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Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion

Preparing your eCommerce with Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion as building blocks

Conversion optimization has always been about influencing people to convert. And to do that in the best possible manner, one needs to understand the psychological workings of the mind.

Robert Cialdini mentioned the 6 principles of persuasion in his book titled Influence; a book he wrote after some real-life research into the world of sales and conversions. He opted for a job as a used car salesperson, as a telemarketing observer, a fundraiser and plenty of other work where he could research for his highly successful 336 pages publication. It was not just in the field that Cialdini learned the rules of influence and conversion. His research including talking to scholarly people and testing out different theories – what some people might dub as ‘raw genius.’Cialdini's 6 Principles of Persuasion


The 6 Principles

His 6 principles are Social Proof, Commitment, Reciprocation, Liking, Authority, and Scarcity. Cialdini defines them as…

  1. Social Proof

Social Proof is Cialdini’s way of calling human being’s innate desire to do what everyone else is doing. It’s simple, people find safety in numbers.

There are tons of social experiments that prove a person will most likely do what the majority is doing. In fact, they consider it the acceptable form of behavior. Perhaps the best example of this is displayed in the study that took place in the 1960s. The research concluded that people in an elevator copy each other’s actions.

One of the best ways to incorporate this principle into your E-commerce strategy is by making the product most popular on the wishlist. Or you can have a customer review board that asks what people (who visit your site) would like to see more of, with a particular choice being hailed as the best by everyone.


This way you are likely going to attract attention from others and therefore have higher chances of selling more products.  Here’s an example of a ‘welcome’ website pop-up to help you understand better. Below is an example of a strategy implemented by this store underlying social proof.

Screenshot Courtesy: Amazon.com

  1. Authority

Authority simply is playing on the fact that people have a strict tendency to obey ‘authority’ figures even if the statistics are objectionable. This authority can come with a title like a professor or a doctor for instance. The average person accepts what people ‘with authority’ say without questioning.

Now for a product that leans more towards the glamorous side, a doctor’s recommendation won’t do. But it helps if you get a celebrity or a famous personality on board that people look up to. For example, fitness enthusiasts would be eager to buy apparel, equipment and nutrition supplements recommended by celebrity fitness expert Jillian Michaels.

Screenshot Courtesy: Amazon.com

  1. Liking

If they like you, they will buy from you.

For ages, people have charmed each other, gotten in the good books, and offered friendship to close deals. To the modern consumer, liking a brand has a lot to do with the brand sharing something that the potential customer can relate to, but it also plays on looks.

Screenshot Courtesy: Zappos.com

One of the best ways to make your brand ‘likeable’ is to humanize your website. All you have to do is map out a fantastic About Us page that is filled with the bios of the people that work for the brand. Now instead of a textbook bio, you need to add something interesting, an element of individuality that results in adoration. Basically, you need to include qualities that the consumer will like. Remember you need to connect with your customer on an emotional level.

  1. Scarcity
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Scarcity is one of the popular principles that people frequently use to boost conversions. The fact of the matter is that human love to get hands on things that have limited availability. If someone tells us that a deal is about to expire or that everyone else has bought every other piece of a particular item, it triggers the competitor in us. Basically, it just makes people think that they would be missing out on something significant if they don’t act fast.

One of the best ways you can use this to work for you is by sending your site visitors, and subscribers email notifications that display ‘most wanted items’ with ‘Offer Ends’ in a countdown. These reminders usually are to be sent more than once to create that thrill that builds up to the viewer ultimately converting them into a buyer.

Or you can have a countdown on your website just like Amazon does!

Screenshot Courtesy: Amazon.com

  1. Commitment

Humans prefer to show their commitment publicly. They also are most likely to ‘stick’ to them and maintain consistency in their life.

One of the ways this principle works well for your e-commerce website is if you create Abandoned Cart notifications. People tend to abandon carts after putting a bunch of things in them. The reason behind this may often be that they plan on returning on payday, are waiting for a huge sale that is about to live, or worse, they just forget about it.

Well, abandoned carts are in a way decisions that people made or the intention people crafted of buying from you. Therefore, you must remind them to ‘return to the cart now’ and the things that they liked so much that they were willing to pay their hard earned money for it.

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Shopify featured 13 Amazing Abandoned Cart Emails on their blog and what you can learn from them. Here’s a snippet to give you an idea.

Screenshot Courtesy: Shopify Inc.

  1. Reciprocation

When you do something really good for someone, they are likely to return the favor. One of the best examples of this is the earthquake in Mexico that occurred in 1985, where Ethiopia that was handling its own internal strife and famine, came to Mexico’s aid, this was because back in 1935 Mexico had defended Ethiopia against the Italians.

One of the ways to make reciprocation work for your e-commerce site is through offering expertise. People are likely to visit your page for your thorough tips, and when it comes time to buy what they need, they are likely going to opt for your brand rather than your competitors in the market. Having loyalty programs is another great way to make reciprocation work for your business.

Screenshot Courtesy: Walmart

And there you have it, all the ways you can use Robert Cialdini’s 6 principles in your E-commerce conversion strategy to influence your target market and potential customers. Good Luck!

Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion

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