an effort to understand their customer’s unique needs and preferences and help them through the process of making the right decision. The finder asks questions such as “Do you like to entertain”, “Do you consider yourself a Masterchef” or, my absolute favorite, “Do you fight for closet space”, to identify and recommend the most suitable house based on the user’s needs.

Celebration Homes – Dream Home Finder
Celebration Homes – Dream Home Finder


Showing online buyers that their needs and preferences are significant, and letting them know that you actually and genuinely care (not fake concern!), makes them more likely to buy from you.


Trigger #3: Simplify


In his book, Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winning psychologist, says that humans tend to choose the path of least effort, both physically and cognitively.

When there are two ways to go, both leading to the same goal, people will intuitively choose the one path that looks least demanding. It’s human instinct to follow the path of least resistance.

If you want to understand online decision-making, listen to Homer Simpson’s advice to Bart:

Homer's Simpson Advice to Bart


If your visitors sense that even only figuring out the next step is going to take effort, don’t count on them continuing.

Your shopping experience needs to not only look effortless, but also like less effort.


Example: B&H Photo – Surveillance Kit Advisor

If you’ve ever been in the situation of having to buy a CCTV surveillance camera, you may have been tempted to keep postponing upgrading your security system to “Next Monday”, which translates to – never ever … ever. The wide range of products and options on the market is just too daunting.

While it may be clear why a system is needed, it can be difficult for online shoppers to decide which system would be most suitable for their business or home. Most will seek the helpful advice of a security professional.

But how do you make that expert advice available online?

B&H Photo is a legendary camera and video equipment store in Manhattan, NYC, which is known for their knowledgeable staff. The company uses a digital advisor in this technical and complex product category to share their advice with online shoppers. The process simplifies decision-making without compromising on advice quality. The advisor asks a few need-oriented questions like “How far away do you need to identify people” and also educates shoppers in the process to increase their decision confidence.

B&H Photo – Surveillance Kit Advisor

B&H Photo – Surveillance Kit Advisor Results
B&H Photo – Surveillance Kit Advisor


By laying out an easy path to follow and simplifying choosing, you do not only reduce choice overload but also increase customer satisfaction and chances that shoppers will follow through on an intended purchase.


Trigger #4: Build Anticipation

Build anticipation

In the book The Happiness Project, the author Gretchen Rubin says that “anticipation is the key stage to happiness”. Looking forward to something causes happiness in of itself, and as a result, you’ll enjoy the final product or event even more.

We all know the feeling–the closer we get to something, the more excited we become. Anticipation releases dopamine and unpredictability increases anticipation, as evidenced by the study results of neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky.

Interesting fact from RazorFish’s report “Digital Dopamine”:

[easy-tweet tweet=”67% of people are more excited when receiving products in the mail than getting them in the store.” template=”light”]

The Austrian postal services provider,, takes advantage of this psychological trigger to improve their customer service. Their app users are able to track their delivery and get to see the package while it’s on its way to them.

Picture-Tracking the shipping
Picture-Tracking the shipping,,


If you manage to build anticipation way before a purchase or delivery, you can increase excitement even further and deepen consumer engagement in interesting ways.


Example: Conrad – Drone Advisor

Conrad is a large German electronics retailer that targets a consumer segment with a high affinity for technology products, a bunch of people that may not always be that easily excitable. They’ve seen it all.

But Conrad’s drone advisor certainly creates some excitement. With each step and each question users get a step closer to the perfect drone for different needs; be it free flying, video and photo recording or drone racing.

The advisor is a great example of how you can use digital advisors to build anticipation. Had I actually been in the market for a drone (or was I living in Germany), I would almost certainly have added it to my cart.

Conrad – Drone Advisor
Conrad – Drone Advisor (in German)


Anticipation and excitement trigger pleasurable emotions that consumers will associate with your brand and products. It could be that last nudge you need to convert browsers into customers.


Trigger #5: Explain “Why”

Explain 'why'

Psychologist Ellen Langer at Harvard University conducted an experiment in the 1970’s in which she asked people standing in line at a copy machine if she could cut in front of them.

Brief explanation: In the 70ies, copy machines were rare and people had a lot more copying to do – What is a photo copier?

Langer discovered that when she provided a reason why she would like to cut in line (no matter how insignificant the reason), people were 34% more likely to let her in.

In most situations, the word “because” followed by a reason causes people to comply if the request is small and the stakes are low. Even if the reason is bogus, people will go into “automatic” behavior, a form of heuristic that says

IF favor is asked ⊕ reason is given ⇒ comply

However, if the request is larger or when the stakes are high, and online shopping is such a scenario, you need to give people real reasons as to why they should perform a certain action. The reason you give should ideally be linked to WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?”:

Every prospect you approach will consider your pitch from the point of WIIFM. That’s why it’s so important to talk about the benefits rather than the features of what you’re selling – literally tell him what’s in it for him.


Example: Evans Cycles – Bike Finder

Evans Cycles is a UK-based bike specialist that uses a digital advisor to guide shoppers to the right bikes. But that’s not it. When displaying suitable bikes, the advisor ties the bike features to the consumer’s stated needs to explain why a suggested bike would be a good choice for them specifically.

Evans Cycles - Bike Finder

Evans Cycles - Bike Finder Results Page
Evans Cycles – Bike Finder


If you provide compelling reasons and explicitly state why your product fits a shopper’s lifestyle and needs, you can increase the likelihood of them taking the next step.


Psychological triggers influence the decision-making process and motivate us all to take certain actions. By identifying these triggers and working them into the customer journey, you can design compelling, more personable shopping experiences that get your audience’s attention, increase engagement, and make your visitors’ decisions to take an action online a whole lot easier.


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Adam handles SEO, PPC, and copywriting for DMI Partners in Philadelphia, PA. When he isn’t building campaigns on Adwords and monitoring keyword rankings, he’s writing about the intersection of music and history at