How to Use Cialdini’s 7th Principle of Influence to Prime Web Visitors for Conversion

Social psychologist Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is well-known among digital marketers for his six persuasion principles.

Recently, Dr. Cialdini published Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, where he adds the 7th dimension to persuasion: Unity. Here, Cialdini points to the power of a shared identity in influencing people. That is, we are more likely to be influenced by people we think are connected to us in some way. People are more receptive to ideas and messages from others with whom they perceive to share a common identity with.

Cialdini’s “pre-suasion” idea draws from the psychological concept of priming, that is, that an individual can be exposed to stimuli that affects how he/she makes decisions or acts on them. The advertising industry, for instance, is built on the premise that exposing people to ideas or products would influence their buying behaviors.

In “unity” we also hear echos of the hierarchy of needs and social cohesion. Maslow puts love and sense of belonging right above human physiological and safety needs. This craving for love and a sense of belonging makes people actively look for ways to get affection and approval from others whom they think they share similarities with. Thus, people are subject to the power of the group (or crowd) they associate with, and tend to develop loyalty, attachment, and conformity with its leaders and members.

Using Unity in Conversion Rate Optimization

We already know that people are social beings. Cialdini’s 6th principle of persuasion discusses how we are more likely to say yes to people we know and like. The unity principle extends this principle and points specifically to the priming effects of family, group membership, and shared experiences on individuals. This makes it useful for creating conditions for people to view you and your offer positively, in effect priming them for the actual conversion action.

1. Gain trust by invoking family ties

Family is one of the most powerful source of influence for many people.

Aside from genetics, family members share intense and lasting emotional ties with each other. These ties are instrumental are defining the identity of each member. Members take care of each other and work together to achieve the collective goals of the family. Familial norms encourage and reinforce desired behavior from each family member, including putting the family’s sake over one’s own and looking out for each other’s welfare.

What does this mean for conversion optimization?

First, invoking family is your shortcut to trust. For most people, family means love, care, and security. Making your web visitors feel that they’re part of your family sends the message that you’re trustworthy and that you’ve got their backs. Here’s an example of how Zagg uses the language of family on their site:

Second, bringing up family brings out altruism in people. Who wouldn’t do anything for the people they love? If your web visitors don’t respond to the current messaging on your site, try a tactic that leverages selflessness, like offering a freebie or discount to their family members.

2. Appeal to group membership

Groups are the second most powerful source of influence for individuals. As psychologist Sigmund Freud observed, group attachments are a source of primary identification for people, which make them loyal to and emotionally invested in their group or tribe membership. People would go as far as abandoning their own dissenting opinion rather than risk being seen as different from others (even if they don’t know these others).

Membership in a group is a signifier of common interests and shared values. If you want to form an instant bond with your visitors or strengthen customers’ affinity with your brand, creating a group is a good place to start. Remember how Apple pitted Mac users with pc users? Quite ironically, Apple harnessed solidarity between Mac users by rallying them against a perceived enemy: the pc and the conformity it represented.

You don’t have to necessarily identify or create an enemy to appeal to the people’s tribal instinct. Simply creating a members-only group that provides special privileges to your customers can do wonders for convincing them that they want to be a part of your tribe.

3. Utilize shared experiences

Finally, people are more emotionally invested in things that they helped create. This is similar to the IKEA effect, wherein consumers tend to value products more highly because they partially created them. Cialdini goes further, however, by suggesting that the products or services don’t even have to be physically available or existent yet.

According to Cialdini’s concept of unity, you can increase the likelihood of people agreeing to become customers by inviting them to share their opinions on your plans. Which makes sense, since soliciting advice from your target customers gives them a feeling of ownership over the plan. When they spend energy contributing advice to your plan, they are also helping shape and create its future.

What this means is that you can increase your web visitors’ engagement and cultivate their loyalty by utilizing web surveys and other customer experience tools. It can be as simple as sending an email prior to launching your website to get your target customers’ advice on your plans. If you do have a working website, you can maximize your customer surveys to ask customers not only how you can make the website better but what products or product features they want to be included in your site. Sega may not know it, but they’re close to Cialdini’s unity in this feedback survey:

Unite and convert

To sum up, Cialdini’s unity is all about creating affinity with your website visitors. Build credibility and trust by making your visitors feel like they’re family and a part of your tribe. Encourage your potential customers to relate with you and your brand by creating opportunities for co-creation, and you’ll be rewarded with increased emotional investment, loyalty, and repreat conversions from your web visitors.

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