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Understanding Your Customers

Let’s establish one thing, people are more aware of the consequence of the choices they make today than they were a decade ago. With the world steadily adapting to digital interfaces, the need to establish a more human feel to your digital asset takes precedence. The thing is, the human brain has gone through (thousands of) years of conditioning and if you understand how to use some of the established facts, you can use it to build better products, create better customer journeys and improve the retention rate of your customers.

If you haven’t read my previous article, What is conversion optimization and what can it do for me ? you can read it here. I write weekly articles on Conversion Rate Optimization and experimentation, please make sure to read any topic that interests you on the blog.

You do not need to be a Behavioural Scientist to have a good grasp of what motivates human behaviour. In essence human beings are stimulus junkies. That’s right, the human brain is wired to react to everything around us and sometimes, we aren’t even aware of the things we react to. This is an intrinsic behaviour and once you understand the principles that guide human behaviour you can apply specific persuasive techniques to optimize your digital asset for the best possible experience. Meaning if your marketing is persuasive enough, it will trigger the desired behaviour thereby boosting your conversions.

I am going to briefly teach you two things in the simplest way possible so I can avoid explaining the complex concepts surrounding the topic.

  • Cialdini’s Principles Of Persuasion

  • Fogg Behavior Model

Okay, take a deep breath and calm down. I promise this is way easier to understand than the names suggest. Once you understand these concepts, you can apply them and use it to better understand what your customers want and serve it to them in the best way possible.

Cialdini's Principles Of Persuasion

Robert Cialdini is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and he wrote a book called Influence, in which he gives the seven (7) principles of persuasion and that’s what you're going to learn today. We focus on how you can use them to boost conversions. His 7 principles are:

  1. Reciprocity

  2. Commitment/Consistency

  3. Social Proof

  4. Authority

  5. Liking

  6. Scarcity

  7. Unity


Cialdini’s first principle of persuasion states that we human beings are wired to basically want to return favors and pay back our debts. Hence when you give a little something, expect to get a little something in return.

Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be given. This is the principal of equivalent exchange. — Sir Edward Elric (FMA)

Give people discounts, special offers, free downloads, an irresistible upsell — that they benefit from — and they’ll be more inclined to buy something from you.


The principle of commitment (and consistency, too) declares that we human beings have a deep need to be seen as consistent. This can be explained, from a psychological perspective, by the fact that people have established that commitment as being in line with their self-image.

Delighters are happy surprises that can make a difference in how well you get your customers to stay committed. This can come in the form of special rewards, a personalized shopping tag, offers to join a special club and much more. There are many massive opportunities to put your customers first that won't require excessive effort or money on your part to create.

Social Proof

There are two key components of social proof you need to understand:

  1. No one wants to think they are the only customer buying your product. The perceived risk can be too much of an obstacle for them to overcome.

  2. People do not want to make the wrong choice at the risk of being judged by their spouse, children, friends, colleagues or bosses.

The bigger the risk, the bigger the effect social proof can have. As much as you can and wherever you can, please provide social proof.


People have a tendency to obey figures of authority, whether or not that person has a questionable character. It’s simply the essential nature of the human animal.

Accessories such as titles (Sir, Chief, Dr. etc) and uniforms can infuse this air of authority into people, thus leading the average person to accept what a person in authority says without question.

A good example is Sir Edward Elric, from the quote used in this section. Click on the link to find out more about him.

If you can, choose an authority figure to help you make your case. In the long term, it’s best for you if you become the authority figure. Start acting like one now. Speak with confidence, lead discussions, blog, post videos, or find another way of establishing yourself or your company as an authority figure.


According to Cialdini, “liking” someone increases the chances of being influenced by that individual. That almost sounds absurd, but it makes all the sense in the world.

Having a strong brand identity is a sure fire way to give a human voice to your customers. Once your customers understand your reason for being, the reason why you are passionate about the problem your product/service solves for them, they will reciprocate your feelings.

In a much broader sense, businesses that are extremely successful experience this liking principle on a grand scale (e.g Nike, Coca Cola, Apple).


Scarcity is defined as the perception of products seeming to become more attractive when their perceived availability is limited. There are two elements of scarcity that you can use:

  1. Quantity (only 20 pieces left!)

  2. Time (offer last till Monday BST!)

We can see a prime example of the two elements in the hype shoes market. The Yeezy Boost V2 Static 3M with 5000 pairs released, retailed originally for $220 but now sells for as high as $1500.


What do you have in common with your customer? The Unity Principle is the shared identity that the influencer shares with the influenced. So, how can you use the unity principle for optimization?

  • Use Specific and Unique Jargon

  • Convey Exclusivity

  • Invoke Family Ties

  • Co-creation or Sharing an Experience

The Unity Principle is all about appealing to a “We” — a cohesive identity that is shared by a group. You can do this in many ways — family, location, religion (or Cross Fit), or co-creation. Of course, as is true with most social psychology, results may vary.

Fogg's Behavior Model

I’m not going to bore you with a brief history lesson, telling you about Dr Brian Jeffery Fogg who is an American social scientist at Stanford University. No. The important thing to know here is the behaviour model he came up with. This model breaks down human behaviour into three components: Motivation, Ability and Trigger which can be expressed as a formula : Behaviour = MAT

TL:DR, the Fogg Behaviour Model explains that in order for a behaviour to occur, motivation to do so has to be present, the ability to perform the desired action as well, and a trigger ( a prompt to perform desired action).

Let's use this case to show the credibility of this model: You’re scrolling through Instagram on your explore page looking for pictures of nice black t-shirts' (Motivation) you spot one that catches your eye, you tap on the picture and see that the account allows you to buy the shirt in-app, (you don’t have to close Instagram to buy it → Ability) and the price is pretty affordable. You also notice that the caption says “ same day delivery available for *insert your locality * orders. Place your order now.” (Trigger).

Sounds interesting doesn't it ? Good! Let's define those components better.


The user is already motivated to do the behavior (which is why he/she is on your site, duh!), and your role now is about helping people do what they already want to do (see Ability). Dr Fogg created a framework for motivation that has three core motivators, each with two sides.

  • Pain and Pleasure

  • Hope and Fear

  • Social acceptance and Social Rejection


Ability is more important than motivation. If I’m committed to working out to gain muscles — my motivation is super high — but there’s no gym around when I feel like working out, it’s very difficult to take desired action and I’ll probably grab some food to eat instead. Motivation alone is not enough.

It’s easier to increase conversions by making it easier to do, not by increasing motivation.


Without an appropriate trigger, the behavior will not occur even if both motivation and ability are high. A Trigger is what prompts you to take action: green light at the intersection, a snack vendor asking “would you like a sample?” or an email from your boss saying, “Strategy Meeting in 30 minutes”.

If you want your business to thrive and keep the sales coming in, you need to obsess about triggers!


Everything starts with defining the specific desired behavior — in our case, it’s what we want the user to do, our conversion goal. It might be getting people to buy our product, sign up for our software and so on. Using this model as a guide, we can identify what stops people from taking the desired actions. For example, if users are not signing up for Newsletters on your website, the model helps us evaluate what psychological element is lacking. Once you identify the element that is lacking, you make use of the model and persuasion principles to resolve the missing element and guide people to make the desired action.

This was fun! I hope you learned something today. Leave a comment if you have questions or contributions. Thank you.

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