7 Powerful Cognitive Biases You Must Leverage to Get a Massive Sales Boost

You think you’re rational? We all tend to think about ourselves in that way. We think we make logical, optimal decisions most of the time. If not ALL the time.

But is it really true? Can we be so sure about the choices we make in our lives?

Science says it’s not the case.

There’s a psychology term “cognitive bias” which in simple English means a distortion in perception of reality.

It’s these irrational thinking patterns that cause us to think based on our beliefs rather than on obvious factual data. It affects multiple cognitive processes namely reasoning, evaluating and remembering.

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There’s a ton of opportunities to influence customer behaviour using these seemingly tiny tweaks that could lead to pretty drastic results.

There’s an array of cognitive biases that is divided into multiple categories.

In this article we’re going to go over the most useful ones that you can (and should!) use in your marketing strategy.

#1 Confirmation bias

People like to when someone agrees with them or they find something that tells them they’re right.

You know that famous saying “people hear only what they want to hear”?

That’s exactly what this bias is about.

Formally speaking confirmation bias is a tendency to find, recall and interpret any info that supports what the person thinks is right.

Honestly it’s a terrible thing for decision making. You’re always influenced by your own existing beliefs and values and fail to see when things go wrong simply because you don’t want to.

The bias can’t be entirely eliminated so its influence is always presented in one’s decisions.

One of the best uses of this bias is to get rid of so-called “buyer remorse”.

You see, nobody wants to lose their money. It’s understandable.

So every time someone buys anything, there’s a flood of anxious thoughts that overwhelms them once the purchase is made.

“Was it the right thing to do?”

“Is it a scam?”

“What others are going to think about me?”

You need to weed out these thoughts as fast as you can by displaying any information on the thank you page that supports the decision of the purchase that has been made.

It could be a positive review, a success story or some engaging video explaining the benefits of the product.

#2 Loss aversion

Speaking of money loss it’s important to mention loss aversion bias.

It’s tendency to perceive any loss as more painful and unwanted than missing the same amount of gain. 

It’s more emotionally distressing to lose $50 than miss a chance to get another $50.

It’s a hardwired mechanism in our minds that firstly was discovered in 1979 by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. And a very strong one.

That’s why coupons work so well.

People think that they own what they save.

Like if you have a $25 coupon you might think that these $25 is now yours.

But it’s only imaginary. How in the world could you “own” a discount?

When the coupon expiration date approaches the fear of missing out kicks in and forces the coupon’s owner to make purchases.

Otherwise they would lose these $25 (as in our example).

Another useful application of this principle is free trials. The set up is as simple as it gets.

First, welcome the visitors to participate in the free trial that has a decent duration. 3-5 days is not enough for this thing to work in its full power.

By the time the trial is finished (usually it’s 14 or 30 days) the attachment to the product and the produced results will be so strong that it’s easier for the users to become paid subscribers than entirely give up the thing they’ve been using for the entire month.

#3 Anchoring bias

“You only get one chance to make a first impression” – another conventional wisdom that perfectly describes what is going on with the bias we’re about to talk about.

Have you encountered the situation when you see an awesome new movie but the sequels just fall short afterwards?

That’s the anchoring bias in action.

We put more emphasis on the first thing we see and then only compare the rest with it.

It takes much more effort to break the pattern and impress anyone once the bar of expectation is set high enough.

Here are two most common, yet very effective ways to use this concept.

The first one is to display the “old” price and then the current “real” price. The bar is intentionally set high so the actual price seems insignificant compared to the first one. This trick is old as the world but still works every time.

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That’s because this one and all biases in general are located in our subconscious rather than conscious mind.

You might think “Ha, you won’t get me. I know all these tricks!” yet some weird thing switches in your head and you still act upon these irrational patterns.

The second way works the same as the first one except we’re dealing with product order in general.

Put your most expensive items first so the other ones would seem cheaper.

You may intentionally create high-end items that no one’s going to buy anyways (there are always some exceptions to the rule though).

#4 Compromise effect

Freedom is the most valuable basic right for any person.

Imagine you’re buying a new car.

You come to the dealership. You talk to the sales person.

But the only thing they can offer you is one model that has only one set of options, one engine and one color. How weird is that?

In today’s world it’s something unheard of.

Same goes for any product. Businesses tend to offer only one possible solution.

Sometimes it works just fine. But most of the time it doesn’t.

So by presenting multiple options of your product (which can include bundling with similar ones or additional services) you give your visitors freedom of choice.

They perceive that they have control over the choice of the options.

Here’s the effect in a nutshell. By presenting multiple options and adding a “compromise” one (hence the name) in the middle you can guide the visitors to choose that option.

So the set up is this: 

The first option is very simple and basic.

The second is the one we want people to buy that has a decent amount of additions and has a reasonable price.

Finally the third one is an all inclusive type of thing.

The distribution of the choices looks roughly like this:

22% would go for option #1

57% for the “compromise” option #2

and option #3 would get the rest which is 21%.

By arranging the choices in that order you can more than 2x amount the purchases of the desired package.

#5 Framing effect

You probably heard of the “positive thinking” thing. Such a buzzword. 

The industry of self help is overfilled with it. 

You know why? Because it’s a good example of the framing effect which is proven to work.

The way the information is presented greatly affects our perception and the decisions we make.

So if we think about any event in our life in a positive light, our mind and body start to behave differently and releases a different set of hormones. 

A different story if we become sad and depressed. That certainly won’t help to overcome the challenges and the reaction would be both on a mental and physical levels.

The framing effect was first described in 1984 when psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky conducted a psychological experiment.

Here’s the exact quote from the experiment:

Imagine that the U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease, which is expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to combat the disease have been proposed. Assume that the exact scientific estimates of the consequences of the programs are as follows:

If Program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved.

If Program B is adopted, there is a one-third probability that 600 people will be saved and a two-thirds probability that no people will be saved.

Which of the two programs would you favor?

Certainly the first option seems more appealing and clear. 72% of participants chose it.

Now the answers were framed in a different way.

If Program C is adopted, 400 people will die.

If Program D is adopted, there is a one-third probability that nobody will die and a two-thirds probability that 600 people will die.

These are roughly the same. We’re talking about saving the same 200 people as in the first set of answers.

But in this case the second option was chosen by the same 72%.

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By altering the words we flipped the majority of the votes.

You can use this effect in any part of your business.

It can be a headline of the product page, where you position the product in a way that’s the most appealing to the target audience.

Even better to use it in sales letters, video scripts and product descriptions.

Smart framing emphasizes the insignificance of the expense in comparison to the benefits the product has.

#6 Peltzman Effect or Risk Compensation Theory

Starting a new business venture has always some level of uncertainty. When testing new product ideas or new landing pages there’s a good chance things would go not as expected.

But when an idea proves itself to be valuable you start to invest more and more in it.

In other words you start to feel that there’s much less risk involved since you have the data to back it up.

So in general people tend to adjust their action based on perceived risk level.

The riskier the situation the more careful a person behaves. Pretty expected, right?

But here’s the catch. Once people start to feel “safe” as the risk level decreases they start do some dumb stuff.

Motorists drove closer to the vehicle in front when their vehicles were equipped with anti-lock brakes.

Skydivers took way more risk once they felt “safer”.

Drivers started to drive more recklessly back in the 1970’s once they had safety devices installed like seatbelt.

This resulted in the same level (or even more!) injuries and fatalities than before any safety measures and devices were introduced.

That’s why it’s called risk compensation theory.

Risky behavior tends to even out a less risky environment.

According to Econsultancy study 32.2% of people think that it’s very important to have a professionally designed website.

The more “safe” the website feels the more “risky” people become. That means they are open to making purchases. 

Invest in good design. This would greatly pay off.

Make it easy for prospects to contact you. It’s a good idea to display your contact information in the header of your website and on the home page.

This triggers a high level of trust according to the same study.

#7 The bandwagon effect

Ever wondered why people stuff they can’t really afford or even need?

Everybody wants to be up to date and appear cool.

To the point when rational thinking starts to subside and the emotional part takes over. That’s not an exception, but rather the rule that applies to the majority of the population.

There should be a strong outside factor that triggers such irrational behaviour.

And that factor is trend and people who are in it. Yes, other people like you and me. 

It’s this pressure that forces individuals to conform and do what others are doing.

Public views and behaviors are very strong stimuli and can easily alter one’s own actions.

If you think you’re completely immune to this, here’s the bad news.

You’re not.

This can happen to anyone, it’s just a matter of the amount of social pressure.

Think of Bitcoin. The more people were in the trend the more new people joined it.

It’s like a snowball. And it works every time.

The easiest way to utilize such a powerful principle in your business is to run contents and challenges that ask for participants to invite their friends and family.

It should be something easy that everyone can do. Like taking a selfie and tagging your company on social media. 

To speed things up you can run an awareness campaign on social media that focuses on impressions rather than clicks.

Conclusion

Don’t confuse using these principles with tricking people.

The goal is to have an amazing offer and let people know how amazing it is. It’s that simple.

So the principles outlined here are only the tools to enhance the user experience and boost conversion and sales.

Don’t try to stuff all of these constructions in one marketing piece, like one sales letter, email or video. Use them from time to time when they’re really appropriate.

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