Marketing Psychology: With these 10 tricks, you effectively influence your customers’ purchasing behavior.

Marketing Psychology: With these 10 tricks, you effectively influence your customers’ purchasing behavior.

Sissy Scheible
Sissy Scheible
published on October 18, 2023   

Marketing Psychology - The most important points in brief:

  • The main goal of marketing psychology is to better understand consumer behavior and decision-making processes in order to more effectively promote, sell, and position products and services.

  • The targeted use of marketing psychology helps generate positive user signals for Google and other search engines.

  • There are several marketing psychology effects you can harness for your marketing, including the priming effect, the decoy effect, and the reciprocity principle.

  • To effectively integrate marketing psychology methods into your online marketing, it is important to know your customers and their customer journey in detail.

Do you know this feeling? You want to subscribe to a printed newspaper, but then decide to go for the more expensive combination of print and digital subscription. You intend to buy regular toilet paper at the supermarket, but end up choosing the four-ply, super-soft kind. You just want to research offers for your next vacation but end up booking right away. Does this sound familiar to you?

Chances are, your purchases have been influenced by skillful marketing psychology. This is applicable both online and offline, enticing us to make purchases we might not have made otherwise. In the following, we’ll explain how marketing psychology works and how you can use psychology for your marketing.

What is marketing psychology?

Marketing psychology is a field of psychology that focuses on the application of psychological principles and insights to design marketing strategies and activities. Its main goal is to better understand consumer behavior and decision-making processes to effectively promote, sell, and position products and services. Marketing psychology is a multidisciplinary field that integrates insights from psychology, sociology, economics, and other areas to help businesses optimize their marketing strategies and build successful relationships with their customers.

How marketing psychology helps your SEO efforts

Marketing psychology – isn’t that something for supermarkets to know where to place the more expensive branded products on the shelves to sell them better? What does that have to do with online marketing, especially with SEO?

To achieve a good ranking on search engines like Google, companies optimize their content specifically for them. This involves making content understandable for Google, setting keywords, creating links and backlinks, and more. However, one critical ranking factor is often underestimated but has become increasingly essential: user signals measurable by Google.

How does the user come to the company’s website, organically or through paid ads? What search terms did they use? What is their search intent? How long do they stay on the website? Do they click on something there? These are just some of the many questions you need to address if you want to incorporate user behavior into your SEO.

To send positive user signals to Google and other search engines, you not only have to tailor your online presence for the search engine itself but also make it appealing to users and provide added value. This way, users will stay on your website and won’t send negative user signals to Google, such as immediately leaving the site. Marketing psychology can help you with this, as well as with creating ads that catch the customers’ attention and encourage them to make purchases in your online store or on your website.

10 marketing strategies to advance your online marketing

There are numerous marketing psychological strategies you can employ to influence the behavior and purchasing decisions of your customers. We have compiled the 10 best ones for you.

Priming Effect

In marketing psychology, priming refers to the often subtle influence of a person’s thinking and actions through stimuli. The priming effect is based on the idea that our brains store information and experiences in a network of interconnected concepts. When a specific stimulus (the so-called “priming stimulus“) is activated, the associated concepts or thoughts in the brain become more accessible, influencing our response to subsequent stimuli.

Companies can use the priming effect to create positive associations with their brand or products. This can be achieved through individual words or bullet points describing the product or service, which are repeatedly conveyed subtly. The design of ads, websites, webshops, and more can also serve as such stimuli. For example, if your website and online store have an elegant design, customers are more likely to be enticed to buy more expensive products.

Caution: The priming effect can also be negative if customers associate negative aspects with your company, products, or services.

Social Proof

Despite our self-perception as individuals, humans are social creatures. We tend to base our opinions on how others evaluate or use a company, product, or service, as the approval of many people serves as an indicator of quality. If others like a product, a restaurant, or something similar, the likelihood of us liking it too is higher. For example, if a product is available on Amazon at two different prices, with the cheaper option having only two reviews and the more expensive one having many positive reviews, the probability is high that the more expensive product will be purchased.

For your online marketing, this means publishing good reviews and ensuring many positive ratings, perhaps by offering free product samples. Customer success stories can also be useful to enhance your social proof.

Use social proof on social media as well. If your customers see that you have a large, satisfied community regularly liking and commenting on your posts, they’ll want to become part of your community too.

Selection Paradox

The selection paradox is a fascinating phenomenon in marketing psychology. Many online shops believe they are doing their customers a favor by offering them the widest possible range of choices. However, this can become a problem. The more decision options a customer has, the more it hinders actual decision-making. This is because, with increasing choices, a customer’s uncertainty and fear of making the wrong choice also increase. Additionally, comparing multiple decision alternatives consumes significant cognitive resources, which can be perceived as unpleasant. As a result, many customers prefer not to choose any product at all rather than risk buying the wrong one.

For your marketing, this means that you should not unnecessarily inflate your offerings. If you still want to provide a large assortment, you can circumvent the selection paradox by organizing your inventory into smaller, more manageable categories. For example, wine sellers can categorize their inventory not only by red, white, and rosé wines but also by sweetness levels, ranging from sweet to dry, and further into various wine-producing regions. You could also consider subcategories for organic and vegan wines.

Picture Superiority Effect

The picture superiority effect in marketing psychology describes the fact that the human brain processes images better and more intensively than text. Moreover, we remember image content better than text. When presented with pure text content, people can remember only about 10 percent of it after one day. However, when text is combined with images, about 65 percent of the content is still remembered after three days.

Since the picture superiority effect is quite powerful, the image content can unfortunately completely distract from the text. Therefore, it is crucial in your marketing to align the images with the text.

In the early stages of the customer journey, use images that help you stand out from the crowd and grab attention. Later on, use images that are primarily of high quality and support your content and messages. Strive to use authentic images whenever possible.

Picture Superiority Effect in Marketing Psychology

The plain text form alone not only stays less memorable but also doesn’t really make you crave delicious ice cream.

Decoy Effect

The English word “decoy” translates to “bait” or “lure.” That’s precisely what the Decoy Effect, also known as the Distractor or Decoy Pricing Effect, is all about, and it’s often employed in marketing psychology. It causes people to perceive a situation differently from what it actually is.

In the Decoy Effect, an additional alternative, typically another product, is introduced to make the decision between the two primary products easier. The third product, or third alternative, appears significantly less attractive but subtly supports the decision to choose the more expensive product.

A frequently cited example of this is the following offer:

  • Digital Subscription: $50
  • Print Subscription: $125
  • Digital and Print Subscription: $125
Decoy Effect in Marketing Psychology

Which offer would you choose?

In this scenario, most people would indeed choose the combination package of Digital and Print Subscription, and no one would opt for the standalone Print Subscription, which is, in reality, not a very serious offer. If you remove the standalone Print Subscription from the choices, most people actually tend to select the standalone Digital Subscription.

For your marketing, this implies that you can also provide a seemingly third option that highlights how excellent the main, more expensive offer is. This can influence consumers to perceive the primary offering as a better value and make it more likely for them to choose it.

Bader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Are you familiar with this? A product is entirely new, you’ve heard of it for the first time, and suddenly, you encounter it everywhere. You see advertisements for it on TV, find the product in the supermarket, or even at your friends’ homes.

This “illusion of frequency” is based on the principle of selective perception. From the moment an innovative idea or product catches your attention for the first time, you unconsciously start looking out for it. The product isn’t actually more prevalent; it just stands out to you when you see it. At the same time, your brain is convinced that the product must have become more well-known and widespread practically overnight.

For your marketing, this means you must nurture your leads. Once someone becomes aware of your brand or product, you need to ensure that it continues to cross their path. Send lead nurturing emails, provide ads based on user behavior, and make use of retargeting.

The Scarcity Principle

Humans generally fear missing out on something. This fear applies to offers as well. Customers want to make sure they don’t miss out on what they perceive as good deals. Online shops often leverage this aspect. Customers are enticed to quickly accept an offer through artificial scarcity. For instance, travel websites often mention how many customers are currently viewing an offer or accommodation or how many rooms are still available. Online shops label products with phrases like “only 3 left in stock,” or they add timers to offers, indicating when the product will no longer be available at the super-discounted price. Customers thus feel the need to complete the purchase as quickly as possible.

In your marketing, ensure that your products and offers are not perceived as generally hard to come by. Instead, highlight that the product was available in large quantities but, due to high demand, only a few units remain. If you want to advertise your product as limited edition from the start, label it as a “Limited Edition” to give it a high degree of exclusivity.

The Scarcity Principle in Marketing Psychology

Now you should really act quickly.

Reciprocity Principle

Your favorite Italian restaurant offers you a free espresso or a Ramazzotti after your meal. At the pharmacy, you receive complimentary tissues, cough drops, or gummy bears for the kids with your purchase. What may seem like a customer-friendly gesture is often simply marketing at work.

Reciprocity means “mutuality.” The Reciprocity Principle states that when someone does us a favor, we want to reciprocate. Therefore, the Ramazzotti at the Italian restaurant often results in a higher tip, and we tend to revisit the friendly pharmacy more frequently than one that doesn’t give us complimentary items.

How can you implement this principle from marketing psychology into your online marketing? In the online realm, you can offer your customers free whitepapers or demo versions, for example. Moreover, an online shop can include free product samples, gummy bears, pens, or similar items with an order to make the customer feel grateful and more inclined to use this shop for their next purchase.

Carpenter Effect

The Carpenter Effect in marketing psychology suggests that people are more likely to perform an action when they see it demonstrated or think about the action. It’s as if people mirror the action. And not only actions, but feelings and moods can be mirrored as well. This is a natural effect – think about how we learned to walk, talk, and express our feelings as babies through imitation.

But how can you use the Carpenter Effect for your marketing? You can use it to overcome purchase barriers and reduce your customers’ inhibitions. For example, you can do this through videos that show happy customers paying for a product or service that is already visible in the background.

If you want customers to fill out sign-up or contact forms, make sure the registration process and your forms are as simple as possible. Show customers how easy it is to complete them, possibly through screenshots or short videos guiding them through the process. It’s essential to demonstrate the active click on purchase or submit buttons.

Use vivid language and interactive elements to prompt your customers to take action. Phrases like “Take control of your career” can genuinely encourage potential job applicants to move their mouse to the “apply now” button. If a button grows larger, pulsates, or otherwise piques interest, it is more likely to be clicked.

Halo Effect

The Halo Effect, also known as the “halo and horns effect,” is considered a cognitive bias in marketing psychology. It occurs when certain dominant features or qualities of a product or service overshadow the perception of other features or characteristics. The presence of a dominant feature leads to assumptions about the other features or qualities. For example, if you see an expensive blouse in a boutique, you might assume that the blouse is of high quality simply based on its price, even though you can’t be certain.

In online marketing, the Halo Effect is particularly relevant when combined with the Primacy Effect, which states that the initial feature perceived influences the subsequent evaluation. Therefore, the dominant feature is perceived positively or negatively, influencing the overall impression. For your marketing, it’s crucial to use the dominant feature of your offering to create a positive impression that overshadows any potential negative characteristics. If your product has a very long shelf life but isn’t sustainably produced, highlight the shelf life as the dominant feature. Conversely, if your product is sustainably produced but less durable, focus on sustainability and design your website, online shop, and brand accordingly.

It’s worth noting that even if your offer is excellent and one feature outshines all others, it can still fall victim to a negative Halo Effect. This can happen when your website or online shop isn’t optimized. If your online presence is boring, has long loading times, and appears unprofessional, this is the first impression that overshadows everything else and affects how customers perceive your products.

Halo Effect in Marketing Psychology

Here, the feature “Gentle cleaning for all colors” overshadows the other product features.

Marketing psychology as a powerful tool for your online marketing.

In addition to the ten psychological strategies and effects mentioned, there are numerous others that you can incorporate into your online marketing. Factors like the color scheme of your advertisements, website, and online shop also have a psychological impact on customers. There are strategies like the anchoring effect, the word-for-word method, and more. It’s crucial that, among all these possibilities for influencing customer behavior, you have a deep understanding of your customers and their customer journey. This knowledge will enable you to select the marketing psychology methods that are most relevant to your business and offerings.