How to achieve double-digit eCommerce conversion rates

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Crack the customer psychology code

It sounds too good to be true. How can it be possible to achieve double-digit conversion rates with your eCommerce store? Wouldn’t that require you to be all things to all people?

We all know how impossible that is.


Yet, with the right ingredients, double-digit conversions are possible. With the right ingredients, you can create an eCommerce store that attracts the right customers, with the right offer, at the right time.

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Why your store needs the right ingredients

Some store owners feel this is hard to accept. Why bother with “ingredients” at all? It’s a terrible idea to pander to shoppers. Customers either want what you have to sell or they don’t.

It’s not about pandering. It’s about trust.


In the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, researchers shared an important discovery. The general public’s trust in key institutions — business, NGOs, media and government have all fallen to historic lows worldwide.

This isn’t an off the cuff report. It’s 18 years of research, across 28 markets, with 33,000 respondents. And it’s all bad news. What does this report have to do with your eCommerce store and your conversion rates?

Your customer’s default is distrust

This sounds like bad news and it is, but it also comes with an unexpected silver lining — your customers are easier to sell to.

The scientific research backs this up. A meta-analysis by Bart S. Vanneste, et al. breaks this down. Here’s how it works:

  • Trustors (customers) enter into a relationship with trustees (you).
  • Trustors uses your “perceived trustworthiness” as the fuel or spark they need to take a risk (buy).
  • Trustors then adjust their perception to match reality (results).

This basically means you’ll have two kinds of customers. Optimists and pessimists. Optimists are easy to sell to, easy to disappoint and much harder to keep. Pessimists, on the other hand, are harder to sell to, but easier to keep in the long run.

But why?

Optimist trustors overestimate trustworthiness. In the beginning, they hand out trust freely. They give you too much trust, too fast. The bad news? Their trust in you decreases over time — they overestimated after all. What’s worse, their trust in you will continue to fall if they’re unhappy with the results you provide.

Pessimist trustors underestimate trustworthiness. In the beginning, they give you very little trust. Any trust that’s given has to be earned. You have to fight for every morsel of trust you receive. As a result, their trust goes up over time. Their trust in you will continue to grow as long as they’re satisfied/happy.

See how this works?

It’s easier to sell to pessimists!


This is the secret to achieving double-digit conversion rates from your eCommerce store. It’s creating a site that caters to your customer’s trust mindset.

Just one problem: You can’t please pessimists.

That’s the thinking, right? Pessimistic customers will complain about whatever it is you do on your site. If they’re truly pessimistic they’re chronically unhappy, right? Actually, no.

When customers buy they follow the same psychological steps. They express interest in a product or service. You grab their attention, stoke their interest and relieve their fears. Optimize your customer’s thought sequences and you’re escorted past their filters and biases.

Related: Apply 3 psychology principles to boost sales

5 ways to tap into customers’ mindsets and improve your eCommerce conversion rates

Here are five tips to help you home in on your customers’ buying behavior to amp up your sales funnel conversion rates.

  1. Laser-focused customer targeting.

  2. Speaking and selling with emotion.

  3. Repeat their fears, frustrations and problems back to them.

  4. Share the right products, features and benefits.

  5. Trigger urgency.

Now that you know the psychological tactics to better help your customers make purchase decisions, read on to learn more to put the steps into action.

1. Laser-focused customer targeting

eCommerce Conversion Rates Laser
Photo: FastLizard4 on

This is the most important part of the process, but it’s also the most neglected step. Ignore this step with your eCommerce store and selling becomes incredibly difficult.

If you listen, customers will tell you how to sell to them.


Many eCommerce sites do, but that’s not common. Most businesses talk at rather than listen to their customers. They don’t learn from them. Those who do, do it once. When you suggest customer interviews their response is inevitable, “Oh, we’ve already done that.”

The problem? Customers change. What’s acceptable today might not be tomorrow. So where should your focus be? In the usual places.

  • Demographics: The details that tell you where your customers are in their life and whether they’re able to buy.
    (Income, marital and familial status, level of education, etc.)
  • Psychographics: This tells you about how your customers approach their lives. It also indicates whether they’re willing to buy. (Interests, values, beliefs, social class, hierarchical position, etc.)
  • Words vs. action: When Facebook added the Newsfeed ,customers were outraged. They said they hated the Newsfeed and wouldn’t use it. In reality, the Newsfeed was immediately successful. Facebook looked at customer words vs. behavior to determine the actions they should take.

Here’s why laser-focused customer targeting matters so much. Every other ingredient we’re about to discuss depends on this first step. Get it right and your conversion rate skyrockets. Get it wrong and sales and revenue plummet.

Related: A beginer’s guide to targeting users and developing a customer profile

2. Speaking and selling with emotion

As marketers, many of us have a bad habit. We discount emotion and the role it plays in our conversion rates. We treat emotion as an accessory — as if it’s a set of training wheels attached to the bicycle of communication.

The truth? Emotion is the front wheel.


How do we know? Science tells us. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio made an accidental yet groundbreaking discovery. He studied people who had brain damage and were unable to feel emotion. They all had one thing in common: They couldn’t make decisions.

They knew what they were supposed to do but they couldn’t make simple decisions like what to eat, or whether they should use the bathroom.

Here’s the problem: Stores often read like engineering specs. They should resemble your favorite story. They create product descriptions that are a cold and clinical retelling of their product’s attributes. Customers want to know about the specifics of a product, but they’re looking for more depth.

Research shows customers are drawn to emotion.

How do you use this? It’s simple. You create a site that’s focused on meeting their unspoken desires.

Make customers significant. This emotional desire is about our own uniqueness — our ability to stand out from the crowd.

  • Use prestige in your website copy including high dollar amounts. Where appropriate, use words like “winner,” “best,” “highest” or “as seen on” to describe the intangible benefits they’ll receive.
  • Mention awards you’ve received or will give.
  • Make it exclusive. For example, a limited edition add-on to an order for the first 50 people.
  • Outline requirements only a select few achieve. Use restrictions to limit supply and increase demand (only customers who have purchased A might purchase B)

Related: 10 crucial trust signals your website might be missing

Allstate relates to everyday frustrations

Allstate connects to customers with a feeling we’ve all had: the frustration of hearing your phone but not knowing where it is. They are tapping into that frustration to sell car insurance. They understand the consumer and offer a way to protect them.

AT&T shows appreciation with product

AT&T uses this ad to take a moment to tell customers that they are appreciated and uses a product to prove it, by letting customers keep what they already paid for.

REI encourages customers to go outside

In this example from REI, the outdoor retailer promotes the decision to not open on Black Friday. Instead, it encourages customers to go outside and not buy things, all while showing employee appreciation. It pulls in the emotion of togetherness during the holiday season.

Related: 6 ways to connect with your eCommerce customers and humanize your brand

3. Repeat their fears, frustrations and problems back to them

You’re negative and so am I. In fact, we’re all incredibly negative and that’s a good thing. Dr. John Cacioppo discovered that humans have a negative bias. His research shows that from the time we’re born we’re obsessed with the negative.

We’re obsessed with our fears, frustrations and problems.


Here’s why: This obsession keeps us safe. If we’re always on the lookout for a potential problem, we can’t be ambushed by it later; that’s the rationale anyway. We have a chance to find a solution before we’re hurt.

Here’s the thing — customers want you to talk about their problems. They want you to discuss their fears and frustrations. In fact, customers look for sellers who do this consistently.

Related: The rulebook for crafting a response to negative comments on social media

Why? It’s a validator. It tells customers “you get me.” Doing this shows customers you understand them completely. Why does this matter? They’re far more likely to pay attention when you suggest you have a problem. It’s all about how problems work.

  • Problems create stress and anxiety
  • Solutions relieve stress and anxiety

If you understand their problem, you also know what they need to solve it.

This is key. This tactic isn’t new but it’s still largely neglected by marketers. They’re afraid. They don’t want to scare customers away. Or they simply don’t believe discussing the problem works. But the research shows it works beautifully.

It can work for you. Approach customers gently and with kindness — you’ll have everything you need to earn their undivided attention.

Related: Brand marketing tip: Make it about your customers

4. Share the right products, features and benefits

Earlier we talked about laser-focused targeting. Let’s switch gears for a moment and discuss startup failure. There are thousands of startups, each with amazing products. They list their features and benefits eloquently on their site. They set everything properly; with all this preparation they can’t lose.

These startups fail anyway.

CBInsights outlined the biggest reasons for these failing businesses. They listed more than a dozen categories and reasons. Know what the biggest reason was? No market need.

Just over 42 percent of the startups in their study failed because they created a product complete with features and benefits that no one wanted.

So what are the right products, features and benefits?


The kind you get from laser-focused targeting. And it revolves around your understanding of your customers.

A casual understanding looks a lot like thorough research. You can have the same data, the same reports and factoids. But you still miss the important “why” questions.

An intimate understanding is serious, exhaustive and detailed. Think about it. How’d you get to know your spouse, best friend or kids as well as you do? You put in the time. It isn’t just about memorizing facts. It’s listening to important details and the context around those details.

When you understand your customers intimately, you have a foundational understanding of who they are. You think, speak and act as they do. You’re in their headspace. You’re focused on the details that matter to them. It means you care.

Caring at its core produces the double-digit conversion rates you want. You care enough to pursue them, to chat them up. You ask the hard questions — even if it makes you feel dumb.

5. Triggering urgency

eCommerce Conversion Rates Urgent

Ecommerce stores aren’t always big on urgency. When you look at most eCommerce sites, there really isn’t a reason for customers to buy right now. There should be,though. If you’re truly providing value to your customers there should be a compelling reason for them to act.

Most sellers don’t know how to do that.

So let’s look at a few strategies you can use to immediately trigger urgency in your eCommerce store.

  • Bonuses: Order by [date] and you’ll receive [free product, discount, etc.].
  • Takeaways: Only [3] left in this year’s batch. Get your [product] now before it’s gone.
  • Loss aversion timer: This bonus is free until [date], then the price goes up in [2 days, 12 hrs, 41 min].
  • Contest: The first 50 customers to pass this test wins a [list prize here].
  • Invite/VIP only: Exclusive to members of the [group] club receive these free [products, bonuses, freebies] with their order.
  • Join the waitlist: Purchase this [product] today and you’ll be added to the waitlist for our [desirable bonus or incentive].
  • Bundled opt-in: Take our quiz and you’ll receive this [product or bonus] free with your order.

You can run these incentives in a weekly, quarterly, semiannual or annual pattern to consistently trigger urgency.

It’s not complicated, but it does take work. Here’s the best part: You can combine these urgency triggers. You can mix and match incentives in a variety of ways.

Here’s one: Product + Quarterly Bonus + Daily Giveaway + Loss Aversion timer.

Variety is the spice of life, after all.

When you offer customers a discount at a predictable timeframe you train them to wait for that discount. That’s a revenue killer. When you mix and match incentives, offers and timeframes you trigger fear of loss. Customers don’t want to miss out.

And thanks to the variety of offers you have, they will. If they don’t act right away. If your offer is irresistible and your incentive is strong, customers take action immediately.

Related: How to use discounts and coupons to increase eCommerce revenue

Offer the right ingredients and customers will take action

Double-digit conversion rates seem unlikely, impossible even. And if you attempt to be all things to all people it is impossible.

Be all things to the right customer.


Identify your ideal customer, the customer who’s willing and able to buy. These customers want you to have a deep understanding of their desires, goals, fears, frustrations and problems.

Your customer’s default is distrust. This makes selling easier. Create a site that caters to your customer’s trust mindset. This is the secret to achieving double-digit conversion rates on your eCommerce store. It sounds too good to be true but it really isn’t. Focus on the right customers, add the right ingredients and you’ll find your store achieves the impossible.

Related: 5 website features for increased eCommerce conversion rates