- Email Marketing

5 Email Marketing Psychology Hacks for Better Sales

Use These 5 Email Marketing Psychology Hacks for Better Sales

It can seem really hard to get visitors to simply stay engaged on your page, with the average visitor’s attention span being just 7 seconds.

It’s even harder to get them to stick around long enough to actually buy from you, with average conversion rates for eCommerce stores at roughly 3%.

For the most part, it seems pretty impossible.

5 Email Marketing Psychology Hacks for Better Sales

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But what if I told you there’s a way you can not only keep your visitors on your page for longer, but you can actually then improve your conversions and thereby boost your sales?

All with the help of a little psychology.

In today’s post, I’ll show you how you can use 5 science-backed email marketing psychology hacks to boost your sales, starting today.

Hack #1: Get your foot in the door

One of the most important psychological hacks of the digital marketing world is known as the foot-in-the-door technique (FITD).

This one is based on the idea that people are more likely to agree a bigger request if they’ve already agreed to a smaller request.

Here, the big request can be to buy one of your products.  You can grade these requests as much as you want, starting with link clicks, Liking on Facebook or other social platforms, or even downloading a PDF or resource from you.

The FITD technique comes from a 1966 study by Freedman and Fraser. They started off the experiment by calling California housewives and asking them to mention what household products they used.

Three days later, they would call again and ask if up to 6 men could visit their homes to check their kitchens for about 2 hours.

The housewives that agreed to talk about their household products (the small request) were more than twice as likely to agree to allowing strangers in their homes (the big request).

How to use FITD in your email marketing

Use this psychological hack by getting users to agree to smaller requests when they first sign up to your email list.

First of all, use double opt-in. That asks them to sign up to your list and then click on a link emailed to them to confirm that they want to be part of your list.

Secondly, get them to visit a blog post or engage on your social media. You can also send them a link to a resource which requires them to download it from your page.

You don’t want to make it so complicated that they’re not agreeing to the requests anymore, but still to get them to perform smaller asks before the big ask, which is to buy from you.

Also, incidentally, this helps you to build a relationship with them over time, which is important for your sales.

Hack #2: Limit the choices

This point is very simple: don’t offer people too many choices. It paralyzes them to the point where they don’t know what to do and don’t do anything at all.

This less-is-more approach is really important not just for your email marketing, but your marketing in general. The buying paralysis can be related to self-doubt where your customer thinks that if they go with option A, they may miss out on the value of option B, C, D, E, F…

The data comes from Schwartz’s popular book The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less. Here he discusses Iyengar and Lepper’s 2000 study where they showed one group of shoppers 24 different types of jam, and a second group only 6 types of jam. 

Even though they had much fewer options, the shoppers with only 6 jams to choose from ended up buying more (30% of shoppers purchased jam) compared to ones with 24 to choose from (only 3% made a purchase).

How to use limited choices in your email marketing

Instead of showing 20 different products each for men’s, women’s, and children, just show 1 or 2 most popular for each. That way there are 6 to choose from, rather than 60.

Also, with every email, you should have one clear CTA (call-to-action), which usually comes in the form of a clickable button. Make one clear CTA for each category if presenting different types of products, or just have one CTA in your entire email.

Hack #3: Use reciprocity

Reciprocity is a psychological aspect by which people feel as if they owe you something after you’ve given them something, such as a gift.

For example, if someone gave you a gift on your birthday, you would feel as if you needed to repay that person for their birthday. This is reciprocity.

This can most clearly be seen in Philip Kunz’s experiment where he sent Christmas cards to 600 strangers–people he had never even heard of before. Surprisingly, he received Christmas cards from 35% of all the recipients.

How to use reciprocity in your email marketing

Here the idea is simple: give something away for free and your subscribers or customers will want to reciprocate that–buy being more likely to buy your products.

You can give a lot of things away for free (don’t worry, you don’t have to give away your products for this to kick in).

This can be a free resource, such as a PDF on a topic that they care about (and which is directly related to your products). It can also be free shipping, or even a % discount on one of your best sellers.

Give it for free, for no reason, and they’ll come back to buy from you.

Hack #4: Use social proof

Social proof is used all around you–although you may not have noticed. It’s the way the actions of others (such as your family, friends, or even celebrities) help to influence your behavior.

For example, if you see that many of your friends are now using a certain app or product, you are probably more likely to use it too, or at least see what all the hype is about.

But the social proof psychology hack can also kick in even if you don’t know those people. This is why most blog posts you read online have social counters at the top or bottom of the post.

After all, if you see that 442 people have liked a post on Facebook, and it’s a topic you care about, you’ll be more likely to read it.

This is confirmed by Muzafer Sherif’s 1935 experiment, where he asked individual participants in a dark room how far a dot of light was moving on a wall (even though it wasn’t actually moving). The first numbers were naturally different.

But after he put people together in groups of 3 and asked again (requesting that they guess out loud), all 3 people gave the same answer, even though alone they’d given different answers.

Other people’s answers influenced theirs.

How to use social proof in your email marketing

If you’re able, you can use social proof by showcasing a celebrity with one of your products (even if it’s a niche celebrity).

You can also use this by showing how popular your products are on social media. You can add images of your customers enjoying your products from Instagram (with their permission of course), or on other social platforms.

Hack #5: Make something free

Having the word ‘free’ prominently in your subject line or emails can initiate a psychological response in your subscribers.

Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational shows something similar. When Amazon first launched its free shipping after a certain dollar amount, it noticed sales jumps everywhere except in France. When they investigated, they realized that in France they’d offered promotional shipping for only 1 franc, about $0.20 at the time.

When they reduced this to free shipping, they saw the same huge sales jumps—even though it was just a 20 cent decrease.

How to use ‘free’ in your email marketing

Luckily, using ‘free’ in your email marketing is pretty easy to incorporate. It just depends on what you can do.

It should come as no surprise that free shipping is becoming a standard for online stores. This is because consumers nowadays are expecting it. Even though the costs may initially be higher, they tend to prefer free shipping.

You can have absolutely free shipping, free shipping after a certain dollar amount, or others. You can give your customers a free gift with certain purchases or, as mentioned above, a free, valuable resource.

As with everything else in this list, however, it’s important that you remember one crucial thing about ecommerce email marketing (or ecommerce in general):

ABT – Always Be Testing

These 5 email marketing psychology hacks can probably help you with your sales, but you need to figure out which ones are most relevant and most effective.

After that, you’ll see more engaged users, higher conversions and much better sales.

Good luck!


Author bio: Alison is a content marketer for Kalviyo, the eCommerce experts dedicated to helping eCommerce stores build strong, lasting relationships with their customers. She has a passion for good research and helping eCommerce businesses with their marketing needs.

5 Email Marketing Psychology Hacks for Better Sales

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