The Power of The Nudge: How to Convert Visitors Into Customers

I was at a conference a few days ago, watching Rand Fishkin speak about nudges, and it made think about all the nudges I’ve used in the past to convert visitors into customers. That’s when I realized that most people don’t use nudges with their online business.

Before I go into how you can use nudges, let’s first define what a nudge is:

To push against gently, especially in order to gain attention or give a signal.

Now that you know what a nudge is, here is an example of one:

hotel water towel

It’s a simple message to encourage hotel guests to save water as it helps our planet. Can you guess how effective it is? It’s helped hotels to save on average 2,300 litres of water and 150 litres of detergent each month.

In essence, you are using simple cues  – words or images – to help encourage people to take a specific action. That’s what a nudge is.

Now, let’s dive into how you can use these simple cues to convert your visitors into customers:

The pen is mightier than the sword

Words have a lot of power. An addition of a word or a removal of one can drastically affect your conversion rates.

For example, 37Signals tested the call-to-action phrase “see pricing and plans” over the phrase “free trial”. They were able to boost signups by 200%, using the former. That’s right, the phrase “see pricing and plans” boosted signups three-fold.

On Quick Sprout, when I added a simple dollar value to the email opt-in box within the sidebar, I was able to increase conversions by 22%.

quicksprout money

Don’t take my words for granted… adding or removing words can have a huge impact on your conversion rates. You just have to figure out which words your visitors are sensitive to and start leveraging them.

Design is the new marketing

Color and visual cues can have a major impact on conversion rates. Did you know the Hellobar on Quick Sprout accounts for 11% of all of my leads? It’s just a simple bar that scrolls with you as you read this blog post… but this one bar accounts for 11% of my revenue.

hellobar

It’s not just me either. KimberlySnyder.net generates around 20% of its revenue through Hellobar as well.

The changes don’t have to drastic. One simple design tweak can dramatically increase conversions. MarketDialer decided to run an A/B test in which they added the cost of their solution to their homepage.

Here is the original version:

market dialer

And here is the new version:

market dialer new site

Can you guess which one converted better? By showcasing their price, they were able to generate 100% more leads.

If you are interested in adjusting your visual cues, you should first check out this infographic as it will break down the meaning of colors and the psychological effect they have on people.

What’s usable may not convert the best

I always thought that making things easier for the user would boost conversion rates. Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way.

Crazy Egg’s checkout process used to be one page until Conversion Rate Experts convinced us to test a two-step checkout process. The first step is for the user to put in his or her name and email, and the second is to check out.

crazy egg signup

Do you know what the results were? A 10% increase in conversions.

The Obama Administration saw similar results with this tactic. When Obama was running for President, his team tested a multiple-step checkout process.

obama ab test

The end result was a 5% increase in conversions. Not bad for a simple design tweak.

The reason I think a multiple-step checkout process works is because once buyers give you some of their information, they feel already committed and have no trouble completing the rest of the checkout.

Conversations sell themselves

One of the simplest nudges I’ve tested is creating a conversation with people. If you ever signup for the Quick Sprout newsletter, you will be placed in an email drip sequence. In one of the emails, I ask you to “hit the reply button and tell me what you think of the email”.

Whenever someone hits the reply button, I make sure I always respond to that person and thank him or her for his or her feedback. I am not asking the reader to buy anything, but 71% of those people who reply buy my Quick Sprout Traffic System.

Don’t underestimate the power of having a conversation with your visitors. Whether you connect to your customers through email or even LiveChat, the personal exchange helps because people like buying from people, not from robots. Building a connection with your visitors is a powerful way to nudge them into becoming customers.

One way to help increase the number of conversations you have is to create a warm and fuzzy feeling with your website design. If people feel your company has an open and transparent culture, they are more likely to reach out to you. We actually do this with Crazy Egg by leveraging a French character within our explainer video on the homepage.

french crazy egg

Now, doesn’t that animated character make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? It actually is so effective that it drives an extra $21,000 in monthly income.

What’s the consequence?

If someone doesn’t buy your product or service, there is always a consequence. It could be that they don’t increase their revenue or that their life is a bit harder. Whatever it may be, you can actually nudge people to become customers by telling them what will happen if they don’t sign up or buy from you.

With Crazy Egg, people sign up for the service because they want to understand how their visitors engage with their sites. We are able to convert an extra 6% of our visitors into customers by showing them a message that says “No thanks, I treat all click behavior the same”.

crazy egg bounce exchange

Sometimes, you just have to tell people what they will be missing if they don’t become customers. You don’t have to do this through paragraphs of text; a short phrase usually does the trick. It works well with Crazy Egg because our visitors know that if they treat all of their click behavior the same, they’ll lose money.

Don’t put a kid in a candy store

When you put a kid in a candy store and tell her she can only buy one thing, what happens? She won’t know what to get because she will want it all.

Visitors are affected the same way: giving them too many options can potentially hurt your conversion rates. By reducing the number of choices, you can make it easier for people to decide what they should buy on your website.

At KISSmetrics, we removed the navigation menu from the homepage as well as a lot of filler text and saw increases in conversions by over 70% through a combination of three separate A/B tests.

kissmetrics

On Quick Sprout, I only offer three social sharing options… Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. I recently did a test where I offered five options, in which I added LinkedIn and Pinterest. The end result was a decrease in social sharing by 29%.

This just goes to show that giving people more options doesn’t always help you convert more visitors into customers. For this reason I only try to ask my visitors to do one thing at a time. When you ask them to do too many things, they typically don’t do any of them.

What’s the incentive?

One of the simplest ways to nudge people is to incentivize them. When I worked with the Institute of Integrated Nutrition, they offered visitors a discounted price to their college program for a period of 48 hours. Every time they did this, they generated more money in that 48-hour period than they did in any week throughout the year.

Appsumo is known for using the same strategy, offering deals for a very limited amount of time.

appsumo

They even have a countdown clock on their website that shows for how long the deal will be around. If you miss out on the deal, you won’t ever get it again at that price.

By using things like countdown clocks, coupon codes and even bonuses you can incentivize your visitors to convert into paying customers. You just have to go above and beyond by offering them more than they expected.

Conclusion

There are hundreds of ways you can nudge your visitors to become customers… you just have to get a bit creative. You can use some of the methods above or even ones from Rand’s presentation.

The most important thing for you to do is to try using some of these subtle cues as they can help boost your revenue. When doing so, make sure you run A/B tests on the changes as some will help and some won’t. But if you don’t test them, you may end up losing money.

What other nudges can you use to convert visitors into customers?

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Comments

  1. Looks like I have to change some major things at my blog now!

    As usual got to learn something unique from you Neil, thanks.

    It is seen that when we show more details to visitors, then the conversion rates are better, that is what I learned from your examples.

    Also the hello bar at this blog has attracted my attention a lot of times and I guess it attracts other visitors too.

    The power of nudge, I guess!

    • Mahaveer, let me know how all the changes help you out. The Hello Bar is very effective I definitely think you should test that out.

    • Hi Neil, superb content.
      Would like to receive more tips from you on how to increase traffic through the organic way.The ‘pricing’ part of your content appeals to me the most.you really understand the prospects perception better.
      Waiting for your next blockbaster Blog release.

      • Hi Mahaveer,
        The hello bar has attracted my attention too like yours.In this content the hello bar topic has been discussed in the first part of the blog and as I scroll down the topic, it just got out of my mind.But again your comment make me realize the same.I am surely gonna try that out.

    • Great Post Neil! Its important to A/B test the page content or design variations to find out the best one and the one which works. The tweak which works for one site may not work for the other, remember user behavior varies from one country to another. Clear and precise Call to Actions also play a major role in conversions.

  2. Very interesting article. As always there’s lots of small things that can be done to a website to make it convert better

    Right i’m off to plan some updates that help nudge the visitors into buying

  3. I always come here to read tips from you Neil. No money yet to hire you Neil however your instructions are a guiding point fo my small biz. Thanks.

  4. I love your examples!

    I particularly find the first one interesting. That fact that “see pricing and plans” converts better than “free trial” may sounds counter-intuitive, but, come to think about it, it makes perfect sense.

    Whenever I look for some kind of service online, I always try to find the price list. When I can’t find it, I tend to leave. Well, I guess that many other people do the same.

    I actually did it today. I was shopping around stockphoto services. Obviously, I wanted to know their pricing. But some of the websites kind of hid prices and wouldn’t let me know unless I register. It gave me a very bad impression and I felt like they were tricking me.

    • Make sure you run A/B tests as what works for one website may not work for you. Last thing you want to do is change your call to actions and see a huge dip in conversions.

  5. Neil, thanks for another very informative post. I came across your site by way of your interview on Pat Flynn’s podcast, and am very impressed with everything I’ve read. Thanks for putting out a ton of useful information!

    Cheers,
    Steven

  6. Hey Neil, Hats Off To You Man, I follow your Every Post And Every Time I Find Something Interesting, In fact Very Interesting, I’m Planning to Buy Your Quick Sprout Course But Out Of Cash :( Yeah, But Will Buy It Soon In Near Future. Started Saving My Pocket Money :)

  7. Excellent article, as always. This part really shocked me:

    “Whenever someone hits the reply button, I make sure I always respond to them, thank them for their feedback. I am not asking them to buy anything, but 71% of the people of those people who reply buy my Quick Sprout Traffic System.”

    I will definitely try this. How do you test this sort of thing?

    I also really liked the CrazyEgg idea.

    Thanks,
    Josh

  8. Brilliant and very timely read for as I’m in the midst of A/B testing design changes which of course both impact conversion to trial, then conversion to paying.

    The main question up in the air is the impact of a CTA that is “free, free, free” vs showing from the start that it is a paid service. Obviously might increase conversion to trial, but that can really come back to bite ya in the conversion to paying. Your examples support this.

    THANKS Neil!

  9. 100% increase in just by adding a simple price badge.. I think I have to go deep into this. Well then the first experiment was really impressive. Adding the word free trial improved conversions by 200%, I think I can use this method with my newsletter subscription. Lets see how these two benefits me.

    Thanks for this great article.

  10. First time hearing about nudge.

    There are so many to learn but you really provide the best information.

    I agree with your “Don’t put a kid in a candy store” point.
    I have used it before and really works very well.

  11. Wonderful Information on converting visitors into customers.
    You gave very simple things in most advanced way. I will also use some of your methods initially. What plugin you used on your right for getting subscription because it looks simple design but Calls for Action?
    Again Thank you Neil..

  12. Great post it really has my gears going about changing up the look of our website. We offer SEO, Webdesign, & Social Media Management. What is the best way to resent all 3 of these on the home page?

  13. Another awesome post about conversion.

    I really adore your commitment to give valuable knowledge about conversion testing.

    I do agree with value statement. Which put a dollar sign. It makes your product or services looks more valuable to your customers.

    Love it Neil.

  14. Great article. A lot to go through, but all great points!

    thanks

  15. Great Tips Neil. I am definitely going to implement some on my blog. Thanks

  16. Hey Neil,

    Great post, as usual(I’m going to have to think up some new opening lines for my comments from now on!)

    As an ecommerce guy, I think the most challenging part is “Don’t put a kid in a candy store” – most stores inevitably have loads of options – and one side of the field argues that putting too many clicks(by sorting products into multiple categories) between the customer and the product is certain doom.

    From an seo perspective, though, perhaps keeping fewer options on each page(if only by increasing the number of pages per category) would be beneficial because otherwise you’d have 100s of links from just a single page!

    Still, I think it’s too tough to tell why people didn’t buy from your store – much tougher than for conventional services or single product pages.

    Anyway, I’ve rambled enough! Thanks again for a great post and cheers!

  17. Hey Neil,
    Awesome post, and very timely. I am currently listening to “Nudge” by Richard Thaler on audio book. I have been tweaking and testing my site for years and simpler and cleaner is almost always better.

    Your suggestions about only give people one thing to do at a time is spot on. People have a very hard time making a choice, you just need to make it for them.

  18. Yo Neil,

    Hellobar is great. But it gets pretty expensive with more clicks. Are there any free wp plugins out there?

    …I know. You get what you pay for:)

    Marvin
    seogroup.com

  19. Another epic post Neil. Great stuff.

  20. Hi Neil,

    Great post for conversion optimisation.

    Could i trouble you to borrow your skills of CTA buttons?
    Do you have any theory about the word “FREE” on CTA button convert more? I mean “Book your Free Appointment” Vs “Book an Appointment” ?

  21. It is awesome Neil sir,good one for conversion optimization, Your experience is too valuable for us. Do you know i am working in my blog according to your teachings and my blog is getting progress day by day. Thanks for all.

  22. Excellent post. I think you have given a lot of nice examples of design to convert visitors into customers.
    Call to action is important for every website now a days.
    Thanks

  23. Neil, thanks for sharing some really terrific information, which I am going to share, as well. I’m working with a social media company that is revamping everything. Perhaps we can help each other. Let me know if you’re interested.

  24. Excellent post, Neil. The pointers which you have mentioned are very informative and now i am thinking to add these things in my website and marketing strategies to get a boost too.

    Thank you again!
    Sabih

  25. This post has been bookmarked because it seems I have a lot to learn :)

    Great post Neil, particularly on the candy store point as well as adding the dollar value. I will test it out and let you know.

  26. I didn’t notice the ‘Hellobar’ until you mentioned it, a case of banner-blindess? Could these nudges become so common we all become blind to them eventually? On some websites these type of bars are super-annoying – I use Page Up and Down to navigate a page and often a bit of text (or sometimes full paragraphs) will disappear behind a top bar, which is hugely frustrating – it’s important not to implement these nudges at the expense of UX.

    I don’t like the “75% of people…reused their towel” example from Rand’s presentation – it’s like they’re trying to guilt-trip you into reusing your towel. I much prefer “Please reuse your towel…”

    Most of the examples there and here on your blog are good though – showing pricing can help as its transparent. I hate websites where you have to hunt around for the costs, or where they’re not revealed until the end or checkout process – it seems dishonest.

    A lot of time limited sales I see are pressuring people into buying something, so I’d call that more of a bludgeon than a nudge. The exceptions are those that truly offer something of value.

    I particularly like the idea of giving people less options – various research has shown that people who buy a new camera (for example) after only spending a short time researching 2 or 3 models, are much happier with their final purchase than someone who spent hours/days researching numerous models. So yeah, too much choice can always cause problems. I’m going to give this a go straight away by offering my 3 most popular photos for sale on the ‘buy’ page of my photography website, rather than all of them! I’ll also remove at least one social share button…

    • Alex, great points. The HelloBar has shown tremendous results for myself and the people I have referred it to. In regards to pricing you are correct, showing pricing is a very transparent approach that can either attract or detract conversions. In the end however, those people would have signed up if the price was right, and wouldn’t have if the price was wrong. You essentially save time.

  27. You provide very good specific tips I’ve not seen elsewhere. As a copywriter, I agree that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Although “free” is the magic word, it is not necessarily the best approach for high value services (like ours). People intuitively know that while we may give away information, we cannot just give away our time. A multi-step CTA and transparency work, I agree. Visit my blog, poetsofcommerce.blogspsot.com, which you may find amusing. Not sure that it is converting into business for me, but it is fun to write.

    • Susan, great to hear that my findings were justified by a copywriter :). Free really does resonate, however, you really need to focus on providing quality content as well.

  28. No matter how much ‘gyan’ is posted about split testing and tweaking for conversion ratio, half the business owners will not implement it because they are just too lazy to do it. While I get excited about such things, my clients at best give me a smile and forget about it.

    It’s like going to the gym. One knows he can get muscles by working out regularly but he doesn’t go.

    It’s the same with these online sales page tweaks. Most people won’t do it :) Agree?

    • Deepak, I think in the past this held true. However, I feel as more people become aware of the ROI and as people see actual case studies they are more inclined to change.

  29. Nothing beats testing.

  30. A terrific post Neil. You have suggested so many successful items that it is difficult to decide what to try. I really like the hellobar and feel that will be the first nudge I will explore.

    Thanks,

    Sandy

  31. Can we get affiliate sales through “Hello Bar” or any other? If i add hello bar with my affiliate link and add a catchy text will i be getting the sales if i have much traffic?

  32. I’ve been toying with the idea of split testing my copy FOREVER, and I think you just convinced me to go for it. Thanks!

  33. Very useful insight. I will be working on a new offer this weekend and will be sure to incorporate some of these ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  34. Love it Neil.its save my money and time.very informative article.Thanks for sharing.

  35. It’s really fascinating how dramatically can a simple change make.

    I’ve once enlarged the font of the call-to-action text in my website’s squeeze page and was able to increase the conversion rate by like 20%.

    I want to ask you, how are you able to track everything on your website? Like for example social sharings, it varies from post to post, how do you know that the change in conversion was because of your tweak? I’d like to know more about this. Maybe on of your awesome “The ultimate guide” posts to explain A/B testing every aspect of your website would be great! You can also tell us where to use your CrazyEGG and KissMetric, because I’d really like to try them out.

    Thanks for your effort, Neil :)

  36. Not sure which presidential run you reference above, but I know that ‘Obama in 2008′ used A/B testing to boost campaign contributions and increased contributions by 7 FIGURES.

    A/B testing has also helped many of our clients increase conversion as well — keep writing about it, Neil!

  37. I always knew the less choices you give customers the better chances of succcess Neil but I never realized that for the share buttons. Very interesting indeed and I love how you showed us the examples in these different cases. Very informative as usual here Neil.

  38. Niel,
    Very useful tips, thanks. Most of them refer to purchasing something. I will have them in mind, but would love to read if you have some similar advise on how to increase traffic from Adsense.
    Kind regards,
    Aleksandra

  39. Campbell Masters :

    As a start up consultancy, I’ve employed a friend (with real skills) to crate my website, once that’s done I’ll then look to incorporate these ideas into that site, sharing those with him also, as he does websites for his wife ( a realtor) and others.

  40. Neil, I really like the candy store analogy. I am a wedding photographer and my pricing used to be all over the place. I had a range of prices from digital only to hard copy prints.

    I thought at the time that if potential customers had these small items priced separately such as – album, 8 x 10 prints, and per hour coverage, I would have more sign ups.

    It didn’t really so well so I tried packaging my pricing down to 3. Believe it or not, I was retained more on that year.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

  41. Good one! Once Again, but hello bar is most effective way to get conversions.

    Thanks @Neil

  42. Neil this is a something I’ve tested at some the clients websites and it works. Like testing the places where the ads are placed and Hellobar use is a great way to get peoples attention.

    Th Candy store example is great one, when we were given too many options we tend to take more time to decide which one to buy or even delay the process an convince our minds to come back later to purchase.
    Like a kid in a candy store, people won’t know what to get because they want it all. So giving one option is the best.
    That’s the reason why at Fizzle.co they decided to bring down to only one subscription and take off giving couple of options.

    So the underline is always do the A/B testing.

  43. Thanks for the great article!
    I think we should always be creative on our site content. Not only it attracts the audience, but also engage them before we can actually convert them into customers.

  44. Ok I am off to look for an animated warm fuzzy feeling charachter for our website!
    Superb article with a goldmine of information on improving conversions.

  45. Awesome info Neil! I must say that all the websites should implement such sort of nudges without any delay to get loyal customers / targeted customers!

  46. General i use KISSmetrics , i get lots of positive tips for my website.

  47. I love the “Design is the new marketing” section. I learned the power of layout and color selection back in college 20 years ago. But I never would have thought that tiny little orang/red hello bar at the top could account for such a huge increase in your conversions. Thank you for the great tips Neil!

  48. This is quite impressive. I might have to do some little changes with my blog and start nudging. What would I got to lose right?

  49. Thanks for nice tips. Competition is making thing harder day by day.

  50. Very useful tips

    Thanks

  51. Awesome, thanks for reading!

  52. Hey..I scanned the comments and I didn’t see it asked and answered anywhere but is your opt in box asking people to opt in to read the post a custom plugin? If not can you let us know which one it is?

    Thanks!

    Ps..as always tons of invaluable info!

  53. steve wasiura :

    Perhaps the reason a 2 stage checkout process is working better, is because in the first stage, you are shown only a small form with 2 input fields, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by having too much data to fill in.

    Then during the second stage is where they feel compelled to complete the process, because of the way our brain feels anxiety over uncompleted tasks. As long as the second stage screens do not make the checkout task harder, this should work.

    We’ve had success reducing the qty of input form fields. You can always ask for more information during follow up emails…

  54. This is a really great article! It really goes into the psychology of marketing, which is key in the business world. It is amazing what a few simple words can do to get more customers in the door!

    • John, great point. The power of words is evident when these situations arise. It is interesting how this all unfolds when people use them to make sales.

  55. Awesome!!!!! I never thought that design bring more traffic . After reading your post i decide to change my design . I will start nudging .

  56. This was a great read and definitely something for me to think about in the future.

    (I was also shocked by the hotel statistic!)

  57. Nudging is a simple way to bring awareness to an individual and have them move forward with an action. I think the suggestion of A/B testing is powerful and can test which action works and which actions are not increasing conversion rates. Another point that was made was making the website reflect a “warm and fuzzy” feeling for the consumer. I think this is important, especially if you want to build a level of trust with your potential client. People coming to your website do not want to be overwhelmed/bombarded with options and actions, but instead welcomed and relaxed in navigating. Other common nudges are seen on social media platforms, “like this, share that, follow us” these are all actions that with the proper incentive can bring more business to your door and/or website!

    • Sing, great points! I think the gentle nudges will typically go furthest in regards to helping visitors complete tasks you want them to. Social media nudges are often the softest.

  58. Very good post but i want to ask that how can i set a bad to good conversion rate. Because i have set up both account one is my webmaster and add words both conversion and clicks down day by day..

  59. Well, look big in the internet to have a customers trust you. Do things professionally (design) and respond quickly if you get leads.

  60. Hi, its great that only your hellobar works for you so effectively. I think making thing easier for the user should work but its really strange that didn’t work effectively for you and obama administration.
    Thanks for sharing these important points.

  61. Thanks for sharing Neil, I picked some few things from this.

  62. Great Post Neil, thanks for sharing.

  63. Hi Niel,

    I know I am a little late to the party, but I just have a question in regards to increasing your social sharing options from 3 to 5 resulting in a decrease of overall social shares by 29%.

    Where did the social buttons live? On your homepage or article pages? When exactly did you conduct the experiment – could you dive into a little more detail. I’m curious :)

    Cheers,
    Stefanie

  64. Hi thede to all, the contents exsting at this web page are actually
    awesome for people knowledge, well, keep up the good work fellows.

  65. Absolutely brilliant. It’s amazing how much a simple ‘nudge’ can invoke a call-to-action.

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