Part 7: The Psychology of Conversion

Today we’re going to continue our exploration of Conversion Centered Design by understanding the psychology of conversion.

The tipping point between a visitor and a customer lies in matching desire with relevance.

Today’s course outline

The final 3 principles of Conversion Centered Design use psychological triggers to increase the motivation of your visitors. (You learned the first 4 principles in our last lesson on the principles of design.)

  1. Urgency and Scarcity
  2. Try Before You Buy
  3. Social Proof

Psychology principle 1 – urgency & scarcity

Common psychological motivators are the use of urgency (limited time) and scarcity (limited supply). They’re simple concepts that can be applied in a number of ways.


Buy now. Don’t miss out. We’re used to hearing these phrases. Statements of urgency are used to coerce us into making a purchase decision right away. Amazon and Ticketmaster use this technique very effectively.

Amazon: order before date

Amazon is known to use a number of triggers to entice an action, one being the “order before date” concept. This relies on using a finite period of time remaining to encourage an immediate purchase decision.

conversion centered design urgency

Initially used to guarantee delivery for Christmas if you ordered by a defined date, Amazon now uses this throughout the year. This makes it applicable for people’s birthdays, anniversaries or any time sensitive occasion.

Ticketmaster: 4 minutes left to buy your ticket

Ticketmaster has also found a way to increase the urgency of buying tickets. Once you’ve selected your seats, you only have a few minutes to complete your transaction before your opportunity expires, and someone else gets your tickets. You can see this time in the bottom right corner of the screenshot example.

conversion centered design urgency


To use the concept of scarcity, you need to convince someone they need to buy right now, before supplies run out. This increases the fear of missing out on the desired opportunity.

Expedia: X seats left

Airline ticket purchasing is very sensitive to the concept of scarcity, because the number of seats rapidly diminishes as the flight time nears. To leverage the decreasing seat availability, Expedia uses transparency as a psychological trigger, encouraging customers to get their credit card out and book right away. Expedia communicates scarcity by highlighting the number of seats available when the flight is nearly full.

conversion centered design scarcity

Psychology principle 2 – Try Before You Buy

conversion centered design try before you buy

One of the most common real-world examples of ‘Try Before You Buy’, is when people sneak a quick taste from a bunch of grapes in the supermarket. We’ve all done it. It seems to have become an internationally recognized form of acceptable thievery.

As a conversion centered marketer, you can learn from this by allowing your visitors to see a preview of your offering before committing to a purchase/download.

In the example shown, the grape stall owner has gone the extra mile to provide a section devoted specifically to grape samples (the preview), which demonstrates that the seller is providing a quality product – which you can verify by consuming the preview.

Let people sample your offering before they have to commit to a decision. For content like an ebook, copy Amazon with their “Look Inside” concept – perhaps with the first chapter. You can also use a Slideshare presentation to provide a preview and also to have a second channel of content on

Psychology principle 3 – Social Proof

Social proof is often communicated with the statistics and actions of a particular crowd and it can greatly enhance the “me too” factor.

A great demonstration of social proof can be seen in a real-world experiment called the “Man looking skyward”.

In 1969, a study by S. Milgram, L. Bickman and L. Berkowitz, was performed on the streets of New York City in which a man was standing looking up in the air. The goal of the experiment was to see if social proof played a part in the reactions of passersby.

One man looking up A crowd of people looking up
man looking skyward experiment crowd looking up
For the single man standing in the street, the study showed most people would walk past him and not pay any attention to what he was looking at. When the group of staring people increased to five, people started reacting by joining in and looking up to see what was going on. Finally, increasing the participants to 18 people resulted in a 400 per cent lift of people stopping to join the crowd.

Rich Page: Website optimizer and conversion expert, has some excellent advice for how you can add social proof to your landing pages.

Add compelling testimonials

One of the best ways of building social proof on a landing page is to show some powerful testimonials from your clients or experts that are using your product or service. These should be short and to the point, and should ideally include a photo of the person giving the testimonial to make it more authentic. To take this a step further, try adding video testimonials – these are highly engaging and very convincing.

The best testimonials tend to describe the resolution of a specific pain, describing how your offering solved it for them. uses favorable tweets to build credibility. Tweets are a smart way of showing social proof as the person giving the testimonial can easily be confirmed as legitimate with a quick search on Twitter.

unbounce usertesting social proof

Text vs. video testimonials

An example of the power of video, Unbounce ran an A/B test on their homepage to determine whether a video testimonial performed better than text testimonials. The video testimonial produced a 25% increase in the number of people starting a free trial.

Page A – Text testimonials

unbounce a/b test test testimonial vs video testimonial

Page B – Video testimonial – 25% conversion lift

unbounce a/b test test testimonial vs video testimonial

Add logos of your clients

Prove that you have many good clients already and prominently show the logos of them on your landing page. This works particularly well if you have clients that your target market admires.
Take a look through your existing clients and find ones that are the most well-known. When adding them to your landing page don’t forget to include a compelling headline for the section.

KissMetrics do this well, using the phrase “Trusted by some of the godfathers of the modern internet” to introduce the logos. This is a very attention grabbing statement. As with many page elements, it’s important to test this against different phrases to see which resonates most with your visitors.

unbounce kissmetrics social proof

Show great usage numbers

If you have relevant numbers that prove your credibility, use them. Consider how the message on McDonalds ’99 billion served’ sign is. You could display the number of clients you’ve served, downloads of your product, or years in operation. Don’t be shy about proving that people love using your services or products!

To uncover some original ways of stating usage, have a brainstorm with different functional groups in your company. You never know who will have that all important stat. does a great job of showing compelling usage numbers at the top of their landing page. They highlight how many people have used their services, how many designers they have, and how much money has been awarded.

99 designs social proof unbounce

Add awards/media mentions

If you’ve had great coverage in the press about your product or service, or you have won awards (things like “Editor’s Top Pick”), you can boast about this on your landing page. Again, you should include a descriptive headline for the section to capture the eyes of scanning readers.

By showing the number of customers, social shares, webinar registrants, or eBook downloads, you might gain that extra bit of trust and believability to encourage your visitors to become customers. Be wary however, of including numbers that are too low to establish a sense of quality. To qualify the number, you can add a statement like “Since August 4, 2012”.

Let’s lay your landing page on a shrink’s couch

Trying to make Freud proud? Take the 3 psychological principles you learned today and apply them to your landing page.

Remember to follow along with a free Unbounce landing page account

You probably already have a free Unbounce account by now to build your landing pages. If not, you can open a free Unbounce account (60 seconds to sign up – no credit card required). This will let you create landing pages for the examples we use throughout the course.

Watch this video to add some legitimate Jedi mind tricks to your landing page

Get off the shrink’s couch and share the love.