10 Marketing Psychology Fundamentals to Take Your CRO to the Next Level

Have you, like so many of us, hit a brick wall in trying to create content that converts?

We get it.

Sometimes it seems like you’ve tried every strategy in the marketing playbook, yet at best, results are mediocre, while at worst, you’re efforts have been a complete waste of marketing spend. 

If this is so, applying more marketing psychology principles into your processes can help break through this brick wall of under performance.

But wait, you might be thinking — “What about for the pure digital startup, the venture that has yet to start their first marketing campaign?”

Whether you’ve yet to touch your marketing budget, or have experimented with strategies near and far, don’t fret — these marketing psychology principles are just as effective for either circumstance.

So, if you’re interested in increasing your conversions with CRO techniques, read further as we deep dive into the psyche of you, me and markets abound!


What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) uses different strategies and tools to convert visitors into potential leads, and leads into customers.


You should care about CRO for a few reasons. First, you’re most likely paying for visitor traffic one way or another, and a high conversion rate means a better return on that investment (ROI). On top of that, CRO will help you keep the attention of you existing audience by learning the psychology of how they use your website, therefore, making for providing them with better user experiences and giving your website higher SEO rankings


10 Psychology Practices to Improve Your CRO

Our deeply ingrained psychological tendencies when it comes to browsing and shopping are endless. There’s entire disciplines founded on it. However, to set you on the right trajectory, here’s 10 that you can apply today.


1. Give Users More Control

For a pleasant experience, we want to feel in control of our digital experience (websites, apps, etc). Aggressive sales techniques and advertisements often are interpreted as outdated, and provoke a fear of surprise and uncertainty, perhaps even fear and mistrust.

Take this example by Campaign Monitor.



You’ll notice the heading is identically the same in both examples. But see the little grey sentence beneath the green button? By switching the phrase to “No credit card required”, this increased the conversion rate by 78%. You never needed a credit card to sign up for a trial in the first example, but because this wasn’t communicated clearly, it seemed murky, and created fear for the customer.

You can implement the same approach of thinking like a customer, and deciding whether the terms you’ve laid out seem clear and straightforward, or leave you evoking a sense of uncertainty.

Bottom line: 

Avoid overly aggressive advertisements that are not subtle or do not fit within the brand. People can tell when there is no heart and soul in an advertisement or campaign, and when something is simply a push for sales. Take push notifications for example – if they’re not useful to the browsing experience or goal and become an annoyance, it’s likely that’s the last time a visitor is clicking on your website. 


2. UX Principle: Recognition Over Recall

People are better at recognizing things they have previously experienced than recalling the same things from memory. It’s less effort to recognize things than recall them because recognition tasks provide memory cues that facilitate searching through memory.



This example is prompting users with all the categories that they might be interested in, making the website UX process a whole lot smoother and more familiar for them. It’s leading and suggesting, without being overly pushy.

Bottom line:

To implement this for your own site, use visual cues, auto-complete and options to minimize the decision making process, thus helping the end user.


3. The Rule of 3

We remember people, places and things best in the amount of 3 according to psychology. Marketers and the saaviest of entrepreneaurs know this and have been implementing such in their strategies for decades. Take Steve Jobs, who in 2011 revealed the iPad 2 as “thinner, lighter, and faster” than the original iPad. The 3 adjectives were so catchy, memorable and easily retained in our minds that they were picked up by thousands of media headlines who endlessly highlighted those 3 words.

Bottom line:

To apply the rule of 3 to your own business, think about how you can summarize your message in 3 parts. What do you want people to remember when they see your website, or your ad? Don’t lead with 2, 6, or 10 messages – the staying power will be lessened the more main points you add.


4. Create a Non-invasive, Less Frustrating Experience

As Geoffrey James in an Inc.com article states, “[It] is not the information itself that is important, but the emotional effect that the information has on your audience.”

Part of selling your product or service is about creating a seamless and enjoyable customer experience, and that extends to your online presence, from your digital mediums to your marketing strategy.

One example from retail giant, TopShop, is the user discomfort they caused (but later changed) when forcing users into creating an account with an email if they wanted to purchase a product. This makes perfect sense from a marketing point of view to collect emails, but Topshop later changed this option to make customers feel they are in control.


marketing psychology topshop


As you can see from the example above, Topshop instead placed an option of “please sign me up to the weekly email” for new customers. This way new customers feel as if they have more autonomy and are given an alternative incentive – that is, the option to access relevant content – for the exchange of signing up.


5. Paralysis via Analysis (too many options, Hicks law)

Direct, clear and simple navigation menus will reduce decision fatigue when people are perusing your website or app. If there are an overwhelming number of options, menu bars and categories, a choice is less likely to be made. This is known as Hick’s law, or in everyday terms, paralysis via analysis. Hick’s Law states that increasing the number of choices will increase the decision time logarithmically.

One example shows a supermarket chain Tesco narrowing down its category options. On the left, they provided all available options, but on the right, they changed their tactic to use more of Hick’s law. 


marketing psychology tesco


6. Good Design: The Von Restorff Effect

The Von Restorff Effect (also known as the isolation effect) predicts that when multiple similar objects are in front of you, the one that stands out from the rest is the one most likely to be remembered.

To apply this to your own digital platforms, think back to other websites you’ve perused – that’s right, those often over-the-top call-to-action buttons are louder than the rest of the design around them.

marketing psychology tips

This Von Restorff Effect principle is why CTAs are designed to stand out like this, so that users can differentiate between a normal action and the CTA.


7. Loss Aversion

Have you ever seen those clock timers on websites during sales time, counting down to when the Flash Sale will be over? All you wanted to do was look at the clothing, but your eyes keep flicking back to the countdown clock, and you suddenly feel an urge to add 10 things to your shopping cart in case you miss out on a great deal.

That’s the power of loss aversion, a powerful conservative force, which means that we strive ALOT harder to avoid lossess, versus receiving an equivlant gain. 


marketing psychology loss aversion


With the above Double-Decker example, you could bypass the deal and save £14.50.  But, if you don’t receive the deal then you miss out on saving £15.50. According to the principle, customers are often willing to spend money in order to prevent this perceived loss from happening to them.

To heighten the urgency, the ticking clock beneath is ever-present.

Bottom line:

Applying the principle of loss aversion to your next email campaign could be worth a try. Do an A/B split test with 2 different headlines, your usual headline VS a loss aversion headline (“If you don’t change your plan, you’ll lose $100 a year”)!


8. Social Proof

Using social proof to increase sales is a proven tactic that works – you’ve probably referred to Yelp, or Google Reviews, to make sure that the restaurant or shop you’re heading to for the first time has been highly reviewed. Anecdotal evidence seems to count for a lot. Take a look at Yelp – a business, restaurant and bar review site. Yelp has 145 million visitors each month and  social proof is the backbone of their business model. 


marketing psychology yelp


To apply this to your own business, reach out and incentivize happy customers to leave glowing comment or testimonial on your website, your Facebook and Instagram page, and so forth. This will help build trust and credibility when people come across your business. 


9. 1st Person: Conceptual Fluency and Mental Simulation


marketing psychology free trial


Some marketers have increased conversions by using 1st person wording for their CTA text.

“Start Your Free Download vs. Start My Free Download”, for example.

Why might this work?

We can boil this phenomenon down to two principles: mental stimulation and conceptual fluency. Research shows that people develop a more positive attitude toward a stimulus if they mentally interact with it (mental stimulation). Second, conceptual fluency is the principle that you’re more likely to complete a task if you can picture yourself performing that action.

By using 1st person wording in your CTA, for example, you’re using both ideas! First, your users can consider your CTA proposition from their personal perspective, because you’ve prompted them to do this by using 1st person (“My Free Download). Second, because 1st person also triggers someone to visually see themselves doing that action, in this case, downloading that free trial, which means they’re far more likely to carry it out.


10. Make Your Audience Evangelists for Your Business

Give your fans and your audience incentives for sharing your business. One of the best CRO tactics is to add an ‘Invite your friends’ hyperlink and reward those who do so.  

It’s also been proven that putting your audience to work improves people’s psychological depth of processing – meaning they can remember words for longer. Essentially, the old, traditional word-of-mouth marketing that used to work still translates to online marketing. If you want someone to remember something for a longer amount of time, you need to get them to work and put in more effort.

If you’re wondering how you can put your audience to work, consider using loyalty programs that reward e-tail quality between businesses, e-satisfaction by way of ranking systems, and e-trust that cause tastemakers to pass along their opinions (free of charge!).


Final Thoughts

So, getting inside your e-consumer’s head isn’t so bad (or surprising) after all. This is especially so once you realize we’re all driven by the same basic need to belong and have our needs met.

Once you understand and, again, embrace the nature of the online buyer, then you’ll be much closer to boosting your bottom line through a less stressful CRO strategy.

Written By Editorial Team

Along with the blog’s editors, we’re a collective of writers aimed at providing valuable industry insights and educational resources for DIY’ers, entrepreneurs, professionals and hobbyists. We range from former scientists, research students to enthusiasts and freelancers. Have a question or suggestion? Reach us at [email protected].